Good Spots In Paris

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Saturday, September 13 2008

The Pope and the Dalai Lama

Yoda This week the Pope is in Paris; last month the Dalai Lama was. One of them was received by the President, not the other one. Any idea of which one was, which one was not, and why ? In this post I'll give you my view on it (and introduce you some good spots in Paris at the same time ;) ).

Last month the Dalai Lama was in France. He basically went there to meet French Buddhists and give some speeches about Buddhism.

Dalai Lama

For those of you who do not know (yet) : the Dalai Lama is not only the head of the Buddhist Church but also a key piece of the political field in Tibet. Let's sum it up quickly : Tibet used to be independent, in the 50's (1950-1951) China invaded it and decided that the Dalai Lama would be the head of it as a province of China. As the Dalai Lama was finally not communist enough rumors about the Chinese army wanting to arrest him spread in 1959 and a huge riot occurred in Tibet. The riot was repressed mercilessly by the Chinese army (unofficial documents relate that about 87000 Tibetans died). Fearing that the Chinese army would kill him the Dalai Lama went to exile in India and asked members of the former government of Tibet to follow him. Since then there is a totally unofficial government of Tibet in India, gathered around the Dalai Lama. Officially the Tibet is still a part of China, and riots are still fiercely repressed (the last one was about 6 months ago).

Knowing this you easily understand that China is not really in love with the Dalai Lama ;) ...at the point that last month, as the Dalai Lama was in France, China officially announced that there might be "big consequences" if the French president was to meet the Dalai Lama...Nice isn't it ? Only a few days before the beginning of the Olympics what a pretty picture of itself China gave. Anyway the French president then said that he would not meet the Dalai Lama during his stay in France and that the Dalai Lama had, very wisely, not asked for such a meeting anyhow. But make no mistake, it's not a complete Chinese victory : the French president added that he would definitely meet the Dalai Lama later, and the French first lady attended a Buddhist ceremony led by the Dalai Lama to inaugurate a big Buddhist temple.

What about the Pope now ?

Benoit XVI

One again let's start about a bit of teaching : In France religion and politics are supposed to be two very very different things (According to google translator the correct word for it is "secularism" ;) ). Politicians, representing the French government, are not supposed to show any obedience to any religion publicly. They must respect every religion but hide as much as possible in public if they believe in one (it's very different than in the US where you hear about "God" every 5mn in every politicians' speeches). It's so true that a little polemic exists now in France because we find that the president shows a little too much that he is catholic (even if catholicism if, by far, the most common religion in France). As an example : although the French president did not meet the Dalai Lama (we explained why earlier) he welcomed the Pope directly at the airport (what he only did before for Nelson Mandela in 2007). Another example : he made the sign of the cross once during an official ceremony (and did not escapology for doing so after...).

Anyway, I think it's a great chance we have, here in France, to have had two great religious leaders teaching peace here in less than two months :) And it's a cool opportunity to have a look at where they've been in Paris, don't you think we could find some good spots within those ;) ?

Let's start with the easiest one : The Pope. He's been to many places, but we'll focus only on two of them : "Notre Dame cathedral", and the "Invalides"". I've already talked a bit about "Notre Dame" cathedral in a post about sightseeing spots you must see if you're in Paris so I won't add to it here. Let's then see what is the "Invalides" ! To be honest, the first thing I think of when talking about the "Invalides" is rollerblading :) ! The Invalides is in fact a nice old military monuments (I believe it was built during the 17th century) which, nowadays, mainly hosts museums. But it's also big lawns and a big place just in front of it, leading you to the nicest bridge in Paris (the bridge "Alexandre III" ). And why do I think "rollerblading" when someone says "Invalides" then ? Simply because the place is quite big and is therefore a great spot to rollerblade on (you'll almost always find people rollerblading there :) ). My advice then : if you have enough time, go and see the Invalides from the outside, and head toward the bridge, it's really a beautiful one (I mean it !) Invalides

Now that's we're briefly done with the Pope, where did the Dalai Lama went ? Well the issue is that he moved a lot :) ! He's been in France for more than twelve days (as far as I know) and moved a lot during his whole journey, so I could not find any exhaustive list of places he's been to. So you know what ? I just won't introduce anymore spots in this post, and I will, instead, add links in this posts when, in the future, I'll talk about places he's been to :) (tip : I think the next one is going to be about the city hall of Paris, which is really worth it...subscribe to the RSS feed, so you won't miss the coming review of good spots in Paris !).

