Sunday, March 26, 2006

Paris...the first installment

First of all, if anyone you know is going to Paris, tell them to rent an apartment. It was the best decision we made -- contributed to the wonderful time we had by saving us money, and adding comfort to the stay. We ate in at least once a day -- we were close enough to, well, everything, that we even wandered home for lunch once or twice.

So, "How on Earth do I find an apartment in Paris?" I hear you ask. Ah, recommendations. Friends of ours used -- I misheard (actually, I didn't have a pen), so when I got home, I typed in -- which worked just as well!

Two caveats. First, space is at a premium in Paris, especially in the very central areas. We saw a tiny studio (something ridiculously small, like 15 square metres) being sold for 300,000 euros in the 5th arrondissment. Expect the actual space to be smaller than the photos. Secondly, everyone in Paris smokes, everywhere. [I have had friends who will walk into an old pub here in Vancouver, that has been non-smoking for ages, and say: "I can't go in there, someone has smoked in there! I can smell it!" These people should not go to Paris. If you know some, dissuade them from going. They will not enjoy themselves.] A non-smoking apartment probably means it's had new paint to try to cover up the smell of centuries of smoking. Trust me, you'll still smell smoke.

That said, our apartment was in a building along the Seine, in the 5e arrondissment. This chimera atop of Notre Dame de Paris is pretty much looking right at it (past the second bridge in the photo, almost to the next bridge, Pont Neuf, which isn't in the picture).

This is what we saw, coming out of the building in the morning. The bouquinistes across the street (they line the Seine in this area, selling old books, prints, postcards, comics, etc.)...and that's the Louvre, along to the left.

We were staying on Quai des Grands Augustins, which intersected right next to us with the Rue des Grands Augustins. Just to prove to us that there is no escape from history in Paris, we found this a week into our stay, on a building that essentially backed on to ours, around the corner.
[If you can't read this plaque, it says "Pablo Picasso lived in this building from 1936 to 1955. It was in this studio that he painted 'Guernica' in 1937. It is also equally where Balzac located the action of his book "Le Chef d'Oeuvre Inconnu" (the unknown painter? artist? I should look it up)]

Okay, so Metro and I visited cathedrals, churches, and chapels. Of course. Travel to Europe and you can't avoid them. The difference is, I'm a Gothic architecture junkie, and it thrilled me to see Notre Dame every day, to hear the bells as we walked home in the evening...and to take pictures of the stained glass. This is a window in one of the apse chapels at Notre Dame (the figure in the bottom left is a statue).

This picture is in the jewel of la Sainte Chapelle, in the Palais de Justice, which was literally right across the Seine from us.

And this last picture, for today (actually this morning, it's 2 a.m., and I'm having trouble sleeping because of my clogged sinuses...and yes, it did hurt like hell on the plane trip home!) is from the Museum of the Middle Ages, a piece of stained glass from some unnamed church somewhere...Samson having his eye gouged out:

Okay, yuck.

That's all for now. More will come soon. Keep coming back!



Metro said...

The resolution on these pics is bloody amazing! You can damn near see our doorway in that gargoyle pic. Actually it's technically a chimera, not a gargoyle.

However, at this magnification, the silhouette picture bears an unfortunate resemblence to a bishop conducting an unnatural act with a garden gnome. Permit me to assure the readers that he's actually kneeling at a confessional rail, and he's fully clothed.

Just felt that was important to mention.

raincoaster said...

Yeah, it's easier if you hold onto the confessional railing.

And eye gouging. Nice. Hit any pretentious cafes? My English friends assure me that if you go to the countryside, people will still be snotty to you, but you just say "at least I'm not Parisian" and then the love you. Parisians have a reputation as unbearable snobs even within France. What say you?

Lori said...

No pretentiousness noted in the cafes. Probably 'cause Metro and I were babbling French in Quebecois accents. The amusement of the Parisian is captured by the quaintness of Canadian provincials.

We did have one guy ask us for a quick lesson in the correct usage of "Cheers!" by wait-staff. Did it mean 'you're welcome'? Well, no, it sort of means "Bon appetit!", except you say it when leaving drinks, but no, not usually coffee...

He was more cute than pretentious.