Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Last Five Days

We pick up transmission on the Saturday morning after our Big Night Out to The Moulin Rouge.

After a late night/early morning a leisurely start is important. Our plans for the day were to check out a free exhibition at Hotel de Ville. So after a sleep in we headed to the train station and boarded Marie Antoinette's Chamber! Have I told you some of the trains on 'our' line are decorated with scenes from Versailles. This particular train in on the Versailles line and it is loads of fun to chance upon these carriages. So sitting in the Chambers, feeling rather weary, a cheery but slightly smelly old French man boarded at the first stop armed with his rather loud accordion and started playing old French tunes. The look on Amanda's face was priceless, I laughed all the way to our stop, was so incredibly clichéd...and funny.

We got off at Notre Dame and headed to the Latin Quarter for lunch, it was a cold day so we went for traditional French Cuisine.  From the 15 Euro menu, I had a Ham and Cheese Crepe, Beef Bourguignon and Crème Brulee. All were exceptional, and it was lovely and warm inside the cute little cafe with photos of Jacques Brel and Charles Aznavour on the wall. These little cafes and restaurants do not rush you through your meal and out the door despite how busy they are. It is a long, relaxed sitting, which I love. Although on days where you just want to eat and run, it feels overstretched, lol!

We set off towards the Notre Dame, and walked around it through to a cute little park. It really is a magnificent structure from every angle and was great to photograph on this very overcast and cold day. We moved to the area of the island behind it and walked around the cute little cobbled streets, following our instincts to the Hotel de Ville. There was a longish line into the exhibition and it was not moving at all, as we were deciding whether to wait in line on this bitterly cold day it started to rain. Decision made, we continued on to the large department store nearby. And so did just about everyone else on the streets, we shopped for a while, but it was hot, muggy, and crowded inside.

We left in search of The George Pompidou Centre, a large modern building that houses a whole range of galleries. It was getting late in the afternoon, so we were not going into the galleries, I just wanted to check out the building. Was hard to photograph as it was so large and so piecey in the way it was constructed, there was a line up to go inside so we moved on. To the side of the building was this amazing fountain with modern structures within, it is called the Stravinsky Fountain and some of the fountains within it are musical in appearance and sound.


Tired and cold we walked back to the Notre Dame, did a bit of shopping and then headed back to our little area and bought up a stash of food for dinner. I bought sausages from the meat guy, all sorts - fresh and BBQd. Some salad and potatoes from this amazing shop full of an array of fresh and interesting dishes. Fresh strawberries and raspberries and cakes. The fruit were amazing looking and even better in taste, especially the raspberries. In fact, easily the nicest I have ever tasted. The patisserie was the best we had seen, an unfortunate find really, too much amazing not to come back!

Up early Sunday to board our bus trip to Champagne Country and it was frigid, daylight savings had ended also, so we were concerned to get the time right and made our way to the collection point near The Louvre. We drove for a few hours before arriving at Reims. First stop was Mumms Champagne House. We toured  their cellars and learnt about how they made their Champagne from a very serious and staid gentleman. It was kinda like being in school, no one was really game to ask any questions. However the House was rich in history and of course supply the podium Champagne to our beloved F1 winners. The tour ended with a tasting, not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning.


From there we headed to the centre of Reims to the gorgeous old gothic cathedral there. Quite remarkable, it is where the Kings of France were crowned. So many statues carved into its exterior and gargoyles around it, there is much to look at. We arrived just before lunch and spent some time admiring it before it got too cold to stay outside. We went to a lovely little pub nearby, with wood fires burning it was the perfect place to take refuge. I had Salmon and veges followed by a Creme Brulee.

Afterwards we did a bit of shopping and headed back to the bus for Moet and Chandon. We arrived and immediately felt a sense of excitement and class. The buildings were old, immaculate and amazing, after an initial mix up we were taken on a tour by an employee. She was young and very that classy, well put together, smart, witty way. We toured the Champagne House, then down into the cellars ending with a wine tasting. It was very much the same tour as we had at Mumms, but our guide explained processes in a clearer more concise way and with great wit, yet also the respect the classic brand deserved. The tasting was exquisite, and after a further look around and a shop we headed back to the bus for Paris.

