Paris in the Winter
26.01.2013 - 29.01.2013 2 °C
Dan was nearly a non-starter for our four day soujourn in Paris. A nasty cough and no sleep the night before had him suggesting I take the girls by myself. However I wasn't sure how well I would manage with two kids and only merci and au revoir in my vocabulary. Fortunately the 'usband managed to rally and we caught our Bologna flight to Paris as planned. Our journey from Charles De Galle airport to our apartment was slow with the usually efficient RER train service to Paris central out of action. A bus and stopping-all-stations train to Paris finally saw us exit at St-Michel Notre Dame ... and what a magnificent sight to have the River Seine below and Notre Dame towering above. A quick walk and we soon arrived at our AirBnB accommodation. AirBnB is an internet-only accommodation booking service where anyone can have a listing - from their sofa bed right through to a Palace. We were staying in a lovely little apartment that belonged to Parisian Ben and his family. The place on the 5th floor was bright, smartly decorated and had lovely views out the windows - perfect for our needs. Lunch at a traditional French restaurant next door (veal, quiche) helped to restore our energy. Returning to our apartment, Dan and the kids decided to stay and rest and I went for a walk around Notre Dame and the local streets. A quick dinner at the local Japanese followed and then an early night for us all.
Notre Dame, River Seine, and Apartment View
The next day saw Dan pick up the pace, but I dropped behind as I succumbed to the dreaded lurgi. He and the kids went to see the Eiffel Tower; something Gabi was very keen to do after reading about it in one of her books. The sight was thrilling as they stepped out of Trocadero Metro and witnessed the Eiffel Tower in all its' majestic glory. A quick walk and they were soon standing under the famous structure with a handful of other brave tourists waiting to ascend to the top. Unfortunately strong winds and howling rain restricted them to the second platform (128m up). However despite the cold, the children and Dan had a very enjoyable morning. In their absence I managed to get out to the local shops and purchase baguettes from the famous local bakery and a range of hams and cheeses. Fortunately my lack of French was not too much of a drawback!
Eiffel Tower and the Metro
A quiet afternoon was had by all, and then a surprise was in store for the children. Dan had booked tickets to Cirque d'hiver (Winter Circus) on the recommendation of a (French) parent at our school. This circus is held in a purpose-built building completed in 1852. The structure is an oval polygon of 20 sides, giving the impression of an oval building enclosing the oval ring, surrounded by steeply banked seating for spectators - very much like a miniature indoor Colosseum. A low angled roof is self-supporting like a low dome, so that there is no central pole to obstruct views or interfere with the action. Once inside it did have a very intimate feel, and although we were in the cheap seats near the back our view was still excellent. We were entertained for 2 hours with performing lions, dogs, horses, amazing trapeze artists, acrobats, knife thrower, juggler, pole dancer and clowns. The kids loved all the action, and Dan particularly enjoyed the singing & dancing girls that kept the show flowing.
Monday saw an improvement in the weather and also our health. A quick walk along Boulevard Saint-Germain and coffee at the famous Cafe de Flore - meeting point for many French intellectuals in the post-war years. Today however it is a trap for the gullible tourist with 7 euros being charged for a coffee ... six times what we pay in Bologna! After our budget-breaking cafe, Musee du Louvre was thankfully only a short stroll away. I had forgotten how massive the building was as it stretches along the river. Once inside the outer walls the impressive glass pyramid leads you to the entrance of the museum, and we were straight in (one of the bonuses of travelling in winter is that there are no queues). The Louvre was originally a medieval castle, a royal palace, and since 1793 a museum. It was one of Europe’s very first museums, and is now one of the world’s richest. The collections are divided into eight major departments: (Oriental Antiquities; Egyptian Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Painting; Sculpture; Objets d’art; Graphic Arts; Islamic Arts). We managed to see sculptures and many of the paintings including of course the famous Mona Lisa. After a while the kids were starting to get restless, so lunch and a trip to the bookshop ensued, giving Dan time to visit Napoleon's apartment. We finished the day with a trip to Montmartre - home of many artists and the famous Moulin Rouge. These painters congregate in the Place du Tertre with the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur looming in the background ... Gabi was inspired by much of the work she saw and completed her own painting of the Eiffel Tower - a future Cezanne perhaps?
Cafe de Flore (ouch!) and Musee du Louvre
Many stairs to climb to exit Abbesses Metro station.
Our final morning in Paris and although we were unable to take in all the items on Dan's packed itinerary we did manage to fit in Musee d'Orsay (for me), and Jardin du Luxembourg for Dan and the kids. Musee d'Orsay was once a train station and it was nearly demolished in the 1970's, but was fortunately saved and opened as a museum/gallery in 1986. It is a wonderful space - much smaller than The Louvre - and a fantastic place to see a range of paintings, sculptures and photography. It is an especially good place to view some of the great Impressionist works (although no photos are allowed). My timing was perfect as the crowds were minimal, but once I left the building at 11am the queues were starting to build. A quick walk back along the Seine and I met the cold and wet trio returning from the park. Fortunately this time the train to the airport was working and we arrived quickly, changed the kids into dry clothes, and had some surprisingly tasty baguettes for lunch before boarding our favourite airline Easyjet!
Musee d'Orsay and bye gay Paris
Our time in Paris was wonderful even if it was marred by ill-health ... a city that effortlessly lives up to its very high billing.