I could write about Paris everyday and not run out of things to say. But I woke up this morning thinking about my blog buddy, Heather Munro, whose posts on Paris really got me stoked. Heather’s photographs capture the romance and the beauty of Paris like no other blogger I had seen in a while.
So I went looking for what other bloggers are saying about Paris. Hope you like my selection:
Jordan (http://ohhappyday.com), an American who recently moved to Paris, is giving away a 7-day trip for two to Paris. Unfortunately, the giveaway closes at 11:59 tonight. So head over to her blog and enter.
My Little Paris (http://www.mylittle.fr/mylittleparis/en/) is a bilingual blog on all things French.
Nicole, an American, lived in Paris for a while. Her blog (http://littlebrownpen.blogspot.com) chronicles her Paris Color Project, a series of photographs on color in the city of light.
Prêt á Voyager (http://pretavoyager.blogspot.com) is the blog of self-confessed Paris-loving graphic designer Anne Ditmeyer. Anne’s posts cover living in and visiting Paris.
Heather lives in the U.S. but it’s safe to say she’d rather be in Paris. I loved her post on the Eiffel Tower and Chartres but check out all her posts under the Paris category. You’re in for a rare treat.
After walking around Paris for most of the day taking in one must-see attraction after another, I was excited to see the Eiffel Tower straight ahead, looking as if it had sprouted from the ground.
The images I had in my head from movies and television and photographs dwarfed in comparison to the real thing. It was impressive!
Up close, the Eiffel Tower, with its intricate lattice work, is a marvel of modern engineering.
At 1,063 feet, it is among the tallest structures in the world. Its base measures approximately 330 feet. Completed in 1889, the Tower was named after Gustave Eiffel, the engineer who designed it.
Throngs of people milled around the base, hundreds more waited on one of two lines – one to climb the stairs to the first and second floors, the other, the elevator to the second floor and the top.
I sat for a while, debating whether I’d go up. Once I decided, there was no question: I’d take the stairs — not the elevator with the longer line. It would be a good 45 minutes to an hour before I reached the ticket counter.
I’d say the first 100 steps were a breeze compared to the next 200. I had to stop several times to catch my breath. But it also gave me a chance to take some photos.
When I made it to the first floor 347 steps later, I felt very proud. I headed straight for the first table to rest.
When I reached the first floor, I couldn’t imagine going to the next level. But after getting a bottle of water from the concession stand and feeling my heart had returned to beating normally, I realized it was time to go. Of course, seeing other people doing it, didn’t help either.
Reaching the 500th step of the 674 steps to the second floor. I knew when I returned home there’d be some who wouldn’t believe I’d done it, so I brought proof.
The second floor was crawling with people – those who had taken the elevator up, those returning from the top and others, like me, who climbed up. The second floor is also the location of a second ticket window where those who wanted to, could buy tickets to the elevator to the top and the souvenir shop. It’s also where the second, more expensive, restaurant is to be found.
Looking towards the top from the second floor.
I was still undecided whether to go up. The lines were long and I needed to join the line again to get another ticket. I mulled it over as I took more photos of the beautiful scenery below. (I just noticed the shadow of the Eiffel in this one.)
I’m not sure how long I hung around snapping photo after photo before I joined the ticket line.
It was another 30-45 minutes before I got up to the window, maybe 20 more minutes to get on the elevator and a few minutes to get to the top.
As we began our ascent, I looked down — we weren’t going very fast — and my stomach lurched. It settled after a few seconds, and I watched as people and things on the ground became increasingly smaller.
Exiting the elevator, I was surprised and delighted to see this little flag of Jamaica on the Eiffel Tower!!
The view at the top is breathtaking. Unfortunately, since it’s enclosed, I had to take photos from the windows. They all picked up the film of dirt on the window.
It was after 8 p.m. and I wanted to be on the ground to see the lights that begin at 9 p.m. It started as I was descending and ended before I got to the ground. I wanted to wait for the next one at 10 p.m. but I was hungry and tired and still had a 30 minute metro ride back to the hotel.
I had spent more than 5 hours there but it was well worth it. I said my goodbye to the Eiffel Tower around 9:30 p.m.
Climbing the steps to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower then taking the elevator to the top was the highlight of my three days in Paris.
Visiting the Eiffel Tower
Hours: The Eiffel Tower is open everyday from 9:30 – midnight but check the website for exact times in the summer months.
Tickets: Stairs to the 2nd Floor: €4,70 – If you want to climb the stairs to the second floor, like I did, you’ll have to purchase your ticket when you get there.
Elevator to the 2nd Floor: €8, 20
Elevator to top: €13,40
As with any attraction, vendors selling souvenir keychains, water, etc., are everywhere. There’s also a souvenir shop on the second level.
Solange, my almost-mother-in-law, used to make coq au vin (chicken in wine) quite often. Stylish, beautiful, generous and funny, she was a stay-at-home mom, long before the term came into vogue, to eight children. Her home was inviting and warm and almost always full of people.
