I've probably visited Paris on about ten occasions during the past dozen years, but it never fails to inspire me. In this post, I'll share a few photos from my latest visit along with verbal impressions.
Just imagine waking up in the morning and looking out as dawn is breaking. This is what I saw.
Paris is a city of contours, but one can see Sacre Coeur and Montmartre from almost anywhere that offers a clear view. I love the way this perspective is draped in shadow.
One of my favorite ways to see a city is from the water. I highly recommend taking one of the boat tours on the Seine. I've had good experiences with Les Bateaux Mouches and the pictures here were taken from a ride during a late afternoon. Here is a view of Musee D'Orsay which shows one of it's magnificent external clocks. It's not hard to imagine the museum in its prior incarnation as a train station from this angle.
Further up the river, we began to approach the small islands which have formed the center of the city from its earliest days. The cathedral of Notre Dame is very well known, but always worth another look for its remarkable architecture and fine details. From the river, we got to see it from many different angles in a matter of a few minutes. Here, it rises up above one of the iconic stone bridges which span the Seine.
The ride along the river was leisurely, though the boat moved along at a steady clip. Life was good as we bathed in the sunlight and watched the city pass by, with captions offered by a recorded spiel in five languages. We listened to both the French and English, picking up a bit of history along the way. After looping around Notre Dame, we took a right fork down the Seine and soon the city center receded behind us. After passing the Louvre on our right, the Eiffel Tower became more prominent as we rode down the river. In this view, I like the way the tower rises up in counterpoint to the church in the foreground.
I took several more pictures from the water, but I'll continue this visual tour from the land. As I mentioned in my last post, my son Jason and I swapped tips about Paris throughout the trip. He had grown rather fond of walking along the Seine on the cobblestones by the water and looking up at the bridges overhead. Here is a glimpse of two of the stone grotesques who had been frozen into place in their role as underpinnings of a stone bridge.
My son spent many hours of his time in Paris sitting in the Louvre and copying drawings and paintings from the great artists whose work was on display. One of his favorites was the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens, the man whose paintings of voluptuous women inspired the adjective Rubenesque. Late one afternoon, I took the metro to the Louvre and walked into the courtyard adjacent to the controversial pyramid designed by I.M. Pei. The pyramid lines up in perfect synchronicity with the obelisque at Place de la Concorde, with the Arc de Triomphe and the huge empty picture frame which marks La Defense. Note the mini-version of the Arch in the background at the border between the Louvre and the Tuleries -- more symmetry.
One of the treats for both of us during this visit was to walk around Parisian neighborhoods like Le Marais, Ile St. Louis, St. Michel and Porte Maillot as the dusk turned into night. As the natural light faded, the streetlamps would take over, giving the cityscape a totally different ambience. Here is the massive Arc de Triomphe glowing amber in the night.
When we walked in the early evening, this was also a signal that it was time to start looking for a restaurant. Our goal was to find food that we would both enjoy and to try several different types of cuisine. As noted in the last post, Jason's desire for vegetarian food presented some challenges, but we managed to find a number of places that worked for both of us. On our last night in Paris, we returned to the outskirts of Le Marais and found a French restaurant called Le Marche. Its menu was written in chalk on large blackboards. After eating seafood most of the week, I opted for a rich Poulet Supreme, a chicken dish stuffed with goat cheese and surrounding a mound of finely mashed potatoes. Jason ordered their vegetarian special, which featured endive. The wine was a red Sancerre; it was young, but opened up as we ate our meal. Our seating was al fresco and we had a fine view of the adjacent courtyard.
The light reminded me of the look and feel of Woody Allen's recent film, Midnight in Paris, and we could hear the chime of church bells on the hour. Real life did intrude; the smell of tobacco from smokers at the next table wafted in our direction from time to time.
We chatted as the night slipped away and the cool air of the normal Parisian spring began to descend. We celebrated this last night with dessert, a Creme Brulee for Jason and a robust Tarte Tatin de Pommes for me, all of which was just right. Soon it was time to step out into the courtyard and walk a couple of blocks to the nearby St. Paul metro. Our sojourn in Paris was now complete. Or, as one of my French colleagues told me earlier in the week, a la prochaine (until the next time).