As I sit here writing this, I can hear the bells of Notre Dame peeling away – so I guess I must be in Paris!!
Our train arrived late at The Gare du Nord the night we arrived, so there was only time for a quick stroll after dinner in a quiet side street near the Sorbonne. We chose to go to Notre Dame and Ile Saint Louis at dusk – Parisians and visitors alike were out in their thousands – in the cafes lining the sidewalks, walking the streets listening to musicians, taking cruises on the Seine and picnicking along its banks – it was a pretty lively scene but we needed to sleep.
This morning we awoke to an amazing day – I got my wish to see Paris under the sun as it was gloomy on our previous visit. We went out very early for breakfast and were surprised to find the streets quite deserted! We stopped at a nice cafe by the Seine, and then headed for the Louvre to beat the crowds, which thankfully we did. I am so glad we made the effort , if only for having seen Napoleon’s Apartments which are truly awesome. We headed first to see The Mona Lisa and managed to get a good, uncluttered view since we were so early – the painting was bigger than I had imagined, and I can see why people are so intrigued by her facial expression – is it a wry smile, is it curious, amused, knowing or is she simply feeling relaxed and happy in the company of the famous painter….
Napoleon’s apartments were the highlight of the two wings we visited – the chandeliers are incredible, the colours are rich and the furnishings quite beautiful. We enjoyed too, the glass atriums housing beautiful statuary, and which act as a cool oasis from the throngs.
The exterior of the building is grand, made even more so as they stood bathed in morning sunlight, and I have to say I really liked the effect of the large glass pyramid, and three smaller ones. Well done Monsieur Mitterrand!
Next stop was Les Tuilieries and a sit by the smaller pond, and then further on for a yummy roadside citron crepe in the park, up to the Arc de Triomphe (one end of which is covered in hideous plastic for renovation, which completely wrecks your “iconic” photos), and a leisurely stroll along the Champs Elysees (the clothes in Zara here are gorgeous ladies!!).
We decided we could fit in a visit to the magnificient Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmartre, so off we went on a very hairy taxi ride in which the driver nearly knocked over a woman on crutches, and she , in turn, bashed the taxi with one of them! The Basilica is a must-see for both its exterior and interior – gotta get that photo sitting in the steps in front of it – and we did. There were quite a few gyspies outside, looking unkempt and grubby , one even “sleeping” sprawled across the top of a side staircase.
Inside the Basilica, it is hard not to feel a certain reverence, whether you are religious or not – especially when the Catholic faithful are praying in the pews, so it was really annoying to find countless numbers of visitors gaily taking photos, having been asked expressly not to do so!
The beautiful stained glass windows, the amazing tiled pictures and stunning religious statues will leave a lasting impression and I am so glad I have seen it, not to mention the fabulous views it affords.
We lunched in a very busy and colourful side street behind the Basilica, and then descended down into the streets below. It is such an attractive and quirky area that we are keen to return to see it at night …. We just a very ordinary dinner at an inflated price in a Cafe in the Latin Quarter – Paris prices are high as you would expect, but c’est la vie …. tomorrow it’s Versailles – meantime some photos for you: