of all the things i love about paris, and there are many things that i love about paris, the bridges definitely rank pretty high on the list. when i go back (with much more comfortable shoes than i had the last time), i plan to take a day and start at the pont de sully, which connects the farthest end of the ile st-louis to both the left & right banks, and walk across every bridge all the way over to the pont de bir hakeim, just beyond the eiffel tower.
i had a revelation this week about my visit to paris, that perhaps seems on some levels to diminish what is my great love of the city. i realized that during this week that i was gone, for the first time in i have no idea how long, no one wanted or expected anything at all from me. not a soul on the planet had any expectations of me...and it felt good, gloriously good, just to be.
when i told a friend about this revelation today, she said that it should tell me something, that i need to do this more often, and while i don't disagree, i need to find a way to fit these times into my life more regularly...without feeling guilty.
that is my goal for the next nine & a half months...until i return?
this is my flag:
just up the road from the luxembourg garden, at the end of the street sits the Pantheon, as of this moment, my favorite church in paris (mostly because there were only about 12 other tourists in it!) it truly is a beautiful church, the columns on the outside of the building, while from far away they look nice, from close up, they are fairly intimidating.
to prove that fact, i took this picture of this poor, unsuspecting man as he stood looking up. for the size of him, he could be just a little boy!
every time i look at these pictures, i am astounded athow so much of the architecture in paris can make one feel small. the eiffel tower, the arc de triomphe, the louvre... and here the pantheon. it's all so much bigger than life...not in the las vegas sort of way... when i was in vegas, i was also astounded at the largeness of everything, but it was more of a grand scale to shock & because they can make things big, while in paris, it seems to be a natural outpouring of the french spirit - a sort of 'this is us, this is who we are, and if you want to look at it you can, and if not, i really don't care' attitude. the beauty of paris seems to be that it is designed by parisians for parisians, and those of us who are fortunate enough to see it should just consider ourselves lucky.
i think i noticed that attitude after having only been in the city a few hours. so many tourist destinations cater to their guests, as opposed to to the natives. paris really doesn't care that you're visiting. life there will go on just fine after you go home. maybe that's what i liked so much about it.
back to the pantheon, king louis XV, after surviving an illness, commissioned the pantheon to be built in dedication of Sainte-Geneviève (that's her in the picture), but now it's mostly known for the famous dead people buried there, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, and Marie Curie to name a few.
so much history. so much beauty. i left the pantheon feeling appropriately small...and i didn't mind at all.
and what a good decision it ended up being! another of the yummy things i miss from the city of lights is the pain au chocolat. oh my goodness...let me say that none of the sad excuses for chocolate croissants that have ever been made and consumed on our continent have ever been or could ever dream to be in the same catagory of these golden delicacies.
after picking up my pain au chocolat, i crossed the street and headed into the luxembourg garden to sit on a park bench and eat my breakfast. the garden was absolutely beautiful. i don't think i ever have, or ever will eat breakfast in such a truly beautiful place again...at least until i go back! the palace was nice too, but for some reason, it was the garden that truly captured me. because i went in may, the tulips and other flowers were in bloom. whoever said that springtime was the time to go to paris surely knew what they were talking about.
just before i left the gardens, and headed over the the pantheon i went a little closer to the palace, to get a closer look at it. while i was taking some pictures, i saw a group of people standing by a pool. it seemed that the amount of people who were standing around & photographing the pool were quite disproportionate to the pool itself. that, however, was because a group of trees was standing between me, and the thing all the people were looking at, which was a very large face sticking out & perfectly reflected in the water. it was quite surreal & very cool.
from here, i walked down to the street over to the pantheon, currently my favorite parisian church, but i'll save that for tomorrow!
on my way over, i stopped at (of course) a shoe store, and when i told the clerk that i was headed to angelina, she added her opinion that the hot chocolate was something not to be missed.
so i sat down, and as i hadn't eaten lunch, i ordered a chicken sandwich first, with the african hot chocolate to follow for dessert. my waiter asked if i wanted anything else for dessert, but i figured that i would see how i felt after what was supposed to be the most incredible hot chocolate in the world.
well, the chocolat arrived in a little white carafe, with a small cup & a bowl of whipped cream on the side....and being the experiential person that i am, i was already taken, and hadn't had a sip yet. i could try to express just how good, how moving, how unbelievable this hot chocolate was, but mere words can never adequately convey the reality.
i attempted to force myself to finish it all, as who knew when such glory would come my way again...but i was unable to do it.
just another reason that paris is indeed the greatest city in all of the civilized world.
directly opposite notre dame, on the rue de la bucherie on the left bank lies a little bookstore i have dreamed about for years, shakespeare & co. strangely enough, i walked past it three times before i was actually observant enough to find it. (i never claimed that i was not at least a bit jet-lagged). this picture was taken the morning after i visited it, before it opened. and like so many of the other aspects of my trip, it was so perfectly what i had hoped for and epxected, that i almost feel juvenile saying that it too, was perfect.
originally i had planned on buying a copy of charles dicken's 'a tale of two cities' in, coincidentally enough, one of the two cities. but, crazily enough, i just couldn't bring myself to spend almost 30 euro on a book! so i settled to purchase another book from this haven of literature.
the day i got to paris was a national holiday, european victory day, so on my first visit to the arc de triomphe, there was this huge flag of france hanging from the centre of it. the flag was only there for that one day, the next day, when i went back, it was gone. i'm so glad that i didn't wait to take the picture. it was so surreal, it's hard to capture how truly big this flag is by the photo...but trust me, it would easily have covered over a house!
the open bus tour, a hop on/hop off tour with headphones for the tour guide in multiple languages was one of my best purchases for the trip. not only did i meet a lot more people than i would have had i not taken it, but just to be able to sit on the top of a double decker bus & see the city go by was truly amazing. i would highly recommend this for anyone planning on going to paris.
by this point, i had come to the realization that i wasn't going to be able to do everything i wanted in this trip, and had resolved to slow down and make the most of what i could reasonably do. one of my better decisions.
after a ride on the open bus tour, i arrived at the rodin museum around 10am. the weather was perfect...which was the first time since the day i had arrived, so i chose to skip the indoor part of the museum, and stay in the garden, which again, was one of the better decisions.
considering rodin is my favorite sculptor, i was surprised at how little i actually knew of his life. for example, this sign under the lamp contained both rodin's name, as well as rilke's...who is my favorite poet. i had no clue that in 1902 rainer maria rilke went to paris to write a monograph on the sculptor. i took this picture to remind myself to look up the connection when i got home. while looking it up, i found this poem of rilke's, entitled 'a walk.'
My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-
and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave...
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.
the garden was truly amazing. the thinker, the three shades, the gates of hell, all incredible. ... although this may be the first sentence in history that uses the phrases 'gates of hell' and 'incredible' together.
i'm starting to forget what it felt like to be in paris...not that i ever will forget it all, but sometimes the dailyness & relentlessness of life serves to blur all that was once held dear. i will not wait another 40 years to go back.
that's just too long to wait to visit the part of my heart i left behind.