11 Mar 2015

Paris Files: Exploring the City

Last week I wrote a post starting off my 'Paris Files' series with where to find the city's best macarons. This week, I wanted to share my Top 5 places to go when exploring the city.

#5 Musée de l'Orangerie
Out of the three museums that we visited (Musée du Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, and Musée de l'Orangerie), if I had to pick one that truly took my breath away it would have to be l'Orangerie. Unfortunately I don't have any photos to show you as taking photos was against the rules. However sitting down in the middle of a large room with Monet's Les Nymphéas (Water Lilies) surrounding you, it really does take your breath away. This is the only museum I can honestly say I would be happy to sit and stare at the works for hours on end because there is a lot to take in. Please, if there is museum (aside from the Louvre) you should visit in Paris, it's l'Orangerie. 

#4 Rue Montorgueil 
We were lucky enough to find an Airbnb apartment on this bustling street. Rue Montorgueil is in the centre of Paris and is essentially a market street. There are numerous butchers, fish markets, boulangeries, and patisseries, some of which are renowned and boasts a long history. In addition, there are dozens of cafés and bistros where Parisians congregate when the sun goes down to people watch while they dine. 

Rue Montorgueil is a local haunt for Parisians to do their daily shopping. Not only does it have the butchers and fish markets I mentioned earlier, but it also has three pharmacies (look out for a French pharmacy haul next week!), a novelty shop, and even a Starbucks at one end (but please for the love of the city, just don't). 

Being situated in this street, we were able to do as the Parisians do and pick up a few items from the numerous shops to make up dinner: chicken and roast potatoes from the butcher, fresh strawberries from the fruit shop, soup from the health shop, camembert calvados from the fromagerie, and a baguette from the boulangerie. 

One other thing that makes this street so special is that it has been immortalised by Monet in his work titled 'Rue Montorgueil' (1878)! 

#3 Versailles
Versailles was nothing quite like what I expected it to be, yet it still managed to leave me in awe. I had expected Versailles to be much further away from the city than a half hour train ride on the RER, much like the palaces in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was dab smack in the middle of everything, separated from the rest of the city by its gleaming gold gates and roof. Nothing says royalty more than gold. 

Versailles was amazing because of two things: the gardens and the fact that there was hardly anyone there. When I say there was hardly anyone there, I really mean it. 

Unfortunately, because it was winter the statues in the gardens were covered up and the fountains were not running but I can imagine just how magical (and how packed) this place could be in the Spring/Summer. Despite this little setback, I quite enjoyed the stillness of the gardens and the ominous clouds lent to a spectacular atmosphere which seemed to bring the place back in time. 

#2 Arc de Triomphe
Paris offers many vantage points for the city landscape (e.g. Eiffel Tower, Tour Montparnasse, Notre Dame) but nothing beats the view from the Arc de Triomphe. The photo above was taken from the Eiffel Tower and although it is a great view, nothing quite beats this: 

Dat symmetry tho. If you're wondering what Tour Montparnasse is, it's that hideous tall thing to the left of the Eiffel Tower which everyone agrees is Paris' biggest mistake and unfortunately it cannot be torn down due to asbestos (damn the 70s). The ~300 steps up was worth it to see this view. 

We walked to the Arc from the Louvre, down the Champs-Élysées. It was a pleasant walk and it helped that the Ladurée house was along the way! 

#1 Montmartre 
Montmartre is the name given to the large, visible hill in the north of the city and is easily accessible by Metro. We reserved one day for Montmartre and I suggest that you do too as there is a lot of side streets and little shops you can easily lose yourself in. Now, there was something about Montmartre that captured my heart, something about the way this part of the city 'carried' itself. There is a beautiful simplicity in the way that this area is laid out. I found that time seemed to slip away atop this hill, and I was more than happy to let it do so.  I could definitely go on and on about the magic of Montmartre, but I will highlight the best parts for you. 

Aside from the little shops that are everywhere, Place du Tertre is a great stop. This is a small square where everyday artists set up their easels and await the tourists that wander along for a portrait. I'm proud to say that I'm one of those tourists and I found a wonderful artist by the name of Stephane who did my portrait (below). A short walk from Place du Tertre is Espace Dalí, a permanent exhibition for Salvador Dalí's works. Dalí is one of my favourite artists and although it took a bit of convincing mum to go in, I enjoyed seeing the works of such an interesting mind. Of course you also have to go up the steps of Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, you just have to! 

One big tip for you when visiting Montmartre: wear. comfortable. shoes. I cannot stress this enough. I arrived back home two weeks ago and my knees and big toes are still whinging due to the hilly landscape and the cobblestones. 

Writing this post has made me miss the magical city so much. Hopefully I've inspired a few of you to take a trip to Paris and make your own unforgettable experiences! 

Next week: French Pharmacy Haul. 

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