The Character of Paris: love locks, gallery dogs & frog’s legs

STAFF, EUROPE, Historic/Museums — By on March 6, 2014 at 23:11

By staff writer Lisa A. White. Photos Copyright © Lisa A. White.

PARIS IS A PLACE where it is far too easy to run yourself ragged trying to do and see everything and, in the process, you completely miss the character of the city.

Dan and I decided that in order to slow down for a true vacation, we needed to do less and wander more. Our days were spent wandering around Paris on foot rather than using mass transportation.

Notre Dame Cathedral, day or night, is simply gorgeous inside and out. To go in is free, but to climb up into the towers has a charge. As long as you can handle lots of steep and circular steps (remember The Hunchback of Notre Dame?), the tower trek is an absolute must-do.

Behind the cathedral is Pont de l’Archeveche, one of the bridges obscured by the “Locks of Love.” Apparently the practice of attaching a padlock to a bridge railing and then throwing the keys in the river has become somewhat controversial (romanticism vs. vandalism and littering). Nevertheless, it’s a must-see in Paris.

Pont de l'Archeveche: romanticism or vandalism and littering?

Pont de l’Archeveche and the Locks of Love


Pont des Arts, locks of love

Locks of love at Pont des Arts

Upon arrival, we purchased 4-day Paris Museum Passes because we planned to visit many of the usual suspects.

Using the Paris Museum Pass, we toured the Louvre. As I joined the masses to see the Mona Lisa (I like her name), I realized that although I’m in awe of the incredible artists, I needed a little more focus to enjoy that many incredible paintings. An idea was born: I decided to photograph “The dogs of the Louvre.”

Dogs of the Louvre, 2

The first in my photographic series, Dogs of the Louvre

In the same gallery as the relatively tiny Mona Lisa are some massive paintings, many with a dog or two tucked into the scenes. On my new mission, I realized that the same brown dog was in two paintings. Is there an artist’s conspiracy, just like the look-alike saints at one of the oldest churches in Paris, Église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre? Nope. Same artist, same dog.

My dog-diversion was a success—it added a new level of interest (and humor) to an already incredible collection of works. I looked closer. I enjoyed more.

My first, Dogs of the Louvre, capture

Dogs of the Louvre

The Centre Pompidou, a modern art museum with high-tech architecture, has broad views of the city from its clear escalator tubes. If you can’t climb the towers of Notre Dame, but you want to see the Eiffel Tower and other monuments on the skyline, Pompidou is an accessible choice.

At the Pompidou, Dan searched for the meaning of life and we laughed a lot. It is a far less “serious” museum than the Louvre . . . but, unfortunately for me, dogs were relatively scarce.

Dan searching for the meaning of life

Dan searching for the meaning of life

Near the love locks on Pont des Arts you can visit Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie. L’Orangerie is a smaller art museum with an unbelievable Monet exhibit. I had no idea that some of his Les Nympheas paintings are the length of a very large gallery (one is over 55 feet long). Photographs do not do these paintings justice.

Musee d’Orsay is a former railway station and structurally reminds me of the Field Museum in Chicago. I am particularly fascinated with the massive clock window, in what is now a cafe. Appealing to my love of art nouveau (see my Milliver’s Travels article, Brussels and the Art Nouveau Tour Map), the collection of art nouveau furniture was well worth seeing.

The clock at Musee d'Orsay

The clock at Musée d’Orsay

After visiting Musée d’Orsay, Dan and I were hungry and tired. We wandered around the neighborhood behind the museum and came upon a corner cafe. I am not a picky eater. Rather than asking about menu items, I simply chose the daily special: cuisses de grenouille en persillade, ratatouille et salade verte. At least I could understand part of it.

Mystery menu? I will choose the top entry.

Mystery menu? I will choose the top entry.

When my plate arrived, Dan looked rather amazed at the little dancer-like legs lined up on it. Translation: frog legs in garlic and parsley butter, ratatouille and a green salad. It was excellent and such a fun experience. When traveling, never fear the unknown. Just jump right in and swim like . . . a frog?

Little dancer's legs

Little dancer’s legs

I kept trying soupe à l’oignon, known in the U.S. as French onion soup, at various cafes in Paris. Overall I was not impressed, but it may be because I’ve worked hard to perfect my own [see link for recipe below].

That said, I learned one important thing from a brasserie called Le Tambour, located at 41 Rue Montmartre and open all night: I need to put a lot more cheese on top of mine. This cafe was our favorite and their soupe à l’oignon was superb.

Soupe à l'oignon at Le Tambour. Oh, the cheese!

Soupe à l’oignon at Le Tambour. Oh, the cheese!

Enjoying the day at Le Tambour.

Enjoying the day at Le Tambour.

There is so much more to tell, so much more to see. There’s never enough time.

Set aside any nagging thoughts you might have had that visiting Paris is “such a cliche.” Join the bandwagon. Paris is amazing. Become a Parisian for a day, a week, or a year—whatever you can spare—and enjoy your visit.

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COMING NEXT:

The Character of Paris: sewers & catacombs

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RECIPE FROM LISA:

French Onion Soup

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Beer in Brussels

Lisa drinking beer in Brussels

Lisa White has wandered through world like she has wandered through professions. In both pursuits, she always has more to explore, more to learn, and more to do. Currently she practices law in the area of dependency and neglect as well as other cases that address the well-being of children. Often this is an area of law that feels exceptionally “heavy.” When it becomes too emotionally burdensome, she catches a flight somewhere–anywhere–to remember the good, positive, beautiful, tasty, and fun of the world.


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    1 Comment

  • Sharon Forrest says:

    This article was entertaining and informative. It just so happens that I will be in Paris for the first time very shortly and I wasn’t sure what to do or see first. Since I’ll be there for only a few days, this blog has helped me streamline the many choices of places to visit, reminded me that I AM a picky eater, and caused me to add a padlock with key onto my packing list. Thanks, Lisa, for sharing your unique glimpse of Paris.

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