I arrived back in the United States on October 29th and have more adventures to share from my time in Paris. I have loved that city since I first visited it in 1972 and hope to visit many more times in coming years. Seeing the Eiffel Tower darken immediately after the recent attacks in Paris broke my heart. There is little to say about terrorist attacks and travel. My heart goes out to everyone affected, no matter where they live.
(1-5) After admiring Notre Dame cathedral and crossing the Lover’s Lock Bridge, we strolled along the famous Left Bank, to wander the narrow, twisting streets, some of which date from medieval times. This area is also known for trade in second hand books, many of which are sold in the green metal stalls along the riverbank. Next, we found our way to one of my favorite destinations, the Shakespeare & Co. English-speaking bookstore. Since medieval times, the Left Bank has been home to scholars, philosophers and poets. The bookstore that exists today is a reincarnation of the original from the 1920’s but has all the history and charm necessary to attracted large numbers of tourists. Sylvia Beach opened this store to support free thinkers and writers in Paris, many of the Americans and one of the most famous was Ernest Hemmingway. Shakespeare & Co. and home to many of the so-called “lost generation” who went to Paris to find themselves in the aftermath of WWI.
(6-10) At this point, we had to abandon the walking tour in order to get back to the apartment, eat, change clothes and make our date to see the burlesque show at the Moulin Rouge, known for its modern can-can dance revue. Located right at the foot of Montmarte hill, within walking distance of where we were staying, in the famous red light district known as Pigalle, this cabaret has been in operation since 1889. A social hot spot during the Belle Époque, which was an extravagant period of industrial progress cultural excess, this area of Paris was frequented by some of the most famous actors (Aristide Bruant) and artists (Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) of Paris. Walking in the haunts of these greats made me forget how tired I was. We decided to walk home, and even though it was nearly midnight, we stopped for a drink at Le Chat Noir (The Black Cat) an establishment every bit as famous the Moulin Rouge.
(11) Before crashing into bed to rest up for my second day in Paris, I laid out the souvenirs I had from the day for a photo. What a day! Metro rides to the Grand Palais for exhibits of Vigée Le Brun and Picasso Mania, lunch on the Champs-Élysées Blvd. and a walk to Notre Dame and medieval Paris, including a stop at the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, and then a show at the Moulin Rouge and a drink at Le Chat Noir. I was in Paris for sure!
(1 – 9) We crossed the busy Champs Élysées Boulevard and turned toward the the Louvre to walk through the Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden), stopping briefly for a lunch. I opted for a salad and some pommes ftites (French fries) for a meager 20 Euros. It was a beautiful fall day and people were out in force to enjoy the sunshine and autumn colors. “I love Paris in the fall.”
(10 - 17) After crossing the River Seine, we found ourselves in front of Notre Dame Cathedral at a place known as Point Zero. This small octagonal brass plate (see image) set in the ground marks the exact spot from which all distances from Paris are measured.
I have visited this cathedral before and we were short on time so we decided to admire the exterior and make our way to the Pont des Arts bridge where a controversy over “lovers’ lock” exists. Traditionally lovers have affixed a padlock to the bridge and tossed the key into the river as a symbol of their never-ending love. In the summer of 2015, the city removed some 45 tons of padlocks to save the bridge from the strain of added weight. Currently, the mayor of Paris is trying to encourage couples to capture their love with selfies rather than padlocks. A grass-roots campaign — No Love Locks, Free Your Love, Save Our Bridges — has begun an effort to get the locks banned in Paris. So far, they are enjoying little success.
My first day in Paris began with a Metro ride, including several transfers to the Grand Palais, located just off the famous Champs-Élysées Blvd. to see two featured art exhibitions.