Au revoir, Paris!

The street we lived on.

The street we lived on.

A month in Paris goes by quickly. In a city with so much history, so much art, and so many people, it would be impossible to see “all” of it, so we saw much of what we wanted to and didn’t even try to see many of the tourist classics.

The Promenade Plantée. 4.5km of a metro line have been converted to a bike and pedestrian walkway through the heart of Paris.

The Promenade Plantée. 4.5km of a metro line have been converted to a bike and pedestrian walkway through the heart of Paris.

A common highlight was walking through neighborhoods. Paris is made for walkers. We never tired of the beautiful buildings, colorful planter boxes, busy cafes, and meandering lanes. Many of our wanders included trying a new bakery or chocolate shop and stumbling upon a green market or buskers. Particularly fun neighborhoods were Montmartre and the Left Bank, but every neighborhood has gems.

Another park packed with quiet locals enjoying a sunny afternoon.

Another park packed with quiet locals enjoying a sunny afternoon.

Another repeated highlight was the parks, commonly full of people. There are benches for readers and moveable chairs that migrate with the crowds, some set up for leaning back in a nap or sun-bask. Landscaping is mixed and beautiful so something was always blooming. Permanent pingpong tables at times host fierce competitions. Sculptures are mixed in with the trees. Most parks have play areas for children, from a simple structure to elaborate rope courses, games, and climbing gyms. Parisians clearly love their children and visiting the park is a daily activity. The largest parks on the border of Paris proper have miles of walking and biking trails, acres of fields, attractions like a zoo or botanic garden, a medieval castle. One warm afternoon we joined the hoards and found a lake where we were able to rent a rowboat and paddle around.

Cimetiere du Père Lachaise has over one million interred. It is a couple blocks from our apartment.

Cimetiere du Père Lachaise has over one million interred. It is a couple blocks from our apartment.

Père Lachaise Cemetery was just a couple blocks away. We visited this odd beautiful place often. It is a good place to stroll quiet cobbled lanes, to see leaves turning colors, to watch people, and to get lost in the simple crumbling old stones and large family pavilions. People have been memorialized and chose to memorialize themselves in fantastic ways. The cemetery today has one million people interred and many more in the columbarium but it was not always so popular. Père Lachaise was opened in 1804 because the cemeteries in the middle of town were all full, however no one was dying to get in this new cemetery that seemed so far away. The administrators created a marketing strategy that involved moving the graves of famous people, like Molière and lovers Abélard and HéloÏse. Multiple moves and ten years later, it worked. Today there is a waiting list and high price tag to get one of the few remaining plots. An additional bit of history is that the cemetery was the site of the end of La Commune (a revolutionist socialist group that ruled Paris briefly in 1871). The final 200 Communards retreated to the cemetery in their last battle. Those who survived the battle were caught, lined up inside the cemetery, and shot.

Napoleon's tomb

Napoleon’s tomb

Three of the museums we visited stand out. The stunning Petit Palais was constructed for the same World’s Fair that brought about the Eiffel Tower. Today it is one of the free city museums with a fantastic collection of art. Even on a cold wet Sunday, we shared it with only a small handful of people.

The Musée de l’Armée showed us the French perspective on WWII with engaging exhibits including maps, uniforms, propaganda, and video footage. We also walked through Napoleon’s tomb, which depicts him as more divine than mortal.

A room of Greek sculptures in the Louvre.

A room of Greek sculptures in the Louvre.

We had a marvelous time in the Louvre. Our tourist info said if you spent 30 seconds looking at each piece and kept it up 24/7, it would take seven and a half months to see the entire museum! We carefully picked a couple areas to explore and let the rest go for next time. Despite the large crowds and multiple tour groups we saw, the museum is so well laid out, it was easy to look at art and walk around. An unexpected gem was the ancient art of the Near East.

View from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Champs Elysees on the right.

View from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Champs Elysees on the right.

One morning, we climbed the Arc de Triomphe. Napoleon had it built as a monument to his success and greatness. He never saw it but his ashes passed through it on their eventual return from St. Helena. It is a great place to take in the city planning imposed by Baron Haussmann. Streets leave the Arc in a radiating star, many ending with a famous landmark or important site. Hoards of people walk along Champs Elysees. Rooftop gardens and patios, hidden from street view, top buildings. The Eiffel Tower rises above it all. The views were stunning!

