Wandering… (the River Seine)

Now that we’ve taken a look at the Right and Left Bank of beautiful Paris, it’s time to check out the reason for this division of the city in the first place – the River Seine itself! This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite ways to see Paris – walking along the water, passing doting lovers, old men walking slowly on their daily strolls, and groups of loitering teens and adolescents with nowhere else to go. Couple that with the spectacular views you get from the city’s many bridges that cross over the Seine, and well… why wouldn’t you spend much of your time near the water?

Of course, it is a river running through a major city – not the cleanest of all bodies of water and certainly not a place for a swim (although head upstream from Paris and swimming is no problem – I took a dip in the Seine myself while living in the small village of Marnay-sur-Seine months before, remember?) Some unfortunate pollution problems aside, it is a gorgeous river which plays a huge part in creating Paris’ distinct character…

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The famous Pont des Arts...

The famous Pont des Arts with its padlock covered railings (read more about it in a previous post)…

Pont des Arts...

And Pont des Arts from another angle…

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These tour boats are all over the river - I admit, as cheesy as it is, I wanted to take a tour. Unfortunately, I never made the time to do it...

These tour boats are all over the river, day and night. I admit, as cheesy as they are, I actually really wanted to take a tour. Unfortunately, I never made the time to do it… ah well, next time!

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After a big rain, it can sometimes be difficult to reach the water's edge...

After a big rain, it can sometimes be difficult to reach the water’s edge…

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Day or night, it's not a bad place to be!

Day or night, the riverside is a great place to be!

Of course, any talk of the Seine would be incomplete without mention of the two isles that sit in the middle of the river. There’s the famous Île de la Cité – the site of the original, medieval settlement of Paris. It all started there! Now the place is crawling with tourists as the isle is home to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral, the Palais de la Cité / Conciergerie (former palace and prison where Marie Antoinette was held while awaiting execution), and the magical Sainte-Chapelle (which I did not visit this time around, but saw on a trip to Paris in high school – highly recommended!) I admit that it’s not my favorite part of the city, but as I lived just across the river from the isles on the Right Bank, I had to walk through there often to get to the Left Bank – despite the throngs of tourists, there are plenty of beautiful things to see…

Le Palais de Justice...

Le Palais de Justice…

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A section of the enormous Conciergerie...

A section of the enormous Conciergerie…

... which was home to this ridiculously gaudy clock that I loved...

… which was home to this ridiculously gaudy clock that I loved…

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More of the Conciergerie...

More of the Conciergerie…

Place Dauphine - a quiet haven away from the hustle and bustle of the east side of the island where most of the tourist sights are located...

And la Place Dauphine – a quiet haven away from the hustle and bustle of the east side of the island where most of the tourist sights are located…

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And of course, the ‘grande dame’ herself – Notre Dame Cathedral. I walked by it so many times, I was able to photograph it from many angles. It really is a beautiful building…

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Of the two isles, I much prefer the smaller Île St. Louis. With no real tourist sights to speak of, it’s mostly just a place to grab a tasty ice cream cone and go for a stroll through the tiny, quiet streets…

Pont Louis Philippe - the bridge leading from my apartment to Ile St. Louis - I must have crossed it a hundred times!

Pont Louis Philippe – the bridge leading from my apartment to Ile St. Louis – I must have crossed it a hundred times!

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My absolute favorite spot on the isle was the western tip down by the water’s edge, overlooking the river, the Right Bank, and the Île de la Cité – I spent a lot of time there, usually on a break from stitching in my studio…

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Of course, wandering the city is not all about the ‘big things’ – the sights, the architecture, the river, etc. It’s about the details too. Like the thousands upon thousands of cafés one can stumble into for a leisurely glass of wine (or two), some great people-watching, and a quick bite to eat…

The 'croque madame' remained a staple of my cafe diet...

The ‘croque madame’ remained a staple of my cafe diet…

There are SO MANY cafés, ranging from the adorable and delicious to the unimpressive and disappointing. Lunch was the meal I tended to eat out most while in Paris, but still not very often. Unfortunately, while living in one of the most renowned culinary cities of the world, most of my meals were cooked by myself in my apartment’s tiny kitchen. Eating out in Paris is not cheap, and with a tiny budget like mine, it was generally out of my reach. BUT on the little ‘adventure days’ that I spent wandering around the city, I usually found myself in a small café in the afternoon for refueling and a bit of rest.

