Return to Paris

Troels Worsel’s “Sans Titre,” as displayed in the Centre Pompidou

Paris, France: it is a bit of a difficult city to write about.  First, there are almost too many facets of its personality to be able to characterize it properly and too many sights, sounds, and places to experience without actually living there.  Secondly, many have visited the City of Lights and opinions vary wildly — some become immediately infatuated with the romantic atmosphere, the historic sites and museums, and the amazing culinary scene; whereas some feel disappointed that the reality of the city (dirty, crowded, much like a European version of New York City where they speak a different language) doesn’t live up to the fanciful and pristine image that coalesces in one’s mind after years of listening to other travelers rave about its virtues.  Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, it is one of the world’s great cities and is a must-experience destination for any hardcore travelers out there.

Before embarking upon my current RTW (Round-the-World) trip — and although my European travel was limited to only a few destinations — I did have the privelege of spending some time in Paris when I was a wee bit younger and less world-savy.  At the time, I immediately fell in love with the city and have always dreamed of when I could return again.  I was a bit unsure, however, of how I’d find the city the second time around — especially since I’ve seen quite a few other large European cities in the last two months — but my uneasiness was in vain: I enjoyed my time here as intently as on my first visit.  And as an added bonus, I had my brother along for the ride, too.  But enough of my rambling — here are a few pics of some of the familiar sights you’ll likely find yourself admiring when you get the chance to visit yourself:

La Tour d’Eiffel

L’Arc de Triomphe, marking one end of the famous Champs-Elysees

Sillouettes on the street. Though the photo turns out somewhat elegant, the fact that it is not uncommon at all to see the sewer overflowing and creating puddles in the street (as it is here) is slightly disturbing

If you don’t mind a few stairs, the Sacre Coeur is quite beautiful

…and once you reach the Sacre Coeur, you’ll be treated to one of the best views of the city

The Pantheon

Shadows through the columns of the Madeleine

It is the small details that really make a city

As you can tell from the previous pictures, the weather we had while visiting was just about perfect. With that being more the exception than the rule here, the Parisians took advantage and hit the parks in full force

One of the best areas of the city to sightsee is what is known as the Isle de la Cite.  Formerly the town of Lutetia, this small “island” formed within the Seine River — connected to both banks by the Pont Neuf (literally the “new bridge”) — houses both the Cathedral de Notre Dame de Paris (as there are many spread around) and the magnificent Saint Chappelle.  The former is far more than simply the setting of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the latter is one of the masterpieces of gothic architecture.

The Isle de la City

Cathedral de Notre Dame from across the Seine

Cathedral de Notre Dame (again)

One of the Rose Windows as seen from the inside

The altar of the Cathedral de Notre Dame de Paris

At some point, just outside Notre Dame, someone had the idea to write a message on a lock and then permanently lock it to the railing of the bridge. As you can see, that idea really took off and many others have followed suit.

Though much smaller and far more unassuming than Notre Dame, the nearby Saint Chapelle (seen over the gate) is one of the most awe-inspiring sights in Paris

One can only visit 2 chambers within the Saint Chapelle. Upon entering at street level, you’ll be treated to the beautiful vaulted ceilings of the initial chamber

The real attraction, however, is in the chapel itself, up one floor from the entryway. The walls seem to be made entirely of stain glass, pushing the very limits of architecture. It is truly a magnificent sight.

And as you can tell from reading a few of my previous posts, I’m a bit of an art lover, as well.  This bodes particularly well for me here in Paris, as this is another one of the best cities (and arguably THE best) for museum hopping.  During this visit, I hit what I’ll call the big 3: the Louvre (of course), the Musee D’Orsay, and Centre Pompidou.  The Louvre is the most famous of the trio, housing one of the largest art collections on the planet; whereas the Musee d’Orsay specializes in Impressionist and Post-Impressionism and the Centre Pompidou (with its inside-out architecture) tackles Modernism with quite a bit of enthusiasm.  Here are a few of the highlights:

This is as much as I can show you of the Musee d’Orsay, as it is unfortunately another one of those “no camera” joints.  Luckily, the next two have taken a different approach…

The front courtyard of the Louvre, with the famous glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei

The Nike (or Winged Victory) of Samothrace

The Venus de Milo

La Jaconde (or “The Mona Lisa,” as it is known to us English speakers). Given the massive crowd jostling to take a picture of this famous smile, I was pretty happy to be taller than average, with longer arms than average, and a zoom feature on my camera.  And yes, it is much smaller than most expect