By the time we got back to our apartment it was early evening and we were hungry. Only a couple of cafes open, we were too tired to stay. It seemed that most places close early or possibly do not open on a Sunday evening...the only takeaway option was MacDonalds...we went in for a Royale with Cheese (been busting to order one since Pulp Fiction!). The place was packed, we got our takeaway and went home very tired.

After such a big day, we had a late start, it was cold and raining on and off. We walked to the Eiffel Tower and crossed The Seine to The Trocadero. his is an area with gardens, huge fountain, esplanade and on top of the hll the Palais de Chaillot. The Palais de Chaillot is a large palace with two arced sections with culptures and a terrace in between. We walked up to the palace, wandered round, it was cold. You get a fabulous view down the esplanade and fountain to he Eiffel Tower, so we took photos and made our way back down to the tower.

The line up to go up the tower seemed long, but it was moving solidly and the ain was holding off, so jumped on the end and waited. It took roughly 40mins to et to the lifts, which didn't seem that long at all. There was much to look at as ou can imagine. The lift to the 2nd floor was quick, but for me still scary as you ould see down and out of it. I say could as I had my eyes firmly shut! The 2nd loor has 2 floors, a higher, but small one and the one directly under with more pace and more comfortable for people scared of me. I felt ok up here, but still couldn't go too close to the edges, so my photos are few. Amanda ctually zoomed in on our apartment balcony. After a while we headed back home through the gardens behind the tower and via the fresh food street for supplies for dinner.

Tuesday we tackled Musee D'Orsay, I say tackled as we lined up for around 90mins in the cold to get in. Both starting to feel fluey and tired I was worried it would be an awful experience, but oh no. It was moving and overwhelming in the very best way. More magnificence in one building than anything I had ever seen. Firstly, there is the building itself, a reworked abandoned railway station. Levels have been built on the sides of the station which leaves a lovely open space in the middle. Then glass work, clocks, and windows out into Paris make it worth price of admission and the lining up before the art is even factored in. No photos allowed (though I snuck some out some windows), but I will add some images from the Internet.

The first floor is filled with statues, bronzes, marbles and with the open structure and a stunning gilded clock at the far end, it took my breathe away. Off each side were rooms with art, mostly paintings, but some photography, decorative art and furnishings. The art on display has been selected well, is French and mostly from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, and when you see all that belonged to that era your mind is completely blown.

Most of the art is on the 1st, 3rd and 5th floors, with mezzanines in between. The 5th floor is dedicated to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism paintings. By the time we finished the 3rd floor we were so overwhelmed we had to sit down. The Van Gogh room had me close to tears, two paintings in particular - Starry Night Over the Rhone and The Church at Auvers - beyond perfection. Also Cezanne's Apples and Oranges.

After the rest we continued to the top floor, nothing prepares you for this experience. Huge rooms filled with hundreds of Impressionism and Post- Impressionism paintings. The windows overlook The Seine and you can even look through one of the beautiful clocks. This was the busiest section of the museum and you could see why. More beauty than one can goodness. It really was one of the most inspiring and wonderful experiences of my trip. I was in heaven looking at all these glorious pieces. A lot of them were like old friends, having looked at them in books and so forth and some were completely new.

We finished off our trip with a special exhibit of fashion in the Impressionism period. The paintings were exhibited along with costumes featured in them from that period in time. This was also amazing, how they tracked down the clothing I have no idea, but it was fascinating.
After some museum shopping...the best kind of shopping...we headed for a late late lunch at the Notre Dame Cafe. I revisited the Quiche Lorraine and it was as soft and lovely as the first time almost 2 weeks earlier. We then walked to the Hotel De Ville for the Hollywood and Paris exhibit. (Hotel De Ville was the backdrop to Doisneau's The Kiss.) The line was not that long, but they were only letting a handful of people in at a time, so we waited in the cold yet again. We had heard such horror stories about lining up, I suppose we were lucky only to experience them this one day. Finally we got in, and it was good but probably not worth the hour or so wait. Lots of illustrations, stills, clips and costumes from movies such as Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Funny Face, Charade, An American in Paris, Marie Antoinette etc. The exhibit was very cramped, which made the slow line movement understandable. But it was nice to see all the same.


