For me, Paris has been associated with way too many different images before I was able to see it in person. The French classes I took in college, accounts from my uncle who is a French historian and my best friend who did her junior year abroad in France, my favorite movie The Dreamers, milestone buildings of modern architecture history, and sleek street shots of fashionable Parisians on the Satorialist.com with the Tuileries in background. Because of all this, my brain is congested with an enormous amount of random knowledge when it comes to Paris. Therefore it is not surprising that I already had a quite elaborated list of things I want to do before I go.
I was able to stop by Paris for a weekend before my Italy trip. So I sent my list to my dad’s college friend, Uncle Hu, who lives in Paris, and my Parisian friend Florent.
Arriving at Paris 6am in the morning, Uncle Hu picked me up from the bus station and gave me a quick overall of Paris on the car. The first thing I spotted on the way is the Bastille Opera. The iconic monument on the street center and the unique site location immediately reminded me with that wood model sitting in the corner of the meeting room of the office I worked in Hong Kong. The boss of my HK office, Rocco Yim, won the first prize in the competition of the Bastille Opera in 1982 but unfortunately didn’t get to build his design.
Uncle Hu invited me for breakfast at Cafe de Flore. The authentic French croissant there was absolutely amazing, but what can add more flavor to it is your imagination of this Cafe back in the 1930s, when Jean Paul Sartre could possibly just sit right next to you, writing, thinking.
After breakfast, I met up with my friend Florent at Tocadero (perfect viewing point for Tour Effiel). Then started my crazy yet fun and spontaneous one day trip of Paris. Starting with Monmartre, we got a nice view of the entire city at Sacre Coeur.
Then we stop by the artist’s square, the grocery shop and coffee shop in the movie Amelie. We saw the famous Moulin Rouge, and then took the subway to Centre Pompidou, wandering in the industrial organs of this architecture landmark. Then we proceed to Ile de la Cite, the oldest part of Paris, where the Notre Dame de Paris situated.
Crossed the bridge we found ourselves in the independent bookstore Shakespeare and Company. We slowed down our pace in this old bookstore and each found a book that fits our current reading mood–On the Road by Jack Kerouac for Florent, and A Moveable Feast by Earnest Hemingway for me. When you check out at the counter, don’t forget to get a stamp of the famous Shakespeare and Co!
Lunch time, we found a cute Creperie near St.Michel. Florent insisted that I should try a savory crepe–it turned out amazingly delicious compared to the omelette-like savory crepe I used to have on Penn’s campus. We then passed by Ecole des beaux art, from where the history of world’s architecture education has been so deeply influenced. Dessert is saved for Laduree. We got ten different flavors and sampled them all while sitting on the bank of the Seine.
My favorite macaron flavors are Marie-Antoinette and Rose petal.
Seine turned to be really different from what I thought–it is much wider, more sandy and less intimate. Not really that pleasant to walk along as those books and movies portrayed. In comparison, I like the scale of the Amsterdam canals better.
Passing by the Pont des Arts–I wonder if they ever clean the locks, because we spotted a lock that was dated as early as 1982 o.O
Next stop is the Louvre and Jardin de Tuileries. One day is too short for this massive palace for art so I simply just admired I.M.Pei’s glass pyramid at the entrance and then bid my au revoir.
Time to get a little bit luxury shopping done on Rue de la Paix (yes, that most expensive street in Monopoly game does exist in reality!). I finally got my long past-due birthday present, a pair of Repetto ballerina.
A couple of minutes’ subway ride away, we found ourselves sauntering in Jardin du Luxembourg. This park is where a lot of the greeting conversations in my entry level French textbooks took place–guess that explains enough about its relaxing, accessible character and its proximity to the student populated Quartier Latin.
The academic buildings in Quartier Latin gave me an austere and forbidden feeling. Maybe that’s because it was not a school day? Even though, I still like the typical Haussmannian buildings in Paris a lot, mainly because its light beige and blue color palette. Imagine give a color to each great city in this world–what other city could so easily find its own color than Paris?
In the evening we met up with my friend Chennan for a drink at Saint Germain des Pres. I love that area a lot, for the liveliness and vibrancy that countless restaurants bring. Chennan is doing his master in Law Sciences Po now. It has been five years from the last time we saw each other. It was actually a little bit shameful to see how I just let my French get rusty while he excels in the total Francophone environment in one of the country’s finest institutions–we actually started France together the summer after high school, but here I am–having to scratch my head for a minute before I can come up with a “Je voudrais un cafe, s’il vous plaît.”
One day in Paris is by no means enough. I think Paris is a city that should be felt instead of being seen, just like New York. I still remember my first time in New York I had almost a repellent feeling to this everyone-else-says-oh-so-great city, but I irrevocably fell for its charm after I returned and lived there for a while. Seeing Paris in such a rapid procession is fun, exciting, and visually-stimulating, but they are just the surfaces. To some extent this wildly fast-paced one day tour was so perfect that I do not want to come back here until I’m sure I have a lot of time to truly immerse myself in the city. I’m curious to see what would be the context of my next visit here, and I guess I’ll work hard on it 🙂