Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

While browsing through the selection of books on Paris in the Musée d’Orsay gift shop, I was delighted to come across this little volume, which I read in part during my study abroad in Paris. Walter Benjamin was a Jewish intellectual and essayist who wrote this little book about Paris; he is an interesting figure whose life ended tragically when he committed suicide to avoid being turned over into Nazi hands.

Paris, Capital of the 19th Century

I don’t know if these essays have been translated into English, but even if you read a little French they are worth trying to read in that language. One of them, “Fourier ou Les Passages,” was my first introduction to les Passages, the covered arcades that served as early shopping malls in Paris. All of the essays are both intriguing and informing, as well as beautifully written. For example, in “Baudelaire ou Les Rues de Paris,” he writes:

La génie de Baudelaire, qui trouve sa nourriture dans la mélancolie, est un génie allégorique. Pour la première fois chez Baudelaire, Paris devient un objet de poèsie lyrique.

Benjamin’s writing powerfully evokes the mythic qualities of Paris, and I am sure that reading his work during my first stay there was crucial to the development of my deep fascination with this great city.

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The Canal St. Martin is one of the spots I never managed to visit when I spent the summer of 2009 in Paris, so it was on my to-do list for this trip. I’m a big fan of the film Amélie, so a visit to a location from a scene in the film is always exciting for me. (If you don’t know where the Canal St. Martin scene is in the film, it’s been too long since you have watched it, and you should watch it again!) It was a lovely spot to sit and enjoy the beautiful May weather while resting our tired feet, and the place where the Canal actually runs above ground level is really cool.

Canal St. Martin on a beautiful May afternoon

The best part of our visit was when a houseboat came up the Canal and we realized it was heading straight for the locks just uphill from us. We hurried back up to the locks in time to watch the boat enter a lock, while the water was raised, then the gates to the next lock were opened, the water in that lock was raised, and once it reached the level of the upper portion of the Canal, the final gates open and the boat was back on its way. Two people on the other side of the locks climbed the fence while the second lock was filling and hitched a ride on the boat! The rush of the water was pretty loud, so I couldn’t hear the conversation between them and the boat captain–I’m assuming they knew each other, but who knows, perhaps they were hitchhikers.

Houseboat waiting for the lock to fill up at the Canal St. Martin

We finished the evening by eating at a vegetarian Indian restaurant just a few blocks away by the Gare du Nord. It’s a fun little area with amazing Indian food, and a great place to get a bite to eat before or after you visit the Canal.

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The toughest choice at the patisserie is whether to choose a tarte aux fraises or tarte aux framboises...

One of the musts on my list for my return visit to Paris two years after living there for a summer was to go to Bread and Roses, a really amazing boulangerie/patisserie right next to the Luxembourg Gardens. My routine is to get one of their ‘tartes’ (which are these amazing savory square pastries with a croissant-like crust), with a tarte aux fraises or tarte aux framboises, all of it à emporter (to go), which I then take across the street to eat in the Luxembourg Gardens on one of their green metal chairs. This time, I got a savory tarte with goat cheese, zucchini, olives, figs, tomatoes, caramelized onions and marinate artichokes, and a tarte aux framboises. It was heaven in both the flavors and in the nostalgia for the time I spent in Paris!

Another amazing creation from my favorite lunch restaurant!

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