Tag - France

Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, Paris

Shakespeare & Company , Cr Wikipedia

Shakespeare & Company , Cr Wikipedia

by Tracey Marie Walker,

An Independent Parisian Bookshop That Still Thrives

Shakespeare and Company bookshop is a literary center in Paris. It attracts both published and aspiring writers, as well as the general reading public. Large bookshops and Internet ordering have reorganized the way we buy and sell books, meaning independent bookshops struggle to survive. The Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris, however, remains a time warp that works. As well as storing the histories and works of firmly established writers of the past, Shakespeare and Company hosts events to inspire and develop new writers, artists and musicians. Equally, they sell a range of books to cater for mainstream, academic and plain nostalgic readers.

A Warm Welcome

A message to all visitors is found painted upon the wall: ‘be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be an angel is disguise’. A rousing message that adds to the magic found lacking in chain stores. As visitors look around the shop, they can see the philosophy firmly at work. Expats, tourists and locals can be seen perusing the books on the more modern ground floor. Charmingly, a piano and stool is placed by the art and music books for the free use of all. There are no rules. This is a place of creative expression. Regardless of talent, music is heard echoing through the wooden shelves. If a reader is lucky, a beautiful piece will pierce the words on the page and carry them to the realms of emotion and imagination.

A tight wooden staircase leads to the first floor. Aside from the children’s section, books here are not for sale. They belong to the personal library of the eccentric and renowned owner, George Whitman. Visitors are welcome to browse the books and sit in the shop all day. In fact, George believes we should all strive to read a book a day. In the center of the room stands a heavy, antique table donning an old fashioned type-writer. Proving that visitors are not entering a museum of days gone by, these too are continuously open for public use. The heavy clicking of strenuous typing blended with the bells of Notre Dame leaves one temporally displaced.

Writing Workshops and Literary Events

Shakespeare and Company does not bloom due solely to living in the past. In fact, behind the eccentricity and utopian charm lies the practicality of living in the present and selling books. The library holds several workshops and events which actively draw in networks of readers and writers. The workshops are free, and you can come along to many of them without signing up beforehand. Literary events are held in the same place, where published writers read from their work and promote their books. It can be anything from poetry readings and chapters from novels, to passionate acting and contemporary interpretations of texts. Wine is often on offer during these events.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Sunday offers a tamer yet more dreamlike rendezvous. George opens up his apartment on the third floor for afternoon tea. Customers who happen to be browsing at that time are invited along, and a few regulars bring cakes and biscuits. Pam, an artist and poet, hosts the tea and puts everyone in the room on the spot for at least a few minutes. Random bits of well-known poetry and literary quotes are recited and people are also invited to read their own creative pieces. Between sips of tea, Romantic notions soar. As Pam says: ‘the person you see walking around the street muttering to themselves is a poet, and I’m talking before these hands-free mobile phones.’ Some are simply more courageous than others! Exuberantly, Pam calls this time of day ‘the mad hatter’s tea party’.

During time spent within the doors of the Shakespeare and Company, it is easy to imagine yourself wandering among the surreal aspects of Lewis Carroll’s imagination. You may even feel yourself shrinking as you descend the narrow staircase whilst avoiding a head injury. Pick up a book, enjoy the piano, and type if you feel inspired. Perhaps remember to buy a book.

Remembering Paris

Paris- France

Paris- France

When I was in Paris I walked what I thought was length of the avenue Champ Elysee turning around at some point along this grand avenue,walking back towards the Arc de Triumph,stopping along the way for a quick bite to eat. I  took a short cruise on a bateau-mouche along the Seine river circling the grand cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris,visiting the cathedral the following day. I rode on the TGV from Paris to Nice, meeting in Nice two ladies and the front desk clerk ,speaking with them until the early mornings hours, than taking overnight train back to Paris.

But my moment in Paris started somewhat late at night on a street not far from the Arc de Triomphe and was more an accident than the execution of a well thought out travel plan.Haven spent most of my first night in Paris walking most of the length of the Champ Elysee I decided to return to my hotel room. One small problem,I wasn’t quite sure in which direction I should walk though I was sure in which part of Paris my hotel was located(Montparnasse). In other words I lost.

