Monday, October 03, 2011

why, oh why, do I love Paris?....

Moira+I had been to Paris a number of times before, but the last time was TWELVE years ago - which seemed a little scary when we realised. We decided to spend three/four days there to round off our boating trip and travelled into Paris on the train, having said our fond farewells to Chris+Lal in Montbard. We found our way to our hotel in Montmartre without any problems (apart from me getting my luggage stuck in the doors of the underground train TWICE within a matter of seconds – much to the considerable amusement/irritation of the other passengers!).
Stayed at the Best Western Hotel in Boulevard Barbes - about 10 minute walk from Sacre Coeur - in what is described as the “lively Montmartre district” (the area certainly had an “edgy” feel to it, especially at night, but we didn’t have any problems). Having dumped our luggage, we walked up to Sacre Coeur to look out across the city. Both the view and the church are stunning beautiful, but I’m afraid it was depressingly (and predictably) FULL of tourists and the cafes and streets felt as if they’d be “Disneyfied”. We sought refuge in the Montmartre Museum (expensive for what it was but, thankfully, lacking in hoards of people!). Had an excellent meal in the evening at La Mandiciotte restaurant in Rue Lepic.
The following (gloriously sunny) day, we caught the Metro to the Eiffel Tour and walked along the banks of the Seine to Notre Dame and then on to the Pompidou Centre. Really lovely walking through Jardin des Tuileries (where we stopped for lunch) and very impressed by Musee de L’Orangerie (Monet’s wonderful “Water Lilies”, plus lots of other beautiful pieces by Chagal, Picasso, Modigliani etc). The last time we’d been in Paris, the Pompidou Centre had been closed and so we were determined to see it this time. Initial impressions weren’t very positive – it looked rather drab (and difficult to keep clean!) and the ground floor entrance area left a lot to be desired. However, the “square” to the west side was full of people, relaxing, and the upper gallery spaces were excellent (with a wealth of good-quality, contemporary art); city views from the top floor terraces were fantastic. Enjoyed another evening meal in another restaurant in Rue Lepic (“Les Trois Coups”).
Sunday was another beautiful sunny day and we caught the Metro south of the river to visit the Musee National du Moyen Age (at Alan+Gareth’s suggestion) – housed in C15th former L'Hotel des Abbes de Cluny. Absolutely beautiful building and some wonderful artefacts (including six charming “Lady with the Unicorn” tapestries). Coffee in Place du Pantheon, followed by simple sandwich lunch, before walking to Place des Vosges (1605-12, classical square) – a rather grander version of Queens Square, Bristol! Sat in the shade of an avenue of trees and read for a while. Returned to the hotel via Bastille – where there was some form of “reclaim the streets” demonstration by hundreds of cyclists (much to the “amusement” of other road-users!). Another evening meal in yet another lovely restaurant in Rue Lepic (“Des Si and Des Mets” – apparently, the first restaurant entirely gluten free in France!).
Final morning spent having coffee in Place Des Abbesses and, finally (we failed on day two!), finding our way into the amazing Cimetiere de Montmartre – a quiet sanctuary set under a raised roadway, packed with family vaults (many looking more like sentry boxes to me!). Arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in plenty of time – only for our flight to be delayed by nearly three hours (technical fault resulting in them having to swap planes).
The only real “blip” to what, for us, had been a magical return to France.
Photo: montage of Paris images.
PS: As a lover of the “Amelie”, I regret to say that I failed to have a coffee in the café featured in the film (Café les Deux Moulins)!
PPS: you can see more Paris pics by clicking

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