our big trip - Day 11: Paris

Monday, 4 March 2013

I tell you what - St Pancras International Station is like a small city. I simply adore that train station. It goes on forever, is strewn with fabulous eateries and shops, and is pure architectural wonderment. We had a couple of hours to wander the station before jumping on our lunchtime Eurostar trip to Paris.

There's so much to do at St Pancras. We stopped at Benugo - yet another high-nutrition, sensational and affordable London eatery, along with Costa's and Pret a Manger - and had a divine brekkie.

We also passed time {easy to do} in Cath Kidston, Marks and Spencer Food, Hamley's Toy Store and Foyle's book store - my oh my - heaven.

Don't you just LOVE it when kids sit on the floor in bookstores!? If I was a bookstore owner, I would feel my life complete if even one child sat on my floor. I found some books at Foyle's {how unusual of me}, including this sensational London colouring book for the kids.

We also found a pack of traditional English jelly babies - my absolute favourite lollies in the whole wide world.

We went through the Eurostar terminal early and had a pleasant wait. Although passing through Immigration was quick and easy, the French immigration officer not only gave me evils, he openly looked at me with such disdain {even waiting for me to look at him so he could close his eyes and almost imperceptibly shake his head in pure disgust}, I almost laughed out loud - and indeed would have if I didn't fear missing out on an entry stamp.

Why? Why did he do this to me?

I have absolutely NO idea. I'm still mindboggled by it. All I did was smile, say bonjour and hand him our passports. Now, don't get me wrong, I've lived in France and I adore the French but is it any wonder they're so reviled by other countries when they dish out this sort of treatment???

My highly skeptical, did-NOT-want-to-go-to-Paris {he'd had an awful trip there as a teen}, just looked at me knowingly and took great pleasure in smiling smugly over my crazy-pants idea to go to Paris.

I was not daunted. What I WAS daunted by was the state of the Eurostar. Not at all what I expected - just very unattractive trains, and really awful, grubby windows that turned my stomach.

The trip is under two-and-a-half hours, so quick and easy - centre to centre. Riley had fun trying to spy some fish through the window while the train went through the chunnel.

We arrived in Paris, Gare du Nord, around 4pm and set about taking the right Metro line to St Michel. I had forgotten the line connecting GDN and SM was actually the RER, not the Metro, and we had a right time trying to navigate our way to the right area and platform. At one stage, I wondered if we'd be stranded at GDN forever.

My French isn't what it used to be, but I asked some wandering staff where to go and at least got general directions, finally arriving at an RER ticket window. I was both stunned and frustrated Paris still has no Oyster-style travel card that can be topped up and used for our entire stay. I ended up muddling my way through all the ticket options with a lovely girl {we had a bit of a laugh along the way! she was v nice} and left with some comparably expensive tickets to what we experienced in London.

Another thing you should be aware of if travelling on trains in Paris, with suitcases and kids, is the wide-spread absence of escalators, and the need to navigate several sets of stairs, even in international stations. The convenience of centre to centre travel is still worth it, though.

Finally on the RER to St Michel, we came up the stairs and out onto Boulevard St-Germain. Oh my, just like Tokyo, I burst into tears when I finally dragged that suitcase up the stairs. It was so overwhelming to be back. Expecting it to be dark by then, we were were instead delighted to find really bright but overcast skies, with twilight poised to pounce.

We headed straight down Boulevard St-Michel to the Seine and below is the very first shot I took in Paris - I didn't even realise Notre Dame was in the photo until after I took it! It was so so special. Our hotel - the Citadines Prestige Bd St-Germain, right outside Pont Neuf, was just a five-minute suitcase drag away, so off we went, me gasping all the way.

We checked in to our one bedroom apartment {the kids slept on a fantastic sofa bed arrangement in the living room} and off we went into the bright twilight evening, straight across the road to regard Pont Neuf.

I was so utterly excited, I was jumping out of my skin, and the kids certainly felt it - look at them grinning below.

This was absolutely one of the best nights of our five weeks away. We were enthused, excited, bathed in the beauty of Paris at twilight. Yes, it was cold! But the beauty just eclipsed it.

And of course - that masterpiece of romance - Pont Neuf.

We walked east along Quai des Grands-Augustins towards Notre Dame. She's looking just so, so beautiful, that grand old Dame.

Our Lady is currently bedecked with bleachers for the myriad events that will unfold during 2013 - her 850th birthday. Astonishing to know this building is so old - older than many countries!

The colours - the faux lights, the pink Paris twilight - they all combined to create such a stunning facade. I could have photographed it forever.

And Ella was the same.

Inside Notre Dame is even more regal, if that's at all possible. I just love how Paris keeps Notre Dame in service, with free entry for anyone and everyone. She needs to be shared with all people, no matter their financial circumstance. We were fortunate to enter when things were silent - and leave when Mass was in full swing. It was truly divine.

The astonishing detail of this place - the loving touches, all drenched in history. Even if you're not religious, it's such a spiritual, remarkable, moving place to be - and remains my favourite Cathedral in the world.

The Cathedral was hosting the most beautiful display of rural scenes, lit up with sparkling lights - it went on forever, and the detail was stunning.

And the exterior of the building, at the main entrance.

Just outside Notre Dame, on the Ile de la Cité.

We crossed the road and wandered across Pont D'Arcole to Place de la Hôtel de Ville.

The views up the Seine as darkness fell - just breathtaking. And you can see the blueish tinge of La Tour Eiffel shining into the night sky.

Hôtel de Ville was truly spectacular, lit up with fairytale Christmas lights, sparkling like a festive tree.

The kids went crazy when they saw the ice skating rink in front of the hotel, but as we wanted to walk to Le Louvre, they instead settled for a carousel ride, right under the impressive edifice of this timeless building.

After the ride, we began our walk west along La Seine towards Le Louvre.

The buildings surrounding the iconic Louvre pyramid are so breathing. You could wander them for hours, marvelling at their architecture and history.

And the pyramid itself - you can image how seeing it again made me feel, especially with my babies in tow.

It was with reluctance we thought about getting the kids fed and into bed. We were just about over our extreme jetlag from our Melbourne/London leg, and wanted to get to bed at reasonable hours. On the way along the Quai de Conti, we passed the striking and beautiful Bibliothèque Mazarine . . .

. . . marvelled at the beautiful boats docked on the Seine . . .

. . . and down Due Dauphin to a little Italian restaurant {why not?}, La Main à la Pâte on Rue Christine. Great food, great service, and my Paris-iffy husband was already settling in and enjoying the Parisian way.

After dinner, we headed south down Rue Dauphin to Rue de Buci, a little laneway packed with fabulous restaurants and shops and a wonderful Carrefour. Honestly, entering this supermarket, smelling the overwhelming mass {fridge after fridge after fridge} of cheese, the baguettes, the fresh produce - so much came flooding back for me. It was such a thrill.

We gathered up supplies for breakfast, along with olives and salami and hams and cheeses and pickles and fabulous baguettes.

The kids stopped at the sensational gelaterie - Amorino - and came away with some pretty impressive dessert.

We then wandered back to Citadines, taking in the sights, the sounds, the FEEL of this extraordinary city. Gee, it was good to be back.

distance travelled: 18,877km

our big trip - days 1 + 2: Melbourne
our big trip - day 3: Flying to Europe
our big trip - day 4: London
our big trip - day 5: London
our big trip - day 6: London
our big trip - day 7: London
our big trip - day 8: London
our big trip - day 9: Leyland
our big trip - day 10: London
our big trip - day 12: Paris
our big trip - day 13: Paris
our big trip - day 14: Bruges
our big trip - day 15: Bruges 
our big trip - day 16: Bruges and The Hague
our big trip - day 17: The Hague
our big trip - day 18: Amsterdam
our big trip - day 19: Amsterdam
our big trip - day 20: The Hague
our big trip - days 21 + 22: Brussels
Two days lost with travel and travelling east
our big trip - days 25 + 26: Bangkok
our big trip - day 27: Kanchanaburi
our big trip - days 28 - 32: Cha Am Resort
our big trip - day 33: Hua Hin
our big trip - days 34 + 35: Coming Home

1 comment:

tiarastantrums said...

oh how we are counting down here!! Thanks for sharing the photos! My camera finger is ITCHING!!

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