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Published: April 24th 2018
Room 1, Paris
Nothing like our stay one month ago. The smallest hotel room I’ve ever seen and the window opened out into an enclosed courtyard/construction site , where the noise only had one way to go, up.
Being woken by workmen smashing mallets onto metal isn’t my idea of a wake up call.
We arrived in Paris yesterday afternoon after a sad goodbye to Tim and Natalia at Bettembourg Station, Luxembourg, and took our seats in the high speed train to Paris. We were in a booth of 4 seats with a table separating them into pairs. Sue and I had it all to ourselves until Metz, France, where we were joined by a young girl and her grandmother; “Bon jour.”, G’day. Merci and bon jour are the extent of my French, and even then I usually revert to English, or what I use as English.
The French countryside flew by, and in between nodding off to sleep and reading, I did notice the contrasting green pastures mixing in with canola crops whose golden glow seemed to dominate the landscape. Again, herds of Limousin cattle appeared occasionally, knee deep in new growth, appearing as though they were fixed in place with green plaster. Everything passes by very quickly, and passing trains that are quite long, go by in seconds. The screen in the carriage informed us we were travelling at 319 kilometres an hour, so the
Tim And Natalia.....
.......not looking upset enough at Bettembourg Station. It was a warm visit.
287 kilometres to Paris takes a little over 2.5 hours including stops and slowing down occasionally.
We stopped at the towns of Thionville and Metz, 2 French towns that we have visited and after a flurry of passengers jostled for positions to find their allotted carriage and seats, Sue and I had company. Latercomers rush to beat the closing doors, then as quickly as it began, the station is still again.
The French regional stations I saw are all quite similar, and are practical but attractive dark cream sandstone buildings, stained with the dirt and silt of trains and times long gone. Metz was an exceptional station with very wide generous platforms and decorative stonework adorning the columns and walls of the buildings. Approaching Metz you pass through a large industrial area before the ancient city walls come into view and the Cathedral sphires appear above the rest of town. Similar to many towns, the tourist approaches don’t normally pass by the uglier but more important side of life in these places. On the outskirts of Thionville, we noticed hundreds of war graves in the community cemetery, marked with stone crosses. A little research indicated that these are
Room 2, Paris.
After politely asking, we were back next to our original room. It’s a first for me but it really does pay to ask. Very cosy.
common place in France but we only hear about the higher profile ones.
Juggling a 23 kilogram suitcase ( it’s on its last trip, I can assure you) and a full backpack off the train, and nursing it in a bus for 35 minutes was my first challenge in Paris and I can also assure you that there is no limit to the amount of people you can squeeze into a Paris bus. It doesn’t help when you have people like the 6 foot 8inch, or so, French legionnaire looking guy spreads his legs and takes up 2 seats, with his big kitbag dumped in the aisle. All he wore was a snarl, a tshirt and shorts that were too small, so while I was confident he wasn’t carrying a concealed weapon, he did have the upper hand in any negotiations with me.
You know when you’ve stayed somewhere before and you are a little excited with the anticipation of enjoying it again; we’ll, that’s the feeling I had, briefly. If there is the ‘tradesman‘s entrance ’ equivalent of hotel rooms, we had it. With about 450mm separating the bed from the wall, I almost had to walk
Saint Germaine’s Basilica
Originally dating back to the 6th century, it has undergone additions and restorations but many original features remain. The bright colours in the frescoes are amazing. All hand painted originally with wax paint.
crab style, to get in and out of bed. The distance at the foot of the bed was the same and the window opened out into a small enclosed courtyard that became a very loud worksite the next morning. And the noise only had one way to escape, up. After much procrastination on my part , as I usually accept poor treatment as penance for past sins, I had to speak to the desk guy to try to be moved. He was very gracious and even offered to have our bags moved. Ah, so this is how it works; I’ve been getting screwed over for years because I don’t speak up. I know some people will say that’s fake news but it is true.. We now have a room overlooking the main road; I hear scooters, buses, loud people and that incessant screaming of the ambulances as they rush to an ‘incident ‘.This noise is good noise. This noise is Paris.
With the room situation sorted, we had half a day to relax and do a little shopping. We had a better picture now of where to go, how to get there and what to avoid in regard to
moving around the city, as we made all of the mistakes last time. Anything that required much effort was scrapped , as this last two days were unplanned bonus days due to having to change our train tickets. We’ll wander around and just see where it takes us.
It’s about 15°c warmer than a month ago and the whole city has changed. People look less intense and happier, dressed in bright colourful summer clothes as they sit in parks, which also look happier, and play games, supervise children or just relax on benches reading or just taking it all in.
I think once you are free of the preoccupation of keeping warm , everything smells and looks better. I wouldn’t like to live in a country that experiences freezing subzero temperatures and snow for much of the year but it was nice to see it for the first time.
Today we walked along the Boulevard de St. Germaine and wandered into a high end shopping precinct that hosted all the big name brands. The store we were looking for sold perfume and accessories associated with its brand. Very attentive staff offered sample scents, and with the wave
The Top End Of Town.
Walking up Boulevard de St. Germaine. we soon became aware that we were moving into the high end of town. This perfume shop was a new experience for me and quite probably a one off. They really looked after you. Sorry Ezra but I didn’t buy anything for you from Young Versace next door.
of a small perfume dipped stick, announced with a lovely French accent, “ This one, is reminiscent of the freshly cut grass.” We also smelt many more garden varieties before returning to the cut grass as our choice. I hope to smell freshly cut grass when I arrive home, hint hint.
Eating out is a wonderful French preoccupation and the Blvd de St. Germaine has more exclusive restaurants and cafes and menus include options not available in the tourist zone that we had just left. This was real French cuisine with prices that reflect the effort and cost required to present the culinary art that was on the tables along the sidewalk. We had to be content with the mouthwatering smells that wafted past our nostrils. It was a bit like the old Pepe la Piu cartoons.
We wound our way through back streets, passing small exclusive boutiques with window displays of 5 or 6 items that apparently draw you in to the store, that had even less on display but instead provided leather lounges for customers to rest on. I guess you have to know what you want and it will be brought out for your perusal.
A Quiet Lane In The Latin Quarter.
Today was very quiet around the shops compared to yesterday but there are still many tourists enjoying the warm Paris hospitality and weather.
Very exclusive ! Either that or the shop is a front for something less legal.
Happily back with our people, a few gifts were bought, dinner was eaten, and we spent the evening in Luxembourg Gardens watching children sail model yachts, locals walking dogs, or just seeing the day out relaxing in the park.
Tomorrow is our last day and not much is planned. Well just go with the flow as they say.
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