As I posted yesterday, I’ve issued a challenge for myself: to take full advantage of living in this amazing city, I’m going to go 10 places I haven’t been before in the next 10 days. I don’t have an itinerary per say, but there’s so much to do in Paris, I’m sure I won’t have any trouble finding something new.
Today is a mix of some familiar sites and some new places. It’s a neighborhood I’m familiar with and have spent time wandering around on many occasions, but I wanted to delve in a little deeper and go a little farther. The challenge:: walk all the way to Chinatown. Why? it’s in a section of Paris that is quite central, but not so central I’ve ever had a reason to go there. But, I love neighborhoods with interesting personalities (especially when so much of Paris looks a bit monotonous). Plus, there is a huge Chinese market there that I’ve been meaning to visiting for a month, and just never got around to venturing out to. What? I love Asian markets. If there were frequent customer cards at the Asian Market in Raleigh, I would have had one. Nothing gets creative juices flowing like finding yourself faced with something you’ve never seen before and trying to figure out what to do with it. So, I headed out.
So, that’s the 5th Arrondissement (Administrative district) of Paris, just south of the river and an easy walk from where I live in the 4th. If I were a tour guide, I’d probably have my clients stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens on their way to the Pantheon, which is where I officially started my walk today.
Although the neighborhood has been updated and Parisians get around using more modern transportation these days, the Pantheon still stands more or less how it did when it was built. Designed in the mid-1700’s to be a church to Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, when the French Revolution happened, the building’s purpose changed from religious to civic. It is, today, a monument to the enlightened ideals of the revolution and the men and women behind it. It also serves as a mausoleum, and the crypt houses the tombs of many famous individuals.
After you’ve finished wandering through the Pantheon, head to the church located directly behind it. I first visited Saint-Étienne-du-Mont way back in September, and it’s one of my favorite churches in Paris. It is also dedicated to Saint Genevieve, and houses many of her relics.
it’s hard to capture church interiors in photos. This one is especially ethereal, and its impossible to communicate something so spiritual on film, especially when you’re not a very good photographer (talking about myself, here). But, at least you get to see the beautifully carved screen across the nave, a rarity these days (at some point in history they went out of fashion and many were removed). If you’re ever in Paris and visiting the Pantheon, it is definitely worth your time to pop in to the church as well.
After leaving St. Etienne, I headed south toward Rue Mouffetard, which is one of the famous market streets in Paris. I’ve visited before, but it’s always an enjoyable walk so I decided to plan my route through it again. Streets like this really show the best side of Paris…the Paris everyone imagines and wants to see when they get there.
Just a ways from where Mouffetard dead ends is the Gobelins Manufactory. I’m super resenting that I didn’t pay the 7Euros and go in, as it’s been on my list of things to do for ages. But, at least I’ve seen the outside now? According to the sign it’s got free entrance the last Sunday of the month, so I may venture back and see if that’s true. If you’re not familiar with Gobelins, i’m not referring to little evil creatures here, but actually a legendary family of Flemish weavers who have created some of France’s finest tapestries.
Chinatown was fun. It isn’t worth heading to if you have a limited time in Paris, but I’m glad I checked it out. Some of the shops are huge and have all sorts of interesting things–there’s definitely a lot more to it than what I’ve seen in chinatowns of other cities. It also seems to be the spot if you want some good food…restaurants galore. It shouldn’t be too hard to pick out which ones are worth trying from the run-of-the-mill take out places.
Overall, a fun, full afternoon today! Plan for tomorrow…not sure. Actually thinking I might head down (literally) to the catacombs 🙂