Let Paris Surprise You!

Bonjour! Last month I was fortunate enough to travel to Paris for a two-week sojourn (my longest-ever visit) of literary and artistic landmarks. Because my sculptor sweetheart had never been to France, it was a special delight to witness his first viewings of works by artists that inspired him (Praxiteles, Michelangelo, and Rodin, to name a few).

Paris is a lovely city with countless stops of inspiration, from the watering holes of Hemingway and St. Exupery to the cemetery where the reputed heroine of the La Dame Aux Camelias (and the author, Alexandre Dumas, Jr.) now sleeps. It is also legendary for the beauty of its monuments and the vibrancy of its people.

ashley_wilde

The apartment-turned-hotel in Montmartre where the wit and playwright Oscar Wilde lived and died, quipping: “I am dying beyond my means.”

You can indeed die (and live) in style in Paris for there is art and literature everywhere. Yes, there is the Louvre (7 hours is not enough!) and the Comédie-Française, but there is Shakespeare on the subway, artistry in the patisseries (yummy, to boot!), and champagne on the Eiffel Tower.

eiffel_tower

jp_vang-gogh

Gogh Johnny Gogh! Van Gogh, that is. Here he poses in front of the apartment where Van Gogh once lived. 

What surprised us:

  • How seriously the French take their food. Yes. Do not eat in any of the restaurants around here, poo-pooed our host, instead giving us a book with an inscrutable rating system that recommended only 2 restaurants in our neighborhood. It’s okay. The local supermarket was an epicurean delight in itself.
  • How crazy it really is to drive in Paris. Don’t even try it, countless Parisians told us. They were right. We are lucky to be alive. The merging traffic has the right of way. Need I say more?
  • There ARE bathrooms to be found. Just ask! Les toilettes, s’il vous plait?
  • The flea market was worth the trek and the riffraff. First edition of Victor Hugo poems (1830) for just five Euros.
  • Call us picky (in a nation of unlimited bread and cheese) but the French lack true crackers and peanut butter! So if you need a quick snack, don’t expect to find this. They do carry “Skippy” in some stores but it was exorbitantly expensive.
  • The apartment where we stayed had the most curious washing machine. It was actually a combination washer AND dryer. By the time we figured out how to use it, it was time to leave.
  • Friday the 13th is actually considered good luck in France!
  • The recent terrorism attacks were not enough to dampen the enduring joie de vivre of the French people. Maybe it’s the art. Maybe it’s the wine. And maybe it’s just c’est la vie.
abbaye mortemer

As a side trip, we did venture into the countryside of Normandy for a couple of days. We drove by countless charming little towns full of blooming wisteria and stone walls. A highlight was the ruins of Abbaye de Mortemer, which is reputedly the most haunted abbey in France. We didn’t see any ghosts but as we walked among the decaying stone walls on this drizzly day, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if we had!

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