It may be taboo to say this as an architect(ure student), but I have mixed feelings about Paris. The Haussmanian Boulevards aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and the throngs of American tourists in July make me want to jump headfirst into the Seine. But I decided to give it another shot this week, to visit my good friend Kayla Lim (Hi Kayla!) en route to the Netherlands.
And while there will always be things that are annoying about Paris, I’ve compiled a list of things I especially enjoyed on my mini-Parisian vacation.
(In no particular order..)
1. Eating and drinking outdoors: Parisians sure know how to enjoy their fresh air. Every restuarant and cafe has outdoor seating, with chairs oriented towards the street for prime people-watching. After work, thousands of Parisians trek Seine-side to enjoy impressively gourmet selections of bread, cheese, and wine, often with full place settings and picnic blankets. One parting couple generously offered us an impromptu vase (beer bottle) full of flowers.
2. Soldes! : In early summer, French stores are required by law (by law!) to have sales. Unfortunately, even on sale French couture is well out of my grad student budget..
3. The Haute Couture Exhibit at Hotel de Ville: Fortunately, being poor doesn’t exclude me from the enjoyment of high fashion; this excellent exhibition allowed me to drink in 100 years of exquisite French dressmaking.
4. Velib/Autolib: Similar to our Hubway, velib is Paris’s bikeshare program. While the bikes are a bit clunky, zipping along on two wheels makes those endlesss Hausmanian boulevards much more palatable. The Autolib program is a similar system, but for adorable little European cars!
5. Hidden corners of the Louvre: I’ve been avoiding going to the Louvre until now- just stepping into that hot, endless court with zillions of tourists makes me a little nauseous But I really needed to get to some Dutch artwork deep in the north wing of the Louvre for my summer research project. However, I was happy to discover that after braving the line (which really wasn’t that long), exhibits far away from famous works such as the Mona Lisa weren’t crowded at all- in fact, I more than once found myself in a room all on my own. The covered courtyards and surrounding sculptures, Napoleon’s quarters, and the Ruben’s room were highlights.
6. The Eiffel Tower Light Show: Touristy? Yes. but also beautiful. Every hour on the hour at night, the whole tower twinkles like a bunch of spastic fireflies- best enjoyed with a bottle of wine. Get there quick though- apparently it is a temporary installation for five years, ending this July.
Also, a nod to the 5th Annual Architecture Ball (so many French architects in one place!), the Marais, the new Seine-side pedestrian park (the Quai Voltaire at Quai Branly) and the alpine garden at Jardin des Plantes.