Variations on a theme is the choice for this week’s photo challenge and given my tendency to photography a subject numerous times from various angles it wasn’t a difficult task. The difficulty for me was deciding between the doors of Venice, dogs of Italy, street art in Melbourne, The Rape of the Sabine in Florence, Notre Dame Cathedral and so on. Sorting through my catalogue of images, the Eiffel Tower in Paris seemed an obvious choice. There are not many places in Paris that provide little or no view of the Eiffel Tower and I don’t care whether it is touristy, a cliche or over represented. I love seeing the tower rising out of the fog, peering from behind trees or twinkling in the dark, it means I’m on holiday in Paris and that always makes me happy.
Perhaps it is because I have itchy feet or maybe it is a form of escapism, but I have recently become obsessed with finding and reading books featuring Paris. Although reading fiction has always been a passion of mine it is non-fiction that holds my attention at the moment, in particular memoirs, essays, and narrative history.
Currently on my bedside table is ‘Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)’ by Amy Thomas, a light and easy book to read especially if you have a sweet tooth. If you like more depth and less self-indulgence then this book is not for you. Amy works for an advertising agency and writes copy for Louis Vuitton, she loves chocolate and all things sweet and likes to make comparisons between her former life in New York and life in Paris. I have not yet finished reading it. Some of my favourite books featuring Paris that I have finished reading are:
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik. A collection of 23 essays and journal entries chronicling the time he spent living in Paris with his wife and son. Paris to the Moon is a humorous portrayal of life in France, filled with personal observations and cultural commentary.
Paris Revealed by Stephen Clarke. I loved this book. Witty, informative and highly entertaining this book is a joy to read.
Joan DeJean’s book How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City. 17th Century Paris. The inclusion of illustrations from that period provides the reader with glimpses of life in Paris several hundred years ago before Haussmann stripped the city of medieval character to create the wide boulevards and squares that we recognise today.
The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris by John Baxter. I loved following John through the streets of Paris, he provides a fascinating view of parts of Paris that are not familiar to me (and there are many). Baxter refers to Hemingway and other authors frequently and after reading all the stories contained within ‘The Most Beautiful Walk in the World’ Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’ is on my must-read list.
Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard. A true story that started when the author met and fell in love with a French man. Each chapter is interwoven with delicious food and recipes making this a delightful read for anyone who loves food and dreams of romance in Paris.
Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating: From Paris Bistros to Farmhouse Kitchens, Lessons in Food and Love. Journalist Ann Mah’s husband is given a diplomatic assignment in Paris, a dream come true but then her husband is called away to Iraq for a year and Ann is left alone. To contend with her feelings of loneliness Ann decides to explore France and seek out regional dishes such as cassoulet, Boeuf Bourguignon, and crepes, delving into the history and stories behind these well-known dishes.
The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino.A tour of the author’s favourite street in Paris the Rue des Martyrs. Sciolino’s focus on this one particular street gave me a complete picture of what it must be like to live on Rue des Martyrs. I enjoyed reading her stories about the locals who lived and worked on Rue des Martyrs and the history of the buildings.
…I had the hugest grin on my face because Hubby and I were standing under the branches of a willow tree on the tip of the Square du Vert-Galant, a small public garden situated at the western end of Ile de la Cité in Paris. The weather was gloomy and grey, but who cares when you’re in Paris? Too excited to sleep in, we headed out early to explore the area near our hotel before the streets came to life, plus we wanted to find a patisserie for breakfast. Our hotel served breakfast for a price, but we thought it a little too expensive especially when buttery, sweet pastries could be had for a couple of euros.
During a walk along the Seine we found ourselves in the middle of a garden filled with sculptures, we found out that it is an open-air sculpture museum featuring more than fifty sculptures. You can find this unexpected delight along the Quai Saint-Bernard between the Pont de Sully and the Pont d’Austerlitz. I’m sorry that I don’t have any photos to share, the light created a few challenges for me so I settled for enjoying the walk sans camera.
