29 April 2009

J'ai deux billets pour Paris!

Y'all, it's happening.

On June 22, my fabulous roommate and I fly into Paris and together take France by storm for 16 days.

First to the Loire Valley (Angers) for a wedding, on south, and then back to Paris.

I never thought I'd be back within 10 months. I cannot wait to see the things I felt like I missed out on (like being too sick to go in Notre Dame).


13 April 2009

The Seventh Arr.

The afternoon of my first full day in Paris with L, we commenced sightseeing in our very best manner. We went to the seventh arrondissement and then crossed the Seine. Here's the highlights, aka More Things I Love About Paris.

See the shiny gold dome in the distance? Les Invalides- the final resting place of Napoleon.

I wanted to go to the Musée de l’Armée

I have to admit that I didn't find it necessary to wait in line to go up the Eiffel Tower, which is actually celebrating its 120th birthday this year. The view from Montmartre is fantastic and therefore satisfied my Parisian panoramic needs, so I pocketed my 10€. We skirted the mass of tourists huddled beneath it and entered the seventh arrondissement to take this picture. Pretty.

La Tour Eiffel

The natural continuation of this path led us across the Seine, where we stopped at the unofficial memorial to Princess Diana above the tunnel on the bank of the river. The torch is a copy of the Statue of Liberty's, and is officially a tribute to French-American friendships. People scrawl loving messages to Princess Di on the concrete with whatever they have on hand, even nail polish.

Memorial to Princess Diana

On, on.

L'Arc de Triomphe (or, if you ask Dave Barry, The Lark of Triumph)

L'Arc de Triomphe- oh, one of my favorite things in Paris. Belonging to a military family has given me an intense appreciation for things militaristic in nature, and this especially. Patriotism was intensified by an enormous French flag displayed alongside an EU flag inside the arch, due to the EU headquarters moving to Paris.

It's in the middle of the scary traffic circle, known as Place Charles de Gaulle, which feeds no less than 12 streets, all named for famous military leaders. Traffic accidents inside the circle are equal fault of drivers involved- damages are split 50-50. A tourist enters the arch by way of damp underground tunnel, and is protected from said traffic by means of a flimsy chain strung round the monument. One tourist actually stepped over this barrier and out into traffic to take a photo of her group. She was quickly herded back by French policemen, but this sort of behavior is surely what prompted Dave Barry to write:
"Another well-known Paris landmark is the Arc de Triomphe, a moving monument to the many brave men and women who have died trying to visit it, which we do not recommend because it’s located in the middle of La Place de la Traffic coming from All Directions at 114 Miles Per Hour."
L and I spent some time reading the plaques and dedications inside the arch, which can be a difficult task since most are set into the ground and most tourists ignored us and walked over them while we stood there apparently concentrating on their migratory patterns. Not that I'm bitter.

Tomb of the unknown soldier

The Arch and the grave reminded me of one of the greatest scenes in the movie Casablanca:

Liberté, Liberté chérie, Combats avec tes défenseurs!

Avenue des Champs-Élysées, replete with gawking tourists such as myself

We needed food, so we left L'Arc de Triomphe via the Champs-Élysées and the Métro and went back to the fifth arrondissement.

Fontaine Saint-Michel in Quartier Latin

In the cities of Europe, there are so many restaurants that most establishments have developed a gimmick to attract customers. Some send out attractive men to verbally woo the ladies inside (creepier than it sounds), some have entertainers like musicians and jugglers outside to grab attention. This man was smashing crockery on the sidewalk.

We stopped to eat at a little crêperie (fancy French word for tasty pancake) near St-Michel that L knows and loves. It's called La Crêperie des Pêcheurs* (crêperie of the fishermen) and it looks like a ship's interior, complete with figureheads and fishing nets. The place is tiny. L and I were next to the door at a little table for two that was so small it was hinged to let me in to sit against the wall. It faced the open kitchen, and our pre-dinner entertainment were the masses of hungry tourists pausing mere steps away to consider the menu and have a peep at the atmosphere (naturally, us.) They serve both savory crêpes (salées) and sucrées (dessert), with le cidre, the traditional companion of a crêpe. I had something delicious with mushrooms and tomato, L and I shared a bottle of cidre, and then we ordered dessert. We chose the Grand Marnier crêpe flambé, which is served wreathed in blue fire and accompanied by a dish heaped with whipped cream and is very, very tasty.

*French punctuation makes this funny: a pêcheur (note the accent circumflex) is a fisherman. This word is but a mark away from being a pécheur (accent aigu), which is a sinner.

After dinner we stopped into a little English bookshop on the left bank of Seine called Shakespeare & Company. It's one of the 10 or so English-speaking bookshops in the city and is really a lovely little place. J'aime les librairies.

Maybe the next post will be less talk, more see. It's hard to write about places when the pictures make you miss it intensely, but hope remains! Possibly more on that later.

06 April 2009

France in pictures

On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur.

L'essential est invisible pour les yeux.
-Le Petit Prince