At the end of my last post, I promised to take us indoors into Paris’s museums and galleries, BUT I forgot that we have one more outdoor excursion left. I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the many wonderful open-air markets of Paris on this blog – les beaux marchés en plein air!
I love city parks. From the small garden nestled on the street corner to the gigantic takes-a-day-to-walk-across-it kind of park, if there is a green space somewhere in the middle of the ‘urban jungle,’ I’ll find it. Trees, flowers, fresh air, sunshine. People taking time out of their busy lives to play, stroll, read, relax. Combine all that with the fact that parks are (almost always) free to enter, and what’s not to like?
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…
As I wandered through the streets of Paris, heading over to the Left Bank was always a delight. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but la Rive Gauche has a distinctly different feel than the Right Bank. Perhaps it’s because the majority of Paris’ major tourist attractions are on the Right Bank? (With the glaring exception of la Tour Eiffel and a few others, of course). The Left Bank feels more residential and a bit more relaxed, maybe? And also a bit more modern in some places? I’m not quite sure what it was exactly, but I really liked the Left Bank quite a bit. I wish I had spent more time there and explored it more thoroughly, but alas, I didn’t even get close to seeing it all. Ah well – what I did manage to see, I loved…
Wander, meander, roam, drift aimlessly… in my opinion, this is the best way to see just about any city, especially Paris. Pick a neighborhood and go for a long walk. Take in the architecture, the tiny city square parks, the shops and markets, the museums and monuments. Take your time to notice the details, have a leisurely afternoon at a café watching the passersby. Try to get a pulse on that particular place and time. For me, this is at the heart of travel and discovery of a new place.
Aller – to go
Rentrer – to go home
Retourner – to go back
After living and traveling in beautiful France for three months in the Fall of 2012, I happily returned to Paris in March of 2013. My original plan was to stay in France for a full six months, but sadly, I didn’t have time before my initial departure from the States to arrange a visa for that length of time. Therefore, I was stuck with the standard tourist visa available to Americans traveling to France: three months in, three months out. No exceptions. And so, I stayed three months in France, went home to the States for three months, et encore… was back in France for yet another three months! (Oh, visas – why must you complicate our lives so!?)
My arrival in Paris was surprisingly easy – I knew how to navigate the airport and the train into the city. I found my way easily to my new art residency on la Rive Droite (the Right Bank). My French was rusty, sure, but decent enough to get me from Point A to Point B. In a way, it felt like I had never left France… and that felt good. It almost felt like coming ‘home’ – or at least my ‘home away from home.’
As always, my camera found its way to the walls, windows, and doors around me while I was in Michigan. Here are some of those pictures and a few other favorites from those two months in the Midwest…