Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Parisian Interlude

Iconic bookstore

While I have enjoyed living abroad in Finland, sometimes one has a need to escape the country and go on a little adventure.  Luckily, living in Finland has the benefit of being a 1-4 hour plane ride from just about every country in Europe.  Direct flights and minimal time changes mean that you can be up and running in your destination city in a few hours.

Louvre Museum
We are lucky enough to have friends living in Paris for one year, so we were able to stay with them for a long weekend.   Their apartment was perfectly located in the left bank's 6th arrondissement.  You couldn't ask for a better location that is central to many of Paris's cultural highlights.  They live just a 5 minute walk to the Notre Dame cathedral and a 15 minute walk to either the Louvre or Orsay museums.   Ernest Hemingway once said (after living in Paris in his 20s) that Paris is a moveable feast and I couldn't agree more.  It doesn't really matter which direction you walk, you will find something interesting on every street corner.  Compared to compact Helsinki, Paris is quite an enormous city and consists of 20 arrondissements (sections).  The sections are by no means small, you can walk for 10 minutes and still be in the same arrondissement.  During our stay in Paris, we focused on the 6th and 7th arondissments.  On the first day we practically raced through the Louvre which features famous pieces such as the  "Mona Lisa" or the "Venus De Milo".  Later in the day we walked over to the Eiffel Tower and had a small picnic while gazing at this famous landmark.  On the way back from the Eiffel Tower we stopped by the Rodin museum, which features his famous "Thinker" sculpture.  The day was topped off with a perfect dinner with our friends in the Latin Quarter.  

Rodin's "The Thinker"
On the second day we continued our adventures by heading over to what is arguably Paris's second most famous museum, The Orsay.  Ironically, one of the featured exhibits in the Orsay was a Finnish artist named Akseli Gallen-Kallela who's work is considered very important to the Finnish identity.  So, we traveled from Finland to one of the most famous museums in Paris to see a Finnish artist.  :)  However, in my opinion the highlights of the Orsay were the French Impressionist painters, which include Monet and Manet, not to mention many works by Van Gogh.  Later in the day we meandered across the Seine to an almost equally famous museum called the Orangerie which features Monet's enormous Water lilies paintings.  By this time I think we were going through slight museum burnout as our brains could barely process all the pieces we saw in 2 days.

Unlike Finland, people in Paris are not so eager to speak to you in English, so knowledge of basic French is a big plus.  My French is really bad, but I still attempted a few conversational polite words.  In Finland, unless you speak perfect Finnish, you will most likely get English spoken back to you from the beginning.  This is likely not the case in France where they expect you to try to speak French, and if you do, they will be more willing to try speaking English back.

With it's great museums, amazing architecture, famous cathedrals and other distinct monuments, I cannot think of a better place to escape the reality of your every day life and and enjoy a feast for all the senses.  Paris is really an amazing city that has thrilled people for decades and will most likely keep it's stature as one of the greatest cities in the world for a long time to come.

P.S. - My top three movies featuring Paris as a backdrop are 1) Midnight in Paris (2011), 2) Before Sunset (2004) and 3) Paris, je t'aime (2006)

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