The map I had was nothing more than a blurry outline of the city simply because I didn’t have my glasses with me. So off I went, walking down a street that lead away from the Arc de Triompe in a direction, I hoped, would bring me to my hotel.Walking slowly down this street,staring somewhat blankly at the map of the city, I began to wonder where I might end up on this my second summer’s night in Paris.

A short time after a car pulled up next to me; it was a taxi.I stood for a moment a brief moment looking in through the open window of the taxi at the driver. I don’t remember how the conversation began but shortly after we spoke I was in the car and  off we went in what I thought was going to be a free ride back to my hotel.What turned out to be a somewhat mistaken belief.

A short while into the drive the taxi driver asked me if I wanted to go to a place where men and women meet .Before I give you my thoughts on what he might have been talking about,you might venture a few thoughts of you’re own.For me my first and only thought was “he must be talking about a disco,with lots of people dancing under the large round revolving glass ball”. It seemed like a good idea, so I said yes.

He dropped me off at the front entrance and said he would join me in a few minutes. Being the somewhat naive traveler I was I believed him,went inside,sat down at the bar and ordered a beer. The driver never did come back and I was quite certain I was not at a disco.My first clue, the lady who sat down next to me.She asked me if I wanted to go down stairs,it would cost me only 500 francs.I politely declined and she politely left.

I had ordered a beer so decided to stayed stay awhile and yes before long another lady sat next to me with a somewhat different approach. She asked me if would buy her a glass of champagne. What could a small glass of champagne cost?Well, as it turns out, a beer and a small glass of champagne cost 300 francs(about 80 dollars).

I left, after she had drank her champagne and me my beer,and eventual found my way to my hotel. The next night while walking around downtown Paris close to Lido’s I recognized someone walking towards me, it was the same taxi driver I had meet the night before. Just how many people are there in this, the city of lights!

Fast Facts for Languedoc Rousillon – France

Architecture in Languedoc Rousillon

Architecture in Languedoc Rousillon

The largest vineyard in the world is in the Languedoc Rousillon region of France – not a well-known fact, but this very special region of France has many such surprises. Not as famous as its apparently sexier neighbour Provence, it offers far more – a huge variety of food, spectacular mountainous scenery, beaches, climbing, some truly world-class art with museums to match and a bewildering variety of wines.

Climate
Sun lizards will rejoice to know that Languedoc Roussillon is the second hottest region in France, after Corsica. Inland temperatures are known to peak at 40°C during July and August (with Nîmes often called the hottest city in France). On average, summer temperatures exceed 30°C, though coastal temperatures tend to be a few degrees cooler. As Languedoc Rousillon is a vast region, its climate varies widely, with mountainous and valley areas seeing cooler and damper weather, along with the occasional storm. Spring and autumn in Languedoc are moderate, the heaviest rainfall occurring in January and February.

Currency
The official currency in France is the euro (€). One euro equals 100 centime coins. At the current exchange rate:
£1 = € 1.16
$1 = € 0.81

Language:
French

Voltage Guide:
220V, 50Hz. Standard European two pin plugs.

Country Dialling Code: +33

Regional Dialling Code: 04

Visa Requirements
EU citizens require a valid passport for a stay of up to three months. Non-EU citizens require a visa, except USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand citizens. Tourists intending to stay in France longer than 90 days need to apply for a residence permit (carte de séjour) at a local town hall (mairie) or departmental préfecture.
Vaccinations
None required.

Tipping
By law a service charge of 10-15% is included in all restaurant and café bills. In addition to this it is customary to leave an extra €2 tip on the table if you are pleased with the service. Taxi drivers are usually tipped 10% while hotel porters, doormen, hairdressers and tour guides often expect a customary tip of €1 – €2.
Holidays
1 January: New Year’s Day
Good Friday (varies)
Easter Monday (varies)
Ascension Day (40 days after Easter)
Pentecost (50 days after Easter)
1 May: Labour Day
8 May: Victory Day
12 May: Whit Monday
14 July: Bastille Day
15 August: Assumption Day
1 November: All Saint’s Day
11 November: Armistice Day
25 December: Christmas Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexandra Szydlowska is a freelance travel journalist and editor based in London, UK. She writes for a range of online and print publications, with a special emphasis on Eastern European travel.

