Today has been so much fun, if not a little bit tiring. After setting an alarm for 7.30AM, we decided to stay in bed until 9.00AM before I finally summoned the energy to rise from the depths of my duvet and get into the shower – we were dressed and ready in no time, and wandered down a nearby street from our hotel, chasing the promise of breakfast. As our stomachs began to rumble, we walked past a boulangerie called “Mamiche”, which stuck out on the corner with its vibrant white walls. This place was amazing; a small counter held freshly made sandwiches, with vegetarian selections, as well as ham and cheese, and the open design of the room gave a view straight to the kitchen, where a team of young ladies were busy baking bread and doughnuts. The smell was enough to make our mouths water, and we were also happy to see that they sold orange juice from a small press in the corner, in addition to a menu of superb coffee. Jacob and I both chose to have toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, a large bottle of orange juice, and a bottle of water each, whilst I enjoyed an espresso to rid the cobwebs of last night. It was EUR. 20 for the both of us, and I have to say it was the orange juice that made it worthwhile.
Our only plan for the day was to visit the Shakespeare and Co bookshop, so we headed in a vague direction until we had walked past the Square de la Place Dauphine and crossed over the river. It was fabulous to discover little kiosks that lined the perimeter of the bridge, stocking old magazines, comics, prints, and books, and we both wish that these were scattered across the UK too. I purchased an old fashion magazine as a little gift for my girlfriend, and we carried on, passing the Fontaine Saint Michael to the acoustic guitar of a nearby, and extremely talented, busker. The road to our bookstore was charmingly narrow and teemed with libraries, cafés, pancake stalls and Greek kebabs spinning on their axis. Jacob has been searching for a silver ring for about a year now, and randomly spotted a little jewellers, “DamDom“, at the end of the street; we entered, tried a few on with the guidance of the pleasant mannered staff, and he decided upon a plain silver signet, hand crafted in France. It was EUR. 90 and comes with a free re-sizing receipt that is valid for up to a year after purchase – he is still pretty chuffed with the whole thing!
Just over the road lay the real jewel, however, in the form of Shakespeare and Co’s legendary bookstore. Shakespeare’s face hung in a window stuffed with books, both antique and modern, and I walked through the tiny door to heaven; it was everything I could have hoped for, cramped, tall shelves lined every inch of space, leaving nearly nothing for the customers perusing their way through a seemingly infinite list of titles. Chandeliers lit the way, in true French style, to a staircase with quotes scrawled upon the steps – the second floor held the aroma of old bindings and well worn spines, and after walking past a tiny typewriter sitting proudly on a desk, we discovered a reading room that was occupied by a handful of students reading from ancient tomes. I spent a good half hour investigating their incredible selection; it seemed that they stocked every genre imaginable, turning the entire store into a celebration of literary diversity that I am yet to see anywhere else; the work of long forgotten generations mingled with the brilliance of our age, giving equal respect to both.
I chose a small novel to read on the trains we will be getting for the next couple of weeks, and went to pay at the tiny cash desk at the entrance; you get the option of a free stamp on your book, which I hastily accepted, and left knowing that I would spend my entire budget if I stayed a bit longer. They have a café next door serving quiche and salads, yet we decided to go and grab a cheap EUR. 5 Greek pitta to conserve some of our money, as Jacob was still reeling from the cost of his ring.
Crossing back over the river, we sat in a quiet café to plan our next move. It was a charming little place, called “Les Voyelles”, and had fantastic black and white photographs lining the walls, along with a cool breeze pouring through the open front, providing some relief from the heat of the morning. It was EUR. 11 for cocktails and EUR. 4.50 for a glass of wine; the salads looked gloriously fresh and were well priced for the location. Over a drink, we decided to set off to the Musée d’Orsay, yet this swiftly changed as we got sucked into the sight of the Cour Carrée. For those that don’t know, the Cour Carrée is one of the main courtyards of the Louvre Palace, and has a lovely fountain as a centrepiece. It was basically empty beside a small guided tour, so we took a few photos and went towards the Louvre museum (under an archway where a brilliant violinist was playing away) to admire the beauty of the architecture and contrast between the ancient and modern, which is becoming a central theme to our adventures in Paris. It’s closed on a Tuesday, so there were no mad crowds, and we sat for an hour staring into the glass in front of us; with l’arc de triomphe to our right, we were surrounded by architectural splendour in every direction, and waltzed over to see what the fuss was about. I’m sure you know what it looks like, so I’ll talk about something we found to be the highlight of the day: the pigeon whisperer. There was a man stood in the middle of about 40 pigeons, calling over children, like some weird pied piper figure, in order to place a pigeon on their heads. It was fucking hilarious.
After we’d stopped laughing, we walked through Tuileries Garden toward the Place de Concorde, where you can relax on green chairs at the edge of the fountain! There are a plethora of statues to enjoy, including a particularly impressive Cesar, clad in his Roman armour. Traversing the scary roads towards the bridge of Alexander III, we admired our first proper view of the Eiffel tower, a steel behemoth spearing into the sky. Walking under the bridge, we marched past the harboured bistro boats and soon found ourselves with our jaws on the floor under the feet of the tower. We didn’t see much point in queuing for an hour to enter, so chose to sit in the nearby park to enjoy it on our own time; the street sellers are no way near as aggressive as the tower of Pisa, and largely leave tourists alone to relax.
Knackered, we began to walk back to the hotel, which was a further 4 miles away. This was quite pleasant as we went through the Parc du Champ de Mars, where everyone was enjoying a picnic, and crossed the road to walk down Av.Montaigne – a street entirely comprised of Chanel, Prada, Louis V, Versace, Fendi and others. It’s not very cute to go down if you can’t spend $4000 on some shoes. We managed to get back just before rush hour, collapsing onto our beds with relief at a chance to rest our legs.
My photos of Paris so far can be found HERE