June 25, 2012

There's Always Paris

See how happy you can be here?
(Fact for the Day: The Eiffel Tower
was originally painted red.)

If you're a lover of art museums, a foodie, a oenophile, a history buff, or - better yet - all of the above, it's high time you booked yourself a trip to Paris.

The wealth of things to do in this beautiful city is rather overwhelming. There are the obvious sightseeing spots - including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame. They're all amazing and undoubtedly worth the trip.

But there are so many other hidden treasures to be found here.

This spring, I was lucky enough to enjoy Paris for the second time in my life. And though I did revisit many of the typical touristy places, I made it my mission to discover a handful of new gems, too.

Here are three of my favorite discoveries, should you one day find yourself in need of whiling away a day in the City of Love and Lights.

Our daily Parisian "siesta":
Bread, cheese, wine. Done.
Today's Stefcations Highlights:

  • What You'll Find: A few of my favorite places to visit in Paris.
  • When to Go: I've visited in August and in April. August's weather is lovelier and less rainy, though many of the locals seem to be missing in action, as they are known to leave the city to go on holiday during this summer month. If you go in April, bring an umbrella and sunglasses everywhere you go - it can be rainy and sunny all in the same day.
  • By the Way: Do not miss the Musee d'Orsay, known for its spectacular collection of Impressionists, including mind-blowing paintings by Van Gogh. I assure you, you can't imagine how awesome they are until you see them in person!

1. Musèe Rodin

The Thinker,
unperturbed by the rainstorm.
Museum-goers like me can happily spend hours ogling exquisite paintings, skillful drawings, and historical artifacts of all sorts.

Musèe Rodin, an indoor-outdoor museum dedicated almost exclusively to sculpture, offers a specific kind of experience, a glimpse into the life and work of a single genius artist.

The Musèe Rodin - or the Museum of Rodin - is housed in Paris' Hotel Biron, where Auguste Rodin himself once lived.

For a mere 9 Euros, you can walk through the main building's many rooms and get up close and personal with each sculpture, then stroll through the surrounding gardens (for only 1 Euro more) to view such world-famous (and massive!) works as The Thinker, The Gates of Hell, and The Three Shades.

Me, at The Gates of Hell. It took Rodin 37 years
to complete this massive, 20-foot-tall sculpture.
That's dedication.
The museum's audio guide will give you lots of great insight into Rodin's life and friends, his passion for art, as well as the incredible accusations his work initially endured from the art world.

Rodin was literally so good at creating realistic, life-size sculptures of people that it was to the point of being unbelievable. Early on in his career, his contemporaries called him a fraud and accused him of casting his works from actual people - cheating, essentially. His solution? He began creating larger-than-life sculptures that clearly could not have been modeled from actual humans.

View of Rodin's gardens.
Although I happened to visit on a very rainy April day, I am happy to report that the weather in no way dampened my awe for Rodin or this fabulous museum.

P.S. Just one block over, you can also visit Napoleon's tomb, at the Hotel des Invalides.

2. The Palace of Versailles

OK, technically, this isn't part of Paris. It's a suburb about 10 miles away. But if you're a sucker for mind-boggling opulence (and who isn't?), this is simply a must.

Truth be told, you could spend an entire weekend exploring the gardens alone, never mind the palace. The grounds literally stretch as far as the eye can see. It's not difficult to picture Marie Antoinette wandering through the maze of manicured trees, feeling quite pleased with herself.

Why, hello, royal gardens.
It's hard to summarize the exhausting amount of beauty found here. Acres and acres of flowers, topiaries, statues, fountains, and pools. And that's just the outside.

The Palace of Versailles, where you can tour
the astonishingly ornate palace and gardens.
Inside the palace - which comprises nearly 722,000 square feet of space (!!!) - you can tour of a good number of rooms, including the chapel where Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were married, the famous (and beautiful) Hall of Mirrors, and the bedchambers of Marie Antoinette. You can even see the door through which she'd escaped the angry mob in 1789.

Hall of Mirrors
at the Palace of Versailles.
The cool thing about this place is that everything here is French, literally. The entire palace and garden were built and designed by artisans, sculptors, architects, and gardeners who hailed from France, using only materials that came from France.

Honestly, you really, really, have to see it all to believe it. 

No, really, eat the snails.
Enjoying escargot at Cafe Limonade.

3. Parisian Cafès

Obviously, I cannot write this blog post in good faith without a few words on food. Heavenly, decadent, mouth-watering French food. Think escargot, fresh bread, cheese, and wine.

Paris is the sort of place where you can walk into nearly any non-descript neighborhood market and emerge armed with warm, crusty bread, a wheel of cheese, and a bottle of wine.

Or, perhaps even better, stroll into any of the innumerable cafès that line the city streets, take a seat amongst the open-air tables, and enjoy an impromptu meal of divine delicacies along with some good old-fashioned people-watching.

These newlyweds drove right past the cafe
where we were sitting, to many delighted oohs and aahs.
For example, within hours of landing in Paris, we happily wandered the streets, coming upon a beautiful monument (the Porte Saint-Denis) just as it began to rain. Luckily, the monument stands right in front of one of Paris' many cozy cafès.

Our jovial server, Dominic,
at Petit Pot Saint Denis.
This particular cafè, the Petit Pot Saint Denis, offered us the perfect place to gather ourselves after a long flight. Looking for nothing more than a quiet, low-key place to chat and unwind with some wine, we were doted on by our extremely friendly server, Dominic.

He not only chose a great Cabernet for us (a bottle of Chateau Bacchus), but also presented us with a plate of fresh French bread and camembert cheese on the house!

Voila! A perfect way to start our trip.

1 comment:

  1. Omg! So fun! Versailles is amazing. Can't wait to go back. Sacreblue!