World Trip HomePost Nine

Post Nine - Paris

Le GareLe Gare

After a week in Bordeaux we boarded the high speed TGV train and headed to Paris. We spent a week here in 1995 staying in a cheap hotel 20km south of the city in Versailles. This time we wanted to see what Paris was really like so we rented an apartment for 10 days in an interesting district called the Marais. This actually ended up costing less than the hotels we were looking at plus we had the ability to cook some of our own meals to save on costs. Most importantly, it allowed us to live like Parisians. -- Scott

Americans in ParisAmericans in Paris

Ah, Paris. Palate paradise!

We spent 10 days based in the Marais, a trendy, lively neighborhood with an eclectic mix of artists, gay culture, and an orthodox Jewish community. Three different metro lines were situated just minutes from our apartment, popping us to any museum or monument. From our rented apartment, we could walk to shops filled with golden, aromatic baguettes, rainbow displays of fruits and veggies, pungent cheeses, glistening meats, delicate pastries, and wine, wine, and more wine.

Nearby restaurants served tasty Spanish tapas, perfumed Moroccan tajines and couscous, kosher falafel, hearty handmade pasta, plump bagels, and, of course, plenty of delicious French plonk to wash it down with. -- Karen

Madness at the LouvreMadness at the Louvre

Paris has a visitor pass that allows unlimited entry into all the major museums for 5 days for about $35. This is great because you can just pop into a museum (bypassing the long lines to buy tickets), see what you want to see and leave without feeling like you had to see everything to justify the entrance price.

The Louvre has wonderful art but to try to see it all in one day is madness. Unfortunately, many people attempt the feat - often as part of a guided tour. Of course, the Mona Lisa is part of everyone's itinerary. I don't really understand why - to me it's a fairly unremarkable painting. If you don't know where Mona is, you don't need to ask, just follow the crowds. The people surrounding the painting look like paparazzi swarming a superstar. Flash bulbs pop while people hold their video cameras above their heads. It's quite a spectacle. This photo shows the crowds on their way to see Lisa. -- Scott

City of LightsCity of Lights

Strolling around Paris at night with all the bridges and major monuments lit up makes you believe that Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I was out walking one night and came upon this scene along the Seine. A band had set up with mics, amps and speakers and was entertaining the gathered crowd with very good renditions of Hendrix tunes. Notre Dame was illuminated in the background, the moon was overhead, and as the Wind Cried Mary, I was happy to be alive. -- Scott

Musee d'Orsay Musee d'Orsay

This clock is one of many reminders that the Musee d'Orsay building was once a train station. Today, the only lines coming through are queues of tourists wrapped the block, waiting for hours to get a glimpse of the world's finest and most comprehensive collection of Impressionist paintings. This museum contains room after room of works by Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin, Toulouse-Latrec, and more.

In their day, paintings like Vincent's Van Gogh's Starry Night, Monet's Garden at Giverny, or Renoir's Danse a la Ville were considered scandalous. Today, these images adorn mouse pads, t-shirts, and coffee mugs. Hard to believe they could offend as deeply as modern-day art-world shockers such as the painting of the Virgin Mary smeared with dung, or a cow split in half and pickled in formaldehyde.

My favorite works here, however, are the neoclassical paintings and the Art Nouveau and Art Deco furniture, glass, and pottery. This is functional sculpture, art people once enjoyed with their eyes and heart, yet used in their everyday life, too. -- Karen

Pillars of JusticePillars of Justice

I took these shots of support pillars in the basement of the prison where Marie Antoinette was held before being guillotined. She was a spoiled brat, but just about all the royalty were back then. Her main crime was perhaps being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Interestingly, she supposedly lived her final days in a defiant calm grace that impressed her prison guards. These pillar supports where probably the last she saw of her prison before she was marched out to meet her fate. -- Scott

Le Tour EiffelLe Tour Eiffel

I took this shot of the Eiffel tower near the Place de la Concorde at the start of the Champs-Elysées. The obelisk in the photo was a gift to France by the viceroy of Egypt. It's 2,300 years old and is 23 meters high. The Eiffel Tower is 300 meters high and was built to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution. I don't know anything about the cool lamp in the foreground. We were in Paris for Bastille Day this year to watch the tower turn 112. Remember these facts. There will be a quiz at the end of this post. -- Scott

Next Up: Paris to Champagne

Copyright 2001
Scott & Karen Semyan