Tag Archives: Free places in Paris

Bibliothèque Centre Pompidou: bibliothèque publique d’information

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting a whole lot lately. This isn’t because I haven’t been meaning to, but most of my writing has been focused on my NaNoWriMo novel this month. I’ll get back on the wagon with my blog this week. The novel writing is going well. I am behind in my word count at the moment, but it’s not irreparable. And what’s more important: it’s fun.

Speaking of writing in Paris (or doing any other type of work for that matter), I needed to find a good quiet place with internet access where I could write. And that place needed to be somewhere other than my apartment. Those who know me well know that I cannot get work done at home. I will rearrange furniture, reorganize my closet, clean everything, and spend hours in the kitchen cooking or baking up a storm. But I will not work. There are too many distractions for me at home.

So I needed a place to work that was away from home. I also didn’t want to go to school because it’s far away and depressing. This left me with many choices in Paris. There are, of course, innumerable cafés with internet access. In France, if you order a coffee or tea (or hot chocolate, my personal drink of choice) you can sit for as long as you like at a café and work. And if you get hungry, there are many delicious selections that won’t break the bank if you’re not in a touristy or super fancy place. I had great success at the Fée Verte a few weeks ago. They served a delicious chicken and rice and bread dinner for €9,90 and the internet was great. There was plenty of space and the environment was mellow. Not too bad.  I’m sure I’ll be back.

But sometimes I need a quiet place. And while a cup of hot chocolate isn’t very expensive, I always love free places. Paris has free wifi at many parks and other public places, but now that it’s winter it’s a bit cold to sit outside and write. So I began to search for a library.

There are many libraries in Paris. They have an American library, and the Sorbonne has allegedly one of the best libraries around that any master’s student can use if you bring your credentials. But sometimes you don’t want to deal with the French bureaucracy. You just want a clean quiet free place to work. Right now.

Enter the library in the Centre Georges Pompidou. The Centre Pompidou is a huge modern building in the Marais, a very cool right bank neighborhood. It houses a very popular museum (I’m waiting for a first Sunday of the month to go, when it’s free. Watch for upcoming posts about it.). The building is multi-colored with space-age looking escalators going up the outside and pipes all over it. You can’t miss it. Much of the building houses the museum collections, but on the backside of it is a fantastic public library. The library is free and open to all, and it was founded on the idea of free access to information for all. You enter, and the person checks your bag to make sure you don’t have any prohibited items (at least I’m assuming that’s what he was looking for), and you enter. That’s it.

The library is very large, new, and clean. There are 3 floors, and each floor contains several different subjects. They have practical information for everyday life (health, finding an apartment, Parisian life, etc.), they have an area for the press of the world with newspapers from all over and little TV stations with headphones that play the news from many countries around the world. Anyone can walk up, have a seat, put on the headphones, and watch the news from whatever country is being shown. They have computers with free internet access (although there is usually a line for them). They have a cinema area and a music area with CDs and listening stations and even a couple of keyboards. And of course, there are lots and lots of books on all the traditional subjects and desks. There is also free wifi for those who have laptops. It is a wonderful place to work. And it’s open until 10pm almost everyday. The library has an excellent website where you can take a virtual tour of the facility.

I will warn you, however, that this library is not a very well kept secret. On a Saturday afternoon you will probably be able to find a seat by yourself, but if you’re searching for two seats together among the thousands and thousands of seats, you may not be so lucky. There are many tables on each floor, and many have outlets for laptop plugs. But the French come to this library in droves to work. It’s wonderful that it’s so well utilized, but sometimes it’s frustrating to find a place to sit. I think weekends are the worst. Last Saturday I tried to go, but there was a huge line out front just to get into the library. I had never seen that before, so I gave up right away. On quieter days though, it’s perfect.

This is one of the most fantastic public libraries I have ever used. If you’re in Paris and you need to get some work done, I highly recommend it.

New words: par ailleurs (otherwise/moreover), tellement (so, so much, such), le for (the forum), une entrave (a barrier/obstacle), en revanche (in contrast/on the other hand), subis (suffered/sustained/experienced), un timbre (a stamp), soutenir (support), selon (according to), mettre en oeuvre (implement), mettre en cause (challenge), générer (to generate)

Musée Carnavalet: Histoire de Paris

Sorry for the lack of posts! I have been getting settled into my routine with classes and general busyness, and I hadn’t ventured out on any excursions until yesterday.

