The first few days of Paris

4 06 2008

Ahh Paris! Such a beautiful city. Melbourne will always have my heart but Paris may well become my mistress… 😉

I’m getting ahead of myself.

With only two nights in Singapore we didn’t have time to see much of the city. A pity; I’d liked to have spent more time there. It’s a clean, interesting, vibrant city that really feels like it’s growing in a hurry. We did catch the Orchard Rd shops – shopping appears to be Singapore’s national pastime – and had some decent meals (good food is another hallmark of Singapore) but apart from that we really just wandered the nearby Bugis Junction mall and tried to catch up on lost sleep due to a delayed flight that meant we reached our hotel at 2am on the first night.

Oh, it’s worthwhile mentioning that Singlish is both hysterical and immensely frustrating! It’s incredible how close to English the words can sound and yet the meaning can be indecipherable.

Anyway.

We left Singapore on a flight that was, again, delayed. Air France served up some great food but the air-con was cranked up so high that I’m only just now getting over the cold it induced. Melissa, who feels the cold ever so much more than I, was rugged up in two blankets, a scarf, three layers of t-shirts and a hat. She avoided a cold and – thankfully – any serious sinus issues, but has also been feeling substandard the past few days. But we’re mostly over that now so all’s good!

We stayed in a hotel for the first night in Paris in the Montmartre area. Since we arrived early morning and the hotel didn’t yet have the room ready we dropped off our bags and started wandering around.

Immediately I was struck by the beauty of this city. It’s old but well maintained. The streets are narrow, many are cobblestoned, and they contain many small boutique shops. Boulangeries and Patisseries abound. There are so many interesting things to see. It’s simply a joy to walk around the streets.

So that’s what we did. Since Sacre Coeur was nearby we headed in that direction. A stunning place. It’s a huge church with a large basilica dome perched atop the highest hill in the area. After climbing many stairs past the well-tended gardens you are presented with a breathtaking view of Paris, seemingly at your feet. Even with the hazy morning it was well worth the effort! Entering the church reveals a huge, impressive structure. Despite the busloads of tourists this is a must-see place in Paris.

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Sacre Coeur

We had a lovely dinner at Cafe Burq (recommended) and enjoyed our one-night stay at Le Relais Montmartre. Oh, the Moulin Rouge was nearby so we took a look but – frankly – don’t bother unless you’re really into tourist traps.

The next day, after some brief shopping, we took a taxi to our apartment in Le Marais. We met our guides and were taken through our very Parisian apartment. By that I mean it’s cramped, old and yet – to me – fantastic! Situated on the fifth floor, we have a tiny bathroom/laundry and kitchen with a relatively large lounge area and loft bedroom. By Parisian standards this place is very quiet (with the notable exception that there’s some construction going on in the next building so between the hours of 8am and 5pm the sound of drilling reverberates throughout. Not happy about that). The elevator is a sight. It’s the smallest lift I’ve ever seen, only as deep as my shoulder width! I’ll have to take a photo. The location is great; full of little shops, cafe’s and bars, we can be on the metro in five minutes and at the Seine in less. I love it here.

We’ve walked around Ile de la Cite, the birthplace of Paris, where the famous Notre Dame cathedral is located. Another must-see, Notre Dame is magnificent. We’ve got to go back to see it properly as we were there in the afternoon when tourists permeated every square foot of the place. Beware the ‘Bosnian’ beggars too; these women are highly organised and persuasive. There’s much to see on this island (Sainte Chapelle, Palais de Justice, Place Dauphine just to name a few), it’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

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Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

The bread – pain in French- here is sensational. Baguette’s are delicious and have become my staple for lunch (une baguette de jambon de fromage s’il vous plait). The croissants are drool-inducing. Regular loaves can be bought in twenty different varieties, and they’re all good. Any bread-like substance is fantastic because it’s all made fresh, every day. Mmmm bread.

On a similar note the crepes here are ridiculously good and readily available.  The Nutella crepe is my favourite.

One of the great things about Paris is the huge number of museums. We bought a Paris Museum Pass that allows us to go to most of them, without having to wait in line, for a single fee. Highly recommended if you’re thinking about going to more than a couple of museums. Yesterday we went to Centre Pompidou and today to the Musee d’Orsay (we’ll go to more during the week). Both were great but I loved the d’Orsay – I can’t get enough of classical artwork. And yes Dad, I did get to see some of Toulouse-Lautrec’s work.

I’ve got lots more to share but it’s going to have to wait, there’s too much to do!

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2 responses

5 06 2008
Gayle

Hey Matt & Mel,

Sounds like you are making the most of Paris. Gideon are headed there in a few weeks time… definitely liked your tip of purchasing a Paris Museum Pass… sounds like a great idea. I’m a bit disappointed about the Moulin Rouge, I was hoping to go have a look. Did you go and see a show there? Keep up the blogging!

Safe travels,
love g

5 06 2008
trentini

Heya Gayle,

I shouldn’t diss the ‘Rouge too much; no, we didn’t see any shows there. But guidebook reviews are lukewarm, the locals avoid the area and the place is infested with non-French speaking tourists. It’s also rumoured as a pick-pocket haven so if you do go keep your personals close by.

We’re trying to see a bit of Paris but although ten days sounds reasonable we’re running out of time!

We bought our Museum Pass through the My Genie In Paris folks and it’s also worth having a look at the other services they offer. We’re going with them to Versailles with them on Friday and doing a Lourve tour with them today. We’ll let you know how they go. I was really tempted to do the photography tour with them!

See you soon!
Matt

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