Wednesday, September 10 2008

Fast (junk) Food

BurgerWhen visiting Paris you usually have a lot to see but very little time, and what you do not want to lose time doing is finding your every day food. Although you should definitely spend some time finding a good restaurant to have at least one good meal, you don't have to taste rich French cuisine everyday. Eating a little something quickly not to lose too much time during an intensive sightseeing day sounds like a good idea. That's why I'll teach you what kind of fast food you may find in Paris, and which one it's useless to search.

Let's start with the king of the king : McDonalds. Don't worry, you'll find some without even searching for one ;) The only thing to know about this is, maybe, if you're from the US I've heard that the size of the menus are very different (in fact that the "Maxi Best Of", which is the largest one in Europe, is the size of the smallest one you can find in the US :) ...to check)

The second king : Burger King :) ! ...There are none of those in France. When I say "none" I mean it, there is no burger king in France. There used to be some about 10 years ago, but they're all gones...don't know why. Anyway it's useless to search one.

KFC ? Yes there are some ! Not a lot of them and you may have to search for one in order to find one (not like the McDonalds) but it won't be a vain quest.

Oh by the way, do you know "Quick" ?... I've heard that it's almost unknown out of France whereas in France it's the main challenger for McDonald (I'm not kidding). And do you know the main difference between the two ;) ? McDonald sells Coca Cola, whereas Quick sells Pepsi (that's the official one, and to my personal point of view there are two other differences : Quick's menu are a bit smaller but a bit tastier :) )

What else may you ask ? Well as far as I'm concerned that's all for the big brands BUT there are three other things you must know about fast food in France (and Paris) :

  • Kebabs (which are also called "Grecs" in Paris, which means "Greek") : you can find some very easily ! In Paris you have hundreds of them (well maybe not that much...but plenty of them anyhow) around "Saint Michel" fountain :) It's quite greasy and you have to it with bare hand but well, it's cheap and quite big (and I love the way it tastes !)

Kebab

  • "Panini" which you usually find within the same area you can find Kebabs in

Panini

  • "Jambon beurre", it's not well known but in about every café in Paris you can ask for a "Jambon beurre" (even if it's not written anywhere on the menu), it's a sandwich made of french baguette, ham, and butter, my favorite sandwich ever, I just love it even if it's damn simple :)

Jambon Beurre

Sunday, September 7 2008

Train Stations !

TrainSure enough if you decide to visit Paris you'll have a lot of monuments to visit. Touristic monuments of course :) But what about non-touristic monuments ? I mean pieces of architecture that are really worth taking a good glance at but which are not (yet) supposed to be only for sightseeing. Great candidates for this are train stations :) ! I will introduce you to some of them (the biggest) which have very nice architectures :)

Let's do them alphabetically :

Austerlitz

This one is quit small actually (I know, i said I'll introduce you the biggest, but don't be so impatient !). Trains arriving here are mainly coming from the South West (Spain,... :) ). The funny thing to notice about this station is that the tube enters the station...in the second floor ^^ (I have no picture of it yet, but I'll take one next time I'll pass by). A great advantage of this train station, if you decide to go there, is that it's close to a charming garden ("Jardin des Plantes") and to the river Seine two. Gare d'Austerlitz

Gare de l'Est

Literally "Train Station for the East" you now guessed that trains ending here are from ...the East :D (East of France but also Germany, Switzerland, ...) Not yet one of my favorite ^^ Gare de l'Est

Gare de Lyon

One of the three biggest. If you know the town "Lyon" you know where trains coming from this station are going...Well I guess you don't actually : Lyon is the second biggest town in France (after Paris) and it's located in the South West of France :) Therefore in the "Gare de Lyon" (literaly "Lyon's train station") you have train going to Lyon, then to Italy...It's pretty nice one and as it's a big train station you will have no problem going there : take the tube ^^ Last good point for this train station if you intend to sightsee it's architecture : when you're done just cross the river Seine (which is hardly 100m away) and you're in front of the Gare d'Austerlitz we talked about earlier :)

