Originally published in Belle Inspiration Magazine (January/February 2012)
She is small, but really very large; simple but in an oh so complicated way; innocently young, yet beautifully mature; pristine with a gritty underbelly; highbrow, yet revels in the lowbrow. Instead of denying these intense contridictions Parisians, indeed the city herself, embrace these contradictions, and invite the world to freely partake and revel in 4the experience - and we do.
Because Paris is so many things, to so many different people, it is impossible to neatly put all that is Paris into a box (of any size). But one thing I think we can all agree upon is that one of the ways Paris speaks to us best is through images - snapshots of the contradictions, breadth, depth, beauty and...joy that is Paris.
Thus, in this series of articles, I offer you my Postcards from Paris. Let's start with Unexpected Paris...
13 rue des Barres
On one end of Ile Saint-Louis is the Pont Louis-Philippe Bridge - linking the isle to the Right Bank (Metro: Pont Marie). After you cross the bridge, and cross to Quai de L'Hotel de Ville, you come to rue des Barres, a tiny medieval lane.
Eglise Saint Germain-des-Pres
Just after you pass 13 rue des Barres, you'll see large ancient leather doors - yes I said leather. Pass through them and step into a gorgeous medieval Catholic church - Eglise Saint Germain-des-Pres. Mimi and I visited at the tail end of the height of tourist season, yet the church and surrounding streets were completely empty, quiet.
"The interior of the church is quite large, massive stone walls and floors with breathtaking stained glass windows - it was like stepping back in time..."
Librarie des Jardins
At the Place de la Concorde entrance, to Jardin des Tuileries, there's this tiny bookstore. Housed in a vaulted 17th century chamber, beneath the terrace of the Jeu de Paume and Les Notre's horseshoe ramp, this bookstore houses a truly amazing array of gardening, architecture, landscape design and horticultural literature and poetry books.
Fair warning: you could easily spend an entire afternoon wandering the stacks. Make sure that you stop for a cafe creme at the little crepe stand across the way...
Bateaux at Jardin des Tuileries
After a leisurely visit to La Librarie, weather permitting, spend 2 Euros and float these gorgeous handmade boats on the large pond directly in front of Le Louvre. Who says that it's just for children?
La Cour du Commerce St. Andre des Arts
But this is my favorite 'new' Unexpected Paris find. On this short narrow street are housed everything that I love best about Paris. Start at the tiny shop that only sells handmade leather journals of every size, shape and color. Next buy a small flagon of one of the dozens of varieties of Olive Oil, from a shop that only sells...Olive Oil! Of course, by now you're famished. Doesn't Le Procope look inviting?
Sincerement votre de Paris,