Next we went back to Shakespeare and Company Bookstore and it was much quieter this time, though still plenty of people within. We made our way upstairs and saw a few of the beds they allow writers stay in, very cramped but rather romantic, nice views out to the Notre Dame too. You were not allowed to take photos inside, but I did sneak a few!

From there, we did some more shopping and headed to a French restaurant in the Latin Quarter we loved so much, our last meal in Paris central. I indulged in the famous oysters, so divine and large. Then for mains, steak, french dipping sauces, chips and salad, followed by Creme Brulee.


And so to our last day in paradise...the sun even came out. We had a leisurely morning and I started to pack! Amanda did a last minute dash back into the city to offload some cash at Tiffany. I sat near the balcony and wrote some blog articles, ate cheese and fruit, and daydreamed. Around lunch I headed to the local markets to offload my cash on jewellery (not quite Tiffany, but more to my styling), handbags, scarves and such, and then had to rejig my suitcase. Amanda was back and we went for a last visit to the fresh foods and collected a small baked Ham with baked potatoes for lunch...and cakes...all divine of course. We then cleaned the apartment, had a last look around. We had dinner at a little Italian restaurant across the road. We had walked past it every day and it looked cute, Amanda had found out online it was four star. So a nice place to end our stay and pay homage to where our trip begun...Italy. We both had Bruschetta, then Veal, mine was with Ham, Gorgonzola and tomato based suace with loads of the tiniest but sweetest green beans I had ever seen or tasted. A lovely wine to go with and then back to our beautiful apartment for cake from the patisserie!

This was the final post about our day to day adventures in Paris, but I doubt it will be the final post about Paris or the holiday, much more to share there. I am finishing this after being home for a fortnight, and reliving these five days seems sooo long ago. I miss Paris desperately and wish I was back and in fact spent that first week home in some kind of jetlag and sinus/headcold funk. Thanks for joining us on our wonderful journey to Italy and Paris. Everyone keeps asking me what my favourite part was, that is really hard to answer. In short, Paris of course, how could it not be, but that would mean excluding 2/3's of the trip. It was all truly wonderful...just thinking about where to next :)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Big Night Out in Paris

Friday! We had a sleep in today to prepare for our big night out.

It was an overcast, cool day and we decided to explore our neighbourhood more. We had been left and right of our street and forward to The Seine. We went behind, and found a bevy of amazing shops and places to eat in the street directly behind us! Only took a week!

As we went further back there was more and more, larger department type stores, little boutiques, some reasonably priced, some not. Lots more places to eat, from cafes to high end restaurants, little fresh food places and sooo many patisseries...all within a half hour walk.

I saw a cute little pair of shoes I liked in one shop and popped in, language was initially a bit hard, but we got there and I came away with French style ballet shoes, patent black toe with a bow, red suede rest of the shoe, perfect to wear out that night. Another accessory shop found me my second beret. I had bought a standard periwinkle blue one earlier. This was a softer felt type material in black with lovely sapphire satin piping on it...I had to have it. I do love my berets.

We grabbed lunch at the local cafe and came home to get ready.

We then had to make our way to the pickup of near The Louvre at 6. So glam and warm we caught the train in. The wind was bitterly cold by this point, so we knew it would worsen...yikes!

We were taken to The Eiffel Tower by bus with a range of people of different nationalities. It was just getting dark by the time we made our way up in the lifts to the restaurant on the first floor. We had a fabulous view from the table. Our table by chance was filled with other Australians. One couple from Bathurst, who were a bit painful and a lovely couple from FNQ, she was a writer celebrating her 60th and very friendly.

After a meal of Foie Gras, Chicken, potatoes and mushroom French style, a lovely light coconut marshmallow cream dessert. With wine, coffee and views we were set for our cruise. We headed back down the tower and across the road to The Seine, it was freezing. We boarded our boat with a group of others from then tour, our guide nowhere to be seen, her instructions were a bit hazy so once the boat took off, we realized we were on a boat too early, oh well!! We were a little concerned for those left for the correct cruise, but we needn't have been, the entire group were on the boat. The tour guide gave us a severe talking to when we got back, lol, but when your whole group does the same thing I think it shows you your directions leave a lot to be desired.

The cruise, whilst cool on deck, but warm inside, was lovely, an hour. We cruised up to the two islands and back, lots of buildings lit up, but I loved looking under the bridges most of all, I love the quirky bridges here on The Seine, each one distinctive.

