The city of Paris is a daydreamers paradise, filled with beautiful places that curious minds love to explore. It is a city where beautiful architecture towers above gritty realism. A place where young love blossoms and serious types sit outside cafes scribbling furiously into worn out leather bound journals. In Paris, even the most straight laced, nine to five office type could find themselves daydreaming their afternoon into an epic novel. It is no wonder writers, artists and musicians flock to the city to create their labours of love.
The most recognisable monument in Paris is the Eiffel Tower, built as an exhibit for the 1889 World Fair. The tower was criticised and mocked by leading artists and intellectuals at the time but has gone on to be the most visited monument in the world. The Eiffel tower is symbolic of every piece of modern art that challenges the status quo and makes people look twice. It is living proof that today’s break from the norm could go on to become a national treasure. Any struggling artist would do well do remember the Eiffel Tower during times of despair and look to it for inspiration.
For inspiration of a different sort, a visit to the Catacombs is a spooky way to spend a day. During the 1800’s, Parisian graveyards were stretched to breaking point. The city decided clear space by removing long buried bodies and recommitting them into disused mines under the streets of Paris. The remains of around six million Parisians are housed within the mausoleum. Visitors journey deep underground through the disused quarries before reaching the vault of the dead. Inside, human bones are stacked densely and laid out in a ghoulish display of remembrance. Walking through the bones of so many departed citizens is a thought provoking experience guaranteed to inspire.
Notre-Dame Cathedral is located close to the banks of the River Seine and is a wonderful example of French gothic architecture. Walking around the cathedral gives a good view of its many striking features, saints and gargoyles adorn the façade and detailed carvings cover every arch and doorway. The impressive stained glass windows are, of course, best viewed from inside. Entry into the main area of the cathedral is free and there are paid for tours around the cloisters. Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame was set here and the descriptive imagery from the book is a haunting replica of the real thing.
Located on the left bank of the Seine, a stone’s throw from Notre-Dame is the Shakespeare and Company book shop. An English language book store steeped in literary tradition. The first store was opened by Sylvia Beach and became a gathering point for aspiring writers of the 1920’s like Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. World War two led to the demise of the original store but during the 1950’s the mantel was passed to a new store in its present location. This became home to many writers of the Beat Generation and a focal point for bohemian Paris. Today, outside the store there are racks of second hand books and rusty fences with vintage bicycles chained to them. Floppy haired youths with long scarfs and glasses still find their way inside and call this place home. Inside Shakespeare and Company, floor to ceiling shelves cover every available wall space. The store is a maze of tiny rooms and tight spaces filled with nothing but beautiful books. Keen young students climb old wooden ladders searching for literary classics of a bygone age. Old books and new books, special editions, forgotten paperbacks and one off prints are almost bursting out of the tiny book shop. Upstairs a few small nooks and crannies, furnished with old dusty chairs, have been set aside specifically for reading. For any lover of words, Shakespeare and Company is a magical experience. It is completely free to go in and look around but if you are anything like us, you will find it impossible to leave without buying a sack full of books.