Paris: Day Four

Read about the first, second and third days in Paris.

Monday, our long weekend in Paris came to a close.

Lauren and I rode the Metro to Gare du Nord and stashed our bags in a locker, so they’d be safe and we wouldn’t have to carry them . We had breakfast — crepes, coffee and apple juice — at a cafe by the train station.

We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon up in Monmarte, visiting the beautiful Sacre Coeur basilica, which is on a hill and can be seen from across the city, and walking around the district. We stopped outside the Moulin Rouge for photos.

We had heard about good flea and farmers markets in Marais, but unfortunately the ones in which we were interested were closed.

Our next stop was the area around the national opera. After taking photos of the building’s exterior (the interior of lovely also), we visited the Apple store for the free WiFi and got coffee at a very opulent Starbucks. We’re talking chandeliers, tiles ceilings, shiny metal fixtures. It was swank. I also dragged Lauren into the United Colors of Benetton and picked up my souvenir of the trip — a UCoB shirt with “Paris” on it. I have one from London, too. It may just be my new collection.

With the afternoon left to kill, we went back to the Eiffel Tower so Lauren could see it in the daylight. It was so cloudy out that going to the top would have been pointless, as the view would have been obscured, so we hung around down at the bottom, took photos and watched souvenir peddlers run away from the police. Good times.

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We walked across the Seine to the Trocadero, a complex of gardens and museums. The complex has an impressive history in international affairs — the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed there in 1948, and it also housed the first headquarters of NATO.

Lauren and I had one last late lunch together in a restaurant off the Trocadero, before heading back to Gare du Nord. I set up shop in a cafe with a coffee and a croissant, waiting for my train depart. Lauren took an overground commuter train to Orly, from where she was flying back to Germany.

So there you have it. Four eventful days in Paris. Très bon, oui?

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Paris: Day Three

Read about the first day in Paris and the second day in Paris.

Sorry for taking so long to finish writing about our trip! I’ve been busy with homework and group projects.

The third day in Paris, Sunday, was very overcast and rainy. We took it easy and didn’t try to do too much.

Lauren had found a quirky expat American diner over in the Marais neighborhood, called Breakfast in America. We were going to have lunch there (we slept in on Sunday, go us), but it was pretty busy, so we decided to try again at dinner.

We ended up having a full English breakfast for lunch at a British pub, also in Marais. I had orange juice, coffee, hash browns, toast, an egg and rashers. Lauren had orange juice, an egg, toast, a tomato and beans.

After that we went to the l’Orangerie art gallery, a smaller gallery right off the Tuileries. Again, because of our EU residency and age, we got in free. The l’Orangerie has a few large, long rooms with Monet paintings set in panorama. The effect is pretty awesome. It also has a smaller permanent collection of Impressionist art and a temporary exhibit. The temporary exhibit when we visited was the photography of German artist Heinrich Kühn. The photos, which came from the early age of photography, looked almost like paintings. The exhibit followed Kühn’s work as it adapted to changes in technique. We both agreed that it was cool to see a German artist featured with so many French, Italian and Dutch ones.

We spent the afternoon at the Orsay, a largely Impressionist gallery built in an old train station. We had sodas and snacks at the cafe and looked at the Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Gaughin, Cezanne and Matisse works. The Orsay also features a lot of “practical art,” such as furniture and household decorations and items.

The galleries don’t allow photos of the art, so today’s a little light on photos. Sorry!

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We went back to the flat to rest before going back to Breakfast in America. This time we were seated almost immediately. The diner’s story is interesting. An American film-maker founded it, because he missed American comfort food when he was studying in Paris. It’s largely financed by people in the tech side of the entertainment industry.

Lauren and had a California wrap, fries and a Dr. Pepper. I had a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke. Heavenly. For dessert, she had a brownie and I had a slice of cheesecake. It was a fun little place.

We ended Sunday night with a visit to the Eiffel Tower, which I’d never seen at night, for photographs.

Paris: Day Two

Read about the first day in Paris here.

Saturday was our second day in Paris, and was our busiest day. Luckily it was extremely warm and sunny, so it was a great day to be outside.

We had breakfast at a little cafe down the street from the flat. Lauren had a macchiato and a Nutella crepe, and I had a hot chocolate and a chocolate-and-chantilly crepe. I love crepes and it’s hard to find good ones outside of France, so I knew we had to take advantage.

Our first major stop of the day was the Catacombs. They are not for the faint of heart. Basically, a couple hundred years ago, the cemeteries started overflowing and neighborhoods were getting diseased. Officials cleared out a lot of the cemeteries and deposited the bones in the remains of the city’s underground quarries. You can walk through the Catacombs and see piles and piles of bones and skulls “artfully” arranged, each area marked based on from which cemetery the bones originated. It’s dreadfully dark, dank and creepy, but really cool.

After that we headed over to the Louvre, where we were pleasantly surprised to get in free based on our EU residency visas and ages (under 25). We landed in the middle of the Carousel, a large shopping center complete with an Apple store and McDonald’s, that adjoins the museum. We saw the major pieces — the “Mona Lisa”, the Venus de Milo and the statue of Nike. The Louvre traditionally “frowns on” modern and Impressionist art and trends toward classical art. No Monet, Van Gogh or Cezanne to be seen.

