After an afternoon at the Fondation Louis Vuitton and then a morning in Montparnasse, we were ready to pound the pavements of Paris once more and headed towards the Île de la Cité. But our destination was not Notre Dame. We visited Notre Dame when we last went to Paris and I found it horrendously touristy and Disneyfied with people and cameras everywhere and even those little machines that you put a coin into and it then gets squashed and imprinted with an image of the 'attraction'. We admired it from afar instead.
Our intended destination was possibly one of the most famous bookshops in the world and definitely one of the quirkiest - Shakespeare and Company. It's an English-language bookshop which has been open since 1951. It has proven to be somewhat of a homing beacon for writers and intellectuals over the years. It's small-ish (and it's very popular so it feels even smaller) and the books are stacked high and spread through a number of smaller rooms. At each turn there are places to sit and read, to play music and even a teeny cubby hole complete with typewriter and lots of little notes left by visitors. It's a wonderful place. Do visit and go early when I imagine it's much quieter than by the time we got there in the early afternoon.
I may have come away with a small purchase. I just can't help myself in bookshops (especially when they do their own tote bags).
We headed back to our hotel for the evening via Rue Cler, a street full of market stalls, flower stalls and restaurants, on the way I picked up a butterfly/fairy/angel pastry because I just couldn't resist it - isn't it gorgeous? Almost too pretty to eat. Almost...
On Sunday we woke early and headed across Paris for the main reason for our visit to Paris - the Studio Ghibli Layout Designs Exhibition. Held at the Art Ludique museum it ran from October to March and we caught it on the last weekend.
Layout designs are sort of blueprints that are created as part of the Studio Ghibli animation process and if you're familiar with Spritied Away, you'll see from the below that they're very similar to the final version and so are amazingly detailed. One particular layout design from Laputa spread over three sheets and blew me away with its detail. They contain notes on movement of the camera and action and sometimes notes or comments from Miyazaki.
The exhibition itself followed the films in chronological order through the rooms. However there are fewer layout designs still in existence from the earlier films (once we got to Spirited Away there were hundreds on display and I imagine they were only a selection), although at the end there was also a selection of layout designs from the really early TV work that Miyazaki did.
One of my friends from university had been to the exhibition and had warned me that we should leave at least two hours to see everything and at the time I thought that it seemed like quite a long time but I was wrong, we were easily there for two hours looking at everything and I definitely could have spent longer or gone again to really feel like I took everything in. Unfortunately I can't see that it's coming to London (as I hoped it might, I still hope it will), but if it does, it's phenomenal and amazing for any fan of Studio Ghibli to see.
Even the little transition sections between rooms were all very well thought out and included an infinity version of Yubaba's corridor using double mirrors and a Totoro shadow thrown onto the wall.
The exhibition was only of layout designs, not concept art, but right near the end in the Ponyo section was a gorgeous display of the layout design version of the final credits image (one big long panoramic image) together with a full-colour painted version which was used. Just beautiful and it was interesting to learn that the final credits were much more low-tech than I imagined.
At the end of the exhibition, a rather slow-moving queue had formed. From my friend who had visited, I knew what to expect and we joined the queue. Eventually we made our way to the front and into a small room with a bench and a green screen. I pressed the countdown button and sat down. Within a minute or two my photo had been taken and I had been emailed a copy of a photo of me on the train with Chihiro and No Face. Such a cool way to end the exhibition.
After our early start, the afternoon was mostly spent having a long lazy boozy lunch which ended with this amazing and huge creme brûlée.
To walk off the creme brûlée we wandered through Paris, popping in and out of shops as we went. My favourite was Fleux, not just because I could have bought everything in there but also because they seemed to have a beautiful resident cat.
Our feet walked off, it was late afternoon when we checked out of the Hotel Relais Bosquet where we'd had another fantastic stay. We first visited Paris together back in 2010 and stayed at the Relais Bosquet. We enjoyed the location, our room and everything else and so a return visit was only natural. If you're looking for somewhere to stay in Paris, it's only a few minutes' walk from the Eiffel Tower and a whole host of restaurants, is reasonably priced and has lovely staff.
It was with heavy hearts that we headed back to Gare du Nord, where we boarded the Eurostar and I promptly fell asleep for most of the journey, tired out by a wonderful weekend in Paris. I did come away with some excellent souvenirs though.