Monday, 11 June 2012

Weekending in Paris

Paris at my Feet: the title says it all. With a pair of good legs, a crash pad in the city centre (thanks, Understanding Frenchman) and a Navigo pass, I should know this city inside out. The reality, though, is that I have a love of the countryside, an addiction to foreign travel and a full time job, all of which means that I spend less time than you might expect exploring and appreciating the city that I (almost) call my home.

But the sun has been out recently, the evenings are long, and I had a visitor who inspired me to spend more time in the city centre. None of these events quite produced a blog post of its own, but here's a little summary of my out-and-abouts in Paris this month.

 1) Dark history and spring flowers. My friend and I went to visit the memorial to the 13 152 Jews who were rounded up at the Vélodrome d'Hiver in 1942 and sent to Auschwitz. The French are really only just beginning to talk about the part that the collaborationist government played in those events, although it was officially acknowledged by Chirac in 1995, but now, with films like La Rafle and Sarah's Keys, the story is becoming better known. The plaque on the site itself, however, located just outside Bir Hakeim metro station, is unobtrusive and goes almost unnoticed by most passers-by. Further away, in a little garden on the Quai de Grenelle, is a sculpture erected "in homage to victims of racist and antisemitic persecutions and of crimes against humanity committed under the authority of the so-called 'Government of the State of France". In the same garden, I took this picture of the Eiffel Tower, which I love, but which is all the more poignant because I know where I was standing at the time.

2) Sunday rollerblading. We didn't quite have the motivation to take part in Rollers et Coquillages, the massive group skate around Paris that takes place every Sunday afternoon when the weather is nice,  so we did a DIY itinerary along the Promenade Plantée (on the bit where it's allowed) to Bastille and up the canal to the Bassin de la Villette. Lots of the roads in Paris are partially closed to traffic on Sundays, so if you're prepared to put up with the odd tricky bit of pavement, it's a good day to go exploring.

3) Apéro on the steps of Montmartre. As you get older, you get fewer invitations to this type of student-y picnic, but few of even the best bars in Paris could offer a view this good, and certainly not for the price of a couple of euros that you spend on a takeaway drink and some saucisson.

4) Discovering new districts: last weekend, some friends and I headed out to the Batignolles district in the 17th, where there are lively bars and drinks at reasonable (for Paris) prices. Definitely worth exploring if you want to go somewhere that feels a bit more real than the city centre.

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