Saturday, 18 May 2013

Paris: Sauntering along the Seine

Because there is so much to do in Paris, I am dedicating one more blog post to the sights of the city. Ok maybe two more...

When the sun is out and the flowery scent of spring fills the air, a walk along the Seine is the perfect way to spend a Saturday. 
During a weekend in April, the sun shone bright in the indigo sky and I decided to start my journey at the Arc de Triomphe and walk along the Champs Elysees, from where I planned to saunter along the Seine and soak up the spring rays.

Of course, (sunny sky) looks can be very deceiving in Europe and I had not yet taken two strides when I started fumbling around in my bag for my hat, scarf and gloves. The wind was freezing!

The streets were dotted with tourists and at the Arc de Triomphe I had to fight my way through a crowd of Chinese tourists to get a view of the 50 m high arch, which was built in honour of Napoleon. This area in Paris is called Etoile, because the twelve straight avenues that meet at the Arc du Triomphe resembles the form of - you guessed it - a star.

The Champs Elysees is the line that connects the Arc de Triomphe perfectly with Cleopatra's Needle and the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, situated at the Louvre. Both arches were designed in 1806, but the construction of the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel took two years, while the Arc de Triomphe d'Etoile was only completed 28 years later. 

Arc de Triomphe d'Etoile

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

After a few stops, to intermittently gawk at the Parisian way of parking (commonly referred to as "vandalism" in other parts of the world) and taking stock of my fingers to ensure I hadn't lost one to frostbite, I reached the Seine. Displays of books, paintings and postcards lined the streets and everyone seemed to be out and about enjoying the clear, albeit chilly, day.

La Seine

I sauntered across Love Lock Bridge, where couples go to declare their everlasting love for each other by fastening a lock with their names to the bridge and dropping the key into the depths of the Seine; thereby forever locking their love in the City of Love.
It's an incredibly romantic gesture, but I was quite intrigued when I spotted a combination lock among the glistening metal. A one-night stand perhaps?

Love Lock Bridge

I meandered over to the Shakespeare and Co across from the Notre Dame and stopped dead in my tracks in front of the window. There, through the window of the old bookstore in Paris, Nelson Mandela himself peered out at me from amongst the books. Well, from the cover of a book at least.

But it might as well have been him in person, because whenever you see something close to your heart and home in a foreign country, it makes you want to drag a random stranger towards it and shout in a crazed fashion: "Look! He is South African! And I am South African! And I have a friend who shares a birthday with him on 18 July." (This you add just to show off your awesome friends and date-storing capabilities). "And now we're both here in Paris! Isn't that amazing!?" Then you would add a local South African word like "Lekker" or "Shozaloza" just to emphasise your point.

I didn't shout and point, of course.
Because I might have been locked up by La Police and forbidden to go within a mile of the Shakespeare and Co bookshop. And I was curious to browse and see the interior, which was fantastically authentic with murky reading corners and creaking shelves (delightful) and stairways (disconcerting).

Shakespeare and Co

Next to the bookstore, Square Rene Viviani bustled with children and couples. The day had finally awoken to the realisation that it was in fact supposed to be spring, and a warm breeze wrapped itself around the small garden.

Square Rene-Viviani

There I enjoyed lunch in the shade of a tree and was only interrupted when French tourists approached me to ask "a Parisian" for directions.
"I'm a South African!" I hollered. And just to emphasise my point: "Eish!"

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