On the way home I decided to go to the Musée Carnavalet. I’d been meaning to go for quite a while, and finally yesterday I had some spare time. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how vast and amazing the museum would be, and I didn’t allot myself nearly enough time. The museum was much more wonderful than I expected, and I had to hurry through a lot of it. I will surely return  soon to see more and hear a concert.

First, this is a FREE museum! That immediately merits points in its favor. Also, the museum is in Le Marais, a very chic right bank neighborhood near the center of Paris. The neighborhood is full of very high-fashion boutiques, art galleries, cafés, and shops. It’s always a fun place to walk around or grab a bite to eat. So before I even got to the museum, it already had potential.

Link Gallery

I came to the museum, which is housed in two old hôtels connected by a bridge. The entrance is through a courtyard. The buildings themselves are impressive, and they make a grand backdrop for the collections. The hôtel Carnavalet was built in 1548 and showcases fantastic architectural features. The hôtel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau houses an incredible orangerie (greenhouse) and surrounds a beautiful garden. There are over 100 rooms in the museum, and each shows a different period or aspect of Parisian history. The overall feeling of the museum is like being in a miniature castle (but this comparison is not intended to imply that it’s small!).

"Les retardataires" (The Latecomers)

The premise of this lovely museum is that it is dedicated to the history of Paris. Therefore, visitors can walk through rooms with collections from prehistoric Paris and the Roman era all the way through the time of the monarchs, the revolution, and modern day.

Sign Gallery

When I walked into the fantastic sign gallery at the museum’s entrance, I asked the man at the table in French if I could take one of the guides. He said that I certainly could and handed me one in French. I picked up one in English and told him that it was my langue maternelle, and he said “But you speak French! Here, take the French one too and you can switch between the two.” (This is a very loose translation.) I was happy to have the compliment, and told him “Thank you, that will be good for me since I am learning.” A compliment on my French from a Parisian stranger! Happy day! (It was a very basic conversation, and not too much to brag about, but a small triumph is welcome nonetheless.)

My favorite parts of the museum were the buildings themselves and their beautiful rooms (some decorated with furniture collections), the Roman ruins in the orangerie (It’s easy to forget about the Gallo-Roman period in Paris, but there were temples, baths, an amphitheater, and everything else Roman here for about 400 years!), and the paintings in the link gallery (the bridge connecting the two buildings). Also, the concise descriptions of each historical period were good (but they are in French, so bring a Francophone friend or get a listening guide). I was a bit disappointed by the revolutionary period rooms. They mostly contained models and smaller mementos from that time.

L'orangerie

As I was getting ready to leave the museum, they announced that there would be a classical concert with piano, violin, and singing. The cost was €10. I didn’t have time to stay and enjoy the music in this incredible setting (and imagine that I was

Roman Collection

here in another era being entertained at a party), but I will try to come back for another concert later on.

Highlights of this museum include: the gallery of shop signs from the 16th-20th centuries at the entrance, a chess set Louis XVI used to distract himself while awaiting the guillotine, a recreation of Marcel Proust’s bedroom with his bed and other furniture, carved stones from the Roman period, Neolithic dugout canoes from 2800-2500 BC, paintings of Paris’s belle epoque in the link gallery.

New Words: grève (strike), soutien (support), chausson (a fruit-filled pastry, often in apple: pomme), les cuivres (brass instruments), salarié (salaried employee), prestation (performance)

Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

Last Friday, the weather was beautiful. Actually, come to think of it, the weather has been perfect for a couple of weeks now. Anyway, my fellow foreigners and I went to our morning class and then had lunch as usual. After lunch, we came back for our afternoon oral language class, and the teacher announced that the copy machines were all broken and it was beautiful outside, so we were going to the Père Lachaise cemetery. We were all happy to be outside in the sunshine.

The cemetery is vast, and it is full of graves of Paris’s elite. It is still used as a cemetery today, but only the really rich or famous can be buried there. It is very hilly with cobblestones everywhere, so if you’re planning a trip you should wear comfortable shoes (I speak from experience; since this was an unplanned impromptu trip, I was wearing heals and it made the trip less pleasant). Since I didn’t know we were going on the trip, I not only wore uncomfortable shoes, but I also didn’t bring my camera. Sorry for the lack of photos in this post. I’ll make up for it in upcoming posts.

