Monday, June 13, 2011

PARIS Part I: A Parisian Homecoming

More than two years after returning to the US from my semester in Paris, the opportunity to go back came in the form of a week-long vacation with great friends. I had a mix of excitement and anxiety leading up to my trip, concerned my French would be too rusty and that I might not remember how to get around. Once I took out my suitcase and started packing, all that apprehension melted away. . .
I arrived at CDG in Terminal 2 which I know very well after bringing my father to the airport after a visit and leaving from Terminal 2 at the end of the semester. After getting my bag I knew just where to go to get on the RER B into Paris. Once settled on the train I was on my way with an indelible smile across my face; ready for vacation, ready to start a sort-of homecoming.

Now, when I was studying abroad I was in Paris for four months I used a NaviGo (a month-long unlimited metro card) for getting around the city. Unlike Metrocards in NYC if you have a NaviGo you have to put your picture and name on it. Metro riders can be fined if they don't have a picture on their NaviGo or if they don't have a cancelled one-way ticket from entering the subway. In four months time I never had a ticket or my NaviGo checked for validity.
My first RER ride into the city this time around the SNCF agents came on the train to check tickets almost immediately! I also had them checked a second time coming out of the Metro in Montmartre on Friday night of our trip. Maybe they're just cracking down more due to the economy, but I thought it was pretty crazy! 

My first day in the city was all to myself. After freshening up I went out and about for a day of visiting my old haunts. From where I was staying in the 5th Arrondissement, my whole day was within walking distance. Meandering west I came upon a street where my lecture classes were held which is just around the corner from the Panthéon. 

The Panthéon is at the end of Rue Sufflot, a short street that comes east from Boulevard Saint-Michel in the heart of the student quarter, or Quartier Latin. My classmates and I spent a lot of time running around this area getting to the multiple buildings that house the Cours de Civilisation Francaise of the Sorbonne. In the same way NYU and other NYC universities have their buildings spread about, there is no single space that serves as a campus for the Sorbonne. 
The Panthéon
I went into my favorite shops in the area, bought all my postcards to send to family and friends, spend a dangerous length of time in Gibert-Joseph, the French bookstore chain that covers all genres, and then made my way across the Seine, past the back of Notre Dame and on to Île Saint-Louis, the smaller of the two islands in the Seine where the Foyer that I lived  in is located. Crossing Pont de l'Archevêché I discovered one of the bridges lovers have taken to securing locks upon to signify their bond. There were many different sizes, shapes and even types. Some tied on plastic bags, others old ribbons, bike locks and one couple even tied an umbrella sleeve. Here are some of my favorites:
Taking my time I walked down the street that runs through the center of the island, Rue St-Louis en L'Île, passing by where I used to buy my baguettes, my favorite crêpe window, the little fleuriste I loved taking pictures outside of, and the post office where I used to buy stamps to send letters and love notes back to the States. Quite a few store fronts had shifted; some closing, some new places opening. A French chain store, a sweetshop/biscuitier , called La Cure Gourmande had opened an outlet in the center of the island and a favorite chocolaterie Cacao et Chocolat had closed (leaving its space currently vacant). La Cure Gourmande has a display sure to make any child's mouth water and eyes open in delight. Bins of cookies, treats and brightly wrapped confections invite you to pass through the yellow French doors:

Making my way back to the apartment to meet up with my friend, Jocelin, who had been in class all day, I passed the famous La Tour d'Argent restaurant. Being just blocks from where I had lived, it was something I had passed often. While in Paris I had not fully developed into the gourmande I am today, so I made sure to take some pictures of the world-renowned restaurant for all of you. Luckily there was a photo shoot or something intriguing going on down below on the river bank and one of the chefs was standing in the window (click on the photo to the left to enlarge)! 

By the time I got back to the rental apartment, Jocelin and I were ready for some vin and dîner. I stopped off at a favorite boulangerie where I used to buy petit viennoiserie and a European Coca-cola (thats with sucre, pas HFCS) on the way to my morning literature course. Here I picked up my first Parisian macarons of this trip. I will tell you all about les macarons and my memorable dejeuners and dîners in 2 separate posts to come. 
Notre Dame de Paris
Returning to Paris was magical, uplifting, and heartbreaking all at once. I prepared for my trip by reading Paris Was Ours. The 32 writers of this collection of essays capture the way Paris makes someone who has ever lived there feel. A mix of beauty, confusion, appreciation,  melancholy, illogical madness and a deep complex sort of love will always arise in anyone who has experienced life in Paris. I finished my trip by devouring David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life in Paris on the airplane. He gives a great list of many more places to visit. Before my next trip I will re-read his witty, amusing and charming but honest look at Parisian life. 

See these photos and more on Facebook: PARIS Part I

Two more PARIS posts to come this week: Les Macarons and Dejeuners et Dîners


Princess Joce said...

You took such gorgeous pictures!

The Culinary Librarian said...


Jill@madaboutmacarons said...

Sounds like a fabulous yet relaxing trip. Loved that photo of all the bike locks! Look forward to reading your next post, Mary!

Anonymous said...

So fun!!!

Hali Bey said...