A Day In Paris – Market, Masterpieces And Midnight
Just how good can one day be? In Paris our days have been spectacular and filled with variety. On one particular day we went to an outdoor food market in the morning, viewed world class masterpieces at the Louvre later in the day and watched from a sidewalk cafe as the Eiffel Tower lit up for the evening. It was a pretty darn good day for these two Americans in Paris.
a month in paris
Phil and I rented an apartment for a month in Paris. We have traveled to 5 other countries in the past 3 months, so an apartment for this long seems glorious to us. It’s is in the Le Marais district in Paris’ 3rd arrondissement. The city is divided into 20 arrondissements, or districts, that spiral out from the 1st arrondissement in the center. This is where you will find the Lourve, the Royal Palace, Tuileries Garden and other historic sights.
Our neighborhood is only 2 miles from the Louvre and is quite unique these days in Paris. In the 1600’s Le Marais was where the fabulous and wealthy built their private mansions, because the King did, but they all later followed him when he moved to Versailles. The neighborhood has since gone through many incarnations, including a bohemian era. Most importantly, it was spared the “makeover” by Napoleon III that created the wide arrow-straight boulevards which are a Paris hallmark. Napoleon feared a repeat of the barricades that the Revolutionaries threw up on the small streets to thwart the monarchy. He also wanted to ensure that the streets were large enough to accommodate his army’s tanks. Emperor Napoleon was not going to permit another French Revolutions if he could help it.
But World War I came along before Marais’ due date with the wrecking ball, so the area was able to keep its small quaint streets and old distinctive buildings. The streets are now filled with avant garde boutiques, shops, cafes and charming, quaint apartments. Ours is a 2 bedroom flat located between Place de la Republique and the Bastille. It has a quiet center courtyard and a lovely patio for enjoying the warm weather. Our owner is an interior designer, now retired, and is spending this month on holiday in Bordeaux while we enjoy her lovely apartment.
fabulous Paris street markets
Have you looked at restaurant prices in Paris? They seem pretty high to me. But that doesn’t seem to stop the Parisianers from frequenting the vast number of cafes and restaurants that line most neighborhood streets in this city. On a journey as long as ours, it would break the bank to eat out all the time. Just as well. We very much enjoy preparing our own meals with Paris’ sumptuous food and eating it al fresco on our patio.
A large part of our pleasure is shopping for food. Like Parisianers we shop daily at whatever outdoor market is set up that day. If we miss an outdoor market, the supermarkets suit us just fine. We were afraid that we’d get lower quality in the supermarkets but we are continually pleased. We have to remind ourselves that “we’re not in Kansas anymore”. Supermarkets are a fraction of the size of their American counterparts but we seem to find good selections on everything we want.
The bread in Paris is out of this world. We have tried several of the neighborhood boulangeries for baguettes and Phil picked out his favorite. And then we visited others, and he picked out a new favorite. That’s because they are all so good. These addictive loafs costs a dollar or so and you can get them hot! I almost made a meal of one right there on the street the first time I got it hot.
Now I have learned the trick. Paris bakeries supply hot baguettes 3 times a day – just before breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now that’s quite nice of them, don’t you agree? I don’t think we can get hot bread in most parts of the USA. Hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts, yes. But I’d prefer a hot French baguette, wouldn’t you?
masterpieces at the Louvre
Our hostess left us a slew of Paris guidebooks in English, dogeared to the “must see” sights. Of course, the Louvre, the largest museum in the world, was prominently featured. An important tip was to avoid the crowds by going there on one of the evenings that featured late hours. That suited us fine and gave us time to rest after our foray to the outdoor market – and the boulangerie – in the morning.
We studied the guides, downloaded the Rick Steves’ app and the official Louvre app (which we liked better), and charged our cell phones for the adventure. We also trekked over to the ticket booth at the train station to buy our tickets in advance, even though it cost us a surcharge. We had been warned to avoid the long ticket lines and we wanted to be smart tourists in Paris.
The Louvre has dominated the heart of Paris since the 12th century when it was first build as a fortress against the English neighbors. It had its glory days as the residence of the Kings of France. In 1793 it was made a museum for all the people to enjoy. It currently displays works from the Middle Ages to the mid-19th century.
With over 30,000 works, how were Phil and I to determine which “masterpieces” to see? The museum app has an itinerary, complete with the sound of footprints to pace the listener. This way we arrived at the masterpiece at precisely the time the narration began. And if that didn’t work, a photo of the piece showed up on the phone to help us locate it.
Here is a painting we all recognize as a masterpiece. Luckily, with our strategy of going in the less-crowded evening, we avoided what you see in the second photo below.
Venus de Milo
The gallery that contains Greek gods and heroes has mostly Roman copies of famous Greek works from the 5th century BC, as most of the Greek originals have not survived. But one did. The statue of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, was found in 1820 by a Greek peasant on the island of Milos. It was presented to King Louis XVIII who placed it in the Louvre.
midnight in paris
After our evening with masterpieces at the Louvre, we wanted to go out into the night to see yet another type of masterpiece. The City of Light earns its name. It stays light until after 10 pm at this time of year in Paris.
We went to the Trocadero Cafe which was featured in Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris. It has a view of the Eiffel Tower and some pretty charming waiters. We had a drink and a bite to eat as we watched the day’s light gradually fade and the city lights come on. It was a beautiful sight.
Have you been to Paris? What did you like best? What recommendations do you have for us? Please tell me in your comments below. I’d love to hear from you.Tweet