Posts Tagged With: france
I thought I’d do a little comparison between two great capital cities; London and Paris, having fairly recently visited both. We may think of Europe and it’s strange foreign ways as being a totally different universe but what was remarkable was how similar they both were!
Both of these cities are old. London dates back to about 50 AD, but Paris was a small fishing village in around 250 BC. Obviously, things have change, grown, and developed since then but not surprisingly there are plenty of impressive old buildings still standing. On the right is St Paul’s Cathedral in London, and on the left is Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Construction start on Notre Dame in 1163, and St Paul’s was consecrated in 1300. They both remain big tourist attractions. Of course construction continues and St Paul’s is now crowded by modern buildings. In Paris, there seems to be less of these modern abominations and more of the old town.
Paris drove me a little crazy as it was so busy. This may be the main way it reminded me of London; there were people everywhere. It was always busy. Apart from Sunday morning when it was absolutely dead!
Ah, food! The most important thing! The main problem for me in France is the lack of vegetarian food. The UK isn’t always fantastic but at least I know I can go into any restaurant and they will be able to provide me with something I can eat. Not so in France where meat remains a staple. Our trip to London was quite hipstery and I did eat my first smashed avocado on toast with poached egg. In Paris, the avocado did feature on a few menus although Google translate thought advocat toast was a toast lawyer…I did get some camembert though. In Paris a lot of the restaurants closed at 2pm and reopened at 7pm which was a little annoying, and weirdly they give you bread with your as not as a starter. Both cities are expensive!
On the right I’m at the British Museum, on the left is The Louvre. Both London and Paris have a range of large art galleries and museums. They both get busy at peak times, they both have great exhibitions, they are all worth a visit. The British Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Natural History Museum, The Science Museum in London are all free. The Lourve costs 17euro, The Cite des science et de l’industrie costs 12euro, the Musee d’Orsay costs 12euros, the Centre Pompidou costs 14euros. That’s your difference.
In conclusion, they are both beautiful, interesting, busy, expensive, exciting places to visit. In my mind London wins, because if I lived in France I might starve!
What do you think? Any preference?
As we were wandering through the streets of Paris (desperately seeking shelter from the rain or searching for vegetarian food) we saw some cool street art and graffiti. I always think it looks pretty cool in other countries, it can be really creative and colourful (more inventive than ‘Roger was ere’). Maybe I wouldn’t be so enamoured with it if it was on the side of my house…
11 bis, rue Blanche
Amphytrion is a figure in Greek mythology, and has been the subject of numerous plays. And L’Amphytrion the restaurant is in the theatre district so the name seems quite appropriate. We ate here on our first night and it was lovely, albeit expensive. It’s quite small and we were lucky to get a table. There wasn’t much on offer for vegetarians tbh but what was offered was camembert so I was in! The portions were small (especially when you consider what you are paying!) but I think you’re supposed to do the whole three courses as is the style in France.
We ordered camembert, a rabbit dish, one desert to share, a coke, and a glass of wine. We spent about 58euro.
47 Avenue Trudaine
I kept calling this place ‘index’ but it is 1ndix. I was doing my normal 4 hrs of vegetarian ‘where-oh-where-can-I-eat-tonight’ research so I learned a bit about the owners. They’re twins, born on the 1st October, dix being French for 10, the name of the restaurant reflects their birthday. It’s a pretty small place but was totally empty when we arrived. We had a friendly server (spoke excellent English, kept getting distracted by stuff). There was some interesting hip-hop playing, and it was quite a hipster joint.
I ordered avaocado on toast with a poached egg, boyfriend had a hot dog, and we shared a delicious chocolate fondant for desert. The food cost about 28Euro (a bargain by Parisian standards), and then we got some drinks.
39 Rue Amelot
We wandered past this place by chance, although it’s in an area full of shops and cafes. The board outside was advertising their daily salad (one vegetarian, and one ‘classique’. They also had a daily soup which most people were having as a starter, but we didn’t because we’re weird foreigners who don’t understand about courses. The salad was nice, although mainly rice based and it came with wedges, and bread because in France they bring you bread with your main not before (it’s weird). So it was quite a carby salad!
