europe · france · paris · Travel

April 2011: Paris in the Springtime (Part 2)

Awakened by the Sunday morning church bells, we throw open the curtains on this glorious morning… it’s grey, damp and more than a little drizzly. Oh well. Looks like we used up all our good weather vouchers on our arrival. Still, today is the day for walking, walking, walking!

We begin our expedition by strolling down Boulevard Saint-Germain. On a Sunday morning, the road is quiet, and we decide to head off down towards the Seine. A cafe on the riverfront provides us with a much needed morning coffee and croissant; it is here that we first realise how expensive soft drinks are here in Paris… it’s cheaper for a glass of wine than a 6 Euro Coca-Cola! However, even for the Fletches it is a little too early to start on the alcohol…

Musee D’Orsay is a beautiful building, located in an old railway station, however its facade is slightly marred by the scaffolding and construction work… and the huge Burberry billboard. The queues are already snaking onto Quai Voltaire, so we take some pictures from the riverfront and move on.

We carry on to Pont D’Alexandre III, the bridge that connects the Champs Elysees and Hotel Des Invalides. This is definitely the most opulent bridge we’ve spied so far! We enjoy taking photographs of the sculptures, and the gorgeous lampposts. I think the lampposts are my favourite part of Paris so far!

Musee D'Orsay, Paris, France
Musee D’Orsay
Pont De Alexandre III, Paris, France
Pont De Alexandre III

The rain is starting to come down a little heavier; time for my hat to go on – Mr Fletche is shivering in just a jumper… We wander over to the Hotel Des Invalides, wave at Napoleon’s tomb, and continue down Rue De l’Universite, admiring the architecture as we go… but we know the Eiffel Tower MUST be around here somewhere…there have been glimpses over treetops and rooftops. Suddenly there it is, beautifully framed between the buildings ahead of us. As we approach, I am genuinely surprised at the size, all 324m of it before me. Despite seeing a multitude of pictures, I’m amazed that you can walk under it, and there’s a whole community going on under this immense structure.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
First glimpse of the Tour Eiffel

I was unable to book tickets online for some reason, and I would have been reluctant to commit to a time anyway, so we had a look at the size of the queues… all huge – even for the stairs! One of the pillars was closed, which no doubt added to the crowds, so we decided that the best way to appreciate the Eiffel Tower was from the Trocadero – that iconic view seen in so many photographs. Avoiding the sellers of tat (“Metallic Purple Eiffel Tower keyring anyone?”), we replicated those famous images with the Eiffel Tower ‘legs’ straddling Ecole Militaire in the distance. Big disappointment though that the Trocadero fountains were not operational… in fact, the area looking slightly like a construction site. Despite demanding fountains like a petulant child, it wasn’t to be so with a last lingering look at the Tour De Eiffel, we carry on our hiking mission through Paris.

Arc De Triomphe is next on the hotspot list… it’s a longer walk than it looks on the map and we’re never quite sure if we’re heading in the right direction… The rain starts again, and the Fletches are starting to get a little tired and a little hungry… Finally, the Arc is in sight, and we shelter under the canopy of some trees to capture some photos and watch the crazy traffic… I can only imagine what it would be like on rush hour on a Monday morning… We enter the underpass, intending to emerge at the Arc – however we find ourselves on the other side of L’Etoile. Not sure if our aching legs could manage the 284 steps to the top, we continue down the Champs Elysees.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe
In April 2011, we visited Paris for the first time
Watching the traffic go by…

Now desperately hungry – man cannot survive on a croissant alone – we stumble upon the George V Cafe on the Champs Elysees. Expecting high prices, we are pleasantly surprised, and we’re ushered in by a friendly waiter to a seat on the heated terrace. We are amazed at how many tables these cafes and brasseries manage to cram into a small area, and we find ourselves practically seated on top of our neighbours. A glass of wine each, a wonderfully fresh sandwich and an assiette of fries to share, and we are satisfied. Mr Fletche and I both ring home to wish our Moms a Happy Mothers Day – they are very impressed to hear that we are having lunch on the Champs Elysees!

With food – and wine – in our tummies, we continue down the Champs Elysees. It’s nice to walk off our lunch down the tree-lined avenue en route to Place de la Concorde.  Despite always being convinced that I was a tricoteuse in a former life – happily knitting jumpers whilst frequenting public executions – there is no sense of de ja vu… I guess I must have attended beheadings elsewhere. We continue through the Jardin des Tuileries, admiring the sculptures and once again wondering why none of the fountains are working… is April ‘fountain-maintenance’ time?

The Louvre is a monster of a building… it is absolutely huge. I feel overwhelmed from the outside, so I can only guess how one must feel inside. I am guessing that one or two hours would not do this impressive museum justice… you could surely spend days here! It is the first Sunday of the month, and admission is free – even mid-afternoon the queues at the pyramid entrance are massive. So once again, we think “maybe next time” and content ourselves with taking photographs of the wonderful architecture – and more lampposts! We can always buy a postcard of the Mona Lisa…

The Louvre, Paris, France
It has to be done…
The Louvre, Paris, France
Em at The Louvre

We take a stroll down by the Seine, and then across Pont Neuf to Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame… this looks a lot bigger up close! This is probably the only thing I regret not doing on this visit to Paris – climbing the bell tower, communing with the gargoyles & chimères, and doing my best Quasimodo impression. However it is highly likely that the 400 step ascent may have ended up with me in the French equivalent of A&E, particularly as my feet were screaming about the amount of miles I’d forced them to walk today…

So – photos, photos, photos, before heading on back to our hotel to give our poor aching legs a break… One soothing bath later, and the muscles have relaxed enough to consider our evening plans. Other than Notre Dame, we haven’t particularly explored Paris’ two islands in the stream, so we head back the way we had walked just an hour or so previously. We walk Ile Saint Louis from end-to-end; this is a charming island which seems far removed from the hustle and bustle in other Paris districts. We press our nose to the window of Berthillon, but decide that something more substantial than ice-cream is required for dinner.

We select a brasserie overlooking Pont Saint-Louis (opposite corner to Brasserie De l’Ile St Louis?) and opt for their 15.50 Euro menu (2 courses) – see how our prices are coming down from last night’s meal… hmm, can we find cheaper for tomorrow night? The food is pleasant – although not up to last night’s standard – and when a demi litre of wine is cheaper than two soft drinks… well, it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?

A swift tally of our remaining Euros does not comfort us. A visit to the ATM will be necessary if we intend to eat and drink at all tomorrow. Paris is an expensive city, particularly where drinks are concerned.  Still, we have enough for our final plan for the evening – yes, it’s touristy but a boat cruise on the Seine is a must! We catch the 10pm Bateaux Vedettes du Pont Neuf cruise and of course, we must sit outside on the top deck. It is freezing. I am SO SO glad I had the foresight to wear my heavier coat tonight, particularly as my gloves are nestling in the pocket…

Seeing the buildings all lit up at night gives them a somewhat magical quality but the highlight? Just as we’re setting off on the cruise, and the boat is making a U-Turn in the Seine, there in the distance is a twinkling, sparkling Eiffel Tower. By the time we approach the Tower itself twenty minutes later, it has returned to its normal illumination, but I’m a happy Mrs Fletche (oh, how I’m pleased by the littlest things… Mr Fletche was not quite so excited I feel…).

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Eiffel Tower from the Seine

An hour later, shivering and shuddering, we return to Pont Neuf.  It has been such a long busy day that we suggest that we head towards ‘home’. However, Mr Fletche is intrigued by a little alley he spied on our arrival leading off Quai St-Michel. Within seconds we are swallowed into a wonderfully touristy, colourful, noisy array of souvenir shops, bars and cafes. We have discovered Rue de la Huchette. It is a little like being in a Greek holiday resort, but we vow to explore this area a little bit more tomorrow.

In April 2011, we visited Paris for the first time
Paris by night

After a battle with the ATM next to the hotel (why did I think that cash machines would somehow work differently to those back in England?), we finally have the Euros to enjoy our final full day in Paris… SPOILER ALERT: Mr Fletche falls prey to a “bracelet-man” and I fall prey to automatic toilet doors…

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