Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Seine

John and I have a deep affection for cities that have rivers running through them -- think London, Rome, Istanbul, Boston -- and Paris and the Seine are extra special. So accessible! Such vistas!
Here we see Notre Dame cathedral and Pont de la Tournelle in the distance from Pont de Sully just east of Île St-Louis.
The pedestrian Pont St-Louis connecting Île de la Cité and Île St-Louis often features talented buskers like this little jazz combo. They were dressed  in US Army fatigues and playing "Cow-Cow Boogie".
Here we're looking from île de la Cité across the Pont d'Arcole at the fanciful architecture of the town hall or Hôtel de Ville as a tour boat passes.
On the other side of Île de la Cité next to Notre Dame we're looking across the Pont au Double at the Port de Montebello and the Left Bank.
I love how the steps lead down to the Seine here on the Port de Montebello.
Farther west, across from the Musée D'Orsay, a lone traveller rests and takes in the view.
I like to think that after her rest she climbed the beautifully designed pedestrian bridge, Pont Solferino and crossed to visit the museum,
or wandered westward along the Tuileries to catch a glimpse of the Pont Alexandre III and the Eiffel Tower. What a magical, ever-changing stream in all seasons, all lights!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ladurée, Paris

Bill is patiently waiting while I press my nose against the window of Ladurée on the rue Bonaparte.
Bill says it's like an Ali Baba's Cave of Sweets.

Taschen, Paris

 One of the first things Bill and I did in Paris was make a pilgrimage to the Taschen bookstore on Rue de Buci in the Left Bank. I was drawn to the oversize books in the back.
I called Bill over to pose for a double portrait. 
Taschen is an excellent place to buy a lot of seriously interesting books that won't fit in your carry-on.

Marché d'Aligre, Paris

In the centre of the Bastille neighbourhood, John and I visited this charming covered-market several times. The building was built in 1779 and is called Le Beauvau.
The covered-market is surrounded by stalls selling fruit and vegetables and flower stalls like the one above with its gorgeous peonies.
The covered-market houses specialty shops selling fish, meat,
cheese and wine.
The Place d'Aligre also features a market clock and a daily flea market,
as well as charming restaurants and cafes like Moisan, above, a cafe/bakery. Come for the produce, the bargains and great people-watching.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Luxembourg Gardens

Last month after visiting an amazing show of the oeuvre of the German Renaissance painter, Lucas Cranach the Elder at the Musée du Luxembourg, John and I took a stroll through the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens. They lie at the feet of the Palais du Luxembourg built in 1631 for Marie de Medici, in imitation of the Pitti Palace in  Florence, her hometown. It now houses the French Senate.
The spacious and elegant gardens in the French style feature alleys of trees, gravel paths, terraces, statuary, a central reflecting pool and lots of comfortable chairs to accommodate the many locals who visit here everyday.
It's a favourite place for students from the local universities to read, hang out with friends or just soak up a few rays on a lovely Spring day.
There are always new features to discover like this memorial fountain dedicated to the French painter, Eugene Delacroix.
The Jardin du Luxembourg is worth a visit in all seasons but perhaps best in the spring with the blossuming shrubs and new foliage. Charming.

Guimet Museum

John and I can never resist dropping in on the Musée Guimet when we are in Paris. It is also known as the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet (the National Museum of the Arts of Asia Guimet) and it's housed in the unusual building on the left, situated on the Place d'Iéna in the 8th arrondissement.
The light-filled museum was renovated at the end of the 20th century by architects, Henri and Bruno Gaudin. It's a treasure trove of Asian art. Above we see the main hall with its display of Khymer sculpture and an installation by an American sculptor of Indian descent, Rina Banerjee.
The ground floor galleries have Indonesian sculptures like this head of Buddha,
 and this  11th century Male Divinity - both from Cambodia,
and this 11th century torso of Vishnu from Southern India.
Next we slipped past a very relaxed museum guard
and up the beautiful open staircase to the upper floors
and into the 2nd floor galleries
passing this smashing riderless horse in terracotta dating from the Tang Dynasty (late 7th century) from Central China at the entrance.
In these galleries we loved two Chinese representations of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvale. One, a fierce figure with "a thousand hands and eyes", from the Cinq Dynasty (907-960 AD)
and one shown in meditation made of porcelain from the Ming Dynasty (16th century).
We found another playful art installation by Ms Banerjee on an upper landing.
And finally we found ourselves in the museum elevator riding down to the gift shop on the ground floor to look for postcards for ourselves and friends.

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Paris

It had been years since John and I visited the amazing Buttes-Chaumont Park in the 19th arrondissement but when we decided to wander through the Belleville neighbourhood last month, we thought we could best begin with a revisit to the gardens.
We entered at the park entrance at Ave Simon Bolivar and Rue Botzaris and wandered along the street circling the top of the park past the artificial cascade and the rustic tavern, Rosa Bonheur, a place that is apparently popular with a young crowd of local hipsters in the evenings.
Soon we descended to the central lake and island with its Roman style temple at the highest point. Buttes-Chaumont had originally been a quarry and garbage dump but in 1864 Napoleon III and Baron Hausmann commissioned this fantasy garden with features made out of poured concrete and planted with the wealth of trees that grace the mature park of today.
Visitors to the park can climb to the little temple based on the Temple of Sibyl near Rome on the island and enjoy the amazing views of the city below.
A suspension bridge connects the upper island with the mainland and offers great views of the gardens and lake below.
The park is very popular with local residents and the edges of the lake are lined with sunbathers on nice days
and families in the many delightful open areas like this spot with its artificial stream. Be sure to add a stroll here to your Paris itinerary!
It's full of lovely surprises.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


On Blvd de Palais on the Île de la Cité in Paris, John and I visited the High Gothic jewel-box, Sainte-Chapelle (1248) built by Louis IX to house his treasured relic, The Crown of Thorns. Above, we see the little chapel hidden behind the Palais de Justice.
We entered into the ground-floor, lower chapel where the lower classes worshipped. The painted columns and Gothic arches are very rich and earthy in colour and a statue of Louis IX stands in the altar area.
Soon we climbed the narrow stairs to the Upper or Royal Chapel, reserved for the king, his family and court. The soaring stained-glass windows are separated by sculptures of the Apostles.
So much glass, so much colour and light for such a contained space. It really is stunning.
We marvelled at the beautiful Rose Window over the Upper Floor portals, a gift from Charles VIII in 1485. It's images represent the Apocalypse.
Even the floor tiles are stunning.
John particularly liked how this young visitor's feet matched the floors so well.
We stepped out of the 2nd floor portal onto the balcony to see lovely sculptures there.
The walls were decorated with medallions showing the Creation story from the Old Testament.
We all wanted to record the beautiful reliefs and their imagery,
though at times it was hard to tell just who was peering at whom.