Mascarons, the stone masks on the Pont Neuf
Pont des Arts over the River Seine
The Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris
Hubby taking a break in Square Jean XXIII near the Notre Dame Cathedral
Square Jean XXIII and the Notre Dame Cathedral
View of Notre Dame Cathedral from Ile St Louis
The entire day was dedicated to exploring the 5th and 6th arrondisements, Hubby doesn’t like to fill his day with sights (unlike me) and prefers to just wander and take in the atmosphere. Regardless, I did manage to convince him that we should find the hidden roman arena, Arenes de Lutece after spending an hour or so wandering through Jardin des Plantes. This ancient arena is located not far from Place Contrascarpe and Rue Mouffetard, it was constructed in the first century AD and lay hidden until discovered in the late 1800’s. I thought it might be a nice place to sit and enjoy some lunch, Hubby was less impressed with that idea.
Lunch turned out to be another unexpected pleasure, Antonella, an Italian lady travelling solo joined our table for lunch. Antonella lives in Rome and as it was on our itinerary, she told us all about the wonderful weather they were having and that she also has family in Australia. It was great to have someone else to talk to, Hubby and I aren’t used to spending all day every day together and conversation can be hard to come by sometimes.
St-Germain-des-Pres lies next to the Latin Quarter, home to cafes such as Le Deux Magots, Cafe de Flore and Le Procope once frequented by famous historical figures as well as the Musee d’Orsay makes this area a tourist magnet. I loved wandering through the streets and narrow alleyways, not knowing where we were going and somehow ending up at the Luxembourg Gardens. The gardens were filled with people making the most of the last hours of light, it is a beautiful place to relax and to one side of the Luxembourg Palace is the much photographed Medici Fountain. Vibrant autumn colours of yellow and gold provide the perfect contrast to the dark water and shaded fountain. Soon we are chased out of the park, whistles blowing and visitors herded out the main gate.
National Museum of National History in the Jardin des Plantes
Autumn harvest display in Jardin des Plantes
Stone sculpture in Jardin des Plantes
The Arènes de Lutèce, a roman arena hidden behind buildings in the 5th arrondisement
Interesting (to me) Parisian architecture
The Luxembourg Palace
The Luxembourg Gardens
The Medici Fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens
Dinner that night was in the Latin Quarter at Le Mouffetard Bistrot, we had eaten here on a previous trip and loved the atmosphere of the Rue Mouffetard plus the service was friendly. As we walked to the bistro from the Pantheon we watched the sky sky change colour from monotone to vivid blue and pink as dusk fell. It was a spectacular sun set and bode well for good weather the following day. With a belly full of crispy, delicious duck and potatoes and red wine I slept well that night.
A delicious dish of duck and potatoes
Dining out in Le Mouffetard
Shops on Rue Mouffetard
Standing on Rue Soufflot and looking towards the Luxembourg Gardens with the Eiffel Tower in the distance
Six weeks ago today we landed in Paris, excited about our next scrappy adventure and extremely happy to be in one of my favourite cities. Our hotel, the Hotel Familia, is not far from the Notre Dame Cathedral Building History and within 10 minutes we found ourselves staring in awe at one of Paris’ architectural icons. Being so close to the cathedral it was rare that we went anywhere without getting a glimpse of the gargoyles and flying buttresses, thus resulting in me taking numerous photos at different times of day.
Australia was discovered by the English in the late 1700s and we have few buildings older than 150 years. Travelling in Europe and seeing buildings or monuments that are 700+ years old is an incredible experience for us and it is hard to imagine how builders and craftsmen achieved what they did without the technology and equipment available today.
I love the Notre Dame Cathedral, from all angles and especially when it is bathed in the golden light that a setting sun brings.
A view of the Eiffel Tower can be obtained from so many parts of Paris. We have seen it from a bus, on foot, from the Arc de Triomphe, shrouded in fog and sparkling at night. No matter how many times I see it, the sight still makes me smile and want to take a photo.