Boris and I continued our tour of Paris via the Hop-on/Hop off bus, leaving behind the Eiffel Tower. We passed by Les Invalides, more commonly known as Hotel national des Invalides, a complex of museums and monuments dedicated to the military history of France. This complex of buildings is (like the Eiffel Tower) in Paris’s 7th arrondissement on the left (south) bank of the Seine. Boris and I have toured this area before particularly the Dome des Invalides, a large church with many tombs, where Napoleon Bonaparte is buried.
On this beautiful sunny day, sunbathers and picnickers enjoyed the large lawns along the Esplande de Invalides. The larger buildings are undergoing construction on the exterior.
A word about arrondissements, the municipal districts within the city of Paris. There are currently 20 arrondissements in the city of Paris, arranged in a clockwise spiral. You’ll note I refer to them when I try to give you my placement within the city. They are a common reference for addresses and an important reference to have when visiting Paris.
Photo ©Jean Janssen
We traveled next through the lovely area of St. Germain, also in the 7th arrondissement. The architecture here is what I think of when I dream of lovely Paris apartments. This is the University quarter and enjoys a youthful vive. It is also the area of historic cafes and artists. Just across the street from the famous Cafe de Flore, sits the heart of this district, Saint-Germain des-Pres, a lovely historic church, the former Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. “The original foundations were laid in the 3d century A.D. but the church standing today was built in 1163 and is the remnant of what was once a rather large monastery complex.” (from A Paris Guide)
We’ll be back in a few days before we depart for London to tour the church and have lunch at one of Boris’ favorite restaurants, Brasserie Lipp. By now we were ready for some time off the bus, so we got off near Our Lady of Paris, the 855 year old Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris, and headed straight to a sidewalk cafe for lunch. It was a touristy spot, but we had a great view of the Cathedral and the River Seine and nabbed a spot right at the edge of the cafe’s outdoor seating.
We went for traditional French bistro fare-crepes for Boris and a croquet monsieur (grilled ham and cheese sandwich) and potato frites for me. (I dare not call them French fries, although the waiter did because he noted my American accent and is so used to tourists.) This was a prime people-watching spot. The food was simple, yet good.
As important as lunch was and as lovely as Notre-Dame is, Boris’ real reason for wanting to get off the bus here was his favorite Paris book store just a few steps away from the cafe. Shakespeare and Company is an English-language bookstore first opened by an American in 1919. During the 20’s it was a favorite gathering place of aspiring writers including Ernest Hemingway. During his 20s when traveling through Paris, Boris slept on the bookstore sofa. He swept the floors and stocked books in exchange for the place to sleep.
There is often a line waiting outside to get in. As many times as Boris has talked about it, this was my first visit. I liked the odd-shaped rooms. The store really did have a wonderful selection. Although I do almost all of my reading on a tablet these days, I did buy a few books. Definitely worth a stop and you can fill up your water bottle outside while you are there.
After a stop at the lovely park next door, we crossed the Seine to Cathedral Notre-Dame de Pairs. There is always a mob here and we have been inside the church several times-I highly recommend it-so I just took some pictures outside. This is definitely a “get here early to tour” location in Paris.
The Cathedral celebrated 850 years in 2013. It actually sits on an island in the middle of the Seine. “The Ile de la Cite is one of two remaining natural islands in the Seine within the city of Paris. It is the centre of Paris and the location where the medieval city was refounded.” It is considered part of Paris’ 4th arrondissement.
One of the things I really liked about this area were the lovely views of the Seine, the artists set up to draw your portrait, and the booksellers with their rented storage shops along the river. Their were antiques, cheap prints, and originals.
We got back on the hop-on/hop-off bus. Before returning to the right bank, we passed the Pantheon in the Latin Quarter, part of Paris’ 5th arrondissement. It was originally meant to be a church dedicated to Saint Genevieve but it became a place for great individuals to be buried and turned into the Pantheon. It is the final resting place for among others, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, and Marie Curie.
I enjoyed just crossing back and forth over the various bridges that cover the Seine. There was lots of activity on this sunny day. Other tourists took advantage of the stop at the boat launches to tour the city by waterway.
Sometimes I take pictures of things I do not recognize just because I find them beautiful and/or interesting. We passed a large structure I found particularly lovely. I later identified it as the Petit Palais, an art museum built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle. The Petit Palais is in the 8th arrondissement of Paris and houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts.
We returned to the Place du Concorde and snarled traffic. It took quite a while just to get down one street off the “roundabout”. It looked like it was the tour bus stop ahead that was causing the problem. The buses ahead of us wouldn’t move until there was a place for them to park and make the stop. Eventually we heard the distinctive police sirens of Paris and there was some official assistance to break things up.
When we finally got through the intersection, we passed Maxim’s, the famous Paris restaurant where we will be having dinner tonight. Speaking of which, it was time to get out of the sun and rest a bit before dinner, so we headed back to our original stop and returned to the hotel on foot.
This is a shopping area, so we had to make one stop to get hats for our touring. Too bad we hadn’t got them in the morning, but we have several more days to go. We were not anticipating the weather being this warm or the sun being this bright.
It was nap time for us and then we needed to get changed for our evening out. One winter when we were in Paris, Boris took me to Maxim’s. I remember it being very red, very dark, with excellent service and food. Dressing up a little more tonight with a black lace dress. It is the eve of Boris’ 60th birthday.
It was just as I remembered it. The room has a small dance floor (although no one danced) and a stage. A singer performed for about 15 minutes. The service was impeccable and the food fabulous. However, Maxim’s is well past its prime and extremely expensive. Our waiter did reseal our empty bottle of champagne so we have a wonderful souvenir. This was the highlight meal for Boris and he loved it. Worth it for a very special occasion, as this was.
Extravagant, timeless dining, 2 down, 3 to go.