Anyway two salads and two cokes cost 28Euro.
22 Rue la Bruyere
It’s a little weird, perhaps, to go to an Italian restaurant in Paris but we did (actually more than one). It was a lovely evening and everywhere else was full. We got a spot downstairs next to the toilets which wasn’t a prime location but the food more than made up for it. The waiter brought around a chalk board menu and explained the whole thing to us, he did this for everyone it seemed to be part of the process. It was very helpful, and there were a few vegetarian options than actually sounded good!
I had the tortelli reggiani, boyfriend got medaglioni funghi, both types of stuffed pasta, mine with spinach and ricotta and his with mushrooms. It was delicious, we both had deserts; boyfriend had a traditional (non-alcoholic) tiramisu, and I had a chocolate crostata that I found a little underwhelming. I had a lemonade, boyfriend had a glass of wine and we spent 55 Euro.
51 Rue des Martyrs
Fuxia, is Italian for Fuchsia if that helps you pronounce it. It was a very busy Saturday night when we wandered in here. Despite all the hustle and bustle we were served pretty promptly. There were a few delays here and there but the hard working waitresses were running round constantly doing things.
I got a great veggie risotto, and a slightly boring polenta cake, I can’t remember what boyfriend ordered but he got a door slab of tiramisu (with booze). And by this point I’d given up counting the bill I’m afraid.
On our last full day we headed out to Cite des science et de l’industrie, which is the city of science and industry (the lack of capital letters in the name messes with my head a bit). It’s a science museum. Boyfriend had been before in the dark ages when he was young and wanted to check it out again. He was disappointed with the museum overall though as it was too aimed at kids and the science wasn’t hard core enough.
We arrived around 11am on Saturday morning and were surprised it wasn’t busier. We thought it would be overrun with kids but it was a nice sunny day so maybe people were enjoying the sun. It cost 12Euro each for the Explora Ticket which gave us :
Permanent and temporary exhibitions, planétarium, cinéma Louis-Lumière and Argonaute submarine included, upon availibility
The temporary exhibition that was on was on special effects in film which was quite fun and interesting. We also got our free ticket for the planetarium purposefully picking the show that had an English translation, but no one offered us the headphones for the translation (or even told us that you needed them) and the whole thing was in French which was frustrating.
We didn’t try the cinema but went out to see the submarine and queued for so long we gave up. The queue wasn’t long but clearly only a few people were being let on at a time and then everyone was being sweeped by security.
We went downstairs to the little aquarium which was cute, and then out past the big ball! That’s the Geode where you can pay extra and see 3D films, but we didn’t bother. It was such a lovely day we headed away from the Museum along the canal to try to find somewhere for a drink that wasn’t packed out.
Our second full day in Paris was actually sunny and warm! So we headed out on a walk to the Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise. It’s the largest cemetery in the centre of Paris. It was opened in 1804, there were 13 burials in this first year. Now, there are one million people buried here.
I actually didn’t think it was still a working cemetery (for new burials) but we walked passed someone who had died in 2014. But they had been added to the family plot, I don’t think they really have room for many more people. And it’s apparently, a common practise for them to open a grave and add new coffins of family members. They also have adopted a standard practise of offering 30 year leases which need to renewed by family members or the remains will be removed.
This may seem a fairly sombre tourist destination but Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise houses the graves of many famous people such as Balzac, Chopin, Maria Callas, Edith Piaf, and Proust. Lots of people you’ve heard of but can’t really pin down what they do!* Below are the graves of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Rodenbach.
I’d never heard of Rodenbach but he was a poet and I appreciated his grave. Oscar Wilde’s tomb has long been a pilgrimage site. People like to kiss it wearing red lipstick and, at one point, it was covered in kisses. It has since been cleaned, and is covered in a perspex box with a large sticker asking you not to ‘sully’ the tomb with marks as the family pays for the cleaning. Fair enough. Jim Morrison’s grave has also been slightly roped off, but this is to protect the graves around it which looked like they had been damaged as people had squeezed past.
