“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

~Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

The sun was reflecting off the Louvre’s glass pyramid, casting shadows along marbled monuments, dancing through trees that were beginning to transform themselves into palettes of dusty orange and goldenrod. Overhead, a brilliant blue sky seemed to be hanging on to the days of summer even though the calendar was clearly turned to late September. Morning had barely begun and already Paris was hard at work, mixing the colors of the seasons to create an impossibly beautiful scene.

Herb and I were spending our first day here simply walking. We weren’t sure what to expect, with remnants of the pandemic still swirling about. We didn’t know whether our U.S. vaccination cards would be accepted at Paris cafés and museums. But after almost two years of staying close to home, the only thing that really mattered was that we were traveling again. As our son so wisely reminded us before we left home, “It’s not about sightseeing. It’s a change of venue.”

And oh, what a venue it is!

The Louvre Courtyard

We began our walk at the Louvre, the city’s iconic museum complex that seems to stretch for miles along the Right Bank of the Seine River. Its landmark glass and metal pyramid sits prominently in the Louvre Courtyard, surrounded by three smaller pyramids. Just beyond is the stunning Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, built between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories.

The Louvre Pyramid, designed by I. M. Pei, serves as the main entrance to the Louvre Museum. 
The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel was designed at the same time as its larger and more famous counterpart, the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, that anchors the far end of the Champs Élysées.
Detail of the top of the arch, featuring Peace riding triumphantly in a chariot.
A familiar landmark peeking through the trees!

The Left Bank to the Pont Alexander III

We crossed the Pont des Arts and walked along the Left Bank, heading toward the Eiffel Tower. It was quickly becoming apparent that we seemed to have this beautiful city all to ourselves. Parisians were going about their daily lives, but tourists like us were harder to spot. It was somewhere between the Louvre and the Pont Alexander III that I realized I had been taking pictures rather effortlessly. No jostling for a spot. No waiting patiently for someone to move on. And on such a glorious sunny day.

Looking up at the Musée d’Orsay, former Beaux-Arts train station housing Impressionist paintings and French art from 1848 to 1914.
At first we thought we were happening upon a protest, but it turned out to be a film set!
Paris’ exquisite Pont Alexander III in the distance.
Picture-perfect view of the Eiffel Tower from the Pont Alexander III.
Looking out on the Seine from behind one of the Pont Alexander III’s statues.
A statue of General Marquis de Lafayette is flanked by autumn trees in a lovely park called Cours la Reine, just beyond the Pont Alexander III.
One last look at the Pont Alexander III before moving on.

Place de la Concorde

Back on the Right Bank, we turned toward the Louvre, stopping first at the Place de la Concorde, home to Paris’ Luxor Obelisk. Built in the thirteenth century B.C., the obelisk was a gift to Paris from Egypt and is the oldest monument in the city. I had been dazzled by the obelisk’s 80-foot-tall “twin” at Luxor Temple two years ago and was curious to see the one that had been sent to Paris.

Walking along the Seine toward the Place de la Concorde.
Place de la Concorde and the Egyptian Obelisk.
In 1998, the French government added the gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk. The original cap was believed to have been stolen in the 6th century B.C.
Luxor Temple Entrance - the modern postcard
The Egyptian obelisk at Luxor Temple, where the Paris obelisk once stood. 2019.

Tuileries Garden

The Tuileries Garden between the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre must surely be one of the most beautiful public parks in the world. Created by Catherine de’ Medici in 1564 as the garden of the Tuileries Palace, it opened to the public in 1667 and was designated a public park after the French Revolution. The Tuileries has a formal yet welcoming feel and is the kind of place where you could lose yourself for hours, especially on a lovely autumn day.

Rows of symmetrical trees create a stunning walkway.
A garden of lavender plantings stretches out beyond these wispy blue flowers.
I love this charming carousel!

The pond and water fountain on a late September morning.

Palais-Royal

A short walk from the Louvre sits the Palais-Royal, Paris’ seventeenth century royal palace-turned government office building. Although closed to the public, its outdoor Coeur d’Honneur – Courtyard of Honor – is open to visitors and is decorated with two intriguing art installations.

In the first installation, artist Daniel Buren has designed 260 black and white striped columns of various heights, arranged in rows throughout the courtyard. Their modern look is a sharp contrast to the Palais-Royal architecture, but they seem to look as if they’ve always belonged there. The second work by sculptor Pol Bury features two basins that each contain seventeen polished metal spheres. As the water flows around them, light bounces off the spheres, reflecting the surrounding architecture – as well as the people taking photos of them! Both installations were completed in 1986.

