Europe by Train: Paris #3: From High Art to Street Art

Paris is a little bit of everything, from high art to street art. The best way to get to know the city is by wandering her grand boulevards and petites rues, her waterways and cemeteries. Some days I would set a destination, then make my way there via serendipity and whim.

Edith Piaf, in Belleville

My every trip to Paris will include at least one visit to the Musée d’Orsay. I need to commune with my beloved Starry Night, La Nuit Étoilée. The first time I saw this painting, years ago, it was as if I had fallen into space. I was gone, spinning through the heavens. Like so many many others, I go also to pay homage to the artist, now known to all as simply, Vincent.

I love this museum. Each time here, I see something new. This time I was captivated by Degas’ glowing teal-blue.

And the swirling, light-filled Impressionist skies.

I am captivated by Manet’s lush peonies.

Sometimes I discover something odd or eccentric. This poster, “The Embellishment of Paris by the Métro,” expresses the artist’s ambivalence about progress, both fascinated and apprehensive.

I go also for the space itself, Italian architect Gae Aulenti’s magnificent transformation of the old d’Orsay railway station into a temple of art. And yet, she honors its history; we are all joined in the journey.

The following day I wandered from our apartment to Canal St. Martin.

And then to a park I had never before visited, the dramatic, untamed (sauvage, as the French say) Buttes Chaumont.

A crew was filming a scene on this meadow and I thought how I’d love to set my own scene here. (And wouldn’t you know, when I got home and began my next novel, that’s exactly what I did!)

 I was sorry to miss the show at the old puppet theater.

Exiting through the park’s southern gates, I wandered down to Belleville, the hilly, old immigrant quartier, still a mix of worlds. 

I continued south to the Père Lachaise cemetery, final resting place of Edith Piaf, who spent her early years nearby in Belleville.

I barely paused all day, sustaining myself on croissants and adrenalin. The next day we enjoyed a civilized lunch in the 6th arrondissement, home of all things chic. 

I was utterly smitten with the fabulous Sonia Rykiel boutique on St. Germain Boulevard.

The day ended with Paris in all her glory.

Next stop: No wait, I’m not leaving yet, so come back next week for more Paris!

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