There are some places that just hug the soul. For me Paris is one of those places that revive me, I walk, I eat I drink and I sleep well while I stay in the city of lights. It was 2007 since I was there and this was my first trip away since I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism which as taken over my life for the last 18 months. As a repeat visitor to the city I was determined to see new as well as the familiar and I wasn’t disappointed.
After an evening train to Paris from St Pancreas I arrived at 10.40 there was delays on line 4 of the metro so I gave in and joined the longgggg queue for the taxis. I had never had a night taxi ride before I fact I have never taken a cab in Paris full stop. I was staying in the 15th Arrondissement near the striking Montparnasse Tower near the train station that shares its name. We stayed in this hotel, hotel Odessa on Rue Odessa behind the tower when I was a child. Every time I have returned to the city as an adult I have restayed there. It part of real Paris, its commercial, residential and busy but not overly touristic. Its close to several main line stations and metro stations and 10 minutes from many of the monuments of the city. Its magic, it feels like home.
The city was magical at night. I had never seen the Louvre pyramid by night or the Eiffel Tower shame that my BlackBerry had died after a day at work before travelling other wise I would have taken photographs.
I arrived at the hotel in 20 minutes the city was still buzzing at 11.30 especially around the cafes and in and round my hotel even though it was a Thursday night. My room was small but perfect and the hotel had been revamped since my last stay I dumped my bag and went for a drink with a friend who is living in the city. We had Breton cidre and discussed the following days plans before retiring.
The following morning after getting up I headed across the market space empty as it was a Friday, to Café La Libertine, just like hotel the same staff work there from when we were children. Petite Dejeuner is coffee, oj, croissant, and foot of baggette people watching for 8€. From there I grab the Metro from Montparnasse Bienvenue. The metro for me is a better ride that our own Tube. The carriages work better the doors work better the stations work better however the smell varies from stinky cheese to urinals but I love it. I take the line 4 to Odeon change to line 10 and exit at Maubert Mutualite and stroll to the Pantheon de Paris. I had 45 minutes to wait until it opened at 10am. I had never been there before. I walked around and grabbed a coffee and read Sylvia Plath’s only novel The Bell Jar.
Upon entering the Patheon de Paris you feel you are in an special space. On the walls of the nave there are religious images on the walls and classical columns. The dimensions feel cathedral like but not gothic or medieval more like an empty St Pauls in London.
Then you come to the central part that houses a Foucault’s Pendulum. This impressive scientific instrument is supposed to show the rotation of our planet. The big gold ball swings over a circular face and the circumference has numbers and lines around it. The instrument is hypnotic. It was first installed in the monument during 1851, was them removed because Napoleon III wanted to restore the site as a church but was reinstalled in 1905 when the church and state finally separated themselves in an act of law. The current gold ball dates from 1995. This installation for me helps bring recognition of the purpose of this space today, it is a monument that celebrates the great art, and scientific brain of French history. Sadly the 2 wings in the East and west of the central part were closed off and preparing for a new exhibition opening in July.
Around Foucault’s Pendulum, there are four impressive statues the images of which can be seen, they remind me of the monuments in St Pauls in London. I fund them beautiful in their marble stiffness. There is a very Parisian, deco, European even eroticism about them that reminds you your in Paris rather than Rome, London or Barcelona.
Then you enter the alter end of the space here is a grand monument to the French Revolution. The first thing that struck me was that it brought that striking image of Liberty leading the people of the revolution. Even around the back of the monument the detail was amazing.
I entered the crypt, I wont lie I find place like crypts give me the willies, however this one soon put me at ease. The cool light area has caskets and statues of the great and good of French history. Among them, Voltaire. Then in the other parts of the crypts there are little cells that hold the remains of people such as Marie Curie and her husband Peter who helped develop the cure for cancer, and the author Victor Hugo who brought Paris alive in works such as Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. (the only book of his I have read)
The most touching thing for me was that the France has so much faith in her nation that there were still cells that were empty waiting for more historical figures to occupy and be celebrated.
Upon entering the main area again over Foucault’s Pendulum, the ceiling imitates the monuments name sake in Rome that once too celebrated many greats, god rather than people, then became a church and I believe that it too is now a secular space.
On exiting the building you can see at the end of the long avenue that the erect image of the Eiffel tower dotting the landscape reminding you’re still your in Paris rather than Rome.
A great 2 hours in a calm space come highly recommended by this frequent visitor to Paris.