Posted by: gardner310 | September 21, 2009

Paris, A City to Revisit

I discovered this and thought it an excellent comment on Paris, a city that needs to revisited as many times as you can manage.  It is from Troy Media.  PARIS, France, September 11, 2009/ Troy Media/ —  ENJOY!

It doesn’t matter how many times you go to Paris, there is always more to see and new discoveries to be had. This is my twentieth visit – I made a lot of quick business trips there when I lived in England – and, like all those, it was too brief.

Getting from the airport to Montparnasse, where we stayed, was easy. An Air France shuttle bus takes you to the area and you can walk/taxi to the hotel of your choice. Alternatively, there is a local train leaving from the airport every fifteen minutes which takes you to a location very close to your destination – you may have to change trains, but the cost is low.

Our hotel – Hotel des Artistes – is very well designed and comfortable, and the price was discounted due to the recession. On arrival, we had lunch at a café, took a nap after a long flight and then went for a walk by the Sorbonne. The trick to overcoming jet lag is to stay with local time as long as you can possibly manage it. A good, long meal of five courses helps you both stay up – a Paris restaurant never rushes the meal – and also helps you sleep.

Tour Eiffel

Tour Eiffel

Being a tourist, even for just a few days, is hard work. The trick is to pace yourself and focus. You can’t see it all, so you need to decide what is important for this visit and then do an exceptional job of visiting those locations. On this occasion we wanted to see the Musee d’Orsay, especially the portraits by Degas, and the art work in the Luxembourg gardens. We also wanted to just enjoy the French air and people watch.

The Musee d’Orsay, on the Seine River opposite the Louvre, is an old railway station converted into one of the finest art galleries in the world. Its impressionist collection is something remarkable – well worth the visit. It also has two nice café’s which serve excellent snacks. The collection, though, is vast and you cannot possibly see and experience it all in a day. Pay, go in and head to the fifth floor and walk through the impressionist gallery. Look closely at the portraits by Degas and be amazed at how he captures more than a face – he was able to capture character and spirit as well as looks. Contrast his portraits with those by others and see for yourself just how good Degas was. Take your time leaving, but make sure you have a clear memory of the Degas. Of course, if your interest is in other painters, substitute your painter for Degas here – but the trick is not to do too much.

We then had lunch in a little seafood restaurant – fresh oysters from Normandy, mussels from the Mediterranean and John Dory from the French Riviera (a rich fish and likes to live near rich people). The French seem to be able to make a simple meal be an experience.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

We then strolled through various parts of Paris between the Seine and the Montparnasse. Each Saturday, there is a food market in the Montparnasse – fresh fruit, olives, nuts, cheeses. We bought bread, some wine, some cheese, some fruit and had a feast in the park.

The Luxembourg quarter of Paris, which includes the Luxembourg Gardens, is a fine district of elegant shops, street cafes, market stalls and churches. On a Sunday, it is busy – there is a children’s play area, café’s in the park, several games of boules (sometimes referred to as bowls) and a lot of people walking, sitting, thinking, sunbathing. Even in the first few days of September, it was 30 degrees Celsius and climbing. At the south-west entrance to the park is a small gallery which shows work by local artists – some very good. At the north of the park, near the Senate building, is a gallery which changes its exhibits each month. Both  galleries are free and both are excellent value.

But the real trick with the gardens is to find a seat in the shade and watch. The French are either elegant or interesting, but rarely both. In a typical people-watching session, you are likely to encounter philosophers extolling the virtues of the human mind, grandmothers berating their children, lovers quarrelling over where to eat, or patriarchs instructing their obedient families as to the best course of action in case of an attack of poor manners. In our case, we also acted as picture-takers for young couples wanting a picture of themselves near the Fountain of the Medici.

Then our time was over, except for a wonderful meal at a restaurant specializing in dishes from Madagascar. Then it was on to the Gare de Lyon, where our high speed train sped us to Nice in very elegant style.

Paris is always a great place to start a vacation – it is impossible for the city to be confused with anywhere you else you are likely to have been recently and it invites you to relax and enjoy its wonders. Providing you take heed, that is to relax and enjoy by doing less, it is a great place to spend a long week-end.

Parisian Street Cafe

Parisian Street Cafe

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