Friday, October 21, 2011

Postcard from Paris, Day 2: Secrets

On my second morning in Paris, I was alert and determined to explore new neighborhoods. I had two new guidebooks in my bag, Secret Paris, compact but very heavy, and Parisians' Paris. Each was full of interesting, out-of-the-way places but using them together was confusing because they defined areas differently and Parisians' Paris has no maps. I found my way using a third guidebook, Access Paris, and saw quite a bit. I walked 13 miles, was frequently lost, and had a great time.

I took a lot of photographs that I want to show you. I'll try to keep it brief but, even so, I expect you are also going to feel like you walked 13 miles by the end of this post. Take breaks, have a café crème or something.

I arrived at these 19th-century shopping passages (covered shopping corridors — perhaps the first malls) before they opened so I window-shopped. They're extremely elegant and I want to go back to explore the many antique shops and galleries. (You can click to enlarge these.)

Art books, old and new.

Tiny clay heads. And a bug.

Shop windows are often works of art (collage) in Paris.

Antique books.

This witty display was too dark to photograph well. 
These are tiny modern amulets or "saints' relics," 
which contain little plastic toys and other objects. 
"Saint Protecteur" is represented by a condom, for example.

I emerged from the passages near this opulent candy store. I craved the light fixtures more than the bonbons.

Then I headed to the Church of Saint-Eugène–Sainte-Cécile, with its polychrome, cast-iron interior:

Then I went to the bank. As you can see, it's a beaux-arts extravaganza, complete with a painted glass ceiling and a glass-block floor. I'll bet there are ATMs in there somewhere, possibly done in stained glass.... Compare and contrast this with your local BoA branch:

The bank's exterior, just a bit pretentious:

My  next stop was the Canal Saint Martin. Even with three maps, I got very lost. Finding it took forever, but the neighborhood was interesting.

This turned out to be the right path:

The canal was worth hunting for. I watched the locks work as a big barge crossed slowly under the bridge where I stood. Canal technology is amazing even when you aren't feeling jet-lagged, which I suddenly was. Two German ladies and I shrugged our shoulders and gesticulated in the universal language of disbelief as the road next to the bridge swiveled away to let the barge pass.

A paved road moved to the left, opening the canal to the barge.

From the canal, I headed to an old hospital to sit for awhile in its tranquil courtyard:

Then I walked toward the Seine along the canal. There was a huge outdoor market on the covered sections of the canal. You could find everything from clothing to pigs' heads:

The produce, meats, cheeses, and baked goods put our farmer's markets 
to shame, I'm sorry to report.

I wanted some of those pumpkin-shaped tomatoes.

Very fresh clementines, perhaps from Morocco.

Then I wandered around the passages of Faubourg St-Antoine because one of my guidebooks told me not to miss them. It turns out they are mostly full of furniture workshops with a few scenic courtyards, like the one below:

My feet were tired. I crossed the Seine, passing the Bastille monument. I revisited my favorite spots on the Ile St.-Louis and had a crèpe for lunch, sitting on a wall and watching a fashion shoot by the river. A blonde model posed on a yellow bicycle, wearing a long-sleeved bodysuit with midriff cutouts, yellow heels, and a huge handbag. We weren't permitted to take pictures. Then I crossed the Pont des Arts to the Left Bank.

 The padlocks, left by thousands of lovers, that cover the chain link sides of the Pont des Arts:

In the Latin Quarter, I visited the church of Saint Severin, known for its strange, rayonnant Gothic ambulatory, with multi-branching ribs like a palm tree forest. I labored through a terrifying college course on Gothic architecture, and I guess it was worth it — this ambulatory was still mind-blowing after all these years:

You don't find golden arches like this just anywhere.

How's this for a water fountain? 

My last stop for the afternoon was the School of Medicine, where you can wander freely in their beautiful garden courtyard:

There you'll find a statue of Death, or Monsieur Le Death, as I prefer to call him. He was pretty darn creepy, scythe and all.

Even creepier was the 19th-century Depuytren Museum of Anatomical Pathology, which was even more disgusting than I'd imagined and I was prepared. I thought it would be a nice change of pace from an art museum, and now I don't need to return. Several thousands of jars are filled with preserved specimens displaying every horrible malady that can happen to a human body, before and after birth. Animals, too. I didn't linger, and you don't want to see these jars up close, trust me: 

Then I walked to the hotel and collapsed. Now it's your turn.

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