If you are looking for places to visit in Paris that are not the usual attractions, you are in the right place. Especially if you like the work of Baudelaire and Sartre or any other artist that was spending time in the city during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Why? Because when I visited for the first time, I was hoping to find a “link” to that special atmosphere. So, here are my places to visit in Paris.
Years after my journey, Woody Allen made that Midnight in Paris movie, and I always thought that “he must have heard me thinking” while rushing around the streets of Paris and looking behind every corner. “My thoughts must have been loud”.
Places to visit in Paris
Joking aside, I was in love with French impressionists and Van Gogh’s work, I read Charles Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil over and over again – even began to take additional French lessons so that I would be able to read his poems in French. I was in love with 19th-century France altogether.
My final paper at the Faculty of Philosophy was on Jean-Paul Sartre’s theory of existentialism and his analyses of Baudelaire’s personality according to the Look of Others theory. Etc., etc. You get the picture.
“You will have to rush through Paris museums since there is no way you are going to be able to see it all. But, try to do one museum at a time and spend at least half of a day there.
When you go to Louvre, keep the map of the museum close and just try not to look when going through endless corridors and halls in order to reach the section with the Venus de Milo statue, Nice of Samothrace, Egypt exhibition section, Italian painters, or Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Otherwise, you will stand in awe every meter of the way!” I wrote about my visit back in 2003.
And whenever I thought about it later, I knew I made the right decision, that was the right way to visit the Louvre for the first time.
Another great museum – L’Orsay. It’s a former railway station that was turned into an exhibition area and remained as such ever since. It houses a priceless collection of impressionists’ work, a lot of Rodin’s sculptures, the whole room with Van Gogh’s paintings, etc. Just adorable!
The Palace of Versailles was another special place. Even though in the suburbs, it’s easy to reach by bus or train. A huge castle of Luis XIV with adorable gardens and fountains appears before you behind every curve of yet another neat, lush small block of greenery.
The room of Luis XIV is all decorated in gold, and there is the Hall of Mirrors which is 75 meters long. Mirrors are placed in such a manner that they reflect the light from huge windows on the other side of the hall, and thus it looks as if being covered in windows on both sides. It was so hard to imagine that someone actually lived here, woke up every morning, and went through these corridors. (It probably took them more than half an hour just to reach the exit door.)
The thing definitely to be aware of when in Paris is that on every corner one can stumble upon a building where some famous writer, poet, or painter once lived. So, don’t be surprised when you see the inscription as such: “This is where Paul Verlaine lived.”
I have to admit that I was well prepared, I had my own “map” of “places to visit in Paris”.
There was the famous building in Saint Germain des Pres district, in Rue de Seine 57 where Baudelaire used to live. The same district was inhabited by Jean-Paul Sartre, Claude Monet, and Albert Camus. Two famous cafes Les Deux Magots and Cafe de Flore were also the rendezvous of the literary and intellectual élite of the city, Pablo Picasso, and Ernest Hemingway among others. I was like a kid in a candy store!
I remember sitting at the cafe having a quick coffee, thinking how amazing that time must have been with all the great minds gathering in one place, right here!
I had the same feeling in front of the buildings at 22 Quai de Bethune on Ile Saint Louis, where another apartment Baudelaire occupied was situated, one of many he moved to throughout his life. His windows were looking over the Seine and I stood there, thinking how the river must have seemed to the famous poet who wrote Les fleurs du mal here in this flat.
Seances in Ile Saint-Louis
Known to be a dandy, Baudelaire traveled to India when he was 20. He was moving a lot and living in hotels, going out all the time, dressing nicely, painting his hair green, and becoming an opium addict.
And he was also a member of the so-called Hashishins’ Club (another address in Ile Saint Louis), where he met famous artists of the time regularly – Theophile Gautier, Gerard de Nerval, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Honore de Balzac, Eugene Delacroix. There were monthly seances that were held in the popular Hotel de Lauzun.
Needless to say that I have read a lot about all of them before my trip.
I even went to the Montparnasse cemetery where Sartre and Baudelaire were buried, leaving a small note on their graves. The latter was buried between his mother whom he adored and his stepfather whom he despised. It was so symbolic, there were two sides to him even in death.
Well, that was a memorable journey for me, not just another trip abroad. I did buy an Eiffel Tower souvenir of course (how touristy of me). But I also brought back Baudelaire’s book of poems, Les fleurs du mal, in French.
Next: KNOCKING ON MONET’S DOOR
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