#Paris in the Springtime #2

Notre-Dame de Paris

Here’s part 2 of the story of our first visit to Paris in 15 years. We had only three days in the capital, and so we were determined to make the most of it. Our shoe leather was definitely more worn by the end, but central Paris is compact enough to make walking the easiest form of transport. As well as things we had done before, we also made a point of trying new experiences.



No stay in Paris is complete without a visit to Notre-Dame on l’Ile de la Cité. In fact, I had never been there before, to my great shame. This soaring monument, whose construction began in 1163, is a tribute to the skills of medieval architects and builders. Damaged during the aftermath of the French Revolution, it was restored in the 19th century.

Soaring interior of Notre-Dame

Notre-Dame is one of the enduring emblems of Paris and has inspired writers and painters throughout the centuries. Having done a lot of walking, I’m afraid we didn’t climb the 422 steps for the legendary view of Paris. There is a pleasant garden beside the cathedral, where the footsore can rest and enjoy the cherry trees in flower in early April.

Main door of Notre-Dame

Legendary bookstore

Shakespeare and Company

A visit to another Paris legend, Shakespeare and Company, just across the river from Notre-Dame, was also in order. This English-language bookshop was founded in 1951 in a rambling building that was originally a monastery. It quickly became known as a literary centre and visiting writers and intellectuals were invited to sleep among the bookshelves.

They didn’t have my book in stock, but I’m sure that’s just an oversight.

Shakespeare and Co again

Shakespeare’s also has a café next door, where we drank an overpriced and insipid pot of tea. It may be an Anglophone bookshop, but they could do with a crash course in tea-making.

La grande bouffe

Above all, Paris is a foodie capital. But be warned. Some of the famous eateries live on their reputation and both service and food can be indifferent. I can recommend Le Cinq Mars, 51 rue de Verneuil in the 7th Arrondissement, which specialises in classic French cuisine and has a reasonably-priced set lunch menu. Some people I used to work with kindly took us there for lunch.

The brasserie opposite la Gare d’Austerlitz, our return station, isn’t bad either. It’s not haute cuisine, but you can get typical brasserie-type food for a sensible price. Beforehand, we sat by the Natural History Museum in the nearby Jardins des Plantes, enjoying the sunshine and watching joggers torturing themselves.

The SF enjoys the sun in the Botanic Gardens


We were surprised that Paris wasn’t busier. Was this the effect of terrorist attacks or simply that early April is not yet the main tourist season? We didn’t have to queue at all to get into le Musée d’Orsay, even though we hadn’t pre-booked tickets. It was pleasant to walk around the streets and the buses, although busy, weren’t disagreeably crowded.

The traffic seemed to move relatively easy, although there was the mother of all traffic jams in the street outside our hotel one morning. A delivery van had parked and blocked the street. It doesn’t take long for a Parisian’s hand to connect with le klaxon and a cacophony of horns soon serenaded us.

Ile Saint-Louis

Unfortunately, the number of homeless on the streets had risen noticeably since our last visit, in common with other towns and cities. Every evening we passed groups of the poor souls huddled in shop doorways. It’s still cold at night in Paris, even in April.

I don’t think we’ll leave it another 15 years before visiting Paris again. From July this year, a faster TGV line will operate from Bordeaux, cutting the journey time from Montauban to about three hours.

You might also like:

Paris in the Springtime #1
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  1. I am fascinated by the history of Paris where French Kings once ruled and lived a privileged life life in the luxurious palace of Versailles, until Napoleon Bonaparte changed the course of history to become the first Emperor of France. Every beautiful monument has a story to tell with the memorizing tale of the Eiffel tower, designed by Gustave Eiffel who entered a competition to construct an entrance way for the 1889 Exposition Universe and went on to construct one of the most popular monuments on the planet. Paris has a romantic, wow factor all of it’s own!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve only visited Paris once, eons ago. I loved the history and art but found the people rude, the restaurants over-priced and the staff unfamiliar with the concept of a “customer”. That said, it’s a lot like London in that respect. Hasn’t put me off re-visiting though and your post has just moved it up my ‘to visit in France’ list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately, Paris does have a reputation for surly staff and poor customer service. Alas, it’s not alone. We did find, though, that Paris seemed to have improved in that respect since previous visits. Speaking French helps…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Like you we have only ever made one trip to paris for paris’ sake since living here but had a fantastic time when we did despite dreadful weather on our first day. Seven years previously to that visit we passed through paris on our way to china courtesy of several trains including the trans siberian. Having read jeremy mercers ‘books, baguettes and bedbugs’ i was determined to visit shakespeare and co and buy a book for the journey, only having space for one! i have it still, a treasured memento of the bookshop and the trip. No cafe then so no memories of poor tea. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shakespeare and Co has certainly become an institution. We didn’t actually buy anything there but just went for the atmosphere. As you’ll remember, it’s a warren of little rooms and it was quite busy, so, to be honest, I was glad to get out on the street again! The whole visit was very enjoyable.

      Liked by 1 person

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