A couple of weeks ago I returned to Paris for a short visit, retracing some old steps from a trip I made two years ago, but also venturing further afield and braving the Metro system (which was actually really straight forward after studying maps and tips on how it worked).
My biggest fear when travelling alone is that I'll get spectacularly lost in a strange city and attract unwanted attention. I had a brief taste of this my first evening when I managed to walk round in a circle for around an hour and a half because I couldn't figure out if the Seine was in front of me or behind me. And when I sat down to look at a map a Japanese French man tried to persuade me to be his 'amie' and accompany him around Paris. Needless to say I declined his offer, legged it, and got even more lost...
I finally did find my way back to my hotel (with the help of some locals). Taking the more complicated route back also meant I came across a Carousel I otherwise wouldn't have seen. I've got a thing for Carousels and have been dying to get a photograph of an old fashioned one for ages, so I was delighted to come across not just one, but three on this trip, photos of which are below:
|Sacre Coeur Carousel|
|Carousel at Eiffel Tower|
|Carousel at Hotel De Ville|
I had a big sense of 'being in the right place, at the right time', on this trip. When I went on the Batobus after dinner one evening, the boat arrrived at the Eiffel Tower stop just before the first light show of the evening. The lights only sparkle for five minutes on the hour, and we were right underneath the Tower when it lit up. It was quite something being on a boat on the Seine, just as the skies were darkening, and witnessing what looked like a thousand stars explode inside the tower.
My hotel was just a few minutes away from the Shakespeare and Co. bookshop and I made a couple of visits here, enjoying browsing around the books and exploring the nooks and crannies. There's a space dowstairs, like a hole in the wall, where you can sit at an old typewriter. Hundreds of notes from visitors were pinned up on the walls around the typewriter and I left my own note in amongst them. On my previous visit to this bookshop I had hidden a note inside a Shakespeare book (which one, I don't even remember). It was never found, or if it was, the recipient didn't bother to send me an email!
I was lucky enough to be there on an evening where the staff were celebrating the birthday and 450 years of Shakespeare. I joined a crowd outside (as hundreds were already packed inside), listening to the staff perform poetry and songs through the large speakers set up. I could see some staff members standing at the upstairs open window, dressed in Shakespearean costumes, sipping on wine. It must be an amazing bookshop to work in. From the second hand book stand outside, I bought a copy of Morvern Callar (I saw the film years ago and have always wanted to read the book). Not very French, as it's by a Scottish author, but I loved the fact it had cherry blossom petals from the trees pressed into the pages and the girl serving me also stamped it with a Shakespeare and Co. logo.
Upstairs in the bookshop there's a room called 'The Cave' with wall to wall shelves of books, a make-shift bed where some writers have slept when doing talks at the shop, and a piano which the public are welcome to play. I sat in here with some others listening to a teenage girl play a very French sounding waltz. Her friend took over for a while, and played another beautiful melody. That was definitely one of those moments where I felt I was in the right place at the right time, as it just added to the atmosphere of the visit.
Another highlight of the trip was visiting Montmartre, as I wanted to photograph an image of the famous steps with the old fashioned lampposts. It took a few attempts as there was so many people walking around, but I was quite happy with the result (below). The walk up to Sacre Coeur was also a favourite moment, seeing such a beautiful dazzling white building come into view, under a pale blue sky, with a spinning carousel underneath.
I was going to attempt to capture everything I wanted to write in one blog post, but it's never much fun reading really long posts, so I'll leave part 2 till another time...