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Published: April 17th 2019
Notre Dame in happier times
We won't be seeing the roof and spire for a while.
It is sad to sit down to write this blog just after reading about the devastating fire at Notre Dame. It is indeed a sad time for Parisians, the French and, indeed, all of us. It’s hard to believe we were just there being amazed at the beauty of this incredible structure. Luckily we have our memories.
Our trip to France was planned around our two cat-sit opportunities rather than anything else. We planned to end up in Belgium to visit the friends we met in Italy in 2016. So, what to do in the other days? Well, you can’t go to France without spending at least a week in Paris (we thought), and we also had a couple of other places in mind. After shuffling the dates around we came up with a plan. Not as good a plan as we might have generated if we had thought things through. Arriving in Paris
Paris has a bunch of railway stations but the one that arrives from Montpellier happens to be reasonably well located for our AirBnB. Dianne had wanted to stay in the same one we used in 2017 but, like the AirBnB in Lyon, the price
Second biggest church in Paris that houses a famous organ
had gone up just a little too much. This one turned out to be even better located in the Latin Quarter, closer to the Luxembourg gardens, the Pantheon and most of the things we wanted to be able to walk to.
But first we had to get there. In light of the unrest in France, it is recommended that you don’t leave or arrive in Paris on a Saturday. We booked into our AirBnB on a Saturday and leave on a Saturday! Most of the travel difficulties involve the area of the Champs Élysées which is not that close to the Gare de Lyon or our AirBnB. But to get to the AirBnB, out host suggested not using the metro; use the number 63 bus. Google aps help me plan an easy way to get there. Finding the bus stop in the huge station was a bit tricky, but we did find it. The bus was turned off and no driver was aboard. We waited. A few other people showed up. Hmmmmm. After a few more minutes, a driver showed up and in rapid fire French, said (I’m paraphrasing) “No bus” and walked away. Dianne had cleverly arranged a
Watching people move in and out of the old buildings is fun. Can't imagine trying to carry furniture up and down some of the stairways. Same for materials during renovations.
temporary French SIM card so we texted our host for suggestions and he said take a cab. A good suggestion, but expensive on the weekend. We could have walked; we have walked further from a station to a location but, with the unknowns involved, we took a taxi. The apartment
An elevator (the apartment is on the fourth floor), large, bright, lots of windows, a huge table (didn’t have to fold up my PC to eat), nice chairs, a comfy bed, laundry. What else could you ask for? Well, toilet paper for one. Luckily we noticed there was only the half roll on a shelf. Gives new meaning to picking up a six pack when you are at the store. There were a couple of other minor whoopsies but on balance, the place was great.
The other interesting aspect to this rental was getting the key. A lot of AirBnB rentals rely on lock boxes to transfer keys. We prefer to meet the landlord as it gives one a chance to learn a bit about the local environment but we have successfully stayed in several places without meeting the host. Our instructions on this one were a
We casually walk by some impressive places. Of course, in the Latin quarter you are often walking by one of the buildings of the Sorbonne.
bit different. We had to stop at the butcher shop around the corner and ask for “Rosalina’s key”. Not sure what happens if the butcher shop is closed. Similar process when we left. Didn’t meet François (the owner) or Rosilina (the manager) but the rental was fine. Dianne mentioned that the butcher was very friendly (no English, but a great smile). And he later sold us a chicken which was delicious. History walk with a difference
Because we had been in Paris two years ago, we decide to spend most of our time outside. Our apartment in the Latin Quarter is really well located for this activity. As our first full day in Paris was a Sunday, we started by charting a course to the second largest church in Paris, St Sulpice. There were two reasons for this: first, it was Sunday and second, one of Dianne’s ancestors, Louis Hebert was born in Paris in 1575 near this church. We wondered if he had attended services at this same church. In her research for this trip, Dianne had encountered a reference to a Paris address for Louis so we thought it would be fun to walk down the
Dianne at her ancestor's birthplace
Since it was almost 400 years between the birth dates, we lost track of the number of "great-greats".
same street. We were astounded to see a plaque on the wall referencing him and his work in Quebec. Amazing.
Our trip home took us through some parts of Paris we had never seen. And, surprisingly, we came to another church. It was so big it was hard to think that it could be smaller than St Sulpice. It had great displays including some unusual murals. And no trip to Paris could omit a trip to the Luxembourg Gardens, one of Dianne’s favourite places. This visit included crackers, cheese and a bottle of wine. Oops. Later, we discovered a sign indicating no liquor. We had been discreet, just in case. Some old favorites, some new
I have run across the name Montparnasse in books and TV shows but hadn’t made it into the area on our last trip. After carefully charting out a slightly circuitous route, we trudged off towards the Montparnasse. The name apparently came from the nickname “Mount Parnassus” given to a hill where students used to hang out but the “mountain” was leveled to construct a roadway in the 18th century. The most obvious feature today is the Tour Montparnasse, a 59 story office
Born here in 1575. He was an apothecary in France and is credited with being the first farmer in New France. There is a monument to him in Quebec City (we haven't seen it yet). There is also one to his wife who was the first (European) teacher in New France.
tower that really seems out of place in urban Paris. So much so that, two years after it was built, a law was passed limiting buildings in the urban centre to seven stories.
A couple of quotes from Google about the tower:
· " It is said that the tower's observation deck enjoys the most beautiful view in all of Paris, because it is the only place from which the tower cannot be seen.
· " A 2008 poll of editors voted the building the second-ugliest building in the world, behind Boston City Hall.
It really can be seen from almost everywhere. But there were lots of other interesting things to see. One was a garden and statue dedicated to the grandes explorateur, one of whom was La Salle who did a lot of his exploring in Canada (we used to live in Ville LaSalle in Montreal). Another was a statue of Marshall Ney, one of Napoleon’s generals. I was quite familiar with Ney from my readings about Napoleon’s many battles (and the Richard Sharpe’s TV series). They listed all the battles in which Ney was involved; there were so many that it took
St Eustace Church
Hard to believe this church is smaller than St Sulpice
both sides of the pedestal to list them.
We casually continued our stroll past such familiar landmarks as Les Invalides (where Napoleon is buried), the Champ de Mars (the huge green space leading up to the Eiffel Tower) and the Eiffel Tower itself. Amazing how you can see so many fantastic sights in one day’s walk.
As we approached the park, we decided it was time for a cappuccino. There was nice brasserie with a couple of outside tables. I gave Dianne a 10 euro note (the sign said cappuccinos were 4,50) and settled in with our bags while she went in and ordered. We did know that outside table service is more expensive than drinking at the bar but this escaped our minds after the long walk. When the barista saw the 10 euro note she asked if that was all Dianne had. Dianne said “yes”, so she took that and delivered them anyway. That’s when we remembered the “rule”. To compensate, I took our dirty dishes up to the bar as we left.
Our original destination was the Bois de Bologne. We had heard many stories about it but hadn’t been there before. It was
Mural in St Eustace
Not what we are used to seeing on the walls in these old churches.
the former hunting grounds of the Kings of France (there’s a surprise) and it is 850 hectares. I’m not metric enough to know how big that is but it is big enough that there are four separate parks in the Bois. We walked as far as the lakes but circumnavigating them was just a walk too far. It is a beautiful area and was worth the effort. Whew!
We had planned to walk home but enough is enough. We took the metro home.
That’s only two days down on our week in Paris. Hopefully, we get to visit some museums so we don’t have to walk so far. ToBeContinued!
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