The Centre Pompidou sports its infrastructure (i.e. – plumbing, staircases, HVAC, etc.) exposed on the outside, as opposed to concealed within

An exhibit at the Centre Pompidou

Carston Holler's Giant Triple Mushroom

Another of the Centre Pompidou’s many creative exhibits

Paris isn’t only about sight-seeing and museum-hopping, however.  It is also the epicenter of the French culinary scene, famous for its rich and heavy sauces, very defined and controlled dishes, superstar chefs, and liberal use of luxurious ingredients such as fois gras and truffles.  And with so many talented chefs and foodies all concentrated in one place, it’s no wonder there are over 75 markets (or marches) within the city, all offering their own blend of fruit, veggies, meats, and cheeses.  Though I’d love to be able to visit them all, in the short time I had, I was only able to visit a handful:

Marche de Mouffetard

Being France, it is quite easy to find both grapes…

…and the wine that the grapes are used to make

The aisles of Marche Bastille, the largest outdoor market I could find

Fresh eggs for sale

A gorgeous basket of pears

Carrots, radishes, and other root veggies

Though not part of one of the markets, I still found this one quite interesting. Despite one’s initial sense from the display that these are jars of caviar or other expensive products of the sea, they were, in fact, jars of mustard. I resisted the urge to enter the store and ask about the price, as I’m assuming that getting sick in public wouldn’t go over too well in this type of place

Copper pots glistening in the sun

And now that we’ve sourced our ingredients, it’s time to eat!  There are plenty of restaurant guides to check out if you’re looking for a specific dish, but if you’re a bit more of an open-minded eater, you can just wander from cafe to cafe (which are literally on every corner)trying the specialties at each.  Here are a few of my favorite dishes from this last visit:

Interior of a cafe

Veal sausages with aubergines (eggplant), garlic, and olive oil

Osso Bucco

Rabbit and Fois Gras Terrine (do you remember what a terrine is?)

When searching for a place to have a few beers, my brother and I stumbled across an impromtu birthday party that luckily didn’t mind us bumbling our way around with our broken French. When we asked the bartender what the unlabeled beer tap was, he responded with, “Oh, that’s our strongest beer,” which was almost immediately followed up by, “Deux, s’il vous plait!”

If you get tired of the heavy French fare, you can head to what I’m calling the Little Tokyo section of Paris, a few blocks Northeast of the Palais Royale, for some noodles. Seen here, the chef is serving up my order of yakiudon

As a final sweet bite, I gave the macarons another try. This time around, they were much closer to the standard set by Pistachio Vera (though still not quite there)

Sorry for the long and rambling post, but there is quite a lot to squeeze in when visiting Paris.  For now, I’m leaving the City of Lights and am headed south to the coast.  Next time, I’ll see you in Provence!

About andrewamiet

I'm a 29 (now 31) year-old former desk jockey who is now making my way around the world, experiencing all of the sights, sounds, tastes, people, and culture that the world has to offer.

9 Responses to “Return to Paris”

  1. That’s great you found something closer to Pistachia Vera quality macarons, but happy to know Cbus is still tops! 😉 I just had a couple yesterday actually as a treat to myself…they have a new Orange Cranberry flavor. Yu-um!

    Paris is low on my list (Normandy would be my #1), but I would give anything to see the Pantheon and all the architecture in the city. Simply beautiful! Thank you for taking so many photos of that kind of stuff.

    What would you say of everything in Paris was your favorite?

    • Normandy is still on my “wish list,” though at this point in my trip, I’m probably going to have to save it for another time. And as far as Paris, I’d probably say that I enjoyed the Saint Chapelle the best (though admittedly, it only takes a few minutes to see it), with the Centre Pompidou coming in at a close second.

  2. Another excellent post, Rew. I wish someone would call the Travel Channel and
    tell them about your blog! Great pictures.

  3. Wow. Is it my imagination or does the rest of the world cook with far fresher ingredients?

  4. Very interesting post! I loved the sillouettes on the street photo!

  5. Paris, we saw quite few things but also missed alot. it needs another trip. but the patisserie and macarons are extraordinary.

  6. nice blog here, and i wish i could do what you do one day…i somehow managed to miss the famous bridge with all the locks in my past two trips to paris [and also some pastry shops too :(] looking forward to more posts of yours…now I need to get a cup of tea and go through the cities here 🙂 cheers!!

    • Glad you’ve enjoyed the blog so far, Adel. And I must say, I LOVE your blog, as well (I popped over to check it out, obviuosly). I only wish I had found it before I ventured into Singapore, but I guess that’s as good an excuse as any to make a trip back!

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