The Pantheon of Paris: A Place to Honour French Heroes

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

Though not as famous as the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, a visit to Paris is not complete without a trip to see the stunning Panthéon Paris. This tourist attraction weaves a tale rich in historical value and national pride. One cannot fully understand the true essence of French culture without immersing themselves in everything that this spectacular monument has to offer. From its structural beauty to its scientific wonders, from its proud heritage to its honoured celebrities, the best of France is housed in one magnificent building.

Fit for a Saint

From the Greek word meaning “every god”, the beautiful Panthéon was built by Louis XV when he vowed in 1744 that, should he recover from an illness, he would have a building constructed as a tribute to Sainte-Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. Construction began in 1758, but due to financial difficulties, was not completed until 1789, and its architect, Jacques-Germain Soufflot, passed away before the completion of his masterpiece. Originally intended to be a church, it has become a final resting place since the French Revolution for such heroes as Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, and the Curies.

Built in the Latin Quarter, the Panthéon was created in the style of Neoclassicism, with a façade and large Corinthian columns modelled after the great Roman Pantheon. Sitting proudly on top of the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, it overlooks the entire city of Paris. The ground floor is in the shape of a Greek cross layout, with a length of 110 m (352 ft) and a width of 85 m (272 ft). In the centre is a dome, reminiscent of The Tempietto in Rome, with a height of 85 m (272 ft). It was this dome that inspired Leon Foucault to attempt his first experiments to demonstrate the rotation of the earth on an axis. Therefore, it is fitting that there is now a Foucault pendulum hanging over the centre of the Panthéon floor; though it appears to be swinging, it is in fact immobile and the earth’s rotation is giving it the illusion of movement.

Around the corner from the Foucault pendulum is a plaque in honour of Antoine de Saint Exupéry, famous author of Le Petit Prince and aviator who disappeared during a reconnaissance flight over the Mediterranean in July of 1944. Though parts of Saint-Exupéry’s flight suit and plane have been recovered, there is currently no confirmation on the events that led to the tragic conclusion of his final flight.

Hall of Heroes

Perhaps one of the strongest reasons for visiting the Panthéon, however, is not located in the edifice itself but beneath it. In the large crypt below, visitors can pay their respects to some of the most wondrous minds to have ever graced the country, or even the planet. Without the influence of the people who now reside beneath the floors of the former church, many advances in science, medicine, art and literature would not have ever been made.

Upon entering the crypt, there is an inscription that can be read over the entrance: AUX GRANDS HOMMES LA PATRIE RECONNAISSANTE (“For great men the grateful nation”). Among the first graves encountered, proudly facing each other, are monuments to notable writers and philosophers Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, both of whom were pivotal in the development of French literature and culture in the eighteenth century.

Further inside the crypt, sharing a vault are some of France’s greatest nineteenth century French authors: Victor Hugo (who brought us the incomparable Les Misérables and Notre Dame de Paris), Émile Zola (father of the Naturalist movement and creator of the Rougon-Macquart), and Alexandre Dumas (author of The Three Musketeers), who was brought to the crypt in 2002. Inventor Louis Braille, chemist Louis Pasteur and mathematician René Descartes, as well as the Panthéon’s own architect Soufflot, have also been honoured with a place among France’s most extraordinary citizens.

In 1995, Marie Sklodowska Curie became the first woman laid to rest at the Panthéon, where she now remains alongside her husband, Pierre.

It is impossible not to be moved when faced with such a tremendous gathering of brilliant and influential minds. Only the most deserving are honoured with a home in the Panthéon, and after a single visit, anyone can see why these residents have been so honoured. These phenomenal heroes all played a significant role in shaping our world into what it is today, and for this, we owe them our respect and gratitude.

The Panthéon is located at the Place du Panthéon, 5e arrondissement. It is open daily from 10am until 6pm and admission is 7€ for adults, 4.50€ for ages 18-25, and free for children 17 and under. The nearest stop on the Métro is the Cardinal Lemoine and on the RER is the Luxembourg. The Panthéon can be reached by phone by calling 01-44-32-18-00.

