Thursday, September 29, 2016

Out and about in Paris 28 September

After a rather structured two days -- Susie in class half of Monday and all of Tuesday and me in Père-Lachaise both days -- we decided to spend Wednesday just strolling about the city with no fixed objective in mind. It's great having the Navigo for the Metro, on and off as often as we want.

Well, that was only partly true. We wanted to visit the Jardin des Plantes, the Jardin de Luxembourg, stroll up rue Mouffetard, check out the books at Gibert Jeune at Place Saint-Michel and end up at BHV, the city's huge department store right across from the Hotel de Ville.

And so we did.

We walked to the Metro at Place Gambetta where we took line 3 to Republique, changed to the 5 and got off at Gare d'Austerlitz. We were both quite surprised that the Gare had gotten rid of the tacky tourist shops and replaced them with an art gallery/exhibition space.

From the train station we walked across the street into the Jardin des Plantes. This was always one of our favorite haunts when we first moved to Paris and lived nearby on rue Poliveau. And it remains so today.  Upon leaving the jardin we made our way up to rue Monge, past Pascal's pastry shop -- still there  -- and strolled through the open air market at Place Monge.

From Place Monge it's a short couple of blocks around Saint-Medard church -- we went in briefly -- to the foot of rue Mouffetard.  The "Mouf" is one of the oldest streets in Paris dating back to the days of Roman occupation. It's a meandering street that is filled with restaurants, stalls of food and wine vendors and small shops. In fact, we stopped at Sherpa, a small shop selling mostly women's clothing but they did have a few items for men, particularly scarves -- and so I bought one.

At the top of the street in Place Contrescarpe we stopped for lunch at the aptly named Cafe de la Contrescarpe. A perfect time to sit, relax, have a bite to eat and watch the world slide by while being serenaded by a young man with a guitar. . . I should think that takes no little amount of courage to stand up in front of strangers and play/sing Hotel California. And he did a fine job of it, too. For lunch we both had the club sandwich with frites. If you feel you've overdosed on testing the various Croque Monsieur, try one of the clubs -- they were delicious. and they came with most unusual of frites, too, I might add. They were the shape of a French fry but the body was curved and hollow and very good.

From Place Contrescarpe we made our way to the Pantheon and then down rue Soufflot to the Jardin de Luxembourg. Strolling through this particular jardin is much more than a visual treat of sculpture and flowers or even a keen opportunity to watch a vast array of humanity, local and foreign, stream by. It's a time to stop, pull up a chair -- one of the lounge chairs preferably unless you want to read --  put your feet on the iron railing, sit back and lose yourself for 10 minutes or an hour. (The railing is a particularly nice touch.)

We eventually roused ourselves and made our way out of the jardin to Boulevard Saint-Michel. From there we walked down toward the Seine to check out the Gibert Jeune bookstores on Place Saint-Michel. From there we walked over to the Ile de la Cité and stopped in to see those incredible stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle. Built between 1242 and 1248 as a reliquary, most of the original relics (such as the crown of thorns) are long gone. And although Louis IX would have been aghast at such an invasion of his royal space, there were many exclamations of amazement by common folks at first sight of those windows.

We left the chapel and made our way to the right bank crossing in front of the Hotel de Ville. We popped into the immense department store BHV (Bazaar Hotel de Ville). After using the bathrooms (on the 5th floor by the restaurants) we cruised the kitchen floor and then the books section before leaving. From the basement level of the store you can access line 1 of the Metro, which is what we did, making our way to line 2 at Nation and then line 3 at Père-Lachaise, getting off at Gambetta. We had come full circle.
Jardin des Plantes

Place Monge market

rue Mouffetard

note those potatoes in the drip pan!

Cafe à la Contrescarpe

the Pantheon

Jardin de Luxembourg

Susie savoring the moment

Mary Stuart probably wouldn't have tolerated these people

but Sainte-Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris probably would


Paris is far from perfect, though

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