It was a little odd to visit a working cemetery, but I did like how peaceful it was (there were other people taking pictures and ‘sight-seeing’ but not too many). Paris is very busy with car traffic and people traffic, so it was nice to get away from the bustle a bit.
*Balzac and Proust were writers, Chopin a pianist, and Callas and Piaf were singers.
After our visit to The Louvre we headed off to find lunch, wandered around for too long, realised that places in Paris close at 2pm and it was already 1:30pm and finally found an Italian place to get pizza. The day was pretty grey and I wasn’t feeling well but after lunch we decided to head back to outside the Louvre and walk towards the Eiffel Tower. (Full disclosure we never actually made it to the Eiffel Tower as we were both tired and realised we had to walk all the way back too!) We started in the Jardin des Tuileries which is a large formal garden with statues and fountains. Walking through it we could see La Grand Roue (The Big Wheel) on Place de la Concorde and the end of the gardens.
Place de la Concorde is the largest public square in Paris, delightfully it was the site of many executions during the French Revolution. Now it is more famous for the Egyptian obelisk that once marked the entrance to a Luxor temple and was gifted to the French by Egypt in the early 19th century. Of course your view of this is obscured by the big stupid wheel some idiot put in the way. Also it is surrounded by a lot of crazy traffic, we witnessed a car crash (no one hurt) and a lady shouting at a taxi driver who was trying to turn in the space of about 10minutes.
We kept going to the Flamme de la Liberte, a small replica of the torch of the Statue of Liberty, the full statue obviously gifted from France to the US. (Remember the days when countries would give each other giant statues instead of threatening to bomb each other?) It was smaller than I expected, and I honestly wouldn’t go out of your way to see it. It is also an unofficial memorial for Princess Diana as it overlooks the spot where she died so people have left photos of her and copious amounts of graffiti. I can’t say I cared for it personally.
From the Flamme de la Liberte we could see the Eiffel Tower, took a few selfies, and then basically headed home. Maybe it would have been nice to get a closer look, but we have both been to Paris before and I’ve been up to the top so I didn’t feel the need to do it again. It was quite a miserable day weather wise and by this point it was after 4pm and we had over an hours walk back to our hotel. So we headed back tired but not defeated!
On our first full day in Paris we headed to The Louvre. We booked our tickets online the night before, it was 17 euro each for a standard ticket (without entry to the special exhibition). You get a timed slot starting from 9am, but the earliest one available to us was 10:30am which was actually perfect as it gave us time to walk there from our hotel. I was feeling pretty awful that morning so needed a little extra time to get going!
It was a grey, rainy weekday so not very busy. A great day to spend inside a museum! We were quickly ushered through the initial security at the glass pyramid (a bag check and through a metal detector) and into the large underground foyer. I remember (sort of) when the pyramid was pretty new and hearing some unconvinced opinions on it. But as we rode down the escalator, looking up through the glass ceiling with natural light coming in I liked it. In the foyer there are some toilets, and some escalators up into the museum proper. At this point they actually scan and check your tickets. Top Tip: the toilets in the foyer are pretty busy, wait until you go through into the museum where they are quieter.
We entered the sculpture area first (by chance, we never managed to get a map!) I wandered around in a bit of a fog to be honest as I wasn’t feeling great all morning. But I do like a bit of sculpture and enjoyed looking around. There was a lot to see from different periods and areas. It did remind me a lot of The British Museum, and we are a bit spoilt having free museums in London (although London is far away and expensive).
Of course no visit to The Louvre would be complete without seeing The Mona Lisa, so here it is! As you can see it was quite a busy gallery space filled with boring paintings, filled with people taking photos of a famous painting they can get 100 different reproductions of in the gift shop around the corner. I judge, yet I too took the obligatory photo and bought the obligatory book mark…