09 September 2007
A Tale of Two Shirls
Alli and I went to Paris for three days, early Wednesday morning through late Friday night.
In a word, it was amazing.
Here's our first view of La Tour Eiffel from our taxi.
We arrived at our hotel around 11 a.m. but couldn't check in yet, so we left our bags and began our Shirl-venture.
Here's the ground we covered before checking into our hotel around 5 p.m.
First thing we stumbled across was a huge open air market around the corner from our hotel. It was an amazing introduction to Parisian life.
Above: Les Escargots
Below: Les Poulets avec les pieds at les tetes (ew!)
We also ate lunch at a nearby cafe. Look at this Parisian beauty!! Is it any wonder people kept approaching Alli and speaking French to her during our whole trip?? Although neither of us is proficient in French we both made a big effort to speak the language and got rewarded for it. It was fun practicing our high school language skills and the payoff we got was a warm and friendly reception from almost everyone we encountered. As far as we are concerned, Parisians have an undeserved reputation for snootiness.
After lunch and the market we wandered towards the river Seine and were bowled over by the following sights.
Les Invalides above, view from Le Pont Alexandre below.
Another work of art on the Alexander bridge. I could do a whole blog post on this bridge alone. Every time you move your eyes you are confronted with something overwhelmingly beautiful. The statues, the carving, the stonework, the gilding...it was a happy accident that it was the first bridge over the Seine that we crossed. Paris really has a way of making a good first impression.
A view of the Louvre from the Tuileries gardens.
A little flower shoppe.
The thing about Paris is you can wander aimlessly and the city never stops giving you sights like the pictures above and below. Everywhere we went we found a feast for the eyes; both on a massive scale and a smaller, human one. Huge monuments and public works that stun you with their grandiosity are coupled with little gems, work-a-day things and places that are charming and gorgeous.
The city also gave us another gift on our first day, in the form of a little parade. No streets were blocked off, no barricades, no major crowds, no big police presence...just a bunch of folks making their own fun. The essence of this parade seemed to be groups of about 20, dressed similarly, wandering from cafe to brasserie to bistro and in front of each one they would stop and sing their song or play their instruments and the proprietor would reward each person with a gulp of wine delivered into the big silver spoons you see hanging from the necks of the fellas above. Each group seemed to have a theme, and after they performed and drank their wine they'd move on to the next place, a block or two away. Then a few minutes later the next group would wander into the scene, do their schtick, get their reward and be on their way.
Plus we saw this guy.
Wednesday night we had dinner in the Quartier Latin, saw Notre Dame at night and from Le Pont Neuf (The New Bridge, ironically Paris' oldest bridge) we watched the Eiffel Tower do it's 10 minute sparkle, which it does every hour on the hour, after dark.
Thursday brought a whole 'nother set of sights, sounds, tastes and wonders.
We started in Montmartre, where much of the movie Amelie was filmed. (Have you seen it? If not, I insist you do so ASAP! It is unbelievably unique, charming, funny, sweet and clever.) Above is Sacre-Coeur. Below is the view from its steps.
Montmartre is on a hill on the outer edge of Paris. The hill locale means lots of winding, steep streets and plenty of these lantern lined steps or walk streets. Originally the hill was covered in vineyards and wind mills, it later was annexed by the city and became a haven for artists and bohemian types. It has its touristy sections but retains a village-like feel and it's amazing to turn off the busy, thrumming streets of Paris into this quiet and tree-lined section. It is utterly charming and worth exploring.
Full of nooks and crannies.
Van Gogh lived on this street (not in this house, but this was the cutest house on the street so this is where I picture him...call it artistic license)
Le Lapin Agile (The Agile Rabbit) a famous cabaret where Picasso used to pay for drinks with paintings.
Montmatre is also home to the famous Moulin Rouge. Moulin means windmill and this red one is purely for show...
...but we did stumble across the two original windmills left in Montmarte, here's one above.
Here is the only remaining vineyard in Montmarte. It's tiny and adorable and remarkable to find in the middle of one of the world's biggest and most cosmopolitan cities.
A bohemian cat.
An Art Nouveau metro station in the area. Even the subway signs are works of art!!!
Dejeuner apres Montmartre (lunch after...) Mmmmmm!
*Alli here, taking over blogging duties...