We visited the graves of Édith Piaf, Marcel Proust, Frédéric Chopin (who was not French, but Polish), Molière, Oscar Wilde (who’s grave was covered in red lipstick kisses and notes written in red lipstick in spite of a sign forbidding it—the French don’t really follow rules that conflict with tradition), and Jim Morrison.

Jim Morrison’s grave is closed off because people would go smoke on it. I don’t think that was a huge issue initially, but then people started writing on the nearby graves, which is disrespectful. There were actually a few nearby graves where people had written “I <3 Jim” and things like that. Who does that? Who writes on someone’s grave about someone else? I was disturbed.

When we visited, around 2pm on a Friday afternoon, there was a group of Americans sitting on a grave near Jim Morrison’s and drinking and listening to music and jumping onto other graves to take pictures. Out of our class, I’m the only American, and I was so embarrassed by them. I said, in French (partly because I didn’t want them to know that I was American), “those are not my compatriots,” and my teacher responded “Ce n’est pas à toi,” (“it’s not for you,” literally, but in this context it was more like “it’s not your fault”). When one guy jumped onto a grave, my teacher said to them “this is someone’s grave” in French. The guy who had jumped on the grave was sarcastic in responding “pas Jim Morrison’s grave.” Then the teacher said, in English, “Yes, but someone else is buried here, this is not a bar, it’s a cemetery.” Then the offenders just nodded and said “you’re right,” and kept drinking. It was disgusting. The French are generally tolerant of crazy partying, as far as I’ve been able to tell. But jumping on graves and listening to music and drinking on someone’s grave in a cemetery is just downright disrespectful. Maybe if they were on Jim Morrison’s grave, it would be okay, but they were on some random person’s grave nearby. The whole thing was weird, and I think everyone who came to visit the grave was put-off by them.

Other than the awkward exchange with the rude Americans, the cemetery was beautiful. It was very peaceful and FULL of famous people’s graves. We could have stayed all day and enjoyed the lovely weather and seen the graves of many other incredibly famous people (I wanted to see the graves of Georges Bizet, Francis Poulenc, and Gertrude Stein), but it was such a massive place and we were all hot and tired by the end of our long walk.

If you’re looking for a good walk on a nice day with interesting and historical scenery, come here. Overall, it’s very peaceful and beautiful.

Jardin du Luxembourg

This morning I went for a run in the Luxembourg garden. It was fantastic. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a runner. At all. However, I plan to eat a lot of baguettes, cheese, and crème brûlée in the next couple of years (I’ve already gotten off to a great start!), and I figure I should pre-empt the calories while I still can.

The garden and palace were begun in 1611 for Marie de Médicis, the widow of Henry IV. There is a large palace and massive grounds. Today, the palace houses the Sénat (one of the legislative houses of the government).

Luxembourg Palace

Even though the weather today was chilly, the sun was out and so were the Parisians. There were garden chairs all over the grounds, and people were sitting and relaxing and enjoying the sun. There was a fountain where kids drove small remote-controlled sailboats (some simple, some very elaborate).

Fountain with Sailboats

The gardens were filled with people. There were many joggers going all around the sand path that circumnavigates the grounds, and I joined the ranks this morning. There were also at least 4 groups I saw doing doing t’ai chi, some jugglers practicing, and people stretching and doing sit-ups. There is a huge playground where it seemed like a thousand kids were running around, shrieking, swinging on the swings, climbing on the playset, and having a great time. There was also a large area where many adults (mostly men, but I saw at least one woman) were playing pétanque, which looked a lot like bocci ball. There were some tennis courts, and apparently chess is played there as well, although I didn’t see it.

Bee Hives

There is also an area with several bee hives where they have a beekeeping school. Once the honey is harvested, they sell it in the garden. I plan to purchase some once that happens. The bee houses originated long ago but were removed. They were recently added again, and would-be beekeepers can once again learn the skill right here in Paris.

The gardens themselves are magnificent. I’m no horticulturist, but the flowers and fruits are beautiful. They grow more varieties of pears than I have ever seen, and each type is carefully labeled. Oh yeah, and for some reason they grow some of the fruit in bags. I haven’t figured that one out.

Apples

Pears

Palace and Garden

This was a beautiful place to start the day.