Au Revoir Paris, Now On To Belgium

Well, once again I am a bit behind my schedule for #BackpackEurope. I can’t help it. I get to a new country and find that I just have to savor every moment before moving on and this week definitely was a savor week.*

This past week, I have been back in France, this time visiting Paris. And what a week it has been!

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Because of the rules of #BackpackEurope, in order to get from Spain to Belgium, I had to first stop back over in France. (If you remember, I was just in France two weeks ago when I read The Island of Books.)

IMG_2903.jpgSo to go through France, I visited Paris and Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

Don’t let the synopsis fool you. This is not a quick, light read. Like Paris, this is a book to be savoredthe beautiful prose, the philosophical musings, the contemplation of life. The setting of Paris as a backdrop in this book was masterful. (Read my full review here.) And this is a book I will keep and read again. I only wish my French was accomplished enough to read this book. (Bucket list item #14, become proficient in French!)

Whilst in Paris, I had a marvelous time. There is no place like Paris. There’s so much to see, so much to do from the museums (The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Musée Rodin) to the landmarks (Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, the Seine) to the architecture (Sacré-Coeur, Notre Dame, Versailles). It’s all just so wonderfully Paris.

My favorite part is simply walking around Paris, enjoying the beautiful summer days along the Seine and simply appreciating the now. Not worrying about tomorrow or thinking about yesterday. But just being in the moment in Paris.

I mean, how often can you just be?

That is the beauty of Paris for me. Well, that and the museums. There’s nothing like walking through the Louvre or the Museé d’Orsay and being surrounded by incredible works of art. I admit, I’m a sucker for the French impressionists.

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And of course, no self-proclaimed book nerd, no true bookworm, no self-respecting bibliophile could visit Paris without spending at least a day (or every day) in Shakespeare and Company.

For those who haven’t yet been to Paris (I say “yet” because everyone should visit Paris at least once), Shakespeare and Company is an English-language bookshop on the Left Bank. The bookshop was actually founded by an American (hence the English-language) and was originally called Le Mistral. But in 1964, on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, the name was changed to Shakespeare and Company. This was done in honor Sylvia Beach, who founded the original Shakespeare and Company in 1919. Slyvia’s Shakespeare and Company at 12 rue de l’Odéon was a gathering place for the great expat writers of the time—Joyce, Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald, Eliot, Pound—as well as for leading French writers.

Can you imagine sitting in Paris, drinking café (coffee) with James Joyce? Ezra Pound? George Eliot?

That would have been an incredible experience. But I digress.

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The next best thing in Paris is the food. I would go to Paris just for the food. I probably spent a good 50% of my trip (when I wasn’t in Shakespeare and Company) sitting in one of the little sidewalk cafes, drinking hot chocolate à l’ancienne, wine, and of course, café.

Ah, the lovely little sidewalk cafés, where you can sit and enjoy a café au lait and a meal, without rush, without worry, all whilst watching the world walk by. From crêpes and fondue to fresh baguettes with fruit to steak frites and coq au vin, you will not go hungry in Paris.

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And of course, no trip to Paris is complete with the chocolat and pâtisseries. Oh the chocolats! Oh the pâtisseries! No place does chocolate or pastries taste better than in Paris. Whether it’s the history and tradition or the actual talent of the chefs, either way, it’s an experience not to be missed. Rows and rows chocolats, mouth-watering chouquettes, mille-feuille, religieuse . . .

I could go on, but I’m getting hungry just thinking about all the yummy goodness.

But sadly, all good things must come to an end. And now I must say au revoir to Paris and as I prepare to travel onto Belgium, where the famous The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries were woven.

Have you been to Paris? What is your favorite thing about the City of Lights?

***

*Disclaimer: This is a virtual trip. I am not physically traveling in Europe, only visiting there through books. In fact, I’m currently sitting on the floor of my living room, wearing yoga pants and oversized tee, binging Netflix in between books, eating marshmallows, and occasionally petting the cat when he demands attention.

Any and all mistakes about locations, travel, weather, etc., are mine because most of this is a product of my imagination with a few random trivia facts thrown in for fun.

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