Mom had a habit of “spicing up” everything she made — it just wasn’t done until she added her own flavors and seasoned it with love. She was a stickler for attractive food presentation. “La nourriture doit plaire a l’oeil avant de plaire a l’estomac. (Food must please the eyes before it pleases the stomach.),” she’d always say. And her coq au vin was legendary.
Mom shared her recipe for coq au vin with me several years ago. I’m kicking myself now because I can’t find it anywhere. I’m hoping it’s with my own mother’s recipe for the fruit cake she used to bake every Christmas (we were all given chores — mine was to chop the fruits). She had written it in her own hand on the back of an envelope and given it to me when I was dating Mom Solange’s son. Now they’re all gone and I can’t find either the coq au vin or the Christmas cake recipe anywhere.
Epicurious.com to the rescue! I found something similar to Mom’s coq au vin which I’m sharing with you. It doesn’t have her secret spices but I think you’ll like it.
1 750-ml bottle of dry red wine
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 onions, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
6 large fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
6 whole chicken legs with thighs
1 1/2 cups pearl onions
5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
12 ounces large mushrooms, quartered
4 bacon slices, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups Port
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Stir first 6 ingredients in heavy large nonreactive pot. Add chicken, submerging completely. Cover; chill overnight.
Cook pearl onions in large pot of boiling salted water 3 minutes. Drain and cool. Peel. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pearl onions and mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Add bacon to same skillet and sauté until brown and crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Wipe skillet clean.
Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken from marinade to strainer (reserve marinade in pot). Pat chicken dry with paper towels; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and sauté until skin is brown, turning once, about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to pot of marinade; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered until chicken is very tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Strain chicken and cooking liquid over large bowl. Transfer chicken to medium bowl; discard vegetables in strainer. Return liquid to pot. Add Port and bring to boil. Combine flour and remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small bowl. Whisk into cooking liquid. Boil over medium heat until sauce thickens and is slightly reduced, about 15 minutes. Return chicken to pot. Add pearl onions, mushrooms and bacon to sauce in pot. Simmer until heated through and flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
After checking out the African and European galleries at The Louvre, I walked back to the Jardin Tuileries, a large public garden located between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde. This time, I sat for a while and people watched.
The Jardin Tuileries has been opened to the public since 1667.
Thousands of Parisians and tourists stroll, sit, eat and relax in the Jardin Tuileries everyday.
Jardin Tuileries, a great place to spend a Paris afternoon.
As I walked through gallery after gallery in The Louvre in search of the European and African art collections, I couldn’t help notice that many of people ahead of me were taking photos of the artwork. Most didn’t even look at a painting long enough. They just got within camera range, snapped and moved on to the next one.
Granted, with the size of The Louvre — I’m sure I could visit every day for a month and not see the same collections twice — the objective for many visitors is to capture as much as possible in the time that they have. But, to me, it just waters down the experience.
I couldn’t help thinking about it for several hours after — and it comes back to mind each time since that I’ve been to an art gallery or a museum.
In this time when cell phones and digital cameras are so ubiquitous, it shouldn’t have been surprising but it was.
In thinking about what I’d write in this post, I thought about a comment Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, made recently at a talk at the New York Public Library. To paraphrase, he said CDs and computers make a large collection of music more easily accessible but flattens the sound.
The same could probably be said about taking photos of works of art. By relying on a camera instead of the eye to interpret and record the image, we reduce it to one dimension. Sure, it’s accessible — we can load it on to our computers, print a copy, share it with our friends, etc., but no camera I know of can capture the subtle qualities, like the light or tiny brush strokes that the eye can pick up, or the feeling that some works of art can evoke in a viewer.
Seeing this “drive-by viewing” had me thinking about how we engage the things around us and how technology is allowing us to breeze through our lives without slowing down or stopping to notice, to take stock.
Having worked with creative people in different fields, I’m acutely aware of the right of ownership whether of a manuscript, photograph, song or painting and how easy it is for us to ‘own’ a knock-off or a copy of the original. I’m also well aware that some museums, like The Louvre, allow visitors to take photos (sans flash).
Maybe it’s not such a big deal to allow cameras in museums since most of their artists are dead and maybe they recognize that a lot of us take photos on our digital cameras and never print them.
As a former art gallery director, a visit to Paris would not have been complete without a visit to the Louvre. Yet, when I finally arrived at this world renowned museum and saw the lines, I balked. I had three days in Paris. There was no way I wanted to spend my time in an endless queue!
In addition, it was an unseasonably warm April and the unrelenting afternoon sun forced several people to take refuge under their umbrellas. They came prepared, I wasn’t.
No, there was no way I’d stand on that line, not even for the Louvre, I thought. Sitting by the fountain was infinitely more pleasant. But more than half an hour later, I was still there circling, taking photographs, people watching, undecided.
Finally, I came to my senses. Who was I fooling, I asked myself. Why come so close and not visit? I joined the line which, surprisingly, moved more quickly than I anticipated.
The security guard checked my bag — the source of the slow moving lines — and I was finally in! As I entered the underground lobby, I spotted a bank of vending machines and within a few minutes, had ticket and museum brochure in hand.
