Paris in the (almost) springtime

How do you sum up a week of seeing and doing so much? I am going to go ahead and split this past week into two entries, this one focusing on Paris and the next talking a bit more about my Semana Santa experience here in Córdoba.

Paris was much better the second time around, for a lot of little reasons and a fair amount of luck. I think it was a little early for the classic Springtime in Paris bit, but the grass was getting green, the daffodils were in bloom, and there were lots of fancy Easter shaped chocolates in shop windows. In other words, it felt like spring to me. Rain had been forecast basically every day, but in the end I don’t think I had my umbrella open for more than an hour and a half in total. Gray skies sort of added to the general sense of relaxation. Both Adam, my travel buddy, and I commented on how quiet Paris seemed, even the center of the city, even metros full of people. My theory is that most of the people in the street, in cafés, on the metro were alone, something rare in Spain. People flying solo make less noise. It was a nice break from the horn honking and bustling cafes and bars of Andalucía.

One moment that combined calmness and appreciation of seasons was seeing Monet’s Waterlilies at the recently reopened Musée l’Orangerie. It was closed for six years for renovations, the basement now housing the art collection of Paul Guillaume, a wealthy Parisian art dealer who used to have all of this art hanging in his many Parisian apartments. The miniature apartment models were unbelievable…who knew one could hang too many master works in one living room? Upstairs, there are two oval rooms, a request Monet made when he gave the Waterlilies series to the museum. This way, there’s no sense of beginning or end and one can be completely surrounded by the massive panels. For whatever reason, there were few people there, which allowed me to sit on the center bench, far enough away to see the paintings from a distance as they were intended. I tried to identify the season and the time of day of each panel, some coming really easily to me although I couldn’t always put my finger on just why. Sitting there for some time, changing positions every five or ten minutes to stare at another panel, an overwhelming sense of calm came over me. The waterlilies and I were definitely communing. It was a really wonderful moment and a Parisian stop, between the Louvre and the Champs-Élysées, that I highly recommend. I attempted to give some sense of the room through photos, although like any art, it’s not quite the same as when it’s seen in person.





Another new thing I did was a night bateaux mouche (boat ride) on the Seine. I had dismissed the boat rides the first time, thinking they were certainly really expensive. So I was sort of shocked to find that 9 euros covers an hour and a half cruise–in a place where 9 euros barely buys a decent sandwich. So on the last night, despite it being pretty damn cold on the old river, I rode on top and passed by so many illuminated wonders and under so many cool illuminated bridges. Took lots of videos and pictures and it was a nice way to end the trip.

cold, cold on the Seine
Me, the last fifteen minutes of the ride when it got REALLY cold

I plan to attempt to edit some of the videos together, maybe to music. But with my video skills being what they are, you may see the vids on YouTube soon, unedited and just as shaky as ever.

I ran into some rude Parisians again, people who use their French and the fact that I don’t speak much of it as a weapon, even as I was trying. But plenty of people were also friendly enough. It was nice to walk around without being looked at strangely. It was nice to be in a place and be aware that it is, without a doubt, a center of art and of culture, of fashion and of thought. Sitting alone in a café and reading or writing isn’t frowned upon; reading a book on the metro is not strange at all. I wrote more than I’ve written in a long time and every night had an urge to read, even after traipsing all over the city all day. I took hundreds and hundreds of photos.

Because I could continue writing here for much longer than is interesting to anyone but myself and have posted plenty of photos for those who are actually interested in knowing more about the trip, I am going to go ahead and just list some of the highlights. Brevity, Emily, brevity.

  • Musee l’Orangerie and its Waterlilies
  • Watching traffic under the Arc de Triomphe, where 12 roads come together and incoming traffic has the right of way
  • Discovering C.R.O.U.S., a government subsidized student cafeteria where 2.80€ buys a full meal, with dessert
  • The Egyptian wing at the Louvre
  • Entering a neighborhood boulangerie (bread shop) in Montmarte and conducting the full purchase of my daily bread in French
  • Sitting at the well-lit corner table at the bottom of the stairs at the Hostel Caulaincourt every morning and writing
  • Bateaux Mouche at night and lit-up buildings and bridges
  • Rick Steves’ podcast tour of Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter
  • 1.50€ beers at a bar full of French students
  • the cupola in Galleries Lafayette
  • Palm Sunday musicians at the St-Germain des Pres Church
  • hearing the Pogues, the Cranberries, and U2 over a Bulmer’s cider inside an Irish bar on St. Patrick’s Day
  • finding 10€ on the seat of an RER train
  • Lychee juice and Volvic orange peach water
  • watching Adam’s face as he saw all of the sights for the first time
  • Daffodils and irises in parks and cut flowers on street corners
  • the sweet 1919 music of a paso doble called “Córdoba” that I bartered for next to the Seine and then cared for like my own child on the way back to Spain, chastizing French airport guards who tried to fold it into the x-ray machine
  • Nutella and banana crepes
  • Window shopping and lots of window drooling at pastry shops
  • the WWII memorial near Notre Dame
  • rounding a corner and coming upon a full-sized model of a mammoth at the Museum of Natural History
  • listening to Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes” while walking along the Seine. And then “Uptown Girl.”
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4 responses to “Paris in the (almost) springtime”

  1. Photography and more


    Good read! Thank you!

  2. Kristin – from the snappy orange trench coat, to the brie and bread, to the art, the Eiffel Tower, everything. Looks like a wonderful trip.

    Don’t worry about brevity. I’m loving the detailed posts.

  3. Charisma

    “It was nice to walk around without being looked at strangely.”

    YES, my sentiments exactly. Not that people NEVER look at you in a strange manner (not that France doesn’t also have, let’s say, “messed up” politics), but I feel as though that people in France do it less often than in Spain.

  4. Julie E.

    I can finally put this well written post to use–I’m headed to Paris next weekend. A scant 2.5 days, but I intend to soak it in. Sure, I live in Madrid, but I’ve been yearning for the taste of a different kind of city, dare I say it.