Posted by: jimndianne | November 17, 2009

We’re in Paris!

17 November 2009 France (final day)

Yes, we’re in Paris and it’s raining! Shades of Rome… Off into Paris on the A.1 to return our trusty Citroen C4 to National Rental Cars. Despite the peak hour morning traffic, which was at a snail’s pace all the way in, we had no trouble locating the Gare du Nord (north railway station), where we were to leave it, but actually getting into the car drop-off area was hideous due to ‘no left turn’ signs. After several circuits of the area, and fraying tempers, we triumph – and enter the sub-terrain six floors underneath the station where it was eerily claustrophobic, depositing the car into its bay.

From there on it was all fun! After purchasing a book of Metro tickets we chose to first 009 visit the Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. Map in hand and on foot now, we hiked uphill via at least 100 steps to the site of the famous Sacre Coeur Cathedral, immediately finding ourselves within a sea of tourists of all nationalities. It was with some surprise that we noticed several women sitting on the ground begging right at the very doors of the cathedral. Although the weather had cleared up somewhat, it was so cold and very hazy and so our photos of the vista from that high place do not show it at its best advantage.

A few paces further and we were right in the Montmartre, or artists’ area, which was just magical! As a very minor artist myself it was wonderful to amble round to study each artist’s style and flair. Many were of an advanced age, too, and apart from  just a few tourists having th013eir portraits drawn, it 020

appeared there was little business being done. We did not purchase anything, having no room in our suitcases for extra items and already owning quite enough paintings in any case. We were by now becoming quite hungry but as the prices in the cafes there were rather extortionate (coffees around 5-7 Euros) we descended via a few quite steep streets into another better-priced area. Over Crocque Monsieur (grilled French cheese on toasted bread) and a great salad, we filled our growling tummies. A French couple (Nadine & Erik), originally from Paris but now living in Cannes, sitting at an adjacent table began a conversation with us asking where we were from and they were delightful! We ended up exchanging email addresses and felt they were the kind of people we’d love to catch up with again sometime in the future! The French everywhere are just so friendly!

When in Toulouse we noticed a unique idea, that of a great little business where smart 025 bicycles are attached to a lock on an adjacent pole. Once the required amount of money was paid into a machine in a booth nearby, this would release the bicycle for use! We saw many people riding them as they were a very conspicuous shade of red. In Paris we also saw these racks and racks of bicycles everywhere in a silver colour. Perhaps a bond has to be paid first in order to ensure that the bicycle is returned to a rack.

We again entered the Metro system in order to get as close as we could to the Arc de 032 Triomphe, at the end of the Champs Elysees. There was some nostalgia at this point as we recalled the last time we were near this landmark, in 1992, with both of our daughters, after visiting Barcelona and then Expo in Seville, Spain. Walking a 030 major part of the Champs Elysees, past the expensive designer stores and restaurants, to stand right in front of the Arc de Triomphe, was such an amazing feeling being right there amongst all of that history! So much to see and not enough time right now.

As we also wanted to  revisit the Eiffel Tower that day and the light was beginning to 023 fade somewhat, we hailed a taxi which sped us across 034the bridge over the River Seine with its huge tourist boats. There it was – the magnificent Eiffel Tower – and we were soon standing right under it! More nostalgia…  In order to ascend the Tower we were first required to undergo a security check, where all personal items are searched, before we were able to queue for tickets to either the 2nd or 3rd level. Being the adrenaline junkies that we are we 041 opted for the latter. Quite some time was spent in queuing, I might add at this point, as there were only two lifts operating instead of the normal four. As the lift began its slow ascent, there were gasps all round from the many tourists and if we thought it was high at the 2nd level we had still another 700 mtrs 037 or so to reach the 3rd level. It was exciting yet scary looking down from that lift, I can tell you. Finally at the top, we were released into an absolutely freezing wind, such cold air, and lucky there is security wire from the railings going right overhead or there would have been many hats and scarves taking off into the wild blue yonder! The most incredible views could be seen of the entire city of Paris and we could pin-point many of the major 043 historic buildings and landmarks. It was dark by the time we had queued for the ride down and all of Paris had put its lights on just for us! We were very lucky to have viewed the city in daylight and in darkness.

After a delicious casual dinner (with wine!) in the Gare du ‘este  (their stations are not like ours – they are very upmarket), we caught 044the 350 bus back to our Hotel near the airport, arriving about 9.30pm. It had been quite a day, one to remind us that we must come back to Paris again before too long as there is much, much more to see. With suitcases packed up at the ready for our 7.45am departure from the hotel, we fall into bed on our last full day in France.


Responses

  1. Looking at your photos brings back such lovely memories of my weekend in Paris with a bus load of Dutch ladies………where are you off to now.


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