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Published: March 17th 2010
2009 brought about a (slightly) significant birthday so I thought there was no better way to celebrate than dragging a gaggle of friends and running off to Paris for a 4 day extravaganza of eating, drinking and site seeing! Let me state here, despite the wintery problems, Eurostar rocks as a way to get between London and Paris. Jump on the train in central London and a couple of hours later you are in central Paris - the time it takes you to check in for a flight and you are already enjoying a different world without the liquid restrictions.
I first visited Paris a few years ago and can't say I was especially thrilled with it, but as everyone always raves about it what better way to celebrate than giving a place a second go? Travelling these days is a little different to back on my first European trip, when backpacking and budgets were the main focus. The second visit to Paris was special, not just because it was for a significant moment in my life, but because I got to rediscover a city and reassess my impressions ... and the result ... yep, it's love!
spent arriving and finding our hotel, a little place in Montparnasse, not your average tourist neighbourhood (bless!) which meant that English was off the menu, but good local French cuisine was on. Lunch in a local cafe then into the city to do a little shopping on Blvd Saint-Germaine and an hour or two to take in the beauty that is Notre Dame. I love being a tourist and checking out the sites and this is one no-one should miss when in Paris. I don't advocate spending all your time in a city ticking off a list, but if you don't spend some time marvelling at the achievements of the past, why visit at all? Do it, see it and if you get there in time do the tower and fall in love with gargoyles up close as you gaze over Paris. Friday night after a nap (it is a holiday after all) we headed off to Pigalle for a quick dinner then my birthday treat ... the Moulin Rouge! It is soooooo amazingly over the top (not that there are many tops in the show) with the glitz, tassles and feathers - a great night out and well worth
it. It was one of those wonderfully tacky shows which actually works. Finally left about 2 am then headed back to Saint-Germaine to find a bar and more Champagne to close out a first fab day.
Saturday not such an early start, bit of phaffing around trying to gather various troups then back into central Paris to find bikes to cycle the fair city. Paris has Velib bikes scattered all through the city where you pay through the nose to hire bikes for as little as a couple of blocks (free for up to 1/2 hour) or increasingly escalating rates for a few hours! You do have to leave a credit card deposit, but basically you swipe, grab and go. I love doing bike tours (self or guide led) as it's a great way to cover a lot of ground and see the city you are in. The metro system is really efficient, but you don't see much underground. The route was essentially from Notre Dame, along the banks of the Seine a stop for tea opposite the Lourve, under and around the Eiffel Tower, a circuit of Parc du Champs de Mars, across the Pont d'lena through the
Palais de Challot, down Avenue du President Wilson then back along the other side of the Seine, cut up to the Champs Elysees, across Place de la Concorde, through Jardin des Tulieres (no riding allowed, apparently), back past the Lourve and back to the beginning! It was a little hairy in places, but there are lots of bike lanes in Paris, especially on the main routes but nerves of steel and the odd bit of praying make it a fun little adventure! Saturday night was a quiet one, drinks at a local bar in Montparnasse then a local restaurant, then another bar and a 3am finish.
Sunday, day of local farmers market on Rue de la Convention, the place to be for your fresh fruit, veg, meat and fish, but for us a bit more culture with a visit to Sainte-Chapelle then off to Montmartre and Basilique du Sacre Coeur. They certainly knew how to build churches in those days, light, full of colour and space - both essential visiting. I've always wanted to spend some time in Montmartre as it has the reputation for the bohemian, artistic lifestyle. Commerciallism may have won out over the true romanticism of
that reputation, but it was still nice to wander the streets and look at the art. Managed to pick up a little souvenir painting in one of the galleries as if the trip wasn't a nice enough present to myself. Dinner that night was near Les Halles as it was central and we were winding down to a perfectly respectable 1am ish finish.
Monday, last day in Paris and despite a long list of things I wanted to do but will have to leave for next visit (Catacombes, Seine boat trip at sundown, actully go into the Lourve for once) ... I did get my final wish ... to climb the Eiffel Tower. After waiting forever in an impossibly long line we realised it was for the lift and skipped to the foot powered option instead! Definitely worth the climb up through the structure and with quite wide shallow stairs, not as challenging as some of those narrow 300+ church towers scattered throughout the world. No idea how many steps, but you climb to the first level for a bit of history, off to the second for a bit and a better view and then grab a lift to
the top to work out how far you are from the rest of the world (quite far for some and not that far for others!). Paris essentially done and dusted for this trip, bags, station, Eurostar and home. Paris, I'll be back!
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