Monthly Archives: December 2011

12 Days in Paris: Day 9

On the ninth day my French friend Véronique offered to show me around.  I was curious to see the 19th arrondissement, which is a diverse residential neighborhood that has recently grown in popularity (or rather is gentrifying).   Our first stop was 104/Centquarte, a contemporary art center in the former building of Municipal Funeral Services. Over 200 artists work in the center’s studio spaces, which are open to the public. Unfortunately, we were there too early and most of the building was closed, but we saw some installations around the vast lobby.

Hills covered in CDs at 104/Centquatre

The coolest wire fence ever

After 104/Centquatre, we took the subway a few stops to the nearby Buttes-Chaumont park.  Buttes-Chaumont makes Central Park look like a flatland.  The park has a lake, waterfalls, bridges, cliffs, hills, etc.  It reminded me of the romantic-style settings of Watteau’s fête galante paintings (a genre of paintings typically depicting aristocrats frolicking outdoors).

On the suspension bridge in Buttes-Chaumont Park

Look at Véronique's t-shirt!

We went for a mini-hike in the park and then met up with our friend Jacqueline for lunch in the Marais. We went to one of the two locations of the Rose Bakery, which is my favorite non-French, non-Moroccan restaurant in Paris.  The restaurant is owned by a Franco-English couple and serves English-inspired food, specializing in market-fresh vegetable dishes and baked goods.  We ordered two vegetarian tarts and one tofu avocado salad to split.  The food was delicious and the trendy people-watching was equally interesting (my friends recognized a French actress, although I didn’t know her).  I found it was funny that the restaurant’s help wanted sign was only in English.

Excellent meal at the Rose Bakery

Following lunch Véronique and Jacqueline showed me their favorite boutiques in the Marais. We walked to the Bastille and then decided to go to the Great Mosque of Paris for tea. The Great Mosque is the largest mosque in France and it is stunning!  We selected several types of middle eastern pastries and then sat in the courtyard garden where waiters came around with trays of sweet mint tea.  The courtyard was pretty and relaxing, minus the occasional pigeon flying around.  We peeked into the indoor restaurant, which was also quite beautiful and took some photos there.

Courtyard at the Great Mosque of Paris

Marzipan-ish pink almond pastry and delicious sweet mint tea

Indoor restaurant at the Great Mosque

Jacqueline and I posing at the indoor restaurant

We took the bus back to my friend’s apartment to meet Monica.  It was my first and last time on a bus in Paris, since  similar to NY’s buses, it was scenic, but very very slow.  At night Monica and I went out for (an undocumented) dinner with a family friend at the historic Brasserie Wepler.  Picasso, Modigliani, Apollinaire, Henry Miller, and Truffaut all frequented the restaurant, so it was lovely to experience the grand brasserie and enjoy a meal with great company.

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12 Days in Paris: Day 8

Day eight was the only day I spent primarily alone.  Although I loved showing Monica and Charles around, it was nice to take a break from playing tour guide and do some random exploring, without feeling the pressure to hit as many sites as possible.  I directed Monica to the Louvre and headed to Montmartre, which is both the name of a hill and its surrounding arrondissement (neighborhood).  Montmartre is known for Sacré-Cœur Basilica, which sits atop the hill at the highest point in Paris.  The area is also famous for its bohemian and artistic heritage (Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, Van Gogh, and Picasso all worked around Montmartre at some point).  I had seen Sacré-Cœur’s facade on previous visits, but had never been inside.  I chose to walk up to the basilica, although there was also a funicular.

View from the top

Sacré-Cœur was packed!  The golden mosaic interiors were impressive, but my favorite part of reaching the top of the hill was seeing the spectacular panoramic views of Paris.  It was also fun to observe foreign couples having (mock?) wedding photos taken on the steps.  After touring the basilica, I wandered around Montmartre and visited boutiques.  I was a little disappointed to see some of the same stores that were in the neighborhood where I was staying.  It reminded me of NYC where we have the same chains everywhere, except the boutiques were smaller in size.

Invalides

My next destination was La Pagode theater in the the 7th arrondissement.  La Pagode is an antique-style pagoda that was built by the owner of Le Bon Marché as a gift for his wife.  The structure was intended to serve as a ballroom for their home next door, but now houses a movie theater with a charming garden cafe.  I stopped by and enjoyed a lovely pot of green tea from Mariage Frères (the best french tea!).  After tea, I walked around the 7th arrondissement, which is a very upscale residential neighborhood that contains many government institutions and foreign embassies.  I passed the École Militaire (a prestigious military academy), Invalides (Napoleon’s burial site), and UNESCO’s headquarters, the latter of which I really wanted to tour, but requires a three-month advanced appointment.

La Pagode looked a lot more spectacular in person.

Tea at La Pagode

Tea and dragons

La Pagode's Japanese garden

In the evening I met up with Monica again and we had dinner at a family friend’s house.  Afterwards we went to Oberkampf, which is an area with a lot of bars and lively nightlife.  Oberkampf was a short walk from where we were staying, which was great because the Paris metro does not run all night (this and air conditioning are the only things the MTA has on Paris).  We had drinks at Ave Maria, which is a very kitschy and cute bar that was recommended by my Timeout guide.  We ordered kir royals and I was impressed that the drinks were reasonably priced and you could pick from a variety of fruit flavors (to be added to the sparkling wine).  I would definitely go back (if I was still in Paris)!  Thus concludes day 8.

Monica

Ave Maria Bar

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