ParisPosted: September 16, 2011
Feathers, sequins and carousels! Oui Oui, Paree.
In my humble opinion, Paris is the worlds most wonderful city. Something for everyone, layer upon layer.
It’s just a fabulous city to be in and famously underwent a major renovation in 1852 when Napoleon employed Georges-Eugene Haussmann to “modernise” the city. Part of the brief was to create boulevards broad enough to prevent rebels building barriers!! Other reforms helped to prevent the spread of disease and epidemics. Today we cannot help but think the city is beautifully planned, but there was an outcry at the time, that the “old Paris” was destroyed! Certainly, the bones of the city today create the perfect foundation for life in Paris; unique, inspiring, constantly interesting, waiting to be discovered.
The city is cleverly designed, left bank, right bank and crossing the Seine, in a clockwise spiral leading out from the centre, the 20 areas, or arrondissements of Paris. Napolean’s plan increased the number of arrondissements in Paris from 12 to 20. Haussmann determined their design. Not only of the streets and boulevards and roundabouts, but also of the building structures, seeking a uniformity not just in one or two buildings, but in whole blocks, even precincts. A trademark of Parisian architecture today. Elegant and stylish. The “Haussmann Apartment” is very sought after.
Our first day, camped just 15 minutes from the heart of the city, we walk the streets of Paris and it’s adventure enough to find Avenues, Rues & Boulevards; to touch Icons – Arc de Triomphe, Tower Eiffel, Musee du Louvre, Notre Dame. Its such a thrill to be here. That evening we “go to a show”, famous in France, at the Lido. “Titillating” entertainment! All dancing, singing and costumes. It’s Paris!!!
The following day we take the Metro to Montemarte for a one hour walking tour to Sacre Coeur. Not really considered Paris by the Parisians, or the Momtmartians, Montemarte was once a separate village, on the hill, founded by Benedictine nuns who tended the souls of those who could not afford the taxes to live in Paris. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it attracted artists and a “fringe” element, but was also frequented by some of the wealthy Parisians who chose to be entertained in this district with the women of the Moulin Rouge and the cheap alcohol!
It is said you could hide in Montmarte and be anyone you wanted to be. Certainly the stories tell of the eccentrics that lived here, and of course the famous, Toulouse Lautrec, Renoir, Van Gogh. All created the flavour of the village, and captured it in their paintings and biographies of their lives. Today it is said the “Bourgeois Bohemians” have taken use of the space. Struggling artists could no longer afford to live here!
On her first day in Paris and our last, we get to see Gael! It was so great to hug my friend of 25 years, whom I have not seen for over 8 months, and to share a little of her Paris with her. Gael and her husband Tony are “residents de Paris” and earlier this year purchased as apartment here. Tenanted at the moment, it will become their Parisian home away from home. Surrounded by Haussmann apartment buildings, a market twice a week on the doorstep and a view of the Eiffel tower, only two big blocks away, this is about as good as Parisian living gets. Its so exciting for them, and for us, to share a little of the experience.
We take coffee in a cafe, walk the streets in the rain, and find ourselves having lunch, under Gael and Michele’s (her traveling friend this trip – and did I say, translator, photographer and “our” tour guide!) guidance, in Rue Cler – just one of the beautiful French streets Gael has discovered, closed to traffic and bursting with food shops, giant meringues, fresh flowers and great bistros.
It has been truly wonderful and fun to be in Paris and I have loved sharing it with Gael and of course Antonio. We don’t have plans to return in a hurry, but who knows what opportunities may arise.