The Paris Blog – Arrival and Day 1

So, as mentioned in my previous post, last week I went to Paris. When organising the trip I had certain stipulations; one, it needed to be on a budget so Eurostar rather than flying, two, I needed a hotel close to restaurants and the metro, on a main road so that I was as safe as possible coming back on my own in the evenings, three, I was going to drink champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower and four, I was going to try and see as much of the city as I possibly could, in two and a half days.

The hotel we found was a lovely bijou hotel right on the Boulevard Raspail, smack bang in the middle of metro stations Raspail and Vavin and not too far from Boulevard Saint-Germain. This meant easy access to and from the metro and plenty of places to eat in the evening. The room was small but provided more space than my own bedroom at home. Boulavard Raspail proved to be a reasonably busy road although, double glazing on the balcony windows meant very little road noise.

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The first night I managed to get a little lost in my attempts to explore the surrounding area, I walked for a good hour or so before finding my way back to the hotel and having dinner at a restaurant two doors up! I did, in my wanderings, find Saint Sulpice though which was on my list of sight so I could at least cross that off.

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Breakfast in the hotel turned out to be a fairly standard assortment of cakes and pastries with cereal options, toast, fruit, scrambled eggs or cold meats and cheeses. Tea, coffee and hot chocolate was provided as well as fruit juices. There wasn’t much space for preparing toast for scrambled eggs anywhere other than at your table, which meant a bit of back and forth. After breakfast I jumped on the metro and headed for the Eiffel Tower. I met my friend Jess for coffee first, she was also staying in Paris at the same time by pure chance, and then headed off to tackle the queues. Fortunately, as I’d set myself the challenge of climbing the first two floors, I needed the queue for the stairs first which wasn’t anywhere near as bad as queueing for the lifts. Once through the security checkpoint there was nothing but 700+ steps between me and my goal.

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I spent a while exploring the first floor before climbing to the second. Considering how many steps there are, at no point did I really feel like I was climbing the equivalent of about 25 flights of stairs. I did struggle a little with vertigo and found, the higher I got, the more I had to concentrate on the steps rather than looking up or down. The second floor was quite packed and, once I’d got a ticket to continue the rest of the way by lift, there was quite a queue for the trip to the top. Obviously, as the tower tapers, there was even less room to move once you were up there. I did, however, manage to get my champagne and squished my way around, champagne in hand, beret on head, to each of the four sides so, like everyone else up there, I could take pictures of Paris sprawling away into the haze. You don’t really spend that long at the very top and I wasn’t much surprised to find my queue companions for the lift down were mostly the same people I’d queued with to get up there in the first place.

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Once I was back on the ground I headed straight off towards Point de l’Alma, the Liberty Flame monument and the Arc de Triomphe, by way of Avenue des Champs Elysses. The whole point of this route was, after seeing the Liberty Flame, to walk up Champs Elysses, listening to the song by Joe Dassin. Three times in fact (the song not the walk). I didn’t actually get close to the Arc as you had to queue for entry to that as well. Once I’d got a few pictures, I got the metro down to the Grand Palais and stopped at a street stall for a jambon et fromage crepe and a bottle of much needed water. And a rest, oh how I needed that rest!

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Lunch break over, I walked the rest of the way down to Place de la Concorde, through some beautiful gardens boasting varied yet odd sculptures, photographed the obelisk and then made my way to Musee de l’Orangerie, where I spent a very long time admiring Monet’s Water Lillies. Monet is definitely one of my favourite Impressionists and so seeing the eight murals in-situ was utterly breathtaking.

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Time for another rest in Jardin des Tuileries before a quick jaunt to photograph Arc de triomphe du Carousel and the Pyramide du Louvre and then on to Musee d’Orsay. At this point there is a whole other story involving Phillipe the Paris native who attached himself to me, but that’s a story for another day. I did, by the time I finally managed to ditch him outside the museum, know almost everything about his early upbringing, his family and had extracted myself from quite possibly the worst snog I have ever experienced!

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Orsay was actually on my ‘if I have time’ list and also down for the next morning, as I assumed I wouldn’t get to it after everything else I’d had planned but, as I’d bought a combined ticket at l’Orangerie and, as I had an hour before they shut and because I was right there, I figured it made sense. Plus it would free up some time the next day, time it turned out I needed. I really only wanted to see Van Gogh and the Impressionists anyway, and so figured an hour was plenty. It was, in fact, only just enough time! I headed straight for the Van Gogh gallery first and whipped round photographing ALL the paintings, admiring not just Van Vogh but Seurat and some other painters I now forget the names of, as well. I then found my way, by pure luck, to the Impressionist gallery on the top floor. There’s a glass clock face, which overlooks Sacre Couer, ahead of you, as you enter the upper gallery which is pretty impressive. I had to wait for a photo opportunity and, in waiting, met Jean Francois who offered to take the photo for man and then accompany me around the gallery. It is not, however, as impressive as more Monets, including the very Water Lily painting I used as inspiration for a waistcoat when doing textiles at school. I studied that damn painting so much, made water lily flowers  out of french knots, wrapped wool to make the weeping willows and used sequins and silk paints to create light and definition of water and lily pads. And there I was actually seeing the real thing. Art galleries + Monet + Van Gogh = a very happy me. On the way out I gave Van Gogh another look (with Jean Francois in tow), just cos really.

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After that, as it was past five and I was a bit of a walk from my hotel I began to make my way back. It took a little effort to extract myself from Jean Francois, fortunately no family history or dreadful snog, although I wouldn’t have minded the latter as he was rather lovely.  I swear single French men must hang around parks and galleries in Paris in the hopes of picking up single female tourists! Once extracted, My route took me via Cafe Flore and Les Deux Magots – both popular with the literati and artist crowd back in the day. Hemingway, Sartre, Wilde among names boasted by both places. As it had been a very long and tiring day I rewarded my Stirling efforts with a well earned Hoegaarden at Les Duex Magots before ambling around Saint Germain des Pres and on, eventually, to a little Chinese restaurant not far from my hotel for dinner. After that I dragged myself and my sore little legs and my sore little feet back to the hotel and to bed.

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One comment

  1. It still sounds very good , exciting and exhausting even though I have had the pleasure of all the photos and a full commentary. You were obviously well trained on holidays as a long suffering child. You never cease to amaze me, well done.

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