Last Sunday, we headed outside of Paris for a visit to the Palace of Versailles with my aunt and uncle. My impression of the historical palace was wrapped up in associations with the royal monarchy, Marie Antoinette, and the French Revolution, but also as the place where the German Empire was founded and the first World War officially brought to an end.
The palace was grant and opulent, a sight worth seeing. But the gardens really stole my heart. It was a perfect summer day and we were all in the mood for a lazy stroll. We spent about six hours in Versailles, but it would have taken at least an entire day to see all the outlying buildings. I am glad we had the chance to go and see this grand monument of history.
A few scenes from our short trip to Paris, a city that so many people love. Our time in the city was sweet. We ate well, shared bottles of wine, and wandered the rainy streets. I even made friends with a dog who literally kissed my feet.
We’re off tomorrow for a long weekend in Paris. It has been over a month since I last crossed the border and I’m eager for a change of sights and sounds. Unfortunately, its high season for my spring allergies, but I hope to survive the Parisian pollens. The occasion for the trip is to meet up with my aunt and uncle, traveling through a few European cities. Amsterdam didn’t make their list, but we were happy to meet them in France!
Photo by Irene S
Last week, I went to Belgium for a five-day work trip with two colleagues. My days were spent curating a photo exhibition, holding a press conference, and delivering a speech at the exhibition opening. All things that I don’t usually do, but which I really enjoyed. In our free moments, my colleagues and I explored the seaside town of Knokke-Heist, where we were staying, and beyond.
One of the highlights was spending an evening in Brugge. I have been to Belgium numerous times and visited almost every major city, with the exception of Brugge. Our first stop was a waffle house and then a chocolate shop.
Not long after we headed into the side streets in search of a place with music for the evening. We ended up instead at Café De Republiek to sample a few Belgian beers as we talked about our favorite literature. After a further wander, we headed for a delicious dinner at Bistro Refter.
The day before the official exhibition opening, we had some extra time. I grabbed my speech to practice and we hopped in the car for a drive along the Belgian coastline, a late lunch in Dunkerque, and an evening in Lille. Just across the Belgian border, Lille is the fourth largest city in France.
We browsed through an open air book market, which had a fascinating collection of caricatures and advertisements from the ’60s.
After a further walk through the city and a sampling of macarons, we went to a simple, rustic restaurant for dinner. Throughout the week, we had great conversations over the dinner table, from hilarious accounts of awkward travel moments to serious questions about life and death. On our way back to Knokke-Heist, we told ghost stories as we drove across the darkened Belgian countryside.
The second day took us to the neighborhood of a friend from Berlin who had recently moved to Paris. Time to sit and enjoy the sun. The third day was filled with sights of the city as we biked around. I’ll leave the photos of Notre Dame and the Louvre behind, in favor of these quieter images of small scenes from the day. Above, a characteristic sign above the metro, with the rising sun shining on the house behind.
A friend from Berlin recently moved into a flat in Paris, with a lovely stairwell.
Early Sunday morning on the Seine.
Browsing through the bookstands along the Seine on a Sunday afternoon.
A small door on a quiet street.
I probably should have known it wasn’t going to be a conventional weekend when, as we drove away from Amsterdam and towards Paris, Marcus turned to me and said, “I could use a beer and a sausage.” We certainly weren’t on our way to Germany though.
Confession: I did not see the Eiffel Tower. At least not in full view. At one moment I saw the top of it peeking over the rooftops, but that was it.
Instead of being a proper tourist introduction to a city, my time was more of an experience. Experience #1: how to find a parking spot on a Friday night. Experience #2: how to eat a baguette that looks like a machete. Experience #3: how to run down the steps of Sacre Coeur and find a quiet cafe asap. Experience #4: how to forget my favorite sunglasses somewhere. Experience #5: how to eat a wonderfully gluttonous meal. Experience #6: how to arrive at the Arc de Triomphe precisely at closing time. Experience #7: how to ride a bike through Paris (surprisingly easy). Experience #8: how to ride the metro.
What surprised me most was how familiar the city was. It seemed like a mix of Rome, Brussels and Berlin in one. With a hint of Prague. It was a fun weekend trip, but I think I learned my lesson that new cities deserve more than 48 hours. More photos to come…
The carousel in Montmartre, at the foot of the steps leading to Sacre Coeur.
Behind the crowd of people, Sacre Coeur.
The cute nook tucked in a back alley, which was the only parking spot available on Friday night.
Art on the wall of Terminus Nord, which served the most decadent meal I have ever eaten.
Terminus Nord, a seafood restaurant opposite Gare du Nord.
The Arc du Triomphe on a Saturday night.
Half inspired by my upcoming trip to Paris and half by a lovely blog post about foreign films by & everything nice, I have been on a French film kick the past few weeks. Most recently I watched Le voyage du ballon rouge / The flight of the red balloon (directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou, above image). Inspired by the 1956 film by Albert Lamorisse, this film is a mix of quiet and chaos, a beautifully filmed moment of life.
Other films include Un long dimanche de fiançailles / A very long engagement (directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet starring Audrey Tautou, first image below), Un prophète / The prophet (directed by Jacques Audiard, second image below) and Mouchette (directed by Robert Bresson, third image below). What are some of your favorite French films?
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Tagged a very long engagement, Audrey Tautou, film, France, French, le voyage du ballon rouge, Mouchette, Paris, the flight of the red balloon, Un long dimanche de fiançailles, Un prophète