Getting into Paris
After a teary farewell at the airport with Justine (& grandbaby-bump) we were on the first plane to Singapore. With a dodgy entertainment system, it wasn’t a good start, but things got better after a smooth transition in Singapore and seats at the back of the upstairs section on SA’s big double-decker airbus. Wow those business class seats are huge up there! They literally take up double the space of the economy seats. I couldn’t help looking longingly at them on our way out, after 13hrs of uncomfortable shuffling in the seat trying to get some sleep. Never mind… maybe one day we’ll have enough points to upgrade into those super-comfy looking pods.
We landed in Paris at 7am in the pitch dark. I knew the daylight hours were much shorter in the European winters, but I had no idea the sun wouldn’t actually be visible over the horizon until almost 9am. This is going to take some getting used to.
Paris itself is as beautiful as I remember. On our first day, the sky was clear and blue but the air was so chilly. I am extremely thankful that we had that trip to the shops in Perth & got kitted out with down-filled parkas and waterproof hiking shoes. Combined with my ski gloves and a wonderful wool scarf (thankyou Rod’s exec team!) I was very comfortable exploring the streets & shops of the Marais district. We have a tiny apartment for three days, so tiny it makes our East Perth place almost palatial. It’s a good thing we have acclimatised ourselves to living in smaller & smaller spaces.
The Chatelet Maze
Its now day 2 and we headed out for a bit more exploring today. First stop was to the Sacre Coeur monument up on the hill & to explore the Montmartre quartier. This involved taking three lines on the metro & changing at one of the biggest stations – Chatelet. What a maze that place is! Getting from one line to another involves changing levels, several times, up stairs, down escalators, turn left, veer right, down & up again. If you try to keep any sense of direction in this place you’re a gonner! By knowing which line we wanted (colour/number) and by following the signs, we found our way through this maze, only to be confronted by the huge climb out of the Abbesses metro station. As Sacre-Ceour is up on a hill, the entry to the station is also high up… up and up and up via many stairs, including a long spiral staircase until we again found the light of day. We certainly are getting our excercise here!
After checking out the sights up on the hill – using the funicular railway for the last, steep ascent – we wandered around the area for a bit until we found some cheap clothing stores & bought a couple of items. Wandering some more, we realised we had wandered into a distinctly black area of town so headed down into the nearest metro station & back to our apartment for lunch in the Marais district. A very civilised lunch (squid ink risotto, chardonnay & a deliciously sweet hot apple pudding for me, same but with a chocolate cream/macaroon/coffee sauce concoction for Rod) in a charming little restaurant had us feeling very satisfied. The restaurant was Le Gorille Blanc, named, of course, after a white gorilla.
Unexpected sights & delights
Feeling fortified we set off for a leisurely stroll through the district to see what we could see. This time we passed many many shoe shops (this was seriously tempting) until we came to the town hall of Paris – the Hotel De Ville. The square in front has been converted into an ice-skating rink, much to the delight of all the children, teenagers and adults skating around. As I watched, I was fascinated by the frozen automn leaves caught under the ice, as well as by the many teenagers literally racing each other around the rink, artfully avoiding other skaters in their games. This is definitely a sight completely foreign to Aussies.
On the next block we found the Pompidou centre. This building is famous for having everything on the outside – staircases, the building framework, airconditioning ducting, you name it, its all just there on the outside, but also very colourful. We didn’t go in as there was the typically long long queue outside so we’ll save that for another day. We continued our stroll down towards the Seine & along the banks back to our little abode…. ready for a quiet night in with a fresh baguette, delicious cheeses, fruit, nuts & a bottle of bourgogne pinot noir. Bonne soirée mes amis et je reviendrai ici plus tard!