Monday, September 01, 2008

Paris, Spring 2008

Here it is, the cliche of all cliches - photo taken the last afternoon we were in Paris, just to prove to ourselves that we really had been there again (to the city, that is, not to the nightclub - we saw the MoulinRouge only from its exterior) AND of course in honour of the great film of the same name!

And another cliche? The Pantheon, of course.

And what would Paris be without music? From the opera played by our taxi driver on the way from the airport to music in the streets (and at concerts), Paris plays. Here's what we encountered on a bridge near our (second) hotel one morning!

And more music:

I guess I'm like a lot of people - I want to see everything that others have seen and I want to go everywhere others go, but when it comes right down to it, it's the off-beat things that delight me most about places I visit. Somehow, however, they don't seem to get photographed as much. But here we were in Paris after years of being away, and it was almost overwhelming. Here's my dh on our first day - fountains are irresistible, aren't they?

It had been a lovely day - despite the horrors of transatlantic travel - and here we are prowling around after a quick coffee while they made our room ready in a little hotel in the Marais. After we had dumped our luggage (we travel with carry-ons only - inconvenient but less hassle) we headed out to a Middle Eastern restaurant that we had read was vegan-friendly. It was called Chez Marianne and was in the Pletzel - and picking and choosing carefully among the mezze kind of courses one could make up a delicious vegan meal. The servers spoke English better than we spoke French, which is always a plus ;)

The photo above is only a corner of it, and although they do have an attractive informal interior we decided every time we went there (three times in all) that we liked to sit outside.

This made for a lovely midday break from walking our feet off (yes, we know there's a metro, but we like to walk!).

What next to add? Well, those who know us well know that we are addicted to art, architecture and museums in general, so we visited the Delacroix house on the left bank. It was interesting, but strangely I was enchanted by the courtyard garden.

It's just the kind of place I would find enchanting as a spot away from the cares of the world yet near enough to what matters most to me - in Delacroix's case, art - to rest and then inspire rather than distract. Another lovely afternoon!

After that, of course, we needed a break - a nice sit down with a glass of wine. Where better, if one is paying homage to heroes than this place:

This is Deux Magots - right on the tiny square named for hits famous habitues, Simone de Beavoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. It's considered a tourist trap, and no doubt it is, but we couldn't resist given our thirst quotient and both our hangups about this pair! And of course I took a snap of my dh in a contemplative, if not quite philosophical, moment:

Speaking of favourite places on the left bank, here's one I can highly recommend: It's called Le Grenier.

This is a vegan-friendly vegetarian restaurant, tiny but cozy with wonderful service, excellent food and a wine list which includes organic vegan selections.

The photo above shows part of the interior - the bar area adjacent to the tiny kitchen.Here's the photo the proprietor took (at his insistence) on the last time there, the day before we flew back home.

We look as delighted as we felt!

And here is one of the dishes I really enjoyed; I had it twice. It was a vegan cassoulet - with beautiful white beans, tomatoes and other delights, some tofu, and the most delicious sauce and and herbs imaginable. Here is my dh's serving of it ('Hands off, man, I gotta take its photo!') the last day. We tried other things too, but that one was really special to both of us.


This restaurant is located not far from the famous Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop:

Oh I should mention this place - Grand Appetit - near the Place de la Bastille:

This is vegan and inexpensive and we fell into it our first evening. They had some plain but delicious offerings and although we had only soup (fantastically good) and a salad, not being hungry after our extended lunch at Chez Marianne, we made a note to visit it again next time. It isn't quite the place for a romantic interlude, but is very popular with the local crowd as well as visitors. We found it a bit dour, but that might have been because we were so very delighted with our arrival in Paris that day that only a welcoming brass band could possibly have matched our mood (and of course Paris supplied that too!).

Just to prove we took Paris as seriously as we did when we were young and not so long out of our studies, we did visit the Louvre:

Sadly, it is indeed overrun by visitors (yup, like ourselves) and when we were there it was truly, er, difficult. Never-the-LESS (as Kate Hepburn/Rosey Sayer was always saying to Humphrey Bogar/Charlie Allnut) we loved messing around in the French paintings well away from DaVinci Code tourists for an afternoon.

Another museum that delighted was in the Institut du Monde Arabe.And the building itself? Absolutely fabulous. Here are a couple of shots of the interior - one looking outside and one looking up a staircase. Gotta be seen!

Those little openings, so beautifully decorative, are controlled by the sun - opening and closing automatically. So clever!

And speaking of celebrated architecture, here is a shot of the exterior of the Pompidou Centre where we saw a wonderful exhibition by Louise Bourgeois (sorry, you'll have to google for her!) - absolutely brilliant. One of her sculptures is shown in the ground floor interior shot which follows.

Grotesque? Well maybe a little for arachnophobes (among which please count one person who goes by the name of River, 'Charlotte's Web' notwithstanding), but if anyone could get me over that fear it might be this lady.

We did manage to get some time away from museums and away from food (well, for a while anyway!). Here are we, busy taking each other's photos, in the Luxembourg Gardens:

Here's one my dh took just off the Ile de la Citee (we were staying, by then, one island over on the Ile St Louis) on probably our first day. (Most of these photos were taken over a couple of days, since I don't always carry a camera, so you are seeing the same clothes over and over again.)

Roses are irrestible to me - a childhood thing. These were close by a very old church, St Julien Le Pauvre.

(But the link given above provides a better photo!)

Another childhood thing with me is gargoyles - they fascinate me still. This one gook me by surprise.

This gargoyle was above the entrance to the Medieval Museum - a delightful place, also on the left bank, which should not be missed. I'm a sucker for medieval stuff :)

Okay, so we did have the chance to do something a little different. Did I say music earlier? Yes, and we attended a splendid performance of the Munich Philharmonic at the Theatre Champs Elysee (no photos there, sorry, only wonderful memories), but also see below for a complete musical change of pace.

An absolutely lovely thing that happened on this trip was my chance to meet a cyber pal - 'Pel' - with whom I am privileged to co-host on several groups. Somehow people one meets in cyberspace don't quite seem real. Pel is one of the realest and loveliest people I can hope to meet, and I admire her greatly.

She was having an exhibit of her photographs at this cafe, where there was also a musical friend of hers who paid us the compliment of playing for us.

He has a great talent and a vibrant personality to match - so much so that all the snaps we took were blurred from his constant movement! That only enhances the memory for us.

And that seems to be a great note to end on for now, but I may take the opportunity to add to it later :) A photo for closure? Okay, here's a photo taken near our hotel - through a window. Beautiful bronze sculptures of fruit dominated the displays. Two apples here: