V is for Versailles

So our last full day in Paris wasn’t really in the city but instead we wanted to get to visit Versailles before heading south. So early that morning (well early for us which is probably not particularly early for most) we caught the train from Gare Austerlitz, along with about a billion other tourists, to the palace that sits only just outside of Paris. Also it was a double decker train (my first!) which is like a double decker bus but definitely cooler. We ate breakfast on the way which consisted of these delicious cheap chocolate biscuits which are like half shortbread and half amazing delicious milk chocolate. If I could I would leave all my clothes behind and just bring back a suitcase of these biscuits but i feel like that would arouse suspicions.

Despite getting there early and buying tickets online we still had to endure a pretty long wait to get through the beautiful golden gates of the palace. it is quite possible that the queues were worse as we chose to go on a day when the fountain concert was on. This meant that our tickets were a little more expensive (worth it though as I shall explain later) and also that we were waiting a little longer than I would have preferred. Luckily the wait is soon forgotten once you step in and get your first glimpse of a luxurious palace of a rather exuberant French King (Louis XIV – a fancy guy!).

Versailles is hard to put into words or photos as it is at its most magnificent when you can take in everything at once, the luxurious furnishings, the giant rooms and the incredible views over the huge estate and gardens. It is quite spectacular but in my mind I almost think I might have over hyped it a little bit. Definitely worth the wait to enter and even worth the annoying crowds who stand in the doorways and ruin all your photos. The Hall of Mirrors was probably the room I had expected so much from and to be honest it didn’t quite live up to my mind’s vision, probably due to the crowds and due to the fact that the mirrors were rather worn and not particularly reflective. I could imagine how incredible it would be with the right lighting and less people.

Versailles was also interesting in regards to it being a symbol of the monarchy in the Ancien Regime and after seeing so much about the revolution in Paris, this kind of gives some context to the whole situation. The painted ceilings, giant chandeliers and incredible gardens were an example of how self serving the monarchy had become. Its an amazing palace and their really is nothing to compare that one would find in New Zealand.

The gardens were a daunting but beautiful task after wandering through the palace (and finding a much needed but pretty crappy coffee in the process). Once in the gardens however, the crowds dispersed and we were able to explore in a lot more peace. The way these gardens are laid out, in regards to order and perspective are admirable and the sculptures that are literally around every corner give the whole garden a definite sense of expense. The gardens are huge and so we took quite a while to wander down to the large central canal/lake thing where people were hiring small boats to take out on to the water, obviously without any real boating experience. Which led to a lot of boats simply revolving in circles and occasionally bumping into one another. It was funny.

After a quick lunch beside the water we then watched a young french girl feed the giant carp in the water. It was the first time we had heard someone say “Oh la la” quite so enthusiastically which felt weirdly satisfying. With some more walking through the beautiful grounds we visited the Trianon, a smaller more private palace for when the King needed a break from his giant Chateau. It was less grand but still pretty amazing and built in a totally different style, Italianate with beautiful pink marble and more amazing gardens. There was also another little building nearby (The Queen’s appartments) which were built for Marie Antoinete (I think) but are rather beautiful in a slightly less lavish way.

The best part of the day, which was a little surprising considering my general lack of love for the french style of garden, were the geometric and sometimes maze like landscaped domain of gardens and foutains. Because we went on the day of the Musical Fountains there was classical music playing throughout the gardens, with different pieces to accompany different fountains. It was rather amazing to see the powerful fountains with scenes from mythology or decorated with shells the King had acquired from around the world, accompanied by wafting baroque music. It is supposed to give people the chance to see the gardens in the same way people would have experienced them in the time of Louis XIV. The best one for me was the fountain that had been set up to be in time with a piece of music as everyone sat around in the grass.

After what felt like a very long day, we trained home (along with 4 jovial security guards who seemed very prepared with tasers, guns and knives…) and did little else before falling asleep. All in all, Versailles was spectacular both in its gilded halls but also in its magnificent gardens and mythological fountains. I don’t think I will ever get lost somewhere quite as beautiful (yes I got lost. What else is new?)

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F is for Framboise

After 5 nights in Montmatre we were moving to our next Parisian accommodation and although I loved The area we had stayed in, I can’t say I was at all disappointed to be leaving our hostel. The problem wasn’t the fact that it was a hostel, it was just the general lack of cleanliness and the abundance of noise which inexplicably was worst after 2pm. It was also safe to say that after 5 nights of very poor sleep in a ridiculously uncomfortable bed, I was looking forward to staying somewhere new.

Our next place was a little less central but also a lot less touristy, so quite different to where we had been before. We got lost finding the place but I have come to accept that we only ever get lost when we are lugging around our heavy suitcases and walking ten minutes in the wrong direction makes you want to lie down and give up. All was fine though and the streets aren’t really clean enough for lying down so we found the hotel and went for a coffee at a great little bistro while we waited for check in. I think it might have been the first time we actually had a rather good coffee in France. So far our experience had been that an espresso, the French know and love and do it well (not that I would know because it all tastes like burnt tree bark to me). Unfortunately, whenever we get any kind of coffee with milk, be it a latte, cafe au lait or a cappuccino it tastes like crap and often is just spat out of a machine. So this rare occasion where the latte was actually quite good did not go unrecognised.

We checked in and although only one of us could fit into the elevator at a time with the bags, the hotel itself was great and the room was a comparative luxury with room to actually open our suitcases as well as a shower and bathroom that wasn’t a stairway away and actually smelt clean. We head out to explore the area and picked up some quiches and pastries to eat for lunch beside the canal. The quiches were homemade and divine but they had nothing on the amazing fresh raspberry tart that we had to follow. I wish I had time to stay in France and undertake a 6 month intensive patisserie course so I could recreate their delicious pastries and cakes.

The last thing I really wanted to visit in Paris was the cemetery of Père Lachaise as it was where quite a few famous people had been buried, and was supposed to be quite an interesting cemetery to walks through. We got to the cemetery and found a map with the locations of all the famous graves and monuments. It felt a little bit strange, almost like a more morbid version of those tours they do in Hollywood where you drive past all the celebrities houses. To be honest, despite my initial reservations, the cemetery was rather wonderful to wander around and more interesting than I had expected.

We visited the popular graves of Jim Morrison (sadly kind of cordoned off due to his enthusiastic fans), Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Gerciault (probably my favourite grave stone) and others. We also walked past huge and rather ominous monuments for things like Auschwitz. The war and holocaust memorials were pretty powerful with skeletal figures and rather threatening compositions but they made for an interesting walk. The cemetery is larger than I could imagine so we spent a good couple of hours walking in the shade of the trees and only occasionally coming across other people. It was a rather peaceful way to pass the afternoon and quite a contrast to our busy days we had been undertaking.

On one of the many metro trips we did that day, one of my more memorable metro moments occurred. There are often live performers and buskers on the metro who walk from carriage to carriage, usually with an accordion. It’s something I quite like but today, there were a couple who came up to our carriage where I was standing holding the central pole (the metro always seems rather busy so getting a seat is rather rare). The couple came and decided to do their performance right where I was standing, one one each side of me with their speaker by my feet (Edd somehow managed to sidle off to the side). I kept my typical poker metro face right up until the moment when he music started and they began to shout rap (like rapping but a lot louder) and dancing around me. At that point I broke into uncontrollable laughter, along with most of the people in the carriage. It’s not everyday you get to join in with metro buskers.

We didn’t do a whole lot more that day, walking the streets takes up quite a lot of time and then trying to find a vegetarian dinner is a mission in itself. We eventually found a lovely guy who makes these fresh homemade pizzas that were being pulled out of the oven as we walked in so we grabbed a few slices and enjoyed the amazing cheeses that the French love putting on their pizza. It was the perfect low fuss meal to end a pretty low key kind of day.

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1. Our new local canal (St Martin)
2. The best little tart I ever did eat
3. It feels weird to have a favourite gravestone, but I do and Gericault’s was it
4. The very popular grave of Jim Morrison
5. I didn’t think a cemetery could be so photogenic
6. One of many Auschwitz memorials
7. Oscar Wilde (covered in red kisses)
8. We spent a lot of time looking for these
9. Ended the day with these

V is for Views

Today was our last day in our very central Paris location and also the last day of our Museum Pass so we decided to go and do the last few things that we had been keeping in the back of our minds. The first one was to climb Notre Dame and visit its famous gargoyles however upon arrival where we realized it was going to be about an hours wait minimum we reconsidered and decided to move on (to be honest my feet and legs were still punishing me for yesterday so I wasn’t totally devastated…).

The next thing on our list was the Centre Pompidou, a gallery for modern art. I am not a huge fan of modern art (aka I am not intelligent enough for it to be particularly accessible to me, especially in French) however the building itself is supposed to be rather unique and the views of the city would be worth a visit in itself. The bad news was that the gallery was shut. The good news was that we figured this out before we headed in that direction.

Plan C was to go back to the Latin Quarter and visit the Museum of the Middle Ages which was highly recommended by the book but which we had skipped the other day in favour for other things. After circling the building twice and walking through its pretty little gardens we came to the conclusion that it was shut for some kind of construction going on. So yeah, not so successful so far. The day was still early and Paris has so much to see that we were not short on things to do.

After wandering through a small street market and then through La Sorbonne we arrived at the impressive Pantheon (whose Dome was undergoing some kind of renovation), a huge building based on the archetype of an ancient temple that had gone through a few identity crises during its history. The building was grand and suitably beautiful on the inside but the best part of the Pantheon in my opinion are the crypts below which are open for a wander and which house the bodies of many great French thinkers, writers, revolutionaries and scientists. The Pantheon was rather reinvented during the French Revolution so the focus on secular heroes of history kind of made sense and was a nice change from the norm. People like Voltaire, Rousseau and Marie Curie (the only woman) all have tombs here.

Because we can’t resist a good pre lunch religion, we decided to take a look at the church that was beside the Pantheon and although we have seen a lot of churches, this one was one that stood out. It had beautifully ornate marble carvings as well as a central pair of marble staircases that I particularly loved. It seemed to be a popular spot for students of the nearby university. Luckily, where there are students there are always good lunch options so it did not take us long to find a busy little sandwich shop where we got a delicious cheap lunch.

Despite my reservations on French “”Jardins”, where grass is off limits, we decided to visit the much loved Jardins de Luxembourg. No doubt they are pretty, with the beautiful Palace at the head of the ordered and well kept flower beds as well as a few mirror like ponds thrown in for good measure. Still hasn’t made me fall in love with the French gardens but it was a pleasant way to wander away half an hour or so. There was also a rather sculpture fountain dedicated to Delacroix (he pops up everywhere in Paris) which was typically difficult to capture in a photo.

In the Lonely Planet, église st Sulpice nearby was mentioned as having rather impressive architecture as well as a small claim to fame in The Da Vinci code as one of the murder scenes. Exciting stuff so we headed towards its two Italianate towers that were thankfully high enough to make navigations rather simple. It wasn’t my favourite church interior (the fact that I took zero photos also makes it very difficult to picture it) but it’s exterior colonnaded entrance was unique and the homeless people begging on the steps with their tiny little chihuahuas sitting on ragged pillows easily come to mind. Oh, the one cool thing inside was that Just when you thought Delacroix wouldn’t pop up again, there he was in this church where he had painted two of a the wall frescoes. In typical Delacroix fashion, he had been asked to paint scenes with angels but chose to go ahead and do some battle scenes instead, which makes me love him even more.

Why see one or two churches when you can see three I hear you say? Good question so we thought we should visit one more. Our third church (st Germaine des Prés) was nearby and had a much humbler exterior than the one before but used to be the main church in Paris before scene stealer, Notre Dame went and stole all the glory. It was pretty adorable, relatively small with frescoed walls and a starry ceiling sky. Afterwards we sat outside with an old guy who was laughing away to himself as he fed the pigeons. It was kind of adorable.

After another stop at Laduree to sample more macaroon flavours we walked up to the Arc de Triomphe to conquer its stairs and get ourselves some panoramic views of this city we both had rather fallen in love with. The stairs were evil and slightly claustrophobic but the views up top were breathtaking. The city lay out in front of us and it was fun to pick out all the places we had been to, with views over to Montmartre as well as to la Defense where the big arch stood in clear view. Of course no view of Paris would be complete with out of favourite tower and here it had a centre stage. Definitely recommend the arc de Triomphe as both a great work out and also an awesome way to get your bearings on this beautiful city.

With out last night in Montmartre we couldn’t leave without a quick visit to the Moulin Rouge as well as the close by little cafe where Amelie works (what an amazing movie). We then ended the night back at our favourite spot, on top of Montmartre with more French onion soup and that delicious French bread (as well as half a bottle of rosé). I knew I was going to miss this area immensely.

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1. Crooked Pantheon
2. Inside (surprisingly quiet when compared to most of Paris)
3. Fraternité
4. St Étienne du Mont (I think)
5. Beautiful staircases
6. Luxembourg palace
7. Ditto but with added flora
8. Just sitting in some random street. I love it
9. Église St Sulpice
10. Arc de Triomphe
12. View towards the Eiffel Tower
13. View towards La Defence
14. Eternal flame under the arch
15. Those red windmills
16. Getting lost in the backstreets of Montmatre
17. Back at our favourite spot

D is for Da Vinci

We woke on our fourth day in Paris to some pretty dodgy weather so it was the perfect opportunity to visit the Louvre, a gallery that we were both excited to visit. By now we kind of had the hang of Paris’ metro and it was kind of smugly rewarding to catch the metro, switiching lines and making our way through the city as if we had been doing it for the last year, not the last three days. In reality we both probably looked exactly like the nervous and foreign guests that we were but hey, at least we didn’t feel quite as out of place.

The Louvre did not disappoint us with its grand modern entrance contrasted against the Palace’s traditional beauty. It was cool but what was even cooler was seeing the giant, writhing line of eager but increasingly bored people waiting to enter and the considerably shorter line for museum pass holders. I would buy the museum pass just to miss the line at the Louvre. Especially as this was not the line for tickets but the line to enter the revolving doors, which they soon found out, but not as soon as us! (can you tell I am annoyingly happy that we got the pass?).

The gallery itself is amazing and people do not exaggerate its giant size. The Lonely Planet estimates that it would take 9 months to simply glance at each and every work and although that seems rather excessive we definitely knew we weren’t going to be able to see each and every room. One of the highlights of the gallery (other than the wonderful decor of the rooms themselves) were the Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian sculpture and artefacts (I even got to see my first real mummy! Not quite as scary as the movies make it out to be). I also got to see a few of my favourite paintings such as The Raft of the Medusa by Gericault and Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix (thanks Coldplay for making this painting annoyingly busy).

No trip to the Louvre would be complete without a brief rendezvous with the lady herself, Mona Lisa, although if I am honest the crowds that surrounded this small renaissance portrait were more entertaining than the painting itself (and our favourite Da Vinci was sitting in a different room with zero crowds). Its quite interesting to see all these people fighting for a good vantage point to view the painting and I wish I could collect a quick survey to figure out what its appeal is that draws people from all over the world. There are even guides for how to get straight to the Mona Lisa if that is the only work you have just paid €11 to visit. I don’t deny it’s beauty but its world wide status and fame are what seem rather more interesting.

After a few hours during which we managed to cover all the bits we wanted to prioritise as well as a few extra, my legs felt like they were about to revolt and the heat of the crowds was starting to get a little challenging so we set out to find a late lunch. In typical Edd and Liz style we were trying to decide between two different lunch options, Japanese from little Japan town or a vegetarian restaurant in a different direction. After deciding on Little Japan Town we got ourselves to the lines of restaurants hidden away in little side streets and realised that apparently Japanese in France don’t do vegetarian unless you settle on a bowl of rice. 12 restaurant menus later we accepted failure and dragged our sore feet and rumbling tummies to the metro to locate the Vegetarian restaurant that held so much promise. We get to the restaurant (finally) and then find that because of all our messing about, the restaurant had now finished lunch and wouldn’t be opening again until dinner at 7pm.

So yeah, we don’t excel at lunch times. But we found a small little street bistro and sat out eating more french bread stuffed with delicious cheese whilst we self-medicated with beer. It turned out fine but was more of a mission than either of us intended. Lesson learnt, always go for the safe vegetarian option and for goodness sake don’t leave lunch until 3pm. One thing I love about French cafes is the way everyone sits facing out on to the street as opposed to facing each other. It felt a bit foreign at first but we have both grown to rather enjoy sitting and just soaking up the streets before us and the hive of activity they are host to. I still hate espresso though.

We got home fairly early in the evening but we had intended this so that we could catch up on some much needed laundry (ah the glamorous life of the suitcase). So on that exciting note, see you all tomorrow!

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1. Venus de Milo who was as beautiful as a no armed sculpture could be
2. One of many Sphinxes
3. Some of the rooms were stunning
4. Liberty leading the people by Delacroix
5. The most popular lady in town
6. Louvre pyramids
7. Crappy weather makes for a day getting lost in the worlds most confusing labyrinth, I mean gallery.
8. Self medication after a ridiculous afternoon trying to find lunch

M is for Montmartre

Our next day in Paris we actually managed to get ourselves up and ready in time for breakfast which consisted of bread and butter, croissant, tea and jus d’Orange. It was a good, carb filled way to start another day that was bound to be completely exhausting. We caught the metro to the île de la cité so that we could start the day with a visit to Notre Dame. It was impressive, and unfortunately due to the fact that it was Sunday it was also extremely busy. I think I would have had a better experience of Notre Dame if it wasn’t packed full of people but it was certainly worth seeing regardless, even just for the beautiful rose window. I think I appreciated the cathedrals exterior even more so with its flying buttresses and detail in the portals. It is a very photogenic cathedral, no doubt about it.

We went down into the crypts of the Notre Dame as it was free with our pass and close by. It was interesting as it outlined the history, not just of the Notre Dame but also of Paris as a city. It isn’t somewhere I would say people should pay for unless urban development tickles your fancy (not a sentence I say very often). With the advice of my Dad we went to the other side of the île to Saint Chapelle, another cathedral which was a lot less busy. It was less impressive from the outside, partly due to a lot of work going on with restoration of the cathedral but once inside I knew why it was something that had stood out as being unique. You enter downstairs in a room that is quite different to a typical cathedral with a lot of colour and painted murals on the walls. After climbing a claustrophobic but easily manageable staircase you get to the main chapel which is a vision in the most spectacular stained glass I have ever seen. Triyng to capture the beautiful effect of the sun through the long, thin stained glass windows that lined the walls of the cathedral was frustratingly near to impossible as per always but I wouldn’t visit Paris without including this. Apparently it is the oldest (and most exquisite) example of stained glass in Paris.

Just next door (basically) was the Conciergerie, another thing we might have missed if not for the Musuem pass that gave us free entry. The building was first built as a royal palace and it definitley retains a sense of grandeur in its large medievil entrance hall. During the revolution and the reign of terror it was used as a prison and torture chamber and that was what I found most interesting during the visit. It was good to learn more about the revolution and see what the prison cells were like. One notable prisoner, who had her own (rather nice) cell was Marie Antoinette who was imprisoned here before being executed.

As we walked around the île we happened across a market that was quite unlike any New Zealand market that I have been to. Out in the streets were stalls humming with life…literally. Most of the stalls were like mini pet shops with cages of chickens, pigeons, hamsters, mice, canaries, and the cutest little rabbits that had no where to run from my cuddles. It was fun but also kind of strange, especially as the caged pigeons looked exactly like those wandering the streets. Only in Paris.

We found lunch at a cafe in the latin quarter and tried to end the meal like the french with an espresso (rather than commit sacrilege and order a cafe au lait after 11am). Turns out I hate espresso and would make a terrible Parisian, good to know. Regardless we eventually paid our bill (everything takes us ages as we always get awkwardly nervous when it comes to bills and that whole process of paying at the table). Wandering the tourist free cobbled streets was rather peaceful after a rather busy morning and we found desert at a little window selling crepes. They were the best crepes I have had to date, deliciously simple with salted butter and sugar creating the most amazing taste combination in my mouth. So simple (and cheap) but we were both in agreement that it was amazing.

Our next stop was the Delacroix museum, a delightfully quiet collection of Delacroix works housed in his Parisian apartment. It was quite different from a normal gallery experience to be able to wander though his rooms and his studio whilst viewing paintings and sketches he had done in this humble little apartment. Less humble but just as special was his private courtyard that has all of the original flora that he had requested. It is a peaceful secluded spot that the french seem very good at creating. We couldn’t leave without buying one of Delacroix’s sketches, partly because he is one of my favourite artists but also because it was a sketch of cats and the idea of this famous artist sitting in these dark but character filled rooms sketching his cats was too wonderful to resist.

We spent the next couple of sun filled hours at the Rodin museum. Again, hosted at his last residence and the huge gardens he requested for displaying his amazing sculptures, it was the best way to experience his art, outside in a beautiful setting, reflecting the dappled light and shadows through the leaves and surrounded by people relaxing in the sunshine. It was such a pleasant experience that I would happily go back every weekend if I lived in Paris.

The advantage of the long days we are getting here in Europe with the sun setting around 10pm is that we can fit so much into a day. The disadvantage is that it kills my legs and also that it makes see posts rather long, so apologies for that! We made our way back to Montmartre where we were staying and caught the funicular up the hill (it was free and I was exhausted by this point ok?!) to the little cobbled roads packed tight with bohemian cafés and artists. We visited Sacré Cœur which is probably my favourite church in Paris with its huge marble dome and Byzantine feel. It was perfect because it was just the end of mass and so the organs were playing.

With a choice of many different little French restaurants we managed to come our first set menu that actually had a vegetarian option as well as French onion soup which is one of Edd’s favourite things. Dinner was amazing and ended with a classic creme brûlée and we even had a little black cat come and sit with us outside which seemed oddly appropriate. We also made friends with an Italian couple next to us who didn’t speak a word of English and had French that was about the same as mine (rather tragically average) so we stumbled through a conversation on Paris and Italy and other such things that were relatively simple grammatically.

The night ended seated on the steps before the basilica, looking down upon the sprawling city of Paris as it started to light up in the dark. Although I was not feeling super safe it was worth it to get a glance of Paris at night, just like the old French couple who came out right as the Eiffel Tower turned on its lights and gazed adoringly at something it seemed like they knew very well.

So there are rather a lot of photos below… Continue if you dare

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1. Hey there crooked Notre Dame. Totally not lizzy’s crappy photo skills
2. I could stare at these portals forever
3. A Rose window
4. Stained glass I’m St Chapelle, so much more stunning in real life
5. The grand hall in La Conciergerie
6. Wouldn’t want to be late for the pet market
7. I tried to speak to these bunnies In French but they still didn’t want to come home with me. Rude
8. Crepe window on the street
9. Little Parisian courtyard of Delacroix
10. A little work by Rodin I like to call “me on a Monday”
11. Seriously, such an amazing space for amazing sculptures
12. Like this one, any foot fans out there?
13. View from the little inside gallery looking over part of the garden
14. The basilica of Sacré Cœur
15. Puppet show above Paris
16. How do you say Hakuna Matata in French?
17. View of the Basilica while we eat
18. Worth waiting til 10pm for

I is for Impressionism

Apologies that these blogs are coming a bit delayed for those who keep up with us in other ways, I will try to do my best to catch up to where we are at the moment so that it all works a little bit better.

After a very average nights sleep (I swear you could feel every bed spring and hear every single guest arriving at 4pm with all of their suitcases banging up the stairs) we got up just in time to grab a croissant from the free breakfast service the hostel provides. It was enough to get us set and ready for our first day exploring Paris. We were pretty excited although Paris had decided to hold off on the good weather and give us clouds and rain instead. We started our explorations at the Arc de Triomphe as it was an easy metro ride (although trying to buy the 5 day metro pass as I was still getting used to French was less easy). Despite the bane of my travel life (scaffolding) the monumental arch in the middle of the biggest and least organized roundabout I had ever seen was quite a sight to behold.

We made our way down the iconic Champs élysées, I admit I could not stop singing the song the entire way down. I think I might be the worst tourist ever. I was determined to find the hyped up Ladurée (the patisserie who created the modern day Macaron) and was almost put off by the giant lines leading out of the beautiful store. Luckily we persevered and queued up along with countless tourists and Parisians (easy to spot with their impeccable sense of dress and the small chihuahua poking its head out of a Dolce and Gabbana handbag that costs more that all of my clothes put together). We drooled over all the amazing cakes and chose a few of the many macarons to take away and eat later. I don’t think I have ever had such a spiritual experience in a cake shop before.

The wonderful road (I feel like road is too normal a word for Champs Élysées) ended at the Place de la Concorde, formally the Place de la Revolution as this was where countless upper class and the occasional monarch were publicly executed during the famous French Revolution. Nowadays, instead of a guillotine there is a impressive Egyptian obelisque in its centre with large marble statues surrounding the courtyard. It was pretty but also very busy with cars going in any possible direction with no real sense of order. We almost died a couple of times before we realized that a zebra crossing is not the same in France and cars do not stop for you until they get a red light. It also didn’t help that I kept looking in the wrong direction expecting cars to be approaching and then they would appear from the other side like some kind of deadly surprise. Ah, being a tourist is a stressful experience. I promise to always be kinder to confused tourists in New Zealand.

We crossed the beautiful Seine (in the rain) to find the Musee d’Orsay for our first dose of art and after queuing for a fair while we were security checked and let in to the rather breathtaking building. We bought a museum pass to avoid the long queues for the rest of our stay in Paris (which I highly HIGHLY recommend). The art in the museum was wonderful and comprised all of my favourites but the part I knew I would love the most was the Impressionist gallery up the top. I don’t think I have ever seen so many magical works by Monet, Renoir and Degas all in one spot. The gallery also had a lot of beautiful sculptures in the huge interior halls.

With the croissant long forgotten we were hungry for lunch so found a nearby cafe where no one spoke much English. As expected, it was challenging to find something vegetarian but you can always trust the French on their bread and their cheese so we did just that and got a couple of coffees along with two french rolls stuffed with the most delicious melt in your mouth camembert, better than any I had bought in New Zealand.

With the rain holding back we wandered back over the river to the Tuileries via a bridge weighed down with countless padlocks declaring love. The Tuileries were a good example of the Parisian gardens that are very ordered and structured, with gravel to walk on and grass that was for eyes not feet. There was also a big man made pond with deck chairs encircling it where People sat under the clouds and watched the ducks. It was quite a strange sight but we followed suit regardless (any chance to rest my wary legs).

Our next stop was the Musée l’Orangerie which is situated at the end of the Tuileries, just before the Place de la Concorde and was a museum covered by our Pass so we figured we should pop our heads in. There was a manageable collection of works both by artists I didn’t know but also by a lot we knew and liked. but the real drawing card of the gallery and something that makes it unmissable in my opinion, regardless of whether you like art of not, were two rooms designed by Monet in his later years to be a sanctuary for Parisians and a place for peaceful introspection in the bustling city. The two joining rooms were almost like white cocoons but on each long wall was a giant immersive painting of Monet’s waterlillies that he grew rather obsessed with. These works in my opinion are Monet at his finest, exploring his water lily ponds with an impressionist eye but with a very modern abstract feel. We weren’t able to take photos but I will try and find an image of one and insert it below, although it is nothing like seeing it full size and in a room with three other similar but different giant studies.

Magically, we came out of the gallery to find the sun shining and the Eiffel Tower glinting off in the distance (it is something I already miss but the sight of the beautiful tower in the distance is the thing that made me want to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming). After a quick snack on a delicious but slightly smooshed macaroon we moved on, crossing the river yet again to head up towards Les Invalides and then wander the streets until we finally came up to the Eiffel Tower in all its turn of the century glory. With the sun shining behind it the tower was spectacular and it sunk in that I had finally made it to Paris, after many years of wanting to be here. Couples sat in the grass, and everywhere you looked people were trying to fit the icon into a selfie. It was the perfect way to finish our first proper day in Paris, walking under the Eiffel Tower (where there was a game of the French Open playing, I cant think of any better way to watch Tennis) and then up to the Trocadero (still not quite sure what this was).

I cant remember what we did for dinner apart from demolishing the rest of our Macarons but knowing us and France it probably involved bread and cheese that we bought and took home with us where we collapsed in our room and tried to find the one thing that was playing in English (an activity that becomes quite regular). Either way, a day with too many highlights which I think means it was a pretty wonderful day.

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1. Roar
2. Arc de Triomphe
3. Chaos in the cake shop (next fast and furious movie maybe)
4. Inside the Musee d’Orsay
5. Refuelling
6. Weighed down with love (not the padlock bridge but one of many padlock places across Paris)
7. Monet’s little Parisian paradise
8. The sun makes its first appearance
9. The river Seine
10. Walking towards les Invaldides
11. Little lamp babies
12&13 Just a little bit breathtaking (dangerous for an asthmatic)

B is for Bienvenue!

Edinburgh was particularly hard to leave, partly because we were also leaving Scotland and I could have spent months exploring its craggy landscape and it’s romantic highlands. For future reference, 3 days is not enough time. Regardless, we had tickets booked on the Eurostar this afternoon so I reluctantly boarded our 4 hour train back down to London (don’t worry, this time we actually had seats for the whole ride haha). It was another beautiful ride as we made our way down along the coast. We had checked beforehand which side of the train was best for the views and so we were in the optimal position to look out over the ocean.

London was crazy chaos, as it always seems to be. And St Pancras was especially chaotic so I automatically got grumpy. It seems to be my default response when confronted with something a little too stressful for my liking (sorry Edd). Anyway, without much drama we spent out last pounds on lunch and lollies and coffee (as you do, just the essentials). Going through to the Eurostar was interesting as security was probably the strictest I’ve experienced. My necklace which normally doesn’t set off detectors meant I got patted down very thoroughly which was a new experience for me and one I don’t really want to repeat. Considering the fuss, the train was really rather normal looking. I think I was expecting something futuristic and super modern but it really wasn’t. The ride itself was fine, I am not a huge fan of being in a tunnel for a long amount of time which was a slight issue but nothing major.

When we came out of the tunnel and we were in France it was a weird feeling. Everything was kind of the same until we started going through villages where they looked completely different to the grey British ones we were used to. I started to get a little bit panicky when reality hit that we were in a very foreign country where I was going to be trying to communicate in a language I hadn’t used for a couple of years. Gare du Nord was overwhelming but it was exciting to be in Paris, a city we have both wanted to visit for so long. We had a guy try and help us get metro tickets who did speak any English, didn’t understand much of my French and did not want to leave us alone when we just wanted to buy our ticket at the counter which got a little bit much but I think/hope he was just being a little bit too helpful.

The metro was very similar to London’s underground (although I don’t think it is in as good condition) however unlike the UK, Paris doesn’t really care about being accessible so we had to quickly adapt to carrying our suitcases up and down countless sets of stairs. I better have some muscle by the end of this. Our hostel was in a great location, minutes from the metro and very close to Sacre Coeur so it wasn’t hard to find (well we got lost but that was our fault really). The hostel itself was funky and friendly (and it was a bit of a relief to hear English) but very noisy, as hostels tend to be. We hadn’t had a lot of choice in terms of accommodation here in Paris so this place wasn’t ideal but was in a perfect location and only slightly over our budget.
The day ended with me trying to remember how to order vegetarian pizza (I know pizza is not French but I didn’t want to go too far and it is very hard to get vegetarian French food as we soon find out). We ended up with an amazing pizza full of French cheeses so at least part of it was local.

Anyway, somehow I had survived my first day (or rather evening) in Paris and although I had a sense that it was going to be more of a challenge I also felt like it was going to be worth the effort.

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1. Coffee pre Eurostar, post security groping
2. A sneak peak for tomorrow cause today was boring and there were no more photos
3. View from our hostel window. Kinda crappy hostel but great location