Daugherty, Christi. Frommer’s Paris Day by Day 1st Edition. New Jersey: Wiley Publishing, 2006.

Fast Facts for Provence – France

Lavender Field in Provence

Lavender Field in Provence

All you need to know about holidaying in Provence – from its eponymous lavender fields and historic market towns, to the cultural delights of Aix-En-Provence (where Cezanne came from) and Marseille, the Western regions of Provence offer a calming retreat from the glitz and glamour of the French Riviera in the South.

Climate Provence usually enjoys hot Mediterranean summers lasting from May until August, with temperatures averaging 21°C in July and 6°C in winter. The warmest weather occurs on the coast (Marseille hits 29°C in July) and swimming in the sea can often be enjoyed as late as October. However, it becomes particularly cold in Arles, Avignon, Orange and Marseille when a strong, icy wind called Le Mistral blows down from the Alps and through the Rhône valley. This usually happens during winter and spring, resulting in strong gusts of wind and a noticeable drop in temperatures for a period of 3-9 days. Autumn sometimes sees flash floods created by sudden storms, while the high mountains usually have snow from November to March.

Currency The official currency in France is the euro (€). One euro equals 100 centime coins. At the current exchange rate: £1 = € 1.16 $1 = € 0.81

Language French

Voltage Guide: 220V, 50Hz. Standard European two pin plugs.

Country Dialling Code: +33

Regional Dialling Code: 04

Visa Requirements EU citizens require a valid passport for a stay of up to three months. Non-EU citizens require a visa, except USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand citizens. Tourists intending to stay in France longer than 90 days need to apply for a residence permit (Carte de séjour) at a local town hall (Mairie) or departmental Préfecture.

Vaccinations None required.

Tipping By law a service charge of 10-15% is included in all restaurant bills. In addition to this it is customary to leave a tip of 10% if you are pleased with the service. Taxi drivers expect a tip of around 10% while hotel porters, doormen, hairdressers and tour guides usually receive €1 – €2 for their service. Public Holidays 1 January: New Year’s Day 6 January: Epiphany Good Friday (varies) Easter Monday (varies) Ascension Day (40 days after Easter) 1 May: Labour Day 8 May: Victory Day 12 May: Whit Monday 14 July:
Bastille Day 15 August: Assumption Day 1 November: All Saint’s Day 11 November: Armistice Day 25 December: Christmas Day

Alexandra Szydlowska is a freelance travel journalist and editor based in London, UK. She writes for a range of online and print publications, with a special emphasis on Eastern European travel. See also: Fast Facts for the Cote d’Azur.

Fast Facts for the Cote d’Azur

Cote D'Azur, Cr-Cote d’Azur

Cote D’Azur, Cr-Cote d’Azur

All you need to know about holidaying in the Cote d’Azur – from Italianate Menton in the east to the glitzy bay of St Tropez, taking in Monaco, Nice, Antibes, Cannes, St Raphael and everything in between. France’s Mediterranean coastline, the Cote d’Azur is the place to see and be seen… just think flaxen beaches, idyllic farmhouses and celebrity-studded festivals.

Climate The Cote d’Azur is famous for its Mediterranean-like climate and dry summers. Temperatures peak between July and August and can reach up to 40°C at midday. On average expect summer temperatures of 30°C or more and mild winters (10°C min). March-April and October-November bring heavy rainfall, though thunderstorms and showers often reach the coast in late August.

Currency The official currency in France is the euro (€). One euro equals 100 centime coins. At the current exchange rate:

£1 = € 1.15

$1 = € 0.70

Language
French

Voltage Guide: 230V, 50Hz. Standard European two pin plugs.

Country Dialling Code: +33 (France) or +377 (Monaco)

Regional Dialling Code: +04

Visa Requirements
EU citizens require a valid passport for a stay of up to three months. Non-EU citizens require a visa, except USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand citizens. Tourists intending to stay in France longer than 90 days need to apply for a residence permit (Carte de séjour) at a local town hall (Mairie).

Vaccinations None required.

