16 September 2011

Paris Days and Nights 1

Posted in Talking about . . .

So organized - on platform at Avignon station exactly where coach eleven of train to Paris due to stop - feeling pleased with selves – train arrives – only eight carriages - ?!

Scramble onto coach eight and discover that seats are at other end of the train - must lug heavy cases up stairs and along six coaches of v. narrow aisles and down stairs again to our seats – really? Decide to abandon cases to goodness of French public and depend on insurance if worst happens. Leave cases in case-place in coach eight and go to seats in coach two. Ride is smooth and all ends well . . .

The Hotel Bonaparte is just right (thanks Bokke). Superbly located off the Boulevard Saint-Germain in the heart of the Latin Quarter, it is also surprisingly quiet given its proximity to this lively area. Our room is spacious for a European hotel, although tired-looking. Toilet-in-a-cupboard is too cute! However, it’s clean and cool and a reasonable €157 per night. Presumably the room pictured on the website is more expensive . . .

The Loo The Room

Welcome to Paris: The Loo, The Room

Made ourselves at home and set off to explore the neighbourhood about 6pm. Walked up Rue Bonaparte and serendipitously found ourselves staring at Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots, two legendary Parisienne cafes! Wikipedia says that Café de Flore “has long been celebrated for its intellectual clientele” and the history on the website of Le Deux Magots reads like a who’s-who of the intellectuals and artists of the 20th century. We felt right at home . . .

Les Deux Magots Café de Flore

From Left to Right: Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore

In spite of the Friday-night crush, we hung around (just like everyone else) until a table came free outside at Le Deux Magots and I had a glass of Provençal rosé (and BDH has grown fond of the Heineken on tap) and we both had a marvellous salad:

Salade Saint Germain: Salade verte, blanc de poulet, haricots verts, raisins secs, oeuf dur, sauce au curry  - seriously perfect!

Watched the people (some extraordinary-looking, some very glamorous, others simply chic) and listened in on conversations. Felt right at home because most people were watching, or commenting on, each other . . . Sublime!

Saturday was spent acquainting ourselves with the area and a trip to Galeries Lafayette because I’d broken my reading glasses and thought I should check out the store anyway. Bought bright red lunettes – happy glasses make a happy face! BDH bought great Tommy Hilfiger cardigan and top – another happy face!

Mediocre dinner in restaurant on Rue de L’Echaude amid the bright lights. It was our own fault because we were seduced by a fast-talking restaurateur on the pavement . . . However, we met up with Heather Scott – careers advisor at Christchurch Girls High School – whom I know! More small world stuff.

A Bright Light Place

A Bright Light Place

Another Bright Light Place

Another Bright Light Place

My Favourite Tipple

My Favourite Tipple

Sunday morning found us having breakfast at Café de Flore – feeling very glamorous as we rubbed shoulders with more stylish and interesting-looking individuals. From there we headed to the Moulin Rouge to meet up with Philippe from Discover Walks. It started drizzling so I dashed into a shop and bought a very bad-taste purple umbrella with the Eiffel Tower all over it – sorry Kate . . .

Philippe was fantastic and took us on a walk up Montmartre off the usual tourist track, telling stories about characters who have lived in Montmartre, like Marcel Aymes’ character, Dutilleul - “The man who could walk through walls”; Dalida, the Miss Egypt beauty queen who became a legendary diva; the Christian martyr, St Denis, who carried his own head to the top of the hill; and of course, the artists, van Gogh, Picasso, Sisley, Dali, Toulouse Lautrec and Monet, Dali, who hung out at Le Consulat and La Bonne Franquette and Au Lapin Agile – and many of whom paid for food and lodgings with paintings.

Le Consulat Au Lapin Agile

From Left to Right: Le Consulat, Au Lapin Agile

La Bonne Franquette

La Bonne Franquette

Dutilleul

Dutilleul

We finally reached the top of Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur Basilica. We gathered that it had a dreadful beginning and is consequently unpopular with Parisiennes (according to Philippe, anyway). After Napoleon III was exiled to England in 1870, The Paris Commune (a populist, socialist/communist uprising) tried to wrest power from the republican government for 2 bloody months during which time it is said that 20,000 people were executed (by both sides). The government won. In January 1871, two leading citizens of Paris mooted the idea of a church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus “ to make amends for our faults and to pay the penalty for the horrors of the Commune and the siege of Paris”. Every family in Paris was levied to pay for this massive new church (against the wishes of most). To cap it off, the design of the basilica is a mish-mash of styles due to the 40 years and many architects that it took to complete it. Thus, the bloody beginnings, unwilling financial contribution to the building, and inconsistent style have lead to the joke, “The best view of the Sacre Coeur is when you’re looking at Paris” (at which time, the basilica is behind you). In spite of all this, I thought it was pretty splendid.

My picturs of Sacre Coeur Wikipedia's picture of Sacre Coeur

From Left to Right: My picture of Sacre Coeur, Wikipedia's picture of Sacre Coeur

Ended the day with a great meal in a little Thai restaurant tucked away in the streets around the Hotel Bonaparte. Decided that the Discover Walks tour was such great value, we should do another! Their marketing gimmick is that you get actual Parisiens and Parisiennes as guides (all of whom speak excellent English) and there is no fee for most of the tours - you simply tip them at the end whatever you think they are worth.

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Comments (1)

  • Tish
    Tish
    18 September 2011 at 20:48 |

    Brings back recent memories, weather for Montmartre also drizzly for us!

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