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Posts Tagged ‘teenager’s journal’

Here’s day two of my first visit to Paris, from a journal written when I was an awkward fifteen years old. It’s a bit of a history lesson, this entry. Goodness only knows how I managed to take such accurate notes without missing the sights. Anyway, the itinerary is interesting and I’ve created lots of links in case you want to learn more about the places of historic Paris.

Woke up early, had weird buffet breakfast downstairs before joining our first tour at 8.50am. We got on a bus for a tour of historical Paris. We had a lovely French guide speaking in English and German – her German was atrocious, though, with verbs in all the wrong places.

We paused at the Place Vendôme. There is a column in the middle of the square that was built in the 17th Century by Lous XIV. Napoleon is on top of it, wearing a Roman emperor’s clothes. It is bronze, made from cannons taken by Napoleon’s soldiers at Austerlitz. Then down the Rue St Honoré where nearly all the buildings are pre-Revolution. We passed a church (Eglise St Roch) where the tomb of the creator of the gardens at Versailles and the Tuilerie Gardens (André Le Nôtre) is. We passed the theatre of French comedies and then l’Opéra in the Avenue de l’Opéra. We saw the northern wing of the Louvre which contains the Ministry of Finance. It was a large palace and now the greatest part is an art museum.

Past the Place des Victoires built at the time of Louis XIV, then past the Bank of France built before WWII.

The Place des Victoires is a replica. All things like it were destroyed during the Revolution of 1792. It has the same architect as Vendôme. The Central Paris Post Office was next, part of it is always open – day and night! The old food market was in the Rue du Louvre but now there are buildings – shops, restaurants etc there. Now the market is near Orly airport.

The Palais du Louvre was originally a fortress at the end of the 12th Century to defend Paris – then much smaller than today. After that, it was the residence for French Kings and Queens, from Francis I to Napoleon III). Every king built on a new part in a different style. Since 1793 it has been the national building for art.

Next was a church called St Germain l’Auxerrois. It had a beautiful façade and was built in the 17th Century. We passed the Académie Francaise and then crossed the Seine on the ‘new’ bridge (Pont Neuf) which is actually the oldest in Paris and was finished during of the reign of King Henry IV.

We saw a department store called Samaritaine and went to the heart of Paris – the Île de la Cité – passing the place where Marie Antoinette was locked up, the Conciergerie, which used to be a prison. We saw the spire of the Holy Chapel of the 13th Century,and then a tower in the late Gothic style – St James (or Saint Jacques).

The two towers of Notre Dame were in the distance as we passed the Hôtel de Ville in renaissance style. The first town hall from the time of Francis I was burnt during the Revolution.

We went into a suburb called the Marais and saw two houses from the 14th Century. Next was a Jesuit style church and a museum dedicated to the history of Paris – Le Musée Carnavalet. At the Place des Vosges we were told that at the beginning of the 17th Century a lot of rich families had apartments or houses there. In the 19th Century Victor Hugo lived there (but died elsewhere). The house is now dedicated to his life and works.

It’s strange to look back at a time when all of the above-mentioned places were new to me. Now, the Place des Vosges is as familiar as the shops on rue du Temple in the Marais. Monsieur took me to the Carnavalet Museum when I first visited Paris with him, ogling the recreated prison rooms which held the French royal family prior to their meeting with Madame Guillotine, and fascinated by the room sets, town models and paintings throughout.

There are still places for me to visit in Paris, however. My fine and decorative arts tutor would probably bring back revolutionary beheadings if he knew I still hadn’t set foot inside la Sainte Chapelle with its starry night ceilings. On the other hand, my old drama teacher would be thrilled to know that Monsieur’s mother took us to see Shakespeare in French at the Comédie Française last Christmas. Still, it’s wise to remember that if you don’t see everything when you visit a new place, then you’re only leaving something to go back for in the future.

One question, though: in the first paragraph The Fifteen Year-Old Moi complains about the ‘weird’ breakfast. I wonder what on earth she meant.

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When I was fifteen, I saw Paris for the first time. My parents had decided that our southern hemisphere summer holidays should be spent seeing some of the great cities of Europe, so here we were in the City of Light, mid-winter, just in time to celebrate the New Year.

Here are my journal entries from that time. They’re not particularly sophisticated, so please remember that they were written by a fifteen year-old with braces on her teeth.

We’d just flown from Munich to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport when the entry begins:

28th December

Once we were off the plane we went down amazing escalator walkways. Then we went up some more, inside perspex tubes. They were fantastic. It didn’t take long for our bags to come through. We went and changed some money and then found a chauffeur driven Mercedes into Paris. The chauffeur was Parisian and drove us on a motorway to the Paris ring road. We drove through the suburbs until we got to the north west of Paris where we entered the city. We passed by the Arc de Triomphe first, then the Eiffel Tower and the Ecole Militaire. We went through lots of side streets to Montparnasse where we were dropped at the Meridien Hotel.

There was a computer (!) in each room and a bottle of champagne, fruit and two bouquets of flowers with a “Happy New Year” card addressed to us from the Manager. After a small celebration, Dad went and got a map and tour brochures from the desk, so we read them briefly and then headed off on a walk. We went past Galeries Lafayette and a shopping centre on a large shopping street full of boutiques, shoe shops and every other kind of shop. We went into a magnificent art shop – two stories of every art supply imaginable! I couldn’t think to choose what I needed. We walked on and on for ages until we got to the River Seine.

We went into Notre Dame Cathedral which was amazing at night. It was eerie and dark but the candles and people at Mass lightened it up a bit. We saw a memorial to all those members of the British Empire who fought in the First World War. It even had a New Zealand coat of arms on it. We passed confessionals and candles so we lit a candle and left it burnng.

We walked back to the Latin Quarter where we found a lovely Italian restaurant, got a table and sat down. I chose lasagne. It was delicious! After dinner we walked back to the hotel. It was a long walk. Eventually we got there after seeing typically French things e.g. self-cleaning loos.

**Before we got to the River Seine, a tramp (about 60) came up to me, stared at me really closely and snorted in my ear. Weird. All the way home, I imitated what he did and everyone laughed! At the hotel we booked tours for tomorrow and went to sleep – after watching BBC1, Greystoke – The Legend of Tarzan. Good movie.

It’s interesting to read back over this. For a start, I have absolutely no recollection of a tramp snorting in my ear, so I have to trust my ancient journal on that one. I do remember the escalator tubes at Charles de Gaulle and the thrill of seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time. It was like travelling through one of my school French textbooks, only no longer black-and-white. This was 3D Paris, live.

Whenever I’m in Paris now, I always look at that inescapable black monstrosity, La Tour Montparnasse, and remember that first visit. Today I asked Monsieur a question:

“Darling, do you like the Tour Montparnasse?”

“No.”

“Does anyone?”

“I don’t know. Probably not.”

If you read this and have a view, either way, on the Tour Montparnasse, please let me know because it confuses the hell out of me. It reminds me of an ugly black wart on the face of an otherwise elegant Grande Dame.

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