France and Paris, these two words I already learnt by heart when I was a little kid. Both of my parents used to speak a perfect French, when they were not in peace, my mom argued with my dad in French, not to let us understand.
And then my turn – I also studied in French school but…as my destiny turned into anther way so all of my university’s years and later the long years of my career – nothing related to this country, to this language! My French was deeply sleeping in my mind, but I never forgot those images of Paris from my old school books, those names of provinces or cities, or small towns or rivers that our teachers forced us to remember by heart!
Until the end of 1999, one of my client-friends suggested to go to Paris to celebrate the New Millenium, and that was my first trip to Paris. There were good memories and mixed feelings at that time: from my first hot, crispy panini that I ate in a morning cold of the winter day in Quartier Latin…to my stolen money while walking along Montmartre, near Moulin Rouge or the usual bad smell in Paris Metro (oops sorry!), or my first ride on the Ferris wheel near to Tour Eiffel on Champs Élysées on the New Year Eve of 1999-2000.
Later I did come back to Paris few times, but for very short stay. And I didn’t expect that took me another 15 years to be back here again! This time as a free man, I have months to explore France by train!
I remember my first visit to Notre Dame de Paris, back in winter of 1999, I was standing in front of the church, it was typical dark, windy winter day, reminded me of the sad story related to this place in the famous French novel. Today I do enjoy the summer sun light!
Every time I’m in Paris, I always want to walk along Seine river, this time I did a long walk for almost whole morning. The earlier the better otherwise the tourist crowds will spoil my day.
In my first visit, I was strangely impressed by this medieval “castle” and didn’t know it was a former prison. During the French Revolution hundred of prisoners were taken from here and executed on guillotine in Paris and now the building is Palais de Justice!
Talking about Metro in Paris – I have to say about its typical smell in certain stations – not a pleasant smell. I was obsessed by this smell for long, but then I, likely, used to it. To be honest, the situation is improving but the smell still there, especially stronger during the winter!
I was waiting here, in St Germain des Prés, for my Japanese friend who promised to take me for lunch, he’s a famous chair collectioner. Yeah chairs, he travels around the world just to buy the chairs he loves for his unique collection.
To be honest, I don’t like these “cycle-cars” for tourists in Champs Élysée, with cheap lighting decoration, but it was helpful for those who feel tired walking along the boulevard.
Louvres from the Pont du Carrousel – no time to visit to Louvres in this trip due to my short stay in Paris, but love to spend time in this museum, partly as it brought me back to my student time in St Petersburg (Russia) when I used to frequent the Hermitage as a part of my study program.
I also missed Musée d’Orsay, I was sitting right outside the Musée but it was a time to see my friend in St Germain des Prés. I haven’t been inside of this museum and I also skipped a day trip to Giverny to visit Claude Monet’s garden due to some issues with my travel schedule.
Pont des Arts – a famous bridge with all love padlocks but now it became a nightmare for the authorities, I was told nearly 800,000 padlocks on this bridge and it threatens the safety. The authorities tried to find the alternatives for these love locks, but not only the locks, the keys that tourists throw to Seine also become a big issue.
A better look to these Love Locks – wondering how may couples still together…Sorry all the locks already gone by now.
One of images that I never forgot from my childhood’s study book – the booksellers along the bank of Seine. In every French study book at my time we always found these famous bouquinistes, but life is not easy for them, being out there in any weather and with the traffic noise, to survive they have to sell not only rare books, posters but also those souvenirs of small values.
And do you know when the first book stands was opened here? The first book stands opened in Paris was in 1600s, but then in 1802 Napoléon Bonaparte placed them along the bank of Seine to start the business until now.
And I remember it…in black and white – those green metal book stands along the bank of Seine!
I got friends living in Paris for long, I don’t know why every time I visit them, they always take me here – Tour Eiffel, but this time they did a right thing as I learnt how to take a night photo, it took me a while to get this shot! Not the best but really appreciated my friend’s patience, sleepily waiting for me in their car.
La Durée could be one of the most famous sweet boutiques in Paris, my friend who knows I’m passionate with French sweets, waiting in the hotel lobby when I just arrived after a long flight, he took me straight away to meet his another friend who is the Paris expert, just to introduce me to this La Durée.
The bar inside La Durée – look quite amazing!
As I travel by train so my hotel choice for this time – near to Gare de St Lazare, just across a street. Very convenient! The view to Gare de St Lazare from my hotel’s room window. Early September but the sign of the Autumn is already visible.
One of my late lunches near to my hotel, love the hot dish…
and here my salmon salad, looks good and tastes really good, especially after a long walk!
This is my first post about my trip around France by train, my next destination will be Rouen – an old town with amazing cathedral!
See you in Rouen!