The Paris Blog – Day 2

Even after all that walking I managed to get up and go for a run first thing. This took me to, and then round, Les Jardin du Luxembourg, another place on my list I could cross off. After my run, it was back the hotel, shower, breakfast and metro to Saint Michel where, after admiring the fountain, I walked down the boulevard listening to Peter Sarstedt’s Where Do You Go To My Lovely because it says: “You live in a fancy apartment Off the Boulevard of St. Michel”. If I went all the way up Champs Elysses just to listen to a song you can bet I wasn’t going to let that one slide. Plus, as will soon become apparent, it was not the furthest I went just to listen to a song.

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I then meandered my way in the vague direction of Shakespeare and Company, a bookshop named after the original Shakespeare and Co which was a gathering place for writers like Hemingway, Pound and Joyce. I spent ages there looking for just the right book to buy. I thought Pratchett, considered Gaiman, pondered Murakami, Nick Cave and Bowie were right there when I walked in, but they were MASSIVE hardbacks I could never carry around all day, nothing seemed right until I found Wilde. A gilt edged copy of the Happy Prince and other stories. Perfect.

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Across the river to Notre Dame and, as there was a huge queue, after taking pictures of myself making a ‘hunchback face’ I went to the Conciergerie instead. This was where they held Marie Antoinette after the Revolution and, considering it was a garrison and prison, a rather beautiful building. As Sainte Chappelle is almost next door I had that down as my next stop. As it was shut I moved straight on to Fu De Cha, a tea shop where I sat, read Les Miserables, drank green tea and convinced myself what I really wanted to do was take the metro to Pere Lachaise cemetery to visit Jim Morrison’s grave. Once Sainte Chappelle was open again I headed there but, unfortunately didn’t beat the queue. Off to Pere Lachaise it was.

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By that time it was so warm I was actually looking forward to spending some time prowling a dank, mossy cemetery. Pere Lachaise, as it turns out, is not dank or even remotely mossy and was instead boiling in the heat. Still, it didn’t stop me seeking out first Oscar Wilde and then Jim Morrison. Hovering as near to Morrison’s graveside as I could get, I smoked a cigarette and listened to The Doors, namely The End and Light My Fire, as seemed appropriate, and then hoofed it back to Ile de la Cite and Sainte Chappelle. Mum told me I HAD to go there although, on first look I wasn’t really sure why. It’s a pretty church but, when you’ve had the family holidays I’ve had, you have seen churches aplenty. Then I went upstairs. Words cannot describe.

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From Sainte Chappelle I walked along the Seine to Place de la Bastille, ate a donut (it’s nearly cake), walked to Place des Vosges, checked out the location of Victor Hugo’s house and then casually strolled in the direction of Les Halles and the Pompidou Centre. I say casually strolled, what I mean is, walked a little gingerly trying really hard to ignore how much my calves and feet were hurting.

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I was intrigued to see the Pompidou centre, with its inside outside architecture, as I have a photograph of me, mum and Kat outside a building somewhere in Europe and, after researching it for my holiday, I was pretty sure the picture could have been taken at the Pompidou centre. Keen to see if I was right, I added it to my day two list and, even though it was getting on and I was pretty done in after the hike to Place de la Bastille – and that impromptu trip to Pere Lachaise – I marched on.

I wouldn’t say I was exactly disappointed on arrival at the Pompidou, it does have a lot going for it but it’s not the nicest part of Paris. Even the guidebook warns you that the area can be seedy and that you should avoid going out on your own at night there. It also wasn’t the building in the photograph, or what I thought I had remembered from many years ago. It is fascinating to see, from an architectural point of view, so I’m glad I made the trip but… The sunshine had brought folks out and the square in front of the centre was quite full. It was also covered in rubbish which, was, unfortunately my strongest impression. That and a slightly limp moving sculpture and the discordant sound of two different groups busking. As I beat a hasty retreat in the direction of Place Igor Stravinsky, I decided the Pompidou Centre was not one of my favourite Paris places. 

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Place Igor Stravinsky also turned out to be a little bit of a let down, at first look. The guidebook had described a fountain with wonderful moving sculptures, what I got appeared to be a glorified playground, as there was no water in the fountain, (I think the people in charge of the fountains haven’t yet started getting them summer ready as not one of them had water in, not any that I saw anyhow) and there were children climbing all over the sculptures. I took some pictures, trying not to let the fact that I couldn’t get a clear shot of anything with all the children in the way, bother me. By the time I had circled the fountain I had realised that this was, in fact, better than if I’d found it as I’d expected, all water filled and clear of people so I could take lots of boring arty pictures. Instead, I had beautiful pictures of Parisians enjoying their environment and appreciating the fountain on different levels. Why couldn’t it be a play area for children and a mini skate park whilst also being a vibrant colourful homage to Igor Stravinsky? We get so used to art being something to look at and appreciate in a ‘proper’ manner, but why can’t it be dynamic and interactive? 

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With that in mind I wasn’t at all surprised, or disappointed, to find the big head sculpture outside Saint Eustache had also become a climbing frame. I was, however, quite let down by the horrific state of Les Halles. Called the “Belly of Paris” by Emile Zola as it was the central marketplace for food in Paris at the time of his writing, it is currently being completely remodelled – apparently because ‘in 2002 Mayor Bertrand Delanoë announced that the City of Paris would begin public consultations regarding the remodeling of the area, calling Les Halles “a soulless, architecturally bombastic concrete jungle”‘(Wikipedia). Consequently the entire area is in a shocking state. On the plus side, the Pompidou Centre just became my second-to-last least favourite place. 

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Somehow, I managed to miss all the metro entrances at Les Halles and even bypassed Chatelet, the next nearest, and ended up walking to Pont Neuf, where I eventually caught the metro. By this time the evening was drawing on and all I remember thinking was that the guidebook had suggested not being out at night time around Pompidou and Les Halles. As the sun dropped lower and lower I walked seemingly further and further in search of a metro station. 

As I’d decided to return to the tiny Chinese restaurant I’d gone to the previous night, for dinner, I plotted a route which would hopefully mean the least amount of walking. It didn’t, however, miss out tiny side streets as I’d not planned on being quite so late back. However, two days of navigating Paris meant I felt confident enough to walk the slightly less populated streets, in the approaching darkness, eyeballing; absolutely nobody as everyone else seemed to be already at dinner or in one of the packed bars and cafes on the main streets. At the end of the road which led to ‘my’ restaurant, I passed another, slightly bigger, Chinese place. This one had both steamed and grilled dumplings on offer and, as I am a sucker for dumplings, I changed my dinner plans and popped inside. This also meant even less walking and a quicker route back to my hotel. I’m pretty sure if my feet could talk they would have said thank you, a thousand times over. 

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