Gare Montparnasse

My favorite one !! BUT you may not like it ;) We've been talking about nice architecture all the way until then but there's a "problem" with this station (which I believe is the biggest of all) : it's the only one which have been reconstructed in the XXth century. No luck with the architecture then : it's all modern. Anyway I wanted to talk about it because there are funny anecdotes : firstly now there is nice little park over the station (yes, on the roof ^^) which you can visit (it's called "Jardin Atlantiques" ); and secondly in 1895 a train could not stop arriving at the station (brakes broken) and therefore did not stopped where it was supposed to and continued his way...all the way thought the facade of the station (yeah...trains arrived at the second floor ... )

Train wreck at Montparnasse

Gare du Nord

A nice one, (tip : "Nord" = "North" ) deserving North of France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands. To be honest I've never taken any train at this station, and I don't lurk so much in this area...so except that when I pass by I say to myself "hey, nice facade", I've nothing to add (yet :p ) Gare de Nord

Gare Saint Lazare

Quite nice station but I don't like the neighborhood that much (not the same architectural style, so it's a bit weird ^^). This station is mainly for trains going in the far suburb of Paris...I guess you won't go there (whereas for every other stations I told you about you might be interested to jump in a train there and start the tour of Europe :) !) Gare Saint Lazare

Conclusion

No, "conclusion" is no name for a train station ;) I'd just add that those are ones of the biggest and are therefore all connected to the tube and many different bus, so it will be easy as a pie to check them all in no time :) By the way if you ever heard about the "Orsay" train station : go and see it !! I have not talked about it here because it is not a train station anymore but a museum, thought it's really a nice piece of architecture (and I may talk about it soon when I'll talk to you about some museums :) ...subscribe to the feed not to miss this one)

Tuesday, September 2 2008

Fancy a picknick ?

Pick Nick BasketSo you've grabbed a cheap trip to Paris on a "last minute" website and want to take the best out of your days in Paris while the weather's still sunny and warm? What about a little pick nick? Many places in Paris are great spots to eat a little something under the sky; the whole thing is just to know them ;)

Parks and Garden.

The best park I know to have a little pick nick is the "Buttes Chaumont". It's a large park with some big old trees, a nice little lake (with a cascade), and you can lay down on the grass as you wish. Is it perfect then? Not exactly. There are two main drawbacks: Firstly it's a bit "in the middle of nowhere" in terms on sightseeing, and secondly it's not a flat park AT ALL (you'd better be in good shape to reach the top of the hills where you have the nicest view for your little pick nick) Buttes Chaumonts

The second "park" any Parisian would talk to you about for a pick nick is the "Champs de Mars". It's not really a park by the way, rather a big lawn besides the Eiffel Tower (so it's not "in the middle of nowhere" ;) ). It's a bit more urban than the "Buttes Chaumont" but as I said it's just in front of the Eiffel Tower (so you can admire it while eating ;)). Moreover you're sure you won't feel lonely there (it's usually crowded from 6pm to 1am when the weather's hot). Champs de Mars



Third park: the Luxembourg garden. Let's put it straight: it's not the best place to have a pick nick in. It's really nice to visit but there's almost no place where you are allowed to lay down on the grass, so you'll have to sit down on chairs to eat and the chairs are on the alley so you'll be disturbed by tourists...anyhow it's still a nice place to visit :) Luxembourg Garden

Other spots



The very end of the Cité island's, west side :) Wonderful view on the Seine river, the Louvre museum, and the "Pont des Arts" bridge. Just magic :) (but usually crowded :() West end of the Cite island

Along the "Canal Saint Martin" (a place you know if you've seen movies such as "Amélie Poulain"), very romantic and old fashion. Canal St Martin

And finally : Almost anywhere on the border of the river Seine :) (no pics for this one ;))

Well I'm quite out of ideas now...anyhow you won't pick nick all the time and it's time to go and visit some "must see" in Paris

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