Now, I know that I’ve visited Paris countless of times before, since I have the opportunity to be living and working in France during these last two years. Whether it was to visit it properly or to use it as a transfer base for other destinations in the country or in Europe, I always find myself returning time and time again to the iconic French capital, known to draw the most number of visitors in the world each year.
A couple of weekends ago, I spent a day there, after having done the same thing in Rouen the day before. Usually, I never feel the desire to visit Paris, since again, I’ve been many times and have seen most of what I’ve wanted to see, in terms of the monuments and museums, otherwise touristy. This time around, however, I had a reason to go, since not only was there a temporary Rembrandt exhibition happening at one of the museums, but also I was to meet a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of months, so with that said, I hitched myself over around noontime to Paris.
I arrived there close to 13h00 and first things first, I walked over to the Galeries Lafayette, a large (and expensive!) department store, one of the most famous in the city. I wasn’t there to go shopping (mind you, I’m cheap as heck), but rather visit its seventh-floor terrace to get panoramic views of Paris. A blogger had recommended this particular spot and considering that I love a good city view, I knew that I had to visit.
Upon entering the store, I took the escalators up the to the top. Along the way up, I couldn’t help but admire the magnificent, multi-colored interior dome structure of the building itself, which looked more like the inside of a cathedral rather than an upscale department store. Astoundingly beautiful, nonetheless.
Made it up to the top of the department store and was greeted by cold, but stunning views of the city: I could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance, along with the multiple, 19th-century architectural buildings that made it, well, the “romantic” idea of Paris itself. Spent some time taking photos of the views, as well as enjoy the sun on my face despite the winter chill. It was lovely, but in the end, I much preferred the views from the Arc of Triumph. Nevertheless, this is to say that the views from the Galeries Lafayette are still worth a visit!
I descended the escalators and exited the Galeries Lafayette, heading over to my next destination in the city. Taking the long Boulevard Haussmann, I arrived at the musée Jacquemart-André, a museum that once was the private home of Édouard André and his wife, Nélie Jacquemart, both of which were from wealthy backgrounds. The museum itself houses in particular Italian art, but I was actually there to check out the Rembrandt exhibition, which was only a temporary one until late January; that said, I visited when it was just about to wrap up.
To my surprise, the line was quite long in order to get into the museum. I paid 10,50 euros at the front desk and proceeded to head over to the mansion, which houses the artwork and the private/state apartments. I have to tell you, it was elegant and posh inside, understandingly so since it used to be a private home of the powerhouse couple. Really loved the foyer with the winding staircase, which made it all so Florentine and whatnot. If the artwork didn’t impress me, then the architecture did!
Before entering the Rembrandt exhibition, I came across this “cheeky” statue, flashing gang signs and whatnot at oblivious tourists. Very clever, I see!
I went into the Rembrandt exhibition, which to my disappointment was very small and crowded with people. Also got yelled at by one of the staff for trying to take photos of the artwork (then again, I should’ve known better). Managed to get this one in before the yelling:
In and out, I was probably done with the Rembrandt exhibition in no more than ten minutes. After a quick tour through the private family rooms (very similar to those I’ve seen before in Versailles and elsewhere), I was pretty much done with the museum in 45 minutes. Frankly, I found the experience to be rather underwhelming, especially for such a pricey ticket. Then again, it’s a private museum, so I shouldn’t be complaining. Again, however, the architecture was nice to look at!
Exiting the museum, I headed over to the Champs-Élysées not too far away, to check out the Hôtel de la Païva, a small building located right next to Abercrombie & Fitch (also with its magnificent golden gates- go figure) that used to be the mansion of a Prussian countess back in the 19th century. Today, it serves as another generic restaurant on the touristy Champs-Élysées.
Afterwards, I took the metro over to le Marais district, known for being a popular place for the young, “hip” crowd, along with tourists. It’s also specifically known for being a Jewish and LGBTQ-friendly place, and I really enjoyed the lively, progressive atmosphere of the place. I popped into Saint Paul-Saint Louis Cathedral to wait for my friend to arrive.
At 15h00, my friend came and together, we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the Marais and elsewhere. We actually got lost in the streets, but all the same, it was a “good” kind of lost, since it’s a “Parisian” thing to flâner, or otherwise wander with purpose which me being a cynic I’ve found to be quite cheesy, but that day, it felt just right for that. Spending it with good company made it a good experience.
Eventually, we popped into a busy bistro for a short break (just drinks), as well as to get warm from the cold (it was a very chilly weekend then, even in Normandy!). Later, we got dinner at a small, Middle-Eastern joint that served some of the freshest, most delicious pita wraps ever! I got a lamb pita wrap and oh man was it so fresh: the lamb was perfectly-cooked and not dry at all; the veggies inside were crisp and pungent, pairing outstandingly well with the warm, fluffy pita bread. Although it cost twice as much as what I would normally pay for a pita wrap, it was heaven on earth!
By the time we finished, it was getting late, so we headed out, took the metro for a little while, and parted ways on the transfer stop. I took it back to the train station where I caught the 21h30 one back to Normandy, arriving back just a bit past 22h00.
As I said earlier in this post, I’ve been to Paris countless of times and although a part of me feels tired of the place, the other part reminds the other half that there’s still so much to see in the so-called city of Lights. True, I’ve already seen the major, touristy attractions, but perhaps now it’s a matter of delving into the nooks and crannies of the lesser-known, less-explored places to make the magic happen. Considering that I’m not too far from Paris, I’ll definitely be returning time and time again in the future!
— The Finicky Cynic
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