Monday 12 January 2009

First Trip to Paris - Day 2

On Sunday, we slept in a bit and then headed out to search for breakfast crepes before heading off for more sightseeing. We happened across a small place with a Greek seaside theme that was empty (seeing as it was almost lunch time) and had perfectly serviceable crepes and coffees. I'm not usually a coffee drinker, but find the French Cafe au lait (which is really a glass of frothed milk with a shot of espresso) to be tasty if mixed with several cubes of sugar.

From there it was off to see perhaps the most iconic of all Parisian sights - the Eiffel Tower. Again, you could pay to go up to the top, but we declined given the cold, but enjoyed walking about in awe of what really is a phenomenal feat of engineering.

There it is! Ladies and gents, it doesn't get more iconic than that!

What surprised me was how beautiful the metal work was on the tower itself - it's really a beautiful piece of art as well as an impressive structure.

An example of some of the detail that I loved

One of the lifts in the tower

In an effort to keep warm, we decided to take a walk through the Fields of Mars (Champs de Mars) over to the Rodin Museum

A look back at the Eiffel Tower from the Fields of Mars

One of the fountains in the Fields of Mars, turned off for obvious reasons

At the other end of the Fields of Mars, is the War School (ecole du guerre) and the Church of St. Louis at Les Invalides. It was closed to visitors, so we didn't get a chance to go in, but the outside is certainly impressive. Apparently Napoleon Bonaparte is buried inside. Another trip sometime.

The Church

From there, we took in the Rodin Museum. The (impressive looking) gardens were closed due to snow, but we really enjoyed the inside and exploring some of the lesser known works of this fantastic artist.

From, there we decided to head straight to perhaps the most famous church in Paris, Notre Dame de Paris. And goodness it is impressive. We arrived just in time for the weekly organ concert and had just enough time to wander around after.

The organ - incredible both to the eyes and to the ears

Chandeliers between the columns inside

From behind the main altar

a look up through the altar railing

At which point it was time to recover our luggage and take the train back to London. A great first taste of Paris - no doubt we'll be coming back (and soon)

Note from the future:
Indeed we have been back several times, discovering that indeed there is little better than Spring in Paris, which is now our favourite time to visit. You can find pictures of subsequent trips on flickr:
April 2010
May 2011

Sunday 11 January 2009

First Trip to Paris - Day 1

I would forgive many of you for thinking that Stephen and I had been to Paris before - after all, we've been living a very short train ride across a very short channel for four and a half years now, and after all why wouldn't we go? But believe it or not, up until January of this year, we had never been. I was knee deep in papers this winter, but we still wanted to do something fun and easy for our 5th wedding anniversary, and so Paris it was!

Stephen really spoiled me by getting us Leisure Select tickets on the Eurostar, which meant a lovely meal on the way over plus as much champagne as you could drink. The seats were extra comfy and the service was impeccable. It will be difficult going back and travelling any other way, to be sure. He also managed to book us into a lovely hotel - the Waldorf Trocodero just across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. Beautiful indeed.


Since it was a quick trip, all day Saturday and Sunday until early evening, we knew in advance that we wouldn't have time to see everything we wanted to see in Paris, so we decided to make this trip something of a "highlights" trip. It was also *very* cold - below freezing - which made too much time walking outside uncomfortable.

Saturday morning, we headed off to the Arc de Triomphe, and I was actually surprised at how big it was - and horribly badly situated. The Arch sits in the middle of a round-about on a very busy Parisian street. Fortunately, there were walkways underground to get all the tourists over to the other side safely. We could have paid to go up to the top of the arch, but given the temperatures, we decided to stay on the ground.

Around the corner, and there's the Arch

Some of the detail

More of the detail - I loved the way the morning light was caught by the marble

Turns out, this is where the French have their "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" with an eternal flame.

Some of the statues on the outside - love their faces!


Then we decided to walk down the Champs d'Elysees to the metro that would take us to the Louvre. This is the main shopping district in Paris, and we did a bit of window shopping, but ended up not buying anything. What we really enjoyed were the decorations still up since Christmas.




From there we took the Metro system over to the Louvre. But first, we stopped off at a little sandwich shop called Le Ferme (The Farm), which we found through one of our guidebooks written by one of my favourite bloggers: Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris. The food was very fresh and tasty with really reasonable prices. They even had plenty of seating, which is rare for central Parisian eateries. Would be a really great place to grab food for a picnic in more hospitable weather too.

From there, it was off the the Louvre! Unfortunately, they don't allow photography inside the museum, but the outside, like most buildings in Paris, were a fantastic blend of architecture. The other surprise were the fountains, which were still on even though they were half frozen.

Rows of prominant philosophers, scientists, artists and notable politicians.

One of the statues I liked - a peaceful contrast to The Arc

More statues plus the requisite pigeon

And one of the fountains with the very distinctive glass pyramid entrance

We made a stab at exploring the museum, which is enormous. You could easily spend a whole weekend wandering through the collections alone. We decided to focus on three sections: a history of the building itself, an excavation of some of the old Roman ruins in the basement, and then some of the marble sculptures. What really impressed me was the quality of light in many of the galleries. There were very few that didn't have some sort of natural light, either from external windows or skylights or windows to other galleries with windows on the outside. It really gave the whole museum a very airy quality. The sculpture galleries themselves were brilliantly laid out - almost like gardens, with plenty of space in between each piece.

After several hours, we were both rather tired and so headed back to the hotel for me to take a nap and Stephen to scout out an option for dinner. We eventually settled on a late seating (9pm) at a place called Le Timbre, which means postage stamp in French. This turned out to be very aptly named, as it was literally the size of a stamp. It was one long thin dining room with tables lining each wall; it was a good thing that all the locals were very friendly, because while the tables were technically separate, there was very little elbow room. This did create something of a very chummy atmosphere and we had some nice chats with our various neighbours, 2 of whom were also Americans! The menu was on a chalkboard that got passed around and there was exactly one price - 32 euros for 3 courses. The wine list was in the waiter's head. There was exactly one waiter and exactly one cook, both of whom obviously loved their jobs. The waiter was jovial and attentive and the chef was super efficient and obviously knew his craft - his kitchen was about 1/3 the size of the dining room, maybe 6 feet deep by about 10 feet across. How he managed to cook all the dishes I have no idea, but the food was incredible. Unfortunately, I forgot to note down what we ate, but it was all scrumptious and I would go back in a heartbeat.

Needless to say, we both slept well that night!