Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A weekend in Paris and more sweeping generalisations

We spent the weekend in Paris as my birthday present. A fact that many Aussies, especially my Mum, were very jealous about. Her suggestion (repeated multiple times) was for Lee to find a cafe in London called Paris, and take me to that.

Unfortunately for Mum, Lee had already bought tickets on the Eurostar to take us to the real deal. We stayed in a Parisien hotel (small, but clean), which had been freshly decorated in pink and silver throughout, right down to the paper placemats on the breakfast table.

Even though we were very tired by the time we reached our hotel, we went exploring the nearby streets. To our surprise, we came across the Moulin Rouge - and now claim to be the best accidental tourists ever! On the walk back to our hotel, I worked up my courage and ordered a crepe from a street vendor in French, it tasted even sweeter because of my success.

French breakfast was scrumptious! We stuffed ourselves with fresh croissant (with jam or nutella), baguette (with jam or ham and cheese), and coffee/juice. It was so good, I would list it as a highlight.

As a vehicle to compare my two Big City experiences, London and Paris, I'm going to compare the inner-city rail.

Le Metro
  • Cheap. 1.50 Euro per trip
  • Full. I don't know if it's the seat layout or just that everyone uses it, I think it's the second
  • Frequent
The Underground
  • Brightly lit, which makes it feel safer
  • Cleaner
  • Low curved ceiling, fits fewer Lee-sized people
  • Stations closer together, probably so that you don't have to walk in the rain
  • Below ground and warm
  • Also frequent

For the itemised weekend, please read on..
Saturday morning after a sleep in and some breakfast we walked all the way down to the Eiffel Tower. All the apartments we passed were decorated with lace iron-work and often window boxes of flowers, very pretty. We passed through the "Paris-end" of Paris, where all the expensive shops were: Chanel, Swatch.. We walked along the Seine river, hand in hand, a romantic couple in Paris... It was also the first time that I could kiss Lee in more than 7 weeks, because of our separation and a cold sore. (Happy sigh)

As we got closer and closer to the Eiffel Tower, it became obvious that it was just a giant black metal structure. It was quite ugly. There were at least 50 individuals hawking miniature Towers and a line of people from one 'foot' to the other, 3 across, lining up just to go up it. I decided I didn't need to wait to do that and instead we jumped on a ferry to Notre Dame Cathedral.

It was about lunch-time, so we head to the "Little Island" for some lunch. We ended up at a Crepiere and were very thankful for the use of their toilet by that stage. Walking along the touristy street we examined knick-knacks and stopped for a treat - mine was fruit with chocolate fondu. Absolutely delicious and a real highlight! I'll be going back for more.

The "Big Island" is home to the Notre Dame Cathedral. The outside is completely over-the-top with gargoyles and other stone features, in Gothic style. We spent about 2 hours inside examining the paintings, stained glass windows and stone carvings. We were led by an audio guide obviously compiled by the Catholic Church, which Lee didn't appreciate too much.

From 20100508 Paris

From 20100508 Paris

Soon after we were done there, it began to rain, so we jumped back onto the ferry and made our way back to the Champs-Elysees, singing all the way thanks to Mme MacPherson (Year 8-12 French teacher - "Oh, Champs-Elysees La-la la-laa la"). We strolled along to the end, took a look at the Arc de Triumphe from the safe side of the street. The approx 8 lanes of traffic (and I say approximately, because even with lines, it's not really clear around that roundabout) is neck-risking.

From 20100508 Paris

We found a nice little place on the Champs-Elysees for dinner and enjoyed a nice bottle of wine together. We then headed to a cocktail bar to enjoy Monica's birthday present to me - I had a couple of "Ultimate Joan Collins" and Lee a couple of Mojitos.
From 20100508 Paris

From 20100508 Paris

Sunday, the forecast was for poor visibility and poor weather, so we spent the day at the Louvre. After trying to read the museum tags in French, we decided a better investment was the audio guide. I had two favourite parts. One was looking at the rollers made from ivory or something else like stone, which were polished into cylinders and engraved with carvings. These were used to imprint spherical blocks of clay that were used to record the transport of goods. The detail and precision was amazing 1000s of years BC.
From 20100508 Paris

My second favourite part was looking at the emotion and movement that artists were able to capture on marble statues - just so lifelike.

From 20100508 Paris

From 20100508 Paris

My overall impression is that humans have been smart for a very long time and we're not unique in our intelligence or skill.

We made it through less than half of the museum, and decided that just like the rest of Paris, we had only just had a taste, and that we'd be back soon to sample more.

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