Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Paris and Amsterdam

Two cities that have enriched my life are Amsterdam and Paris. My first visit to both was exactly 40 years ago, the summer of '70. 

Photo by Jack


Darryl and I enjoyed this city of canals and cafes, bridges and bicycles, in the summer of 1993. Steve and David Killian joined us on our trip there, riding the scenic boats, walking the pedestrian streets, drinking Belgian beer in the cafes and taking in the unique nightlife.We returned in 1998 when Darryl played tennis and starred onstage in the Gay Games-- Amsterdam's biggest public event ever according to the Mayor. Our most recent visit was for Thanksgiving '99 when Mom joined us for a pleasant stay at the Ambassade. 


Notre Dame
Photo by Jack

  We love Paris in the Springtime, having enjoyed two merry months of May here in 1993 and 1995. We also spent a hot August, 1998 visiting Amy between stays in Amsterdam and Belgium. We visited Paris again with Mom for Thanksgiving, 1999,  having dinner with Amy at Les Bookinistes; and visiting the Louvre.
On our first visit we stayed on the Right Bank with the Killian brothers, took in the haunts of cemeteries where Chopin, Balzac, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison are buried, and experienced the leisure of afternoon and evening cafe life. We also attended the French Open at Roland Garros once as guests of Lindsay Lee, who played three rounds of tennis qualifiers before losing to rising sensation Amelie Mauresmo. In 1995 we stayed first at the Boileau near the Bois de B. When Darryl returned to the U.S., Jack moved to the Hotel Unic on Rue du Montparnasse to enjoy all the pleasures of the Left Bank, including strolls through the Luxembourg Gardens, followed by a trip to Annecy and the French Alps.

Some of our favorite places:

Les Deux Magots

Where: 170 blvd, St Germain, 6th
Métro stop: St-Germain-des-Prés.
Open: 8h - 02h Daily; closed second week of January. Named after the two wooden statues (the two magots) which still dominate the room, Les Deux Magots is one the most famous cafés in Paris. Jean-Paul Sartre, and Hemingway were both patrons in an earlier era. Its rival - Café de Flore - is just next door.

Musée d'Orsay


  Place Des Vosges

Panorama of the square (collage). A large version of the panorama is also available.

Le Marais
Paris 3rd and 4th

Les Archives Nationales
A typical street of the Marais district

Get a good start with morning croissants from the local bakery
In just a few words :
The Marais is one of the most ancient and picturesque parts of Paris, characterized by its unique 17th century buildings and elegant stores and restaurants. For visitors who wish to explore Paris on foot, this is an excellent point from which to do so, for the marvellous Marais district includes the Place des Vosges, Picasso Museum, Carnavalet Museum, Hotel de Ville and of course the Louvre.

Neighborhood description:
The Marais, situated on the Right Bank in roughly the 3rd and 4th Arrondissements, was once a marshland and is a quartier which has retained many of its tiny streets and hints at how old Paris looked. This area was once a centre of high culture.
The center of the Marais, this is a lively neighborhood with a strong alternative lifestyle scene as well as lots of trendy bars, shops, and restaurants. The rue des Rosiers is a centerpiece of Jewish lifestyle in Paris and the Ile St. Louis and the Ile de la Cité are the oldest parts of Paris.
Undoubtedly one of the most picturesque districts, the Marais a wonderful place to stroll. Fashionable bars, shops and restaurants line the streets.
Here you will find the lovely Square Place des Voges, built by Henry IV. From 1832-48 Victor Hugo lived at a house at No 6, which has now been turned into a municipal museum. Today, the arcades around the place are occupied by expensive galleries and shops, and cafés filled with people drinking little cups of coffee and air-kissing immaculate passersby.
A sweeter, quieter extension of the ancient Marais neighborhood which is centered in the 4th, the 3rd is possibly one of the best places to live in Paris.
There are several good open air markets, a gigantic covered flea market, and lots of great speciality food stores, especially along rue de Bretagne.
The main focus for contemporary art in France is also in this part of town, at the Pompidou Centre. The Pompidou Centre, also known simply as Beaubourg, is all about modern and contemporary 20th-century art. Thanks in part to its vigorous schedule of temporary exhibitions, it has become the most visited cultural site in Paris.The design of the Pompidou has drawn critical comment since construction began in 1972. To keep the exhibition halls uncluttered, the architects put the building's 'insides' on the outside, with each duct, pipe and vent painted its own telltale colour: elevators and escalators are red, electrical circuitry yellow, plumbing green and air-conditioning blue.
The museums of the 3rd are among the best anywhere, including the Musée Picasso which contains both the master's works and his collections, and the almost undefinable Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers which has on display the first prototypes of almost every important invention, including the first monoplane, numerous artifacts from the creation of the Statue of Liberty, and of course, Foucault's Pendulum.
The Musée Carnavalet offers the visitor a large collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints and decorative arts on the history of Paris since its origins to the present time. Since 1989, the Musée Carnavalet has been considerably enlarged by the addition of the Hôtel Le Pelletier de Saint-Fargeau, the vast 17th century residence situated at 29 rue de Sévigné presenting the major collections devoted to the revolutionary period as well as works from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Within walking distance:
- Place des Vosges
- Picasso Museum
- Carnavallet Museum
- Hotel de Ville
- Louvre Museum
- Beaubourg Center
Under the archs of the Places des Vosges
Open air Markets :
- Marché Enfants rouges
39 rue de Bretagne.
From Tuesday to Saturday form 8.00 am to 1.00 pm and from 4.00 pm to 7.30 pm (up to 8.00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays)
Sunday from 8.00 am to 2.00 pm
Metro : Filles-du-Calvaire

- Marché Baudoyer
Place Baudoyer
Wednesday from 3.00 pm to 8.00 pm,

Saturday from 7.00 am to 3.00 pm
Metro : Hôtel-de-Ville

- Clothes market
Carreau du Temple - Rue Perrée
Tuesday to Saturday from 9 am to 7 pm
Sunday from 9 am to 12 am
Metro : Temple or Arts et Metiers

The Marché des Enfants Rouges

The Pompidou Center / Beaubourg

The Picasso Museum
Good to know before you go
Shops everywhere take all the major credit cards: Visa, EuroCard, MasterCard, American Express. At each transaction, the sales person must give you a receipt which you should keep safely. Only cheques drawn on French banks will be accepted and generally proof of identity is requested. You can also pay in euros of course, although it is best to avoid the larger denomination banknotes.
Museum opening times:
As a rule, museums are open from 9 or 10am until 5 or 6pm. Others open later and close at 8 or 9pm. Closing day is most usually Monday or Tuesday, with a few exceptions. Some are even open 7 days a week, such as some of the major monuments which can even be visited as late as 11pm or midnight.
Don't forget too that on public holidays many museums and monuments are closed. It's a good idea to check beforehand.
In France all prices include service and taxes, with approximately 15% of the price corresponding to the service. However, if the waiter or waitress has been especially attentive, you can leave him or her a tip to show your appreciation. Around 5 to 10% of the bill is usual.
Events in Paris: There are 3 specialist magazines that relay the full list of what's on in Paris in French. They are on sale every Wednesday in all newspaper kiosks and newsagents': Pariscope , L'Officiel des spectacles and Zurban . For English-speakers, try Time Out .

The Carnavalet Museum

One of the numerous art galleries of the Marais district

See also:

Paris.Org and




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