Tipping By law a service charge of 10-15% is included in all restaurant bills. In addition to this it is customary to leave an extra €2 tip on the table if you are pleased with the service. In bars and cafés it is acceptable to leave small change, while in taxis it is best to round up the bill to the nearest euro. Hotel porters, doormen, hairdressers and tour guides usually expect a customary tip of €1 – €2.

Public Holidays
1 January: New Year’s Day (Nouvel An)
Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques)
Ascension Day (Ascension) Thursday, 40 days after Easter
1 May: Labour Day (Fête du Travail)
8 May: Victory Day (Fête de la Libération)
14 July: Bastille Day (Quatorze Juillet)
15 August: Assumption Day (Fête de l’
Assomption)
1 November: All Saint’s Day (Toussaint)
11 November: Armistice Day (Fête de l’Armistice)
25 December: Christmas Day (Noël)

Useful links
French Riviera tourism

Alexandra Szydlowska is a freelance travel journalist and editor based in London, UK. She writes for a range of online and print publications, with a special emphasis on Eastern European travel.

Paris Plage France

Paris Plages brings in the tourists, but not without controversy. It is hard to deny that Paris is a city like no other. With its fabulous architecture, unbelievable restaurants and a vast array of places to visit and marvel at, the French capital has for many decades established itself as one of the most appealing tourist destinations in the modern world.

Paris plage,cr-telegraph.co.uk

Paris plage,credit-telegraph.co.uk

And yet August, a time that you would be forgiven for thinking would be the height of the French tourist influx, sees the Parisian populace depart the city for the countryside and coastal regions, leaving shops and restaurants closed and deserted. However, to combat this, interesting changes are afoot, none more so than in the shape of Paris Plages.

Paris Plages Scheme

First put into action in 2002, Paris Plages is an attraction run by the Mairie of Paris (Paris City Council) that sees various parts of the riverbank along the Seine cordoned off from traffic and transformed into mini beaches, complete with white sand, deck chairs and even palm trees.

Running throughout August and July, thousands of tons of sand are deposited along the bank of the Bassin de la Villette, a large artificial lake, as well as various parts of the right bank of the Seine and outside the Hotel-de-Ville (city hall.) The Plages, or beaches, attract roughly 4 million visitors each year, boosting the tourist industry that normally falters so badly during the summer months.

Organisers encourage various activities to take place, such as beach volleyball and frisbee, as well as holding beach football matches and tournaments. Each year sees several themes spread across the different locations, Hawaiian and Tahitian beaches being obvious examples, with prizes for visitors who best adhere themselves in dressing up and getting into the spirit of the occasion.

Controversy

With any public event in Paris, there is inevitably controversy surrounding those that choose to participate, especially if proceedings are free of charge. A notable example is the annual Techno-Parade, in which several DJs aboard enormous carnival floats parade around Paris blasting out their albums and drawing huge crowds which follow the parade dancing and singing.

However, numerous violent outbursts and threats of rioting mar the event each year, due to the racial tension that exists between Parisian authorities and those from the suburbs, usually of immigrant origin who feel oppressed by Nicholas Sarkozy’s often questionable policies.

It was a long-running result of another government policy, albeit well before Sarkozy, that caused controversy at the Paris Plages in 2007. Due to several cost-cutting schemes initiated under various Presidents during the 1980s and 90s, many hostels and psychiatric homes were closed down and the residents effectively turned onto the streets. Thus the number of homeless people in Paris grew considerably, many of them suffering with mental illness, and many of them still live on the streets of the capital today, most notably along the Seine.

And so, naturally, in 2007 hundreds of homeless people took kindly to the beaches and deckchairs as opposed to cold, hard concrete and stationed themselves in amongst the many visitors who, upon seeing this, began to leave. Afraid of a financial crisis due to lack of tourists, the authorities moved in and chased away the homeless people, splitting public opinion as to how the matter should have been handled.

What amused many, and characterized the adaptive nature of the Parisian homeless community, was that they simply stole some sand, moved a few hundred metres down the riverbank and set up their own beach, nicknamed Clodo-Plage (Tramp Beach.)

Thus, as with many things French, Paris Plages is both popular and not without its controversy. And yet it continues to draw in the crowds and, it must be said, is well worth a visit.