Modern art meets the 17th century.
Fountains of reflecting spheres anchor each end of the courtyard.
Reflections in the water.
Traditional stone columns and hanging lanterns divide the courtyard’s art installations.

Bibliothéque Richelieu

While doing research for the trip, I ran across a beautiful reading room at a Paris library called the Bibliothéque Richelieu. Visitors are not permitted to enter the room, but are welcome to take photos from the doorway. Since the library is a brief walk from the Palais-Royal, I figured it would be worth the time to see if we could get inside. A security check and proof of vaccination later…and we found ourselves standing in the doorway.

The Labrouste Reading Room at the Bibliothéque Richelieu was named for Henri Labrouste, architect of the Imperial Library in 1854, one of four national libraries of France.
Labrouste Reading Room ceiling detail.
Turquoise reading lamps and Wedgewood blue pillars…not your typical library decor!

Back on the Left Bank

One of the Paris places I especially wanted to revisit was Shakespeare and Company, the extraordinarily charming English-language independent bookstore on the Left Bank. With its distinctive green and yellow exterior and old-fashioned signage, it’s a place that feels like you’re stepping back in time. The original shop opened in 1919 during Paris’ Jazz Age and was a popular spot for Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and other great writers of the day.

Shakespeare and Company…
…and our selfie!
A short distance away, the beautiful Notre-Dame continues to undergo major reconstruction after damage from the 2019 fire…
…and the city’s iconic bouquinistes sell their wares along the Seine.

There’s a romance to Shakespeare and Company that still lingers, much like the surrounding streets on the Left Bank. It’s the Paris that lives in the imagination, where the present day seems to melt away and almost anything is possible.

18 Comments

    • Thanks so much, Chris! Any concerns about what travel there would look like simply melted away the first day. “Wonderful” and “Love” are definitely the words 🙂

  • Loved this mini-trip to some of the most wonderful spots in Paris. As always, your eye for photography is evident in these shots. Well done!

    • Janet, thank you! Paris is quite the dreamy place to take photos. The lovely fall weather and lack of crowds were an unexpected bonus!

  • Wonderful reprisal, and then some, of our 2-day visit to Paris prior to a river cruise down to Marseille, 12 years ago. Hopefully you were able to get up to Sacre Coeur and ride the Seine at night past the Eiffel Tower.
    We’re no longer able to travel, so am particularly appreciating your blog, Mary. Blessings, Robin

    • Thank you, Robin! I’m happy to have sparked some memories of your Paris trip. We did make it to Sacre Coeur and also cruised past the Eiffel Tower – blog posts are forthcoming! I’m sorry to hear that you’re no longer traveling, but I’m delighted to be able to provide some armchair sights and commentary 🙂

  • My husband and I did this cruise on a different line two years ago. I love reliving it through your beautiful photos and commentary! Thank you!

    • Sandra, that is so lovely to hear. Many thanks! I’m really happy to rekindle some great memories of this beautiful part of the world.

  • Hi Mary and Herb. I’m taking notes!! You are such a beautiful writer. I love your descriptions!! We will be first time in Paris in May for 4 nights then on to Loire Valley for 2 nights. We are starting in Dublin for a wedding, then Paris etc. and we will then continue on for our month long vacation to Amsterdam, Prague, Vienna and lastly, a river cruise down the Danube. . Maybe when you are back we can get together and I can pick your brain for more suggestions!! Happy and safe travels!! 💕💕 robbi

  • Mary,
    Your journalistic genius is certainly.

    Mary,
    Your journalistic genius is certainly apparent in this remarkable presentation! I really loved it. As you know, in 1966 we took our five children on a three month camping trip through Europe. Of course we visited The Louvre and Notre Dame, as well as many other magnificent Paris sights, but your precise documentation would have been a rich addition to their education.
    We look forward to your renditions of the rest of the world!

    Love, Lyle

    • Oh, Lyle, that means the world to me…thank you so much! I do remember your wonderful stories from that infamous European camping trip. What a great gift you gave your family that summer, and I imagine they treasure the memories even more when looking back on it – not to mention how you and Betty managed to successfully shepherd five children across Europe! Many thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts 🙂

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