Sous le ciel de Paris

What an amazing few weeks! I had an extra week off after treatment number 4 – meaning I could have a week away in Paris, then a few days in Brighton at conferences and events, before having the first of 4 Taxotere treatments (once I’d finished enjoying myself – get the priorities straight, right?).
Paris was so much more fun than I’d even anticipated, because it was jam-packed with activity. Here’s a lovely snapshot of some of the things I saw and did there:

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My MANY wonderful visits included

  • Nôtre Dame de Paris (though not inside) – we were very close by there so I actually went past it many times – and during the first evening, I walked past people dancing on the banks of the Seine to a variety of music… There were couples doing the Tango in little sunken areas where the steps on the terraces led down to the waterside with small groups at the top of the steps playing their instruments (violins etc.) without sheet music it seemed, and a small audience scattered around the steps themselves.
  • The two islands, the Île Saint-Louis and the larger Île de la Cité were great for restaurants, cafés AND strange little boutique shops – and I was fascinated by the Love Locks – huge numbers of padlocks with love declarations engraved or written on them, on the Pont de l’Archevêché
  • La Bastille and its many restaurants and bars were just up the road from me when I went out exploring in the other direction
  • Musée du Louvre and Arc Marie du Premier. The Louvre was MASSIVE. I can’t tell you how massive really but someone told me that if you looked at each exhibit for 5 seconds it would take you nine months to look at it all. I did see the Mona Lisa of course (La Gioconda) but not up-close; the crowds were 12 people deep! Besides, there were far better artists in Musée d’Orsay – I prefer Pissarro, Matisse, Signac, Cézanne… the Pointillists and Neo-impressionists. 🙂
  • Arche de la Défense and surroundings,with a great view of L’Arc du Triomphe. The photo doesn’t really give the impression of the scale of the thing but its two skyscrapers joined at the top… It’s HUGE.
  • La Tour Eiffel – and its many views from the top – which Wikipedia has made you a nice panorama of! I really enjoyed going up in the rickety gondola lift up the inside of the leg of the tower and being able to see all the iron it’s constructed from – it seems to be pulled up by giant tanks of ballast that move up and down in the foot as you travel.
  • Grand Palais / Petit Palais / Avenue des Champs-Élysées was a good walk, and I had a nice sit down and a delicious lunch of noodles and steamed salmon with coriander after a quick view of the bonkers traffic around the Arc de Triomphe. I’m told that it’s not actually possible to get insurance to drive around it, policies always have a specific exclusion. But I’d say the French way of giving way to traffic coming on to the roundabout (“Hey, come on, pile in! There’s always room for one more!!”), no lane markings and utter nutters driving around it are good reasons to avoid it…
  • I passed L’église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine (La Madeleine) on my way to Place de la Concorde. Everywhere you look there’s interesting architecture in Paris, be it monuments or churches or embassies or fountains, or gardens! It’s wonderful. I do love a good gardens, me! So I migrated toward the Palais et Jardins des Tuileries and the Musée de l’Orangerie there. The Orangerie didn’t actually have a great deal in it, but if you like Monet then there are some whole-room sized paintings in the basement there on all four curved walls, so you feel surrounded by the art. There are big white stone/plaster benches to allow you to sit and contemplate the paintings representing different times of the day/ light levels on the lily pads on the water and the weeping willows. The surroundings are quite restful after the traffic and bustle of Place de la Concorde.
  • Montmartre and the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur were a good vantage point to look back South ofer the city and the Centre Pompidou stood out on the mid-horizon with its colourful exterior.
  • Centre Pompidou / houses the Musée National d’Art Moderne and there was a Gerhard Richter exhibition on the top floor when I went. So I enjoyed wandering past some of his very colourful paintings, and then had a great view over the city back up to Sacré-Cœur.
  • I spent a very relaxing morning wandering around at the Jardin du Luxembourg – which has a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower, and some well tended flowers. There’s a big pond with a duck house in the centre and some self-propelled sailboats. The kids are given a wooden rod and they can turn and set the boats off across the water in any direction with those. So there were plenty of boats gently bumping the duck house and those ducks were just chilled out knowing they couldn’t be “got”.
  • Musée d’Orsay – a converted railway station – now an art gallery. This was my favourite gallery! So much to see, you’d need a full day to really see it all. It’s a real mixture of sculptures, figures, furniture and artwork. I go for the impressionists every time.
  • Tour Montparnasse turned out to be a small shopping centre and an ugly-looking tower block. We stopped by but then didn’t bother going up, since it was fairly expensive and we’d already been up the Eiffel Tower!
  • Then, time to window shop at Galeries Lafayette, Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré and check out the palatial Hôtel Ritz in the Place Vendôme
  • The Jardins du Trocadéro were a good place to people watch and had fountain displays on the hour, great jets being shot out of canon-shaped tubes across the water and also being shot vertically out of the ponds themselves. It was a great vantage point for a look back across the river to the Eiffel Tower.
  • Further up the river on the Right bank (Rive Droit) you can get a good view of Île aux Cygnes and a 1/4 scale replica of their Statue of Liberty – (apparently, an even smaller statue is located in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and a third copy can be seen in the Musée des Arts et Métiers – but I didn’t see those).
  • I did also go to Porte Dorée – in the hopes of going to the zoo there, but it is closed until 2016!!
  • I had a night-time walk along La Rive Gauche – and across Pont Neuf into the city
  • On my last day I visited the Jardin des Plantes – Paris’ first public gardens and home to La Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes

My hotel was very close to Gare de Lyon and ideal for jumping on the Métro – for not very much money we got a 5 day and then a 3 day travel pass. Easy peasy. “Un Passe Illimite, pour cinq jours, pour centre-Paris” and ta-da! A ticket to anywhere I wanted to go.

I had a couple of doses of Escalope de veau whilst in Paris – very tasty. I went to Île Saint-Louis for dinner a couple of evenings – and there was a guy playing the piano in the street – very well in fact – so I got a pavement table nearby and had a great Beef Bourguignon one night, and Crêpes another night. It was really good weather all week – which makes a change from the patchy weather we’ve had in the UK most of the summer – so I really appreciated being able to sit outside in the evening.

On the same musical theme there were a lot of street musicians which was great – the ones at the Sacré-Cœur were playing stuff that sounded vaguely Eastern-European which was great fun to watch.

I had such a busy time that for the most part I could forget about feeling ill – though my poor achy feet / legs were complaining at the end of each day! I must have done a minimum of 7-10 miles a day… especially the day I walked along the Seine at night after walking all through the city (window shopping) in the daytime!

Hurray for holidays. 🙂

près de notre dame
parfois couve un drame
oui mais à paname
tout peut s’arranger
quelques rayons
du ciel d’été
d’un marinier
l’espoir fleurit
au ciel de paris
(Near Notre Dame
Perhaps trouble’s brewing
But in “Paname” everything gets worked out
A few rays
From the summer sky
The accordion
Of a sailor
Hope is blossoming
In the Parisian sky)
Lyrics from “Sous le ciel de Paris” – Edith Piaf