Kelly is going to get FAT on this trip - he is yet to meet a pastry that he doesn't like and there is a patisserie every few steps in Paris. However, considering we have logged nearly 30 kms walking in two days - and don't forget the 300 steps up to the dome of Sacre Coeur, the 450 steps to the top of Notre dame and the 600 steps up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower - he might just be ok.
We arrived in Paris 8am local time May 26 (midnight our time) and after depositing our bags at the Hotel Chopin in Passage Joffrey (off blvd Montmartre) set off to explore.
Despite Air Canada saying we would get a continental breakfast before we landed, it didn't transpire so first priority was food - and so begins the white bread diet - love those baguettes. I also love the outside seating style in the cafes - all the seats are side by side so there is great people watching- and you both have great views
Refuelled, it was time for a hike up the hill through Montmartre to the Basilica
of Sacre Coeur . Like sheep we followed the crowd inside, only to discover there was a service going on so high tailed it outside. Then we saw the sign to the dome and after duly paying our 6 euro each, climbed the narrow spiral staircase the top and fantastic views of the city with the iconic Eiffel Tower in the distance.
By 2pm our room was ready and after a couple of hours nap it was off to the Eiffel Tower. The plan was to walk from metro station Invalides - however due to a huge demonstration in the area, the exits were blocked off and we had to continue on a different line to a closer access point. All the photos of the Eiffel Tower do not prepare you for the real thing!!! The lineups didn't seem too bad and we started the 600 step climb to the second stage fairly quickly. The remainder of the ascent to the top had to be done in an elevator. There were two lineups and wisely we chose the line that was on the sunny side - it was quite cool in the wind. Someone behind us in
the lineup likened the view of the rooftops to Lego land and that is exactly what they looked like. Waiting gave Kelly plenty of time to look at the structure and make comments like - the sheer weight of this should have made it collapse already!
Heading back to our hotel we waked back along the Seine to the Invalides bridge- only to find it was barricaded by police in full riot gear - the demonstration was still going on. Watching the canal boats turn around in the fast moving water and getting tourist photos used up the time and before we knew it, it was 915pm and we hadn't eaten for a few hours. So after finding our way back, we sat down at the zephyr for raw steak and a cheese plate.
Day 2: After a much needed sleep in and breakfast at the hotel (7 euro for cereal, fruit salad , bread, croissant, jam, fresh orange juice and tea/coffee) it was off to the Ile de la citie to see Saint Chapelle ( awesome stained glass in a medieval gothic church built 12 39 to 1248) and Notre Dame. The line
up to get into Notre Dame was huge but we just sidled up to the entrance and blended in with a large group kids. One of the most interesting aspects of the cathedral was the treasury - so much wealth belonging to the church. The line to go up the tower was at least two hours long (they let 20 people in every 10 minutes) so regrettably we passed on that activity for now.
We promenaded along the left bank of the Seine ( past all the stalls selling artwork) and meandered into the Latin quarter in search of food (baguette with cheese and tomato), and then back via the Pont de l'archevete - the sides of the bridge are filled with locks (symbolic of love) to Isle de Louis. We passed by a patisserie with a huge lineup - that meant it must be good - so bought a snack.
Pere lachaise cemetery opened for business in 1804 and since then over 1 million bodies have been buried in the 44 ha grounds - once they are decomposed they are often moved out for cremation. Many famous people are buried - hence the
tourist attraction- even with a map ( which we didn't have) it was a challenge finding famous graves among the crowded moss covered tombs. There was some clearing out of old graves happening, making room for more bodies. Someone well known was having a funeral that day - crowds were lining the entry and there were TV cameras everywhere
Sitting over a glass of wine, we decided to try our luck back at Notre Dame - looked like only an hour of so to get into the tower so we we joined the line. The narrow and
steep spiral staircase seemed to go on forever but finally we were face to face with the gargoyles. Coming back down the stairs is even more dizzying and it was a relief to get on flat ground.
The dinner plan was to walk back up into Montmartre where we had seen many restaurants the previous day. No need for a map cos Kelly is well known for his sense of direction. Well.... 90 minutes later we were back eating across the street from our hotel after having got totally lost in deepest darkest Montmartre - Kelly's
excuse - I only know where I am going if I'm paying attention.
By the end of day two, our diet had consisted of meat and bread products . Vegetables - what are they? This is a land of carnivores - the wine is good though
Day 3 and it was up early to go to the Palace of Versailles.Tuesday - Talk about being inappropriately dressed in shorts and sandals - all the other 100's of tourists had read the weather forecast and were dressed in more suitable warm clothing.
The palace of Versailles - what can I say but WOW - no wonder there was a revolution - so much wealth flaunted by so few. Gold leaf was the paint of choice and the Hall of Mirrors - stunning. We tried to hang around long enough to see the musical fountains, but it was kind of pathetic plus we were wet and cold.
Returning to the train station, the entry gates were all roped off - we got the gist of "technical problem" but there was another train station in town - go left then right. Unfortunately
there was a "left" missing in the translation and we ended up among a lot of houses on the other side if town. We are starting to get a whole new appreciation of those Amazing Race teams who can"t find their way out of a paper bag
We transferred back onto the metro after we reached Gare Montparnasse - and i left Kelly at Chatelet metro for some culture. Arriving at the Louvre I was surprised there was no lineup - but that was because it was closed. so it was off to the musee d'orsay which houses a lot of impressionist and post impressionist paintings. The line up was scary looking but as i had a museum pass it only took 20 minutes to get inside - and 20 minutes to leave again! I think i am deprived of the art gene but it was pretty cool to see the originals. The marble sculptures were impressive though so I headed to the musee Rodin next. Inside the building were some of his originals like "the thinker" while outside in the garden were large replicas- very cool.
I hung around long enough for a
heavy downpour of rain to finish the it was time to make my way back to the Chopin. I was doing pretty good until I lost my map some where round the Jardin des Tuileries. Fortunately there was a tourist office on the next corner so I went in for a map- the one I was given was such a tiny scale, I couldn't read anything. When I told the tourist lady I wanted to go to Blvd Montmartre she was horrified - mais Madame eet eez at least 20 minutes to walk.
She gave me directions that weren't too clear so it was great relief that I recognized the Academie de Musique as we had already visited, being attracted by all the gold leaf. I knew exactly where I was.
We ate dinner at a bistro in the Passage Panorama - very tasty food even if the raw honeyed duck that I got was grossing me out. We were sitting outside the restaurant in the passage and we felt just like Louis and Marie Antoinette with everyone watching us eat - at Versailles we learnt that it was an honour to be invited
to watch the king and/ or queen eat, bathe, go to bed etc.
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