The sunset view from our balcony, last day in Paris. Au revoir!

The sunset view from our balcony, last day in Paris. Au revoir!

We’re ready to say adieu to the dog poo on our street (this wasn’t true in most of Paris but our neighborhood was terrible), the incessant smoking, and the bustle of a large city. There are multiple things that we will miss: the phenomenally beautiful presence of the city, the bakeries, the ease of getting around between pedestrian-friendly streets and the subway, the cheese, our generous fruit stand man, and the way a crowd can be so quiet. Au revoir, Paris!

See more photos from Paris here.

One of many the moving monuments at Cimetiere du Père Lachaise. This is one of several for the Holocaust.

One of many the moving monuments at Cimetiere du Père Lachaise. This is one of several for the Holocaust.

A revolutionist socialist group ruled Paris briefly in 1871, until they were defeated by the government. The final 200 retreated to the cemetery and lost a battle there. Those who survived the battle were executed at this site.

A revolutionist socialist group ruled Paris briefly in 1871, until they were defeated by the government. The final 200 retreated to the cemetery and lost a battle there. Those who survived the battle were executed at this site.

A modern grave at Cimetiere du Père Lachaise

A modern grave at Cimetiere du Père Lachaise

Fantastic macabre detailing at Cimetiere du Père Lachaise

Fantastic macabre detailing at Cimetiere du Père Lachaise

Inside the sarcophagus are four other sarcophagi and then Napoleon Bonaparte's ashes.

Inside the sarcophagus are four other sarcophagi and then Napoleon Bonaparte’s ashes.

At the French Military Museum, we saw this in the WWII exhibit. It is a 'Welbike' folding motorcycle in its parachute-drop container. Stamped on the engine cover was 'Villiers Junior.'

At the French Military Museum, we saw this in the WWII exhibit. It is a ‘Welbike’ folding motorcycle in its parachute-drop container. Stamped on the engine cover was ‘Villiers Junior.’

Basement at the Petit Palais

Basement at the Petit Palais

Venus de Milo, the original boobelisk, as seen at the Louvre.

Venus de Milo, the original boobelisk, as seen at the Louvre.

With her dark hair and enigmatic smile, this woman moves through a crowd focused on some famous painting.

With her dark hair and enigmatic smile, this woman moves through a crowd focused on some famous painting.

Louvre. Despite all the people and many pieces of art, the galleries were easy to get around in.

Louvre. Despite all the people and many pieces of art, the galleries were easy to get around in.

Louvre. Striking tile work from the ancient Near East, in the area of modern day Iran.

Louvre. Striking tile work from the ancient Near East, in the area of modern day Iran.

France's unknown soldier memorial at the Arc de Triomphe.

France’s unknown soldier memorial at the Arc de Triomphe.

Sculptural detail at the Arc de Triomphe.

Sculptural detail at the Arc de Triomphe.

Behavior guidelines posted on top of the Arc de Triomphe. The French really love their speedos!

Behavior guidelines posted on top of the Arc de Triomphe. The French really love their speedos!

Water canons and a large fountain at the Jardin Trocadero.

Water canons and a large fountain at the Jardin Trocadero.

Fountain at Jardin Trocadero.

Fountain at Jardin Trocadero.

Jim rowing at Bois Vincennes

Jim rowing at Bois Vincennes

Megan rowing at Bois Vincennes

Megan rowing at Bois Vincennes

This subway stop is modeled after a Jules Verne submarine. Note the wedding photo shoot on the opposite platform.

This subway stop is modeled after a Jules Verne submarine. Note the wedding photo shoot on the opposite platform.

Lion outside Hôtel de Ville, City Hall.

Lion outside Hôtel de Ville, City Hall.

Why we love French bakeries.

Why we love French bakeries.

Painted walls inside Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church.

Painted walls inside Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church.

Fantastic architectural details are everywhere you look, even straight up.

Fantastic architectural details are everywhere you look, even straight up.

For centuries, children have pushed sailboats around in this fountain.

For centuries, children have pushed sailboats around in this fountain.

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4 thoughts on “Au revoir, Paris!

  1. It sounds like one big dream! To live in Paris for a month, visit the louvre, stop for a pastry on the way to the park ….it is hard for me to wrap my head around this epic journey/humble experience you are having. In the meantime, I’ll wait anxiously for the next installment of the plan b tour 🙂

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