Sandy Shoed Wanderings in Paris
“You can’t escape the past in Paris, and yet what’s so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn’t seem to burden.” Allen Ginsberg
Who doesn’t wish to escape everyday life, stroll down new avenues, gaze at gorgeous sights and feel elegant and cultured among the art, chateaus and monuments of a city like Paris? And who wouldn’t want to do this with a great companion by their side? Of course, I’d like to say we were truly refined, sophisticated and fluent in French throughout our little city break. In reality, we were typical tourists navigating our google maps, attempting to master the metro, taking millions of snaps and often finding ourselves far too hilarious for our own good. Nevertheless, this at least was our version of embracing Paris; exploring the sights, neighbourhoods and delicious food. It’s a city we didn’t want to leave but a holiday that had to end nonetheless. Yet, many anecdotes from this trip are ingrained in our memories and many photos capture our time there.
I took over 200 photos whilst there (and this was after culling many on the Eurostar home), so these are a selection of the ones I liked the best or show some interesting views of Paris alongside a bit of insight into our itinerary/recommendations. You know, just in case this post inspires you to book a trip. So, without further ado, here are my sandy shoed wanderings in Paris. (I say sandy shoed due to places such as Versailles and around the Louvre where we left with rather sandy shoes.)
For context, we stayed in a Airbnb about 5 minutes from Place De La Nation where there’s the Nation Metro stop and many lovely restaurants and bakeries. I’d recommend this as a good area to stay in, its a nice area which is well connected to tourist sights on the metro and is in walking distance from others too e.g. 20 mins from Bastille, 40 mins from Pompidou Centre. We tended to do a mixture of using metro to places and walking, particularly as it was fairly hot during our time there.
Pompidou Centre & back via Bastille
Since we arrived at our Airbnb at around 3/4pm on the first day we freshened up before going to the Pompidou Centre (and then for some amazing pizza after in a restaurant nearby). We also walked back passing pretty buildings in the warm evening light such as Hotel de Ville, Bastille Opera House and Place De Vosges. The Pompidou centre is a pretty interesting building and piece of architecture. That’s one of the things I really enjoyed about photography in Paris, it felt like there was a plethora of grand, impressive buildings and details to capture so it gave me a chance to experiment and try improve that side of my photography as well as taking quick holiday snaps to remember things. Whilst the Pompidou Centre does feel like a quite stark contrast from other monuments and buildings in Paris the way this building is really modern and technical in its appearance still fits in and characterises this city allowing the past and present, as Allen Ginsberg says, to intermingle and blend together. It also hosts a collection of interesting contemporary and modern art and pictured are a few specific pieces that caught my interest.
Versailles & Notre Dame
The Palace of Versailles was certainly one of my favourite places we visited. It’s a bit out of the centre of Paris, and despite the long queue to get in, even whilst waiting you can’t help but marvel at the grandeur this spectacle commands. Once through, you can see these details up close and gaze out in awe across the vast, scenic gardens and feel a sense of tranquillity. Particularly, if you like us go along on a day where they have the Musical Fountain shows.
The metro we took to Versailles was near the Notre Dame so on the way back we wandered round it and the surrounding area e.g. to the Shakespeare & Company Bookshop.
Louvre, Tuileries and Classic Coffee Shops
We took our 3rd day a bit more chilled and spent a good few hours wandering round the Louvre. Maybe its cliché and predictable but I the Louvre was probably my favourite gallery and I felt very lucky that we could get in for free. I think the reason I like it so much is because it has a whole range of areas where you feel you can immerse yourself and get lost in all it offers for a good few hours. With garden areas, ornate rooms, art galleries, statues and historical artefacts there’s a lot to discover and I can see why this is so popular. The Tuileries on its doorstep are also lovely to have a relaxing stroll around which we did before heading to a coffee shop to sit outside and pretend to be truly Parisian sipping coffee on a pretty street.
Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower & Musee d’Orsay
We started the day by going up the Arc de Triomphe and appreciating some stunning views over Paris, seeing the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur and to the business district La Défense* from here but also views of beautiful streets and down the Champs Elysees. We then (after eating our bread at the bottom of the arc – does it get more French than that?) strolled down part of the Champs Elysees and then to the Eiffel Tower before heading to the Musee d’Orsay. The Musee d’Orsay was another really interesting building in a former train station which houses a range of art including a large collection of impressionist art. Details such as the clocks, ceiling and areas reflecting its former life were in their own right as fascinating as the art. We also had a great meal in a restaurant near where we were staying that night called ‘Le Triomphe’.
- We didn’t visit La Défense but if you’d like to see some fancy architectural shots of Le Grande Arche click here for Nick Hillman’s post about this.
We left this till our final day since this area is just a 15min walk from Gare Du Nord. It’s another very touristy place however the queue for the Sacre Coeur was shorter than we expect and under 10minutes. Even had it been longer, it would have been well worth it for the beautiful look around the inside at the religious drawings on ceilings, paintings and colourful stained glass. Unforunately, you can’t take photos in here yet this means inside it feels retains a peaceful and calming atmosphere. We also looked round Monmarte, in another church here and discovered a quaint garden round the back of the Sacre Coeur. If you’re interested in food we also had the best ice cream from a place called ‘Tutti Sensi’, this itself is enough reason to visit this area I think…
Paris has certainly made me want to travel and be a tourist more, to explore and see new places and photograph even more intriguing architecture and stunning views. It also made me appreciate having a bit of a break and escape from the busy-ness of everyday life. Anyway, my next summer adventure, before my gap year is over and I head off to university, is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a month, so hopefully I’ll find time for some photography there.