Edit Blog Post
Published: June 13th 2009
Well it’s June, and I’m finally finding time to write about Paris, which I visited a month ago. I was expecting to be blown away by Paris, but I left there kind of unimpressed. That said, I can fully appreciate that five days, while longer than the average tourist gives it, is nowhere near long enough to fully appreciate the city. I reckon that given a few weeks or a month, I’d find what makes the city tick, and appreciate it for what it is. When you first arrive in a new city, it is all unfamiliar, and you don’t often get to feel it’s pulse for a while (New York two years ago left me breathless from the word go, however!)
The original plan was to meet Clare in Hong Kong, as I was coming from Japan and she from Melbourne, and we would fly together to Paris via London. Unfortunately, her plane made an unscheduled stop in Darwin, and as a result, she was bumped onto the next UK bound flight that left HK one hour after I left. No amount of reasoning, begging and pleading would allow me on her flight, so we made our long
flights separately. I hung around at Heathrow as long as I could before my flight to Paris to at least wave hello, but was again thwarted by changeover times. I did at least get to be her official welcoming party of one as the arrival doors opened for her at Charles de Gaulle airport.
All was not lost, however. There was a busker on the airport train playing what else but an accordion. How French.
I had wanted to book accommodation in an area of Paris called the Marais, but Clare had insisted on a room with an Eiffel tower view. I did manage to find one that fit the bill, but looking again, I booked a room that would have been hard to beat for view in the area near the tower. Bonus points for Paul…
So what did we see and do in Paris? On our first afternoon, given that we were so close, we went for a walk through the Champ de Mars, which is the large park at the base of the Eiffel tower. We figured that we’d leave climbing the tower for another day, as the queues were snaking around for a
significant distance by then. We went for a stroll along the Seine, crossed a bridge and wandered our way up towards the Arc de Triomphe. Again we figured we’d leave the views from up above for another day, and so went for a walk down the Champs-Elysees, along with the other half a million people, and did some window shopping. Dammit, even the French have Mc Donalds… and it was packed too.
Other sites we visited included the Notre Dame cathedral, the first of many in what could quickly becomes the “not another bloody cathedral” tour of Europe. As I write, I’m waiting to hit Ireland and Scotland, so I guess it’s going to be “not another bloody castle” soon…
Clare stumbled across a museum near the Place des Vosges that contained some seriously old paintings and sculptures that were close enough that you could touch them. I think the story is that this museum contained art that was rescued from buildings that were to be demolished. They even had complete ceilings that were elaborately painted, as shown.
One day I took myself off to visit the catacombs. At the same time as Australia was
being settled by the First Fleet (1788), Paris had problems with disease, courtesy of a badly placed cemetery. They decided to move all of the remains and put them into the disused quarries in another part of the city. The bones were initially just thrown in piles everywhere, but later they were neatly arranged and stacked. They have been running tours down there since 1810… It’s quite an amazing sight to see, a wall of bones and skulls five feet high, and a few metres deep, going on forever. The path you take goes for a few kilometres, following the streets 20 metres above. Very surreal.
On our last day, we tossed a coin, and went to the Musee d’Orsay, which is housed in an old train station. It was a great museum, particularly just for its interior, let alone the artwork. In the last hour, while Clare stayed at the d’Orsay, I crossed the river and had a look at the outside of the Louvre, which was the other side of the coin toss. I’ll have to allocate a week to see that one next time I visit Paris. It’s huge. Mona will have to wait some
more to see me…
I have to say that I enjoyed the food we ate in Paris. I can’t recall any great dinners, because we didn’t visit any restaurants, as we were too busy exploring. However we always had great lunches, usually whipped up with fresh ham and some brie from a local deli, some bread from the patisserie, completed with a cake of some description. Tres bien. Breakfast was often from the same place, and was usually a spinach and tuna quiche. Then we’d stroll down to a café that Clare found, where she’d down her coffee, and then half of my hot chocolate, before ordering another for herself. I think she had the hots for the waiter personally ;-)
I’ll be back again one day.
There are lots of pictures to see here. I thought I'd let the captions do the talking.
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