So far, this week has been an incredible blur of Parisian beauty and sightseeing. I’m enjoying my schedule of sleeping in, practicing new music, and wandering around the city. Everything feels more leisurely in Paris, and the days seem much longer without a strict schedule to follow (which will change when I start at the Versailles Conservatoire in a few weeks!). I spend my mornings practicing pieces for upcoming projects and collaborations (more info coming soon!), then I choose an arrondissement at random to explore. Highlights from this week include: Les Halles Forum, Eglise Saint-Eustache, Pantheon, Palais Garnier, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Palais of Justice, Jardin des Plantes, Arenes des Luteces, Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore, and Palais Royal. These were all breathtakingly beautiful, but I am having the most fun turning down side streets and seeing “real” Paris (not the parts of Paris where Eiffel Tower souvenirs cost more than a meal). My advice to anyone traveling to Paris-bring good walking shoes! I’ve walked at least five miles a day, which creates a nice pastry allowance for me. I’ve sampled chocolate flan, pain au chocolat, quiche, crescents, and so many baguettes (everyone really does carry around baguettes in their bags here!)
One of my favorite experiences this week was visiting Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, which is one of the oldest English-language bookshops in the country and was featured in Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris. It was not crowded at all when I went (I guess the tourists were more interested in the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral). There is a library upstairs where you can read the newspaper or books, and I was delighted to find a white cat sleeping on a couch for visitors to pet. I found a collection of Shakespeare plays (fitting, right?) and skimmed through them while playing with the bookstore cat. When I was finally leaving, I heard someone playing the theme from the movie Amelie on piano-and there was a piano in another room of the bookstore for customers to play! Shakespeare and Company was the most quaint and cozy place I’ve found so far, and I highly recommend it to visitors. Also, I recommend watching the movie Amelie if you’ve never seen it – it will make you fall in love with Paris, if you haven’t already.
One of my favorite things about Paris is the music. It’s everywhere: I see posters and fliers for recitals and concerts at churches, advertisements for the upcoming season of the Philharmonie de Paris, hear countless talented street musicians, and even hear Parisians humming to themselves while waiting for the Metro. Culture is everywhere you turn in this beautiful city, and I am so excited to experience it all.