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Published: October 4th 2013
- St Pancras to Paris via Eurostar. Ron thinks the station is St Pancreas – the patron saint of diabetics. There were so many food shops!
Moving right along; St Pancras is a delightful building with plenty of places to spend money. For those of you that haven’t tried it, the Eurostar train is a brilliant, comfortable journey that makes air travel redundant – brilliant 300 kph in smooth comfort. After only a short time in the chunnel we came to the surface and realised we must now be in France.
Timhotel; perfect location but very small. The elevator was only large enough for two people or one + bags. The shower was so small we could not bend over to pick up the soap. A squat from the knees was necessary. If you turned around you would almost certainly bump the tap and turn off the water. Despite this, the room was comfortable, modern and very clean. The location was unbeatable. After unwinding a little, we left the hotel and in five minutes had walked past the Louvre, crossed the Seine at Ponte Des Artes; a pedestrian bridge festooned
with millions of padlocks on the side railings. The idea is that couples would write their names on the padlock, fix it to the railing and throw the key into the river, signifying their endless love. There were touts on the bridge willing to sell you a suitable padlock. Ron was bemused by the sight of a few combination locks hanging on the rails. Were these couples hedging their bets? We then took a short stroll along West Bank, returning via Pont Neuf.
- picked up at 8am and with 4 others, driven to Versailles by Sebastian Vettel. 80 to 100kph through Parisian streets, swerving wildly across from the fast lane to make the exits.
Drove under the Eiffel Tower so fast we almost missed it.
Versailles is breathtaking in its opulence, luxury and grandeur. Words fail. We can understand why the peasants revolted, but what an enduring legacy. Hordes of people but this did not matter. Incredible works of art and architecture.
Back in the real world of today’s Paris we chilled out strolling through Tuileries; fountains, wonderful lawns, flower beds, splendid vistas. Yes, Paris is certainly
the city of romance. Finished the loop at Place de la Concorde, the obelisk, postcard views of the Eiffel Tower then cruised the expensive shops in rue de Saint Honore. A few wrist watches for 40,000 Euros and there were some expensive ones as well. A Bentley GT convertible with air scoops and wide wheels was parked outside Cartier.
Evening dinner cruise on Bateau Le Calife from quai Malaquais. Again just a 5 minute walk from our hotel. A great evening, surprisingly good food, brilliant scenery and Eiffel tower light show, good company from Paula, Sheena (from UK), Brenda & Kevin (from Houston). The world wide reaction to Princess Diana’s death was discussed; and Ron tactfully noted that it was indeed nice that the Queen played the piano and sang at her funeral. Paula and Sheena were in tears.
- Isle de la Citie, Conciergerie. The plant nursery / garden shops on Isle de la Citie were a surprise and a delightful diversion.
Notre Dame was, of course, all you would expect and as with London’s St Pauls was a testament to the human spirit and very moving. More words
cannot encapsulate these glorious structures of stained glass, sculptures, spires, and flying buttresses. Later in the surrounding gardens a pretty girl tried to scam Judy for cash – no luck for her.
As with London, riding the Metro is a piece of cake. Ticketing is dead simple and stress free for visitors. Every Victorian politician and Melbourne City Councillor should be forced to try these transport networks.
Took the Metro to Gallery LaFayette, incredible dome, expensive designer goods. All worth seeing.
In the evening we hit Moulin Rouge – everything you would expect, a bit cheesy but sensational fun and oh so very French. There was a nip in the air, great sets, and the stage design was great as well.
- Le Louvre – wow! Too big for one day but we concentrated on the Egyptians and the Flemish Masters. Oh yeah; we did see La Giaconda (Mona Lisa for the uneducated) and Venus de Milo. Amazed by the number of punters that would almost run up to an exhibit – camera snap – then off to the next one. We are sure they
had not even seen what they were photographing. Also, why do people stop and stand in doorways and on the stairs?
Arc De Triomphe, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; some moments of quiet reflection amid the turmoil of the surrounding traffic. We found out later that no French car insurance policy will cover a driver for an accident at the Arc De Triomphe.
Champs Elysees – walked the entire length, fine shopping, Swedish ice cream, yumm!
- Jardin des Luxembourg; a more formal (Roman?) style of gardens. Could have sat there all day taking in the serenity. Lots of Gendarmes and model sailboats. Met our Parisian friend Fabrice for lunch. The 13-50 Euro special for 3 courses was great value.
Walked to Printemps through narrow glass ceiling shopping arcades and found a roof top café offering sweeping views of Le Opera and all of Paris.
Then more quaint streetscapes, narrow lanes and many steps later; Notre Dame. Artists galore, & late drinks in the square at Montmartre, serenaded by a French Melissa Etheridge street performer, pretty streets with turning leaves, dinner down the hill; 3 courses
for 30 Euro.
- SNCF at 315 kph to Tours & Marjolaine
Rental car & driving on wrong side of road agggghhhh! “Keep out of the gutter Ron!” Very narrow lanes and Judy complaining how fast Ron is driving whilst at the same time farm machinery was attempting to overtake us.
Amboise for lunch and then off to see Chateau Chenonceau. Incredible! Incredible! Amazing to think it was used as a conduit by the Resistance in the 2nd
WW to smuggle escapees across the river Cher. Yes it was sunny. Sunny and Cher. Do we have to spell it out? Sing “c’est la vie”.
- a day with Marjo in Tours. As of one month ago, they now have Trams! Was at one stage the capital of France. Such a restful city with the beauty and history of Paris but not the bustle. The original Baslica de St Martin dates to around the year 400! A cathedral as old as Notre Dame, and a stop off for Joan of Arc in the 15th
century to visit the then uncrowned French King Charles VII in Chinon on her way to fight the English. Our stopover was less dramatic. Home cooked meals and enduring friendships.
- Early start to return rental car and catch trains to Paris / Basel / Lucerne. “Bessie” the nice English lady in the sat nav completely took us to the wrong place. Fortunately Ron remembered the name of the street for Gare Saint Pierre des Corps and fed in any old cross road to keep Bessie happy and we made it with minutes to spare. Phew!
Arrive in Paris Montparnasse with in an hour and had forty minutes to make the transfer to Gare du Lyon – approx 30 min taxi ride. No Taxis at the official Gare Montparnasse taxi rank. 60+ people waiting, three taxis come in 35 minutes, taking only a single passenger.
Decamp the station and hit the streets. Two taxis we hail in the street reject us because we must go to the “official rank”. Yes, where there are NO taxis. Finally we find one a kilometre later (all of this dragging our four bags) along the rue de no taxis. This guy asks what time our train leaves and puts his foot down. Wonderful! We have just enough cash in Euros to cover the fare but Ron is so grateful we tip him with an Aussie Twenty Dollar note. He is amazed. We just make the train. The train seems to understand, because it whisks us at 320kph (indicated speed on the electronic panel) to Basel in complete comfort and de-stresses our troubled brows.
French waiters are supposed to be rude. Not in our experience. Everyone we dealt with was friendly and helpful.
On to Switzerland ……….
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