November 23, 2010

48 hours in Paris

At the end of last week I sneaked a cheeky 48 hours in Paris. Richard was going over to speak at a conference, and suddenly realised he had a free double room in Montparnasse for two nights... well it was only polite to agree to be his roomie, right??

So, off we went to St Pancras, (which was looking refurbished and rather resplendent),
just a little skippy and excited with the trolly suitcase in one hand and a stack of Paris guides in another (well I was skippy, Richard was calm as always!). And,  just like that we were on Eurostar and off to Paris. So easy and comfortable, and as quick as a trip to Glasgow!

We had two days to explore and enjoy, and while Richard was working,  I had the lovely company of wife of a colleague of his, already a friend, to wander the city with, and we saw so much. I know Paris a little and went back to a few favourite places and found lots of new wonders.
First up,  Notre Dame. It is breathtaking on the outside, the statuary carved in the 1200s and still in amazing condition. Pope Alexander laid the first stone in 1163 and it stands on the site of an ancient Roman temple.

The interior is incredible. When we visited a service was taking place, and the cathedral was filled with beautiful sound of chanted psalms and the soaring arches and awe-inspiring stained glass together created a very moving experience. This South Rose Window contains some of its original 13th century glass and is 13 metres high.
This is the North Rose Window, enough, had I been alone in the place, to bring me to my knees.
The good thing about visiting Paris in November is that the crowds are really not too bad, there was space and time to take all this in and savour the atmosphere and peace.

From Notre Dame, we moved onto to the nearby Concierge - the ancient Capetian royal palace which became the seat of royal administration and law in the 15th century, and then during the Revolution it became a huge prison holding over 4000 prisoners, many awaiting the guillotine. Some original cells remain, including that of Marie-Antoinette. The small women's courtyard, where female prisoners were allowed to walk and wash their clothes was particularly poignant,
It is pristine now, but the filth and terror must have been appalling, and one can only imagine the horrors of this pen, where condemned women were held just prior to execution,
After all this beauty and tragedy, we needed some fun, so it was off to the shops and cafes for some serious mooching and window shopping. We found the most fabulous homeware shop, stuffed to the gunnels with the most gorgeous lighting, clocks, linens, furniture and accessories. It is La Boutique, 14 Quai de la megisserie.
I got seriously wantywanty and had to leave before I bought half the lighting and a clock 3 ft across! Pia Jane Bijkerk's book, Handmade in Paris was a brilliant guide for artisan shops in the backstreets of Paris, full of treasures and unique crafts. The stationary shops she recommends in the Fourth Arrondissement were stunning, and I will have to return for the haberdashery shops alone!

We had amazing meals - in style at Le Petit Zinc in St-Germain-des-Pres, where I ate the best sea-bass of my life, cooked in clay, and modestly but deliciously at creperies and cafes. Did I mention the citrus souffle brought to the table in its copper pan with a glass of Grand Marnier on the side. Meals like this last a long time in the memory.

Richard and I had the last day to ourselves, and so we walked our way down a section of the Seine,
marvelled at the quality of the statuary everywhere you look, charmed by this little girl on one of the bridges listening for sound of the sea, or the Seine, in her shell,
and amazed that the art-deco artists of the period were commissioned to embellish even the feet of the lamp-posts!
Next, we sashayed down swanky Rue St  Honore, where I thought the old boy looked rather handsome in the sunshine,
and where he showed ample patience as I pointed endlessly at the incredible ironwork everywhere,
and wittered on about the glorious colour combination of sand, grey and black which is all around one in the architecture of Paris and has found its way into my heart and the colours of our home.
The Jardin des Tuileries, Place  de la Concorde (a magnificent 20 acre square right in the centre of the city and once site of the guillotine), the beautiful if austere Place Vendome and the Louvre, all within a half hour walk of eachother. We gawped still unsure but always astounded by the clash of old and new at The Louvre.
and some of the exhibits at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs were so beautiful, I wanted to dance a quick jig infront of the glass cabinets. I resisted the urge, but my heart was singing at some of these beauties, the carvings and glass over 500 years old,
It is that kind of place, Paris, it makes you want to dance and be merry, fall in love, eat too much, soak in a millenium of culture and ... giggle at gendarmes on rollerskates!


  1. Oh, I laughed at St. PANCREAS.... sorry, I know it was a typo, unless the name has changed or I'm going senile.
    And yes, the old boy looked handsome.

  2. Oh Maggie, I just laughed even harder, how did I miss that?!!! Thanks for flagging it, although I nearly left it for general amusement! xx

  3. Lovely post Belinda....I am making mental notes of the places you mention, ones I didn't see when I was in Paris.
    I must buy that book too...Handmade in Paris, sounds a great guide to the artisan shops.
    Hopefully it will save on the legwork (and blisters) if I read about them first.
    You do have some great expressions...."seriously wantywanty".....I must remember that one!
    Julie x

  4. What a wonderful way to spend a couple of days - and unplanned, too. That's the very best way! I love the fish on the lamp post! Thanks for sharing.

  5. It looks delightful...and so great that you could tag along for almost free!

  6. I've never been, can you believe it?

    Loved this tour. You must return and bring back pictures of florist shops!

    xo jane

  7. Hi Belinda,

    Your trip to Paris sounds great! Wish my husband had conferences overthere! It must have been great to wander around with your friend and even have some time left to spend with your husband. He looks like a very kind man to me, but he probably doesn't want to hear this :-)!

    I visited Paris with a colleague last month, when I look at your pictures I want to go back!!!

    Happy day & lieve groet,


  8. It is a magical city isn't it?

    And you are right, he is very kind, and man enough to handle the compliment! Thanks, Madelief.xx

  9. What a lovely time Belinda.. complete perfection and yes, 'the old boy' did look very handsome in the sunshine! x

  10. Thank you for all the lovely pictures. Paris, so near; a Londoner could just hop over for a cup of coffee!

  11. Hi S-E, yup, I agree on all accounts!x

    Metscan, I have been over for lunch once!x