I had an interesting time in Paris! Was it Pope Johnpaul who knelt and kissed the ground on his arrival in a country? Not to be outdone I fell over at the end of the moving pavement at the airport bruising my knees and the palm of my hands. I had turned to answer a question from one of the passengers, who had sat next to me on the flight, didn’t see the end approaching and finished up on all fours..!
It took half an hour to unload the baggage this came as a surprise to me as the other 200+ passengers appeared to have their suitcases stowed in the overhead lockers…why? The flight only took 60 minutes! By the time we reached our designated height, turned right over Northampton crossed the channel we were descending again through thick cloud into Charles de Gaulle International Airport.
Collecting by suitcase, which I later discovered had received a heavy blow in transit thus bending the metal frame; I followed the other passengers to the designated exit where several couriers were waiting for passengers. Not mine though! It was almost 10am by this time I had been up some 7 hours, the security checks took longer than the flight. I lost count of the number of people who examined my documents after I had done the initial security screening. I was still shaken by the fall so I hired a taxi to get to the hotel in the knowledge that I couldn’t book in until 2pm. leaving my suitcase in their care I soon found a street café and had a cup of coffee. I left the café with lunchtime fast approaching [I had spent most of my euro’s on the taxi fare] so I grabbed a takeaway – ham salad baguette with carton of coffee and walked down Rue Madeleine, past Maxim’s and across to the Toulieries where I sat until the time to book into the hotel.
The weather was dull most of the week – the sun eventually shone from a blue sky on my last afternoon.
On Tuesday I went to an agency for a trip I had spotted on the internet. I turned right one street too soon onto the Rue Saint-Honoré. The correct street but the wrong direction which I realised as I approached the Elysee Palace and so eventually I found myself besides the Arc de Triomphe – at least it was a straight walk down the Champs Elysee to the Toulieries and then onto the booking office in the Place des Pyramides. At least I saw quite a bit of Paris I had not planned to see. The mini bus picks up from the hotel so I just needed to be up early and breakfasted by 08.15 on the Thursday morning.
It can be both an advantage and a curse to be organised and plan ahead, particularly when you travel alone. I had planned to visit the Louvre and knowing they are closed Tuesdays [Hence the previous days plan] Wednesday was marked down as art gallery day. However when I was preparing to have my breakfast I realised the sole of one of my shoes had split from the uppers. I can remember deciding not to pack my sandals.
They were my comfortable trusty shoes, why in April and June I had walked around Jorvik. They held me in good stead in Shanghai but now they were unwearable. So after breakfast instead of being at the front of the expected queue at the art gallery museum I had to search for a shoe shop. I had seen a supermarket selling clothes and thought, correctly, they will sell shoes. So with phrase book in hand I wandered around the shop until I found the shoe department and eventually bought a pair of trainers and returned to the hotel. It was turned 11.30 am when I reached the Louvre and the queues were enormous, through 2 courtyards onto the main road. Instead I followed plan B and went to the Concergerie [an ancient castle dating to the first Kings of France and where Marie Antoinette, prisoner 280, was held until her execution at 12:15 pm on 16th October 1793].
I then walked to the Notre Dame Cathedral, passing the Palace of Justice, along the few hundred yards between the two sites. Again a queue but after less than 10 minutes I was walking around the religious edifice.
Walking away from the Seine and up the many hills of Paris I passed one of the buildings belonging to the world famous University of the Sorbonne and after perhaps 10 minutes reached the Pantheon in whose crypts are buried famous French politicians, artists and writers. I escaped the worse of a rain shower by taking the 84 bus back to Rue Madelaine.
Following a little adversity things get better and so on Thursday the mini bus arrived at its due time and being a lone traveller I got to sit next to the driver. On the trip were an Argentinean couple, who spoke a little French and no English, an American and a very pleasant couple from Hong Kong. The driver spoke excellent English and Spanish throughout the day.
The Barbizon school (circa 1830–1870) of painters is named after the village of Barbizon near Fontainebleau Forest, including Théodore Rousseau, Jean-François Millet. Occasionally Manet popped over to visit his fellow artists, from his home in Giverney, by train. Robert Louis Stevenson was also a frequent visitor in the mid 1870’s writing some of his early short stories.
We drove on through the forest of Fontainbleau to the town and its famous Chateaux. I prefer the ambiance and its history to the more glitzy and commercialised Versailles.
CHATEAU DE VAUX-LE-VICOMTE
This was according, to our guide, the prototype for Versailles. She told a lengthy and poignant story of its first owner, Nicolas Fouquet, [1615-1680] Chancellor to Louis XIV. The remaining history of the building is equally fascinating.
Before our tour we had an excellent 3 course meal: Salmon with salad, Veal and new potatoes and Crème brulis. Two bottles of wine were included and helped for an interesting conversation between our four nationalities. We had over two hours to tour the house and French style gardens.
Finally a picture of an american in Paris on the warmest day of my stay – I had been unfortunate enough to sit close to there table and overheard some of their comments – what they did nt realise was the the waiter DID understand english… Ha Ha !
As did the folk in the queue who they ignored when they marched in formation, cigarette in mouth to the front ! .. …. .
At last on Friday the sun appeared, I had lunch close to the hotel and at 4pm took my pre booked taxi to the Charles de Gaulle airport. Lazily I went down the road for a light supper – Mushroom Foo Yung!
So the pictures are on my site and the story told. With apologies to my French readers regarding some of the spellings, I think I will rest for the remainder of the week!