Thursday, September 13, 2007

A wee Tour de France

I'm not sure about the point where the tale of my travels becomes boring but blogs are all about choice and so if I give you fair warning, you can choose whether or not you read on ...

We're home and have spent most of the day settling back into the nest of our small world. There was a contract and a press pass to deal with, a lovely real letter from a special New Zealander called Carrick and blog comments I needed time to reply to.

My back is still isn't perfect but it's so much less painful that I almost feel cured.

2 nights in Paris,
5 nights deep in the countryside of Normandy
2500kms and so much good food and wine...

The details?
I'm completely in love with Paris now.

The highlight was our visit to Notre Dame, just a short walk from our hotel in downtown Paris.

It was stunning enough to simply be there and wandering but while inside Notre Dame a Mass began and it seemed like one they were singing in Latin ... maybe I'm wrong but whatever it was, it was truly sublime. I felt like I should have paid 200euro for a ticket to hear the glorious voices of the 2 singers. I leaned back on a pillar there in the church and realised I had never really known how to dream the reality of Paris back in my childhood days growing up in small town, New Zealand.

We walked back along the Seine as the sun was going down and the light made a beautiful evening that much more beautiful.

The following day was jam-packed in a relatively leisurely way. We bought 2-day metro passes and started the day at a sidewalk cafe with the best cafe au lait I've had in forever.

We visited the glass pyramids outside the Louvre, Europe's oldest, biggest, greatest and second-most-crowded museum (after the Vatican), knowing we didn't have time to visit the museum this time(they recommend at least a day when wandering there). We walked through Paris' grandest park, the Tuileries Garden ... once the property of kings and queens according to Rick Steve's and his very useful 2007 guide to France.

Then we were on our way to the Arc de Triomphe, rising above the huge concentration of traffic round its feet and that too was duly photographed ... it was about then that we realised there was dust either on the mirror of the digital camera (which depressed me immensely) or inside one of the lenses ... but which one because being immersed in Paris doesn't allow much space for rational scientific thought.

We strolled along Champs-Elysees which no longer seems like a place where horse-drawn carriage traffic might choose to cruise. Rick's description seemed about right, he wrote that it all seemed a bit hamburgerized.

Onto the metro and up to Trocadero for a light sandwich lunch before walking down to the Eiffel Tower, an approach I would truly recommend. Visually, the tower had much more of an impact on me from that side.

Montemartre was beckoning, so we popped over there via the metro and caught the funicular up to Sacre-Coeur and Place du Tertre's artists. The metro pass has all kinds of benefits, you can use it for the funicular and buses as well ... just over 14euro buys you two days of wandering as you please, often off the beaten tourist tracks.

Paris kept surprising me and I found the sublime often. It was up there at Sacre-Coeur in all kinds of things, from the view out over Paris (the hill is 420 feet high), to the peace found inside the 5-domed Roman-Byzantine basilica. Begun in 1875, it took 44 years to build.

There was the truly delicious sour cherry ice cream and the laughter inducing artists, trying to charm everyone into having a portrait done.

We had dinner at Jean Bart, a little bar tabac near our hotel. The food was good and the waiter hilariously casual. Our traveling companions disappeared off into the Parisian tour that promised a city of lights but they returned deeply disappointed. Apparently most of the city lights are out these days and the guide wasn't very informative.

And that was our first full day in Paris.


Antipodeesse said...

That person in turquoise in front of the Pyramide provides a stunning focal point.

Di Mackey said...

Now I peer at your photograph, checking for pink stripes antipodesse when I arrive at your comment :)

I loved the 'pyramid cleaning' guy in turquoise. I circled him and his work mate, taking photographs at a distance because somehow, the mundane and the spectacular of it all delighted me.