Locating a relatively inexpensive yet tasty café in Paris is quite the challenge – there’s just so many to wade through, finding a cheap place with good food is like finding a needle in a haystack! They exist of course, and I managed to find a few, but more often than not, I struck out.  During my three months in Paris, I found that, in general, the closer you are to a major tourist attraction, the more expensive and mediocre the food will be – it’s best to head a bit further into the residential neighborhoods when you’re looking for a nice place to grab some lunch. Same goes for encountering the stereotypically rude Parisian waiter – yes, they too most certainly exist (in droves), but one seems to encounter them more often in spots where tourists congregate. I suppose I might be rude too if I had foreigners butchering (or not even attempting to speak) my language while ordering me around all day.

Still though, even if my food was overpriced, not all that great, and brought to my table by a guy with a seriously crappy attitude, I loved café culture in Paris. I adore the fact that I can sit outside with one cup of tea for hours on end and nobody will try to make me order more food, or even pay me much notice, for that matter. I sit and sit, watching the world pass me by, having random conversations with folks at neighboring tables, soaking in the sun, reading, or writing in my journal for as long as I want – c’est magnifique! Coming from the hyper climate-controlled, get-’em-in-get-’em-out restaurant culture of the States, I found this relaxed outdoor dining experience just so refreshing and lovely (so much so that I would even sit outside when I first arrived to Paris in March when a slight winter chill was still in the air)…

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One of my other favorite little things about Paris is the shop windows and all the wonderful (and sometimes strange) things you can find inside them… IMG_2932 IMG_4159 IMG_3307 IMG_4087 IMG_3218 IMG_3750 12.00.04 AM IMG_3784 IMG_3309 IMG_3843 12.03.37 AM

They are all a part of the ‘little surprises’ that Paris offers up on a daily basis. Whether it’s discovering music in the metro…

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I'll never forget this man - so full of energy and love for his music. What joy!

I’ll never forget this man – so full of energy and love for his music. What a joy!

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… or music in the middle of the streets…

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… or finding yourself walking alongside a political demonstration…

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… there’s always an interesting surprise waiting around the corner for you in the streets of Paris!

From street performers…

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… to the downright unexpected…

I even saw a cat walking in the street alongside its owner with NO leash once, but didn't manage to get a photo...

I even saw a cat walking in the street alongside its owner WITHOUT a leash once, but didn’t manage to get a photo…

… to the things that make you stop in your tracks and say “ummm… WHAT?”…

Seriously, what is going on here?

Seriously, what is going on here?

… it’s just so much fun stepping out your door, not knowing what you might run into that day. A few of my favorite ‘little surprises’ that I encountered in Paris were…

1) The high school jazz band that I stumbled upon in le Jardin du Luxembourg – from California of all places…

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They were all so cute, and actually quite good! Check out this VIDEO of a small bit of their performance.

2) The time I ducked into the small l’Église Saint-Louis-en-l’Île, where I was surprised to find a contemporary art exhibition tucked away in a room off to the side of the main chapel. The work was made by artist Judicaël who, like me, seems to have an obsession with doors and windows…

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All work by...

All work by Judicael…

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3) Then there was the time that I was enjoyng a leisurely afternoon sitting outside a café in le Marais, when the French actor, Jamel Debbouze, walked by, chatting on his cell phone. (And for the record -ahem- we made eye contact. Why do I feel the need to mention that? Why are celebrity sightings so oddly exciting? It’s so silly… they’re just people! And to me, he’s a minor celebrity at best, but still I thought the whole thing was ‘kinda cool.’ Why?!) Most of my American friends will probably remember him from his role as Lucien in Amélie, but of course he’s done many other films as well…

I spotted this add for one of his upcoming movies in the Metro...

I spotted this add for one of his upcoming movies in the Metro…

After spotting his picture up on the board of a falafel restaurant nearby the café where I first saw him, I started to suspect that he might actually live in le Marais, but I don’t know for sure…

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And lastly, I saved my most favorite ‘Paris surprise’ for last (which definitely beats any celebrity sighting by far)…

4) The group of French teens and adolescents -presumably members of an English class of some kind?- all singing English rock and pop songs in the middle of the busy Marché d’Aligre…

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Seriously – this was possibly one of the cutest things I have encountered during my many travels. Combine their sweet blend of awkward embarrassment and enthusiasm, their adorable French accents, and “London Calling” by The Clash, and what do you get? I mean, come on… Cute Town, here we come! Please watch the short VIDEOS I took of them singing “London Calling” and “I Need a Dollar” by Aloe Blacc. I promise, you won’t regret it!

Oh, Paris – how I love you and all the things you have to offer, big and small! What a great place to wander, indeed…

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Next up on the blog, we’ll check out some of Paris’ many beautiful parks… green spaces and sunshine, here we come!

2 thoughts on “Wandering… (the River Seine)

  1. Pingback: Allez au Marché! | Home is Where the Hair Is

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