Once off we were all cold, and snuggled in a bunch to keep warm, while the bus arrived for us. It was easily minus something with a strong wind coming off the river.

Next stop, Moulin Rouge, very exciting, we had to line up as whilst we had bookings, we had to wait for the first show to exit, 950 people twice a! We were at the late show, starting around 11.30. No photos allowed inside inside, but what a place. Majestic foyer leading you down into the large club, lots of gold, burgundy, velvet and feathers, seating was tight but comfy and I doubt there was a bad seat in the place.
I ducked to the loo, very flash too, and arrived back at my seat as the show was's all in the timing, lol. What a huge stage and cast, I have seen shows on Broadway but this was something else, it's hard to describe the professionalism, shine and exquisiteness of the performances. At least 30 girls, and about a dozen men, all great dancers, some singers. Some girls performed topless or next to topless, others not, and reading the program later there are ranks within the performers, topless being the highest. The feminist side of me shudders at part of this, making your living from looks alone...that somehow seems wrong. However, it was very classy, and never seemed smutty. And what's wrong with sexuality anyway!?! The men, gorgeous and physically tight, were probably gay, so that took a little fun out.

There must have been at least 20 costume changes and sections to the show. The sets were very well put together (better than anything I have seen at The Opera), and numerous. There were also jugglers, contortionists etc. At one point the stage slid open and a large pool rose and a voluptuous woman dove in and swum with three large pythons...bloody hell!!! There was comedy, romance, drama, song, dance and costumes, costumes, costumes...or sometimes lack thereof!!

many feathers and dazzling looks, some of the costumes quite stunning, the headpieces were exquisite and the jewels dazzling.

And then there was The Can Can...what a highlight. We left on a high, it early Saturday morning and the buses were dropping us all to our doors...rather impressive. After an enjoyable hour or so, love the city at that time in the morning, we were back home warm and happy. What a marvelous evening.

Triumph of The Arc and The Champs Élysées

We caught a train to Pont d'Alma on Thursday 25, and then walked to The Arc de Triomphe. Once there we headed up. I am terrified of heights and get vertigo easily, plus I have a bad right knee. I had agreed to go up the top as I thought there was an elevator, and then just 40 or so stairs. We headed under the ground to get to the monument and bought tickets to get up and it was ALL stairs, no turning back I started to climb them. They were small, open spiral stairs, the worst kind, I reckon hundreds of them.

About halfway I got rather giddy and thought I might faint, but where could I go, people were behind me! There were a few holes in the walls to stop and rest, but it was not physicality that was hindering, my knee whilst feeling the climb was doing ok. My headspace not so well, but I made it to top, poor Amanda look worried. I couldn't t go to the edge of the building, but I appreciated the magnificent view, then after a break and some shopping headed back down. At first it felt worse than going up, but once I got a rhythm I was ok. Amanda said she would catch me if I fainted, lol, she didn't have to worry.
The sunglasses hide my freaked out look!

Once back on the ground I felt very relieved, and as we made our way down The Champs Élysées I felt rather proud of myself, yeah I can do a anything!?! And then subsequently almost tripped over myself on a cobble stone...reality huh!

The shopping was a bit exy on The Champs Élysées but was still fun. I picked up some bits and pieces including two pairs of winter gloves for next year. It was lovely looking at all the types of shops and department stores. I am not really into shopping, but is was different, plus all the stunning buildings and passers by added to the experience. We had lunch in one of the man cafes and then made our way through to the Opera area for a look in the large department stores where things were ultra exy, but still nice to look at. We needed a bathroom stop and went there, rather exy at 2 Euro to go, but the swishest toilets, yep I took a photo!
The Petit Palace
Cannot remember where this was taken, but I like it
Madeleine Church
Printemps shopping centre
Toilet within the shopping centre cool wallpaper and shopping in a glass cabinet above the cistern...fancy bathroom things and books about bathrooms or bathroom reads!!
Looking over towards the larger palace

We collected Chinese for dinner and headed home, another amazing day completed...time was starting to go fast, a week later we would be on our way home.

Amanda wouldn't let me out with the striped shirt AND red beret, so here I am at the end of the day, happy with my conquering and shopping, and our good friend, The Eiffel Tower in the background.