Saturday was miserable for sure, constant rain and very cold, we caught a train right round to the National Library, a new complex of 4 huge skyscraper shaped like open books, each taking a corner of a huge open plaza. There was also a huge multi cinema complex within the area, a restaurant and cafes. The parts of the library you could access were underground, and it was good to get out of the rain. Security was tight and you could not get into any of the reading rooms without a pass, but you could sticky beak from the corridors. Each reading room was divided into subjects, history, literature etc and looked amazing. The corridors were filled with photography, art etc and in one section there were two huge globes belonging to Louis XIV.
We caught the train back to the next station, Austerlitz, and got out straight at the Jardin de Plants, you could spend a whole day there and not see everything. It had lots of galleries and a small zoo attached to it, we just walked through the park, the rain down to a light drizzle, so it was rather pleasant.
From there we headed to The Arena, from 1 AD, it was interesting, but after Verona and Rome, was a bit ordinary. The little streets in this area were cute and twisty with unexpected cafes or buildings at each turn of the corner.
Next we headed to The Pantheon, a massive structure surround by other large and important buildings with views down to The Eiffel Tower. We paid to go inside, there were many amazing reliefs and mosaics. A stunning dome and ceiling and a copy of Foucault's Pendulum...wow, an amazing thing to see, spinning from the very tip of the dome and marking the time. The original was moved to a museum in the 1990s.
Underneath was a large crypt with many important French people buried there. I loved that Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Alexandre Dumas are all buried next to each other in the same crypt. Marie Curie is the only female buried here.
From there we explored The Latin Quarter, quite a happening place, lots of little shops, and heaps of cafes and restaurants, all competing with each other. Most do a three course menu with about 5 or 6 choices per course, ranging from 10 to 25 Euro, which is excellent value, but bloody hard to choose what to have. We decided on Mexican, and it was very good. We shopped and wandered till late and then caught the train home exhausted.
Saint Severin Church and it's gorgeous gargoyles
Paris by night
The next day, we set out for the local markets that are under the train line at the end of the street every wedesday and sunday. What an experience, they had the usual clothes,shoes, jewellery, handmade fare and of course fresh food. It was unbelievable, the types of food and the amount of stalls! It made the local farmers markets look pretty poor, which is not saying they are bad, just this was exceptional.
We cut through at the end of the park the Eiffel Tower is on through to Invalides. This is where Napoleon is buried, we walked around the impressive structure, but did not go inside.
From there we went in to The Rodin Museum, we only took a ticket to the garden which was one whole euro. There was so much to see, it was a fantastic experience and a beautiful garden. So many sculptures and the gardens looked exquisite with them in. The Thinker of course was a highlight. How wonderful it was to be able to see these on such beautiful day, if I lived here, I would visit all the time.
We the headed into St Germaine, which is on the edge of The Latin Quarter, except a bit further back and much the same, lots of shops and places to eat. We found a great bakery and had cakes for lunch/afternoon tea...naughty but amazing...we had covered some ground.
We were close to The Luxembourg Gardens, so we headed in and had a look around, a sunny Sunday afternoon and it was packed. So many people, kicking back, relaxing, having fun...lovely to join them for a bit.
Next stop was Shakespeare and Co., the famous bookshop. I had tried to find it the previous night, but had the streets mixed up, how I missed it I have no idea, it is in a very prominent spot near the Notre Dame, so I had been close to it on more than one occasion. But it is a little further back from the street.
Shakespeare and Co. is famous for supporting struggling writers, giving them a place to sleep. Sylvia Beach, who started the original shop, published Ulysses for Joyce when no one else would. She was also a firm supporter of Hemingway and he mentions the shop numerous times in his classic, A Moveable Feast. I had wanted to read this while in Paris, but couldn't find a copy anywhere at home. There were dozens stacked in piles here!
The shop is mostly second hand books, and mostly in English, a rarity in Paris. It has atmosphere with a double capital A. There is also new books, some french titles and a rare book room. It is jam packed and you just want to spend time there and never leave. This particular day it was very packed, so much so we just couldn't make it upstairs. I bought some books and bits and pieces. Each book you buy gets stamped with a Shakespeare and Co. stamp and you get a bookmark...impressive. Outside the shop are more books, chairs to sit and a small courtyard area with trees and lots of fairy lights, they hold events here.
It was late afternoon, and we caught the train to Austerlitz, further into the Latin Quarter/Left Bank area and met up with Mum and Dad for dinner at a pizzeria. They were leaving in a day so we would not see the until we return.
Another full day, with an early start in the morning, we headed home for a rest.