One of the most visited museums in the world, with 15,000 daily visitors, the Grand Louvre opened in the former Palais du Louvre in 1793. It contains nearly 400,000 objects, displays 35,000 artworks in eight curatorial departments and has almost 700,000 square feet dedicated to its permanent collection.
With only a few hours to spend, I knew there was little chance that I’d get to see the Mona Lisa, without a doubt the Louvre’s most popular attraction, or the statue of Venus de Milo, so I decided to check out the Louvre’s collection of African and European art.
It turned out to be a good choice as I had to walk through the European gallery to find the African gallery, which was so well off the beaten path, I had to ask several security guards to help me find it. When I did, I exhaled and relaxed in the quiet.
Dedicated in April, 2000 by former French President Jacques Chirac, the African, Asian, Oceanic and American gallery was almost deserted — only one person, an artist or art student — who stood silently sketching one of the exhibits and a couple security guards. It was also much smaller than I anticipated but no less impressive. And the best part, I could enjoy the exhibits almost undisturbed. I didn’t have to dodge the backs of other viewers’ heads.
The Louvre Museum
Hours: Mondays, Thursday, Saturday and Sundays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Wednesdays and Fridays 9 a.m. – 10 p.m., closed on Tuesdays, December 25th, January 1st and May 1st.
Fees: 10 € (Full day access), 6 € multimedia guide
Metro: Palais Royal Musee du Louvre station
Even though I spent only a few hours at the Louvre, I was overloaded visually by the time I left. But I’m very glad that I stayed. As an art lover, I would have been kicking myself now if I had not seen it.
The Louvre — worth a visit, even for a couple of hours.
Golden sunlight filled the room when I woke on my first morning in Paris but as soon as I opened my eyes, I began to sneeze. It had been an unseasonably warm and everything was in bloom, someone told me later. I didn’t let that stop me.
I had planned on being in Paris for only two days then head to Barcelona for a day before returning to London. But when I mentioned my plan to Karen, she said I was crazy, that I needed more time just to see Paris.
My goal for the day was the Champs Elysees, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. So I left the hotel shortly after breakfast, map ready.
Come with me as I walk from the metro towards the Avenue de General-Eisenhower.
I spent most of the morning strolling the expansive boulevards around the Champs Elysees, admiring the beautiful buildings that line the street.
I was a little nervous as I walked into the terminal at the Gare du Nord. It was my first time in Paris and unlike my London trip, I was not prepared. I had not mapped my route from the terminal to my hotel. The most I’d done was an Internet search for hotels within a 15-minute radius of the terminal and booked the first one that looked acceptable. It was then that I realized that I’d missed a key part of the plan — I had no idea where the hotel was in relation to the terminal and the city map made absolutely no sense at that point.
I was scheduled to meet my friend, Karen, for dinner at 7:30 p.m. at Le Relais de l’Entrecôte. I had just about an hour to check in and freshen up so I joined the line at the taxi stand. My cabbie was young and Moroccan. We talked about his work, life in Paris and reggae music.
The desk clerk gave me a map of the metro and showed me how to get from Guy Môquet to Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Finding Saint Germain was the easy part. It took me almost as long to find the restaurant. No one, not even the folks in a pizza restaurant, seemed to know where rue Saint Benoit was. I got so frustrated that I gave up and hailed a cab.
When I told him where I wanted to go, he tried to give me direction because it was close, he said. By then, I was so turned around, I didn’t trust myself to find it on my own. We’d just started getting into a discussion of Haitian politics (he was Haitian) when we arrived. He was right: the restaurant wasn’t even a 10 minute walk away!
Le Relais de l’Entrecôte was humming. All the tables, including the ones outside, were taken but the wait gave me time to begin my catch up with Karen, who I hadn’t seen in months despite her living just across the river in Brooklyn.
Finally, we got a table. It’s a simple setup at l’Entrecôte. On the menu? Steak. Steak and steak. Well done for me and it was delicious. There was nothing left on the plate by the time we finished.
Karen knew her way around Paris and after dinner, we decided to go for a stroll so I could enjoy my first Parisian night.
When we parted, it was close to midnight. By the time I returned to my hotel, it was a little after 1 a.m. My first Paris night turned out better than I had anticipated.
I fell asleep excited about what the next day would bring.
Shortly after we started out on our morning drive on the second day at Hwange National Park, we came across a jackal that had just made a kill. It looked up as we approached. From where we had stopped, we could hear the bones breaking as he chomped down on his breakfast. Godfrey thought it probably had been a bird.
Not long after we left the jackal, Sandra spotted an elephant just as it materialized from the bush a few yards from our jeep. Godfrey stopped so we could take her photo. We were so focused on taking photos that we didn’t see another elephant, probably her child or family member, across the path until Sandra called our attention to it.
By the time we shifted our attention to the other elephant, the mother had spread her ears so wide, she looked massive. I thought it was an impressive display and a wonderful photo opportunity until Sandra said it was how elephants intimidate a predator or rival. Since elephants are not famous for good eyesight, I’m not sure which she perceived us to be. Continue reading “Three Black Girlz on Safari: Elephants at the Watering hole, II”→