Every day we would grab a fresh map from our hotel lobby and we took turns being "Madamoiselle La Carte (The Lady of the Map)". I found it helpful and fun to mark each day's path with a black line, until you wanted to see something on the map that was under my black line....oh well, c'est la vie!
Thursday night was DRESS NIGHT. Kelly and I each bought a dress to bring with us to Paris. Here is Kelly in her new polka dot dress. Adorable.
Here is a (self portrait) of us on dress night. We were so tired from two days of non-stop walking and absorbing beauty that we just decided to spend our second and last night sitting at a Brassierie with an unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower to watch it sparkle (while wearing dresses and drinking wine). Une bonne idea, n'est ce pas?
On Friday we went to Paris's two islands, one being famous for Notre Dame (as seen above) and the other famous for Berthillon ice cream. Both attractions have the same awe-inspiring effect, and you don't want to overdose on either! A little bit goes a long way...
Something that Kelly and I both LOVED about Paris was how even though it's so hustle-bustle and full of tourists, you can easily find a totally private spot (like here, along the Seine) to sit and watch the world go by...
Parisians are special. They have a unique, fascinating style that reveals itself at all ages. Is it their hair-do's? The way they carry themselves? Their confidence and pride? Their civilized lifestyle? It must be all of the above, plus a hefty dose of JE NE SAIS QUOI.
I LOVE to capture moments of Parisian life. Sure, its uncomfortable taking stealthy pictures of strangers on the street, but I am always so glad when I see the results! (Plus, I know that these pictures will inspire many drawings for me). Just look at these lovely AMIES, having a TETE a TETE on the street...
And then there are the men.
And sometimes people would bust me taking pictures of them on the street. Look at the icy stare that Mademoiselle Moped is giving me! Ah, whaddyagonnado.
Les twins! Curly hair and collars on both of them. Hee hee! I was so excited!
Ah, the Allison store. What do you notice about this store's sign? I'll give you a hint: THE COMMA. Most people call me Alli but when I am called ALLISON it is usually said in an exasperated tone followed by a comma. Kelly mastered the exasperated Allison + Comma voice, and whenever she would say it, it would stop me in my tracks because it sounded like I was in deep trouble. Kelly now has a very effective tool to use against me in her pocket! :)
Here is one of my first Paris drawings - just a quick one. I did it on a napkin for Kelly after lunch one day. I really did see a grey poodle sitting in a chair at a cafe with a glass of red wine in front of him! We even had the great fortune to meet this dog and that learn his name is Pascal, "Pas-Pas" for short. Tres mignon!
Here is the real Pascal. He sat on my lap, at the cafe, on dress night. Bon Soir, Pas-Pas! Je t'aime!
Can you believe we didn't eat any pastries at ALL on this trip? We were too busy running around with the map in our hands... but I did take pictures of pastries. Less calories that way.
And we didn't buy any of this cheese, either.
But we did eat salads! It's fun to eat salad when its called "Three Hot Cheeses Salad". That's the one on the top. We split these, half and half. Mmm. Cheese salad.
This is where we sat and ate these salads, in the Marais, at PLACE DES VOSGES.
The Eiffel Tower by day...
The Eiffel Tower by night.
With a little glitter and the right lighting, a girl can really shine, don't you agree?
We are a little obsessed with her.
My good friend and fellow Francophile, Robin, told me about some of her favorite places in Paris. Here are LES PASSAGES. (covered arcades running down the center of big, old, beautiful buildings that bring you from one street to the next.)
Each little store in LES PASSAGES was unique and unexpected. Here is a beautiful little shop that only sells needlepoint artwork. Chandelier? Windy staircase? Check, check.
Another remarkable thing about Paris is the SCALE of it all. Look at L'Arc De Triomphe! It's HUGE! And there are about 20 lanes of traffic (including mopeds and bicycles) circling around it at high speeds with no lanes or lights or lines. The rule seems to be every HOMME for HOMMESELF. It's kinda scary and thrilling at the same time. We got to experience it from the safety of the backseat of a taxi.
I feel very lucky to have gotten to experience Kelly's first trip to Paris with her. We had three days of suprise, adventure, fun, laughs, wine and inspiration. We can't wait to go back! Viva la France! Viva les Shirls!
-Shirl & Shirl