Saturday, October 01, 2005

A City In Three Acts

Paris.
The City of Lights.
One of those cities in the world everyone knows.
The Eiffel Tower. The Arc de Triomphe. The Louvre. Notre Dame Cathedral.

All the stuff you see on TV or in the movies. So instead of giving you a blow by blow of our visits to those places, it made more sense to talk about the city itself. We visited Paris three separate times (using it has a home base between our visits to Ireland, Normandy/Brittany, and southwestern France). As a result of this, we were never in the city for more than three days at a time yet I felt like we got a better understanding for the city as a whole as we were coming in and out of it over a three and a half week period vs. our normal 2-6 day stay and then heading out on the train. You get to see the normal day to day occurrences a lot more and after a while you feel like you know your surroundings. (Plus, our hotel was in a great location. We were on a quiet alley with a great Italian restaurant just off the Place St. Michel on the Left Bank, just across the Seine from the Ile-de-La-Cite and Notre Dame. Easy to walk to just about everywhere we wanted to go and lots of pretty river views and parks.)

My first impression? For me it goes to the top of my list of cities we've visited on the trip and overall gives Melbourne a good run for its money as a place I´d like to live. This may be an obvious statement for some but take the relaxed attitude of Parisians and couple it with a vibrant city center and you've got a city that just doesn't stop, but does it knowing that life is a jog, not a sprint. (good example: all the chairs/lounge chairs in the public parks and around the lakes).

We loved the fact that there were parks everywhere, and that picnicking was as much (or more) a local thing as something that tourists do. As we walked around town we were just amazed at the number of times we'd turn a corner and find another historical landmark. Of course then we'd walk past a futuristic looking retail store or some other cosmopolitan locale and be thrown right back into the 21st century. (Like Vienna, we liked the fact that the monumemts/historic sites/tourists attractions were spread around and integrated into the city rather than being concentrated into a central area that might be picturesque-disney like, but is crowded and only puts you into contact with other tourists).

Overall just an amazing place and well worth a visit. The knock on Parisians being snobs and rude is overstated. Learn 5-10 words of French before visiting (or during your visit) and always greet somebody before you ask for something (and thank them for it afterwards) and you'd be amazed how much they open up. Just like we'd do for someone that didn't know English in the States.

With that a few memorable highlights from ol' Paris:

-Having a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. Not a bad way to start the trip.

-J'ai faim. Je voudrais un sandwich au jambon et une bière svp. (the first French phrase I learned). If you can't figure out what it means, cut and paste it into this.

-Having a lovely night time picnic with scores of Parisians on the pedestrian bridge connecting the Latin Quarter and the Louvre. Chomping away on our Thai takeout while soaking in the boats and surroundings lighting up the Ile-de-La-Cite and the night. Quite beautiful.

-This picture in the Pompidou. My feelings on most modern art summed up quite nicely.

-A lovely much overdue anniversary dinner our last night in Paris at the Italian place next door to our hotel. Looked a bit sketchy from a distance but it served up amazing food and Becca and I got to be semi-grownups for the night.

- Hanging out in and around Notre Dame whenever we needed a break and enjoying the changing views in the day, evening, and night.

- Taking on the Louvre (covered in a previous blog), seeing some new pieces of art, and checking out IM Pei´s pyramid in the day and at night.

- Discovering a scene out of Becca´s childhood memories: kids sailing little sailboats around the fountains in the Tuileries gardens with sticks.

-Just generally spending days and evenings soaking up the ambiance of Paris and feeling ourselves more and more comfortable in our surroundings. Despite our strategy of going to fewer places for a longer amount of time, there are still places that you never quite feel right in. Paris was most certainly not one of them.

For pics of our Paris adventures, go ahead and click here. Enjoy!

Brian

1 comment:

wadE said...

so were you there during the whole uprising? I know that was in the suburbs, but I'd be curious as to the effect on Paris as a whole.

my own thoughts on snobby Parisians... they are rude to everyone, even each other... but yes, if you at least try to speak their language, you'll get better treatment.