Sunday, October 28, 2012

Which Paris?

And I'm not talking about whether it is Paris in France or Parys in the Free State. No, I'm talking about whether it is JL's Paris or Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.  My mom and I always tease JL, as according to him, it never rains in Paris (like on the golf course, you know).  So we've started talking about JL's Paris (as I'm not that fortunate when I'm visiting Paris...).  Then we were watching the dvd of Midnight in Paris earlier this year (for those of you who haven't watched it, do yourself the favour - and if you're not too clued up with some French writers/history, etc, watch it with a French person...And just to brief you - the guy gets transported back to Paris in the 1920's when midnight arrives...)
So when my mom and I decided to go to Paris for a day during her visit a few months ago (yes, I'm very behind on the blog, I hope to catch up soon!) we were making a joke, asking which Paris will we visit - the one of JL or the one of Woody Allen....
The idea was, since we've visited all the tourist sites in 2000, that I'll show her all the places I have since discovered in Paris, not necessarily tourist spots.
The TGV tickets are quite expensive, so after some calculations we've decided it will be less expensive if we drive to Disney, leave the car there and take the RER to Gare de Lyon.  The last time JL dropped me there, I told him the station look very different from what I can remember when my mom and I spent 10 days in Paris in 2000.  He didn't believe me and told me nothing changed. But the building just didn't look familiar at all and I remembered a train station a bit in the bundus, definitely not such a huge building.  My mom confirmed my thoughts and eventually we've confirmed with JL that the new building was constructed to accommodate the TGV line, which was not operating in 2000.  A huge change in 12 years. Not a Midnight in Paris.  The weather looked promising - JL's Paris, we have sunshine.
We arrived at Gare de Lyon and started searching the restaurant that I've seen one night on a documentary programme on the French TV. We were about to give up, when we finally bumped into it and given the prices, decided to only have a coffee.  Well, it arrived with a little croissant, pain au chocolat and other viennoisseries.  It was delicious.  But the highlight was the beautiful interiors.  We were in Woody Allen's Paris, transported back in history.  The walls and roof are decorated in beautiful large paintings of all the towns to which the trains left at that era from Gare de Lyon - Grenoble, Avignon, I cannot remember all the names.  Everything inside were like it was in that era, we've decided it was worth it to pay more for the coffee than what we would have in another place.
The decorative steelwork just outside the entrance to the restaurant
And the beautiful building of Gare de Lyon
And we've hardly left Gare de Lyon, still in awe about the experience in the restaurant, when we've been convinced even further that we're in Midnight in Paris:
When telling JL, Nina and Damien during lunch time we've seen this group, they had no explanation as to why we were so lucky, it is not something ordinary to experience in Paris.
Below: no it is not the famous arc de triomphe, but porte saint-denis, constructed in 1672 in honor of Louis XIV to celebrate his victories over the Rhine and Franche-Comté, on the site of one of the original entrances to Paris that was destroyed before then and not far from porte saint-martin. It is not far from the shop that Sophie showed me where one can buy designer clothes at much less than what you'll pay for in the shops. 
Our discovery of Woody Allen's Paris continued as we were following interesting looking roads and arcades...
 We finally had to rush to meet JL, Nina and Damien for lunch - in another narrow old Parisian street, which we had difficulty to find. But the restaurant was a continuation of our Midnight in Paris experience. A lovely old restaurant with french food and no tourists.
We left Paris late afternoon, not having had enough time to show my mom all I wanted to show her, but happy that we had JL's sunshine and an extra-ordinary experience, being transported back into another era.

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