Paris in July, now hosted by the lovely Emma of Words and Peace, is here again! And I have something to share, for I recently got to actually visit Paris for a weekend, together with my son. It was a bit nuts, but I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity while my sister was visiting with her family. I spent a college term in Paris many years ago, so it was also a chance to get to see some of the places I remembered, and share them with my son.
My husband drove us an hour over the border to the TGV station in France, and from there with the fast train it’s only 2.5 hours to Paris. We arrived around noon, and after meeting up with my sister and eating at a cafe we went to see a couple of my favorite things: the unicorn tapestries in the Musée de Cluny, and the windows in the Sainte Chapelle.
On the doorway of the Sainte Chapelle are also many charming carvings, like the one of Noah’s ark.
We were staying at an Airbnb studio apartment in the Marais district. It was a fantastically central location, but extremely noisy from the restaurants below, particularly on Saturday night as they were having some kind of Pride celebration that involved pirates and mermaids whooping and yelling a lot as well as loud music.
It was also very hot, so we went out to walk around until quite late that evening while it cooled off. There were tons of people lining the quays of the Seine.
I did not remember these grotesque faces on the Pont Neuf but they were fun to look at:
We crossed the river and went to Notre Dame as the sun set, looking at the construction. You can’t get very close, but you can go all the way around. There are photos posted on the barrier wall, showing what the inside looked like after the fire and some of the work in progress. What a massive project it is! Here you can see how the flying buttresses are being held up by wooden frameworks, just as they must have been during the original construction.
The next day our primary goal was to visit the Musée d’Orsay, so we headed there first thing to stand in line for when the doors opened. My son wanted to see the Van Gogh paintings, but sadly most of them were away on loan for an exhibition in Amsterdam! We did get to see a wonderful special exhibition of pastels, and spent most of our time in there.
Many famous names (Degas, Manet, Cassatt, Redon) were represented, as well as not-so-famous ones that were often even more intriguing. I especially liked the mysterious images by an artist named Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer; below is his “Woman with a medal.”
Later that day we went to see the Eiffel Tower from the outside, and then went to Montmartre where we went inside Sacre Coeur (there was a service going on, but we could walk around quietly) and then climbed the tower for a great view of the whole of Paris.
Below are three views of the Eiffel Tower: from underneath, at sunset from the opposite side of the Seine, and in the distance from the top of Sacre Coeur.
On our last morning, I wanted to head over to the Latin Quarter, which was where I actually spent most of my time during my college course, including eating lunch in the Jardin du Luxembourg most days. I remembered this as a lovely place, but sadly, my son was unimpressed by the formal gardens and found them quite boring. So after sitting for a short time at the fountain we moved on.
On our way out, I asked for a picture of me with George Sand, one of the many statues of famous people from various centuries dotted around the grounds.
It turned out that what my son really wanted was to hang out at sidewalk cafes, which is a most Parisian thing to do, so we spent the rest of the morning doing that!
On our way back to the Marais, I managed to persuade him to do a selfie with Notre Dame in the background.
We exited Paris that afternoon, just in time to miss the upheavals of the following week protesting another incident of police brutality.
I’d been interested to see a monument commemorating the abolition of slavery in the former French colonies in the Jardin du Luxembourg, something that was definitely not there when I was a student in the 1980s. There have been complaints that this insignificant monument tucked away in an obscure corner of the gardens actually represents a wish to forget the horrible crimes that were and continue to be committed. Still, it was a sign to me of how things have changed, even if there is a long way to go.
Perhaps someday, our greatest and most significant monuments will be to those who work tirelessly for peace and justice. I hope so.
Even with that somber finish, it was a wonderful visit, and I’m so glad we got to make it. Have you ever been to Paris, or would you like to go? What do you remember, or what would you most like to see?