Sunday, November 12, 2006

Paris - visiting the usual suspects

Luckily, whilst I had thought that we would be spending every day inParis in a mad rush, we haven't, so we have had time to savoureverything that we have done here.

Visited the Eiffel Tower just before sunset on Tuesday. The queue forthe lift was enormous, about a 90min wait, whilst the queue for taking the stairs up was nonexistant. So we took the stairs up to the firstplatform, did a quick walk through, and then went up hem two at a timeto reach the second level in time for sunset. I don't think I managedto grab any piccies of the tower itself before the tower was lit an eerie orange colour. The sunset was beautiful, although as the sunwent, a haze descended, and it was harder to see all the buildings indetail. If you want to make it to the top level (although the view from the second level is better), it is actually cheaper to take the stairs to the second level, and then get an additional lift pass from there upwards.

Received my first taste of waiter rudeness at a seafood restaurant inMontemarte. We saw another table ask about the composition of a dish, in English, and he didn't bother answering, just pulled out the English menu (they had only one), and chucked it at them. I'm sure that that there was heaps of stuff that was available that wasn'twritten down. The French table next to us each got a serve of fish, I think with just butter and lemon juice. The woman on the other sideordered a dozen oysters - and I swear they weren't on the menu either!

Wednesday was reserved for shopping. First up I visited a mainly freshfood market under a railway underpass at Barbes Rochechourt. At one end, we stopped to take a picture of the length of the markets, all the way up to the metro station. Some stallholders thought it would behighly amusing then to come up and demand that we take a picture ofthem, and then as we started walking back down along the market, started chanting out 'tourist! tourist!' along the way. Like that is in anyway going to endear you to people. I bought some pears, some ashis and some mandarins. Perhaps the reason for the currenttiredness was the lack of fruit.

Walked the Champs Elysees from the Concorde end up to the Arc deTriomphe. The original plan, when we flew in on the Sunday, was to head straight there & get a good view of the city, since entry is freeon the Sunday of the month. Of course, it had been really cold (and foggy) when we landed, so we had decided then not to go. The Avenue is really wide, and it would be really impressive, if it wasn't filledwith 8 smelly lanes of traffic. I think we chose the wrong side to walk up, we saw the cheap ready-to-wear shops, not the pricey hautecoutour names. Took piccies of the Arc. Saw that there was a modern day version, all reflective glass further down Avenue Charles DeGaulle. I think it was at La Defense, the CBD district of Paris.

Caught the metro down to the Petit Palais & visited the cafe. Entry to the Palais is free, but for headcount reasons, we still had to collect a ticket.

Then it was time for more shopping! We headed to the St Paul/Marais district for some homewares shopping. Despite not actually living in this country, or even on the same continent, we go homewares shopping. Found some reproductions of the old style biscuit tins, so we bought a few.

Visited the Lourve! We knew that we couldn't appreciate all of theLourve in one hit, so we tried to plan. A few days before going, we got the completely *useless* map, which didn't tell you much. In the end, having paid for our entry, we went to the souvenir bookshop,hunted through until we found a guidebook with 'The Lourve tour for those in a hurry', and copied their suggested route down. Afterstarting on the 2nd floor, we ended up backtracking and getting the audio guide.

Midway during our visit, decided that we needed a refreshing break. So we headed out to Angelina's, a patissierie shop on Rue de Rivoli. Just outside, I switched from thongs to ballet flats, just to look presentable enough to enter. You could tell where the locals were -all in the smoking section. The non-smoking section had all the tourists.

The order was for two hot chocolates (one white, one milk), a montblanc (they are famed for the last two), and a strawberry tart.

Having read the easyjet magazine on the flight over, we headed to DesCrepes et des Calles in the 13th arrondisement. After leaving themetro, we found a nicer set of markets than the ones in BarbesRochouart. There were less people, it was less pushy, it was a whole lot calmer. It was very nice!

The crepes were really nice too - we got dessert ones for starters, because dessert is the most important meal of the day. Lemon and honey, and banana and butter. Yummo! I was then game enough to try a gallete, a buckwheat crepe with filling. I triedegg & cheese. It filled in the bits between the crepe & didn't taste like Soba at all.

Walked up the hill to the Sacre Coeur, an enjoyed the view of Paris.This hill behind Montemarte (or perhaps it is what defines Montemarte)is the highest point within Paris. Unfortunately, couldn't see theeiffel tower from the hill,as it was just around the corner to theright.

Saturday - I went shopping again! I visited the horror that is the LesHalles area (bleurgh); found a fantastic second hand shop on RueEtienne Marcel. They had an enormous range of boots, but everytime I found one that I liked (cherry or mahogony red), it had been separatedfrom its brother.

Sunday - last full day in Paris. I went to the Flea Market at Porte deClingancourt. It was crap! Once you left the train station, and youwalked along the side where the markets where, you had a whole lot oftouts offering you handfuls of fake belts, bags, wallets. And what is more, they didn't get the message when you ignored one of them, orsidestepped them, they just kept coming up at you. Ugh. And then themarkets themselves were crap! The antique section I had a quick browse through, but I obviously couldn't buy anything or ship it back home.

So instead, I went to the Musee d'Orsay, which had been installed in an old train station. After queuing up for 40minutes on the reduced-rate Sunday, I finally got inside. I spent a lot of time inthere, a lot more than in the Lourve, it must've been because it wasmy last museum hurrah before leaving Europe.

The highlight for me in the Musee d'Orsay was definitely the Art Nouveau section. There was a lot of stuff by Hector Guinard here, the guy who designed the curly iconic patris metro signs and railings. I spent ages in here taking piccies of Guinard's stuff, as well as the other French Nouveau artists and architects of the time.

Finally, way after sunset, I wandered around the outside of George Pompidou Centre, but was a bit museumed out from the Musee d'Orsay to go in.

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