The last entry was the story of getting to Paris, this one is about the busy day and evening I spent there.

I was awake at a civilized 07:30 on Monday morning, ready to explore Paris.

Karl & Teresa stay in area 5, close to the Luxembourg Gardens. We had breakfast of fresh croissant and baguette – purchased warm from the bakery across the road – good coffee and general chatter. Karl loaned me his book of maps and suggested places to wander and see through the day. Unfortunately many of the museums are closed on a Monday, which put paid to some of my ideas.

I last visited Paris in 1993 with Nancy, and we had a terrible time – the hotel was uncomfortable, the people unfriendly and we felt thoroughly ripped off, so my expectations were low. I’m pleased to report that my experiences yesterday and today have given me a totally different perspective.

I left the apartment and wandered down the road to the Jardin du Luxembourg – a beautiful park rich in autumn colours. I wandered the gardens for a while, observing people relaxing and preparing themselves for the day – yoga, running, tai-chi, sitting reading, and like me just wandering around.

From the gardens I walked down Boulevard Saint Michel to the river and along to the Notre Dame cathedral. Last time we were in Paris was before they cleaned up the buildings, and the sting appeared dark grey – over the last decade they have cleaned the pollution and dirt from the walls and it a lovely pale granite. I wandered around outside the building, not wanting to join the queue of tourists going inside as I had seen the inside in 1993 and didn’t feel a strong need to do so again.

I then took the stairs down to the river bank, planning to walk along the water for a part of the way, and vaguely thinking about taking a boat trip on the river, something we didn’t do last time.

Turns out there is a river cruise that is hop-on-hop-off and stops at eight sights along the river. I purchased a day ticket (very reasonable €14) and hopped on. The trip went from Notre Dame to Jardin des Plantes, swung around the island and back to Hotel de Ville, past the Louvre and the Champes Élysées and around again to the Tour Eiffel. I got off at the tower, planning to continue the trip later in the day past Musee d’Orsay, St-Germaine des-Present and back to Notre Dame. Turned out I didn’t actually get back on the boat, but the trip down the river was worth the money anyway. If you’re looking for a nice way to get around and get a feel for Paris from the water I recommend BATOBUS.

At Tour Eiffel I wandered around the base of the tower, considered going up it and decided that I’d done that before and I really didn’t want to queue for two hours.

I crossed back to the river bank and realized that I was hungry, time to tackle another bad memory – last time in Paris the food we had was some of the worst French cooking I have ever had, what would it be like this time, would the bad memories be negated?

I am happy to report that, yes they have been banished. Both lunch and dinner yesterday were examples of French cooking done well.

For lunch I chose a restaurant next to the waterfront by the Tour Eiffel – La Terrasse, Port de Suffren. I happily recommend it to anyone who wants good food served by friendly waitstaff at a leisurely pace – fast food this is not, good food it is. I ordered the house Tapas to start followed by Tartare des Halles, washed down with a nice vin rouge, and followed by cappuccino.

The food was delicious and the waitress very helpful. My mediocre French sufficed and she was even able to give me some advice on where to get some stuff that I was looking for.

If you’re squeamish about meat look away from the next photo, steak Tartare as it should be prepared.

As you can see I was up to the challenge and I really enjoyed my lunch. A very pleasant way to spend an hour or so in Paris.

After lunch I walked up to the Champs-Élysées to do a bit of shopping.

I’ve decided that there is definitely something about Paris and style. Anyone who knows me knows that fashion is NOT my thing, as I say in the classroom “I have a wife, three daughters and a son who’s done a fashion degree and they all agree Dad knows NOTHING about fashion”. For the first time in my life I felt frumpy, walking around Paris it’s obvious who the locals are, and who are the tourists; even the varsity students look smart. I think that if I did spend a reasonable amount of time here I’d become at least conscious of style. I don’t think I’d change my ties though – that would be too far to go 🙂

Even the bathrooms have style – at a price €2 to use the “smartest WC in Paris” 🙂

From there I walked across the Alexandre III bridge over river and past the Hotel Des Invalides and around to the Musie Rodin, only to find it was closed on Mondays.

By this time it was after 4:00pm so I made my way back through the residential areas and back streets to Karl & Teresa’s place for the evening. Even in the back streets, the people and stores are stylish.

Two of Karl’s colleagues were out from New Zealand and we went out for a classic French meal, which was absolutely delicious.

This morning I caught the train to Grenoble from the Garr de Lyon (station). So I packed my bags and took what must be the smallest elevator that can qualify for the name from the apartment to the street level. I’m sure the elevator is smaller than an aircraft bathroom – with my suitcase and had baggage I could barely close the door, but it beats lugging bags down two floors of narrow stairs.

Down the street to the taxi rank in plenty of time to get to the station, only to find a queue of people and a dearth of taxis. Two of us were going to the same station, and we ended up sharing the cab. Fortunately the wait wasn’t too long, and we got to the station with time to spare.

At the station I first had to print my ticket using the self-service terminal, then wait until the platform was announced and onto the fast train to Grenoble. I’m impressed with the French train service – a smooth, very quiet ride (from inside anyway) and comfortable seating. Somewhat surprisingly, no WiFi service.

I didn’t see much of the French countryside, it was zipping past too fast, but I did get a few reasonable shots. It was only when passing another train going in the opposite direction that the true speed became apparent – two 8-10 carriage trains passing each other in less than 3 seconds, with an almighty rush of wind.

Almost exactly to schedule we arrived in Grenoble, and that’s a story for another day . . .

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