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Next was the Tuileries, a lovely long stretch of garden with fountains, cafes, hedges and flowers. We got drinks and sat watching the birds, then headed down to the Champs-Elysees. The Parisian Christmas market was on, and there were dozens and dozens of stalls selling chocolate, hot mulled wine, pastries, meat, cheese, arts and crafts and all sorts of other items for the holidays.

We crossed the river to see the National Assembly building, crossed back over between the Grand Palace and the Petit Palace, and continued down the Champs-Elysees. We stopped at the Ladurée bakery, reputed to have the best macaroons in the world. It was packed, and while we waited in line we looked at the wares. Tarts, croissants, pastries, pies, cookies, macaroons, puffs and sweets of all kinds. The shop itself is very ornate and prettily decorated. We each got some macaroons and headed out.

At the end of the Champs-Elysees is the Arc De Triomphe. We climbed it — too many steps, a few hundred at least — and got nice photos of the view. I daresay the view is better than the Eiffel Tower’s; you’re able to see more clearly and recognize what you’re seeing. We ate our cookies atop the arch. I had: two chocolate, one raspberry, one red berry, one coffee, one lemon, one pistachio and one vanilla. They were absolutely delicious.

We had a late lunch/early dinner at an Italian restaurant near the arch. Lauren had a cheese pizza with ham, olives and mushrooms. I had a cheese pizza with prosciutto and we shared water and spent a couple of hours chatting, before we retired to the flat.

Whew! By this time my legs were getting quite sore. Stay tuned for days three and four.

Paris: Day One

I apologize for not writing for the past couple of weeks. I’ve been suffering from a nasty head cold and have had a lot of schoolwork to complete before the break. I’m hoping I can make up for it now.

This past weekend, I went to Paris to meet up with my friend Lauren, who’s living in Düsseldorf as an au pair. We went to KU together and worked on the Kansan. Lauren had never been to Paris before; I hadn’t been since March 2007. The planning and navigation fell largely to me because I was more familiar with the city. I also had the honor of knowing more French vocabulary with which to butcher the language by attempting to speak it. It was quite an adventure and we had a lot of fun. Rather than write a novel describing it all at once, I’ve decided to devote one entry and one photo gallery to each day we were there. This is day one.

I left Canterbury very early in the morning, taking a commuter train to Ashford and its Eurostar terminal. I enjoyed a much-needed cup of coffee and a chocolate croissant at the station before boarding a train to Paris’ Gare du Nord terminal. Lauren arrived a couple of hours after I did, so I killed time by going across the street to a McDonald’s, where I used the restroom, got something to eat (don’t judge me; the cafes around the station are all terribly overpriced) and made use of the free WiFi to tell my friends and parents that I’d arrived safely.

I’d bought a Metro ticket in Ashford (a wise move, in hindsight), so, after stashing my duffel in a locker at the station, I hopped on and rode down the line to Cité, the stop on the main island in the middle of the Seine. This island has several shops and cafes, as well as the Palace of Justice, the city’s police headquarters and Notre Dame cathedral. I strolled through the gardens on the side of the cathedral and walked across the river. I bought batteries for my camera and located Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which I’d read about in The Independent. We had decided to try to find it.

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Shakespeare and Company is a Beatnik-era bookstore packed with used books of all genres. Burroughs visited it to research Naked Lunch. The owner, George Whitman, lets writers stay and work if they want, free of charge, as long as they give him a photo and personal biography when they leave. Through the ages, these traveling writers became known as Tumbleweeds. According to the article, Whitman is 96 now, but still reads and still collects stories from traveling writers. The bookstore and its former owners/staff have connections to Ernest Hemingway, Allen Ginsberg, T.S. Eliot and James Joyce, among others.

After I located the bookstore, I went back to Gare du Nord to meet Lauren. By this time it was mid-afternoon, so we went back down to the island and went inside Notre Dame. After that we headed over to the bookstore.

Shakespeare and Company looks like someone’s bookshelf exploded in it. Books everywhere. The philosophy shelf has Hobbes, Locke, Sartre and Plato. The Beat writers and their contemporaries have a table in their honor — Ginsberg’s “Howl,” Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” Sylvia Plath’s “Ariel” and “The Bell Jar” and an anthology of Shakespeare’s poems, edited by Ted Hughes (aka Mr. Sylvia Plath). The wishing well in the middle of the floor (which used to be a heater, I believe) has coins strewn in it. Upstairs is a little cubby with a typewriter, a cot and a piano, along with more books and a children’s section. By the time we eventually left, I had selected a book — “The Maltese Falcon,” by Dashiell Hammett — to buy to commemorate the visit.

After that we headed down to the Denfert-Rocherau Metro stop, made use of McDonald’s WiFi again and then headed to the flat where we were staying. In summation, it was a lovely yet busy morning getting to Paris, and a lovely afternoon getting a feel for the city.

I’ll keep updating the blog with photos and stories about the other three days. Keep checking back!