We'll always have Paris

Friday, November 16, 2012

Things have been quiet here at Bakercourt, but with good reason: we were in Paris.


Our long-awaited first trip was fabulous. Even though it was cold. Even though I lost my passport just before we left (and found it again down the side of my desk). Even though we had to catch a night bus at 3am to get to the train station. Fabulous.

I'm going to give you ample warning: there are going to be a lot of photos in this post. Just so you know. You might need a cup of tea before you carry on scrolling. This is the highlights tour.

We walked a lot. From one end of the Sienne to the other, from top to bottom, around markets, and up and down Butte Montmarte.

We walked past the many stalls along the Sienne selling vintage Playboy Magazines, past the postcard sellers, and through the pretty narrow streets.

We happened upon the padlock bridge. The story goes that you lock in your love as you secure your padlock to the bridge, and it'll stay there - sealed and safe. Nearby vendors were selling tiny "love locks" for a whopping €5. I was happy enough with the photo.

We went up the Eiffel Tower. Determined to add to our growing collection of self-portrait photographs, we took every opportunity to capture ourselves in front of important monuments and in great locations. That's a teeny bit of the Eiffel Tower's second platform you can see there. We'll know that in case anyone asks if we're in a factory.

The weather was cold but clear, except for one night where it started to pour down with rain as the sun was setting. We took shelter under a bridge on the Sienne where we drank €3 coffee (we were given only half a cup!) and tried to decide on the most sheltered route to the nearest metro. It was a sign: go back to your hotel and enjoy a night off.

We visited the Notre Dame Cathedral too. It's dark and magical inside, and light and beautiful outside. They're rebuilding the bells for next year so that the sound is authentic when they ring them - that would be amazing to hear!

We were exceptionally fortunate for our entire trip: the queues weren't very long, and the tour groups were completely manageable if you got in front of them. We were in a lot of tourist photos, but that's okay. Sometimes you just have to let go.

... and sometimes you have to join them.

Visiting the Louvre was like walking in a dream. I spent much of my school years with my nose buried in art history books - and this week (this week!) I went to the Louvre. And, I saw the artworks I had previously read about, written about, composed essays about, been marked on.

The experience was all quite surreal. One minute you're walking through the streets of Paris with a very real, very "now" concern of being quite cold and a bit a tired, and the next minute you're walking through the vast marble halls of the Louvre and being transported back hundreds of years to a time and place where your real concerns aren't that important anymore.

It's a place where everything is so much more beautiful than you had imagined it could be.

After three hours of zooming up stairs, down lifts, and trying to figure out where I wanted to go - we agreed on a truce: coffee, and a return trip at a later date dedicated specifically to art appreciation at the Louvre.

There's something very satisfying about having a pâtisserie on every street. There's nothing quite like the smell of warm croissants in the morning as you walk about. I think most people think that - the croissants were always sold out well before 10am.

There's always a sweet treat at the end of a long walk in Paris. And, oh! The colours.

We stayed in Montmarte, and used the spires of the Sacre-Coeur to navigate our way to and from the hotel. Convenient.

It just so happened to be one of the nicest parts of town, too.

Also, it has a train. That's just in case you can't face the bazillion steps that lead up and down Butte Montmarte. I was tempted, but we carried on walking and exploring.

Where else could you find a square filled with artists? Many of them were wearing berets, too. Ha.

We walked around a few food markets all around Paris. They were amazing. The produce was fresh, the fruit was delicious, and the locals were perfectly happy to communicate in hand signals with us as we carefully chose apples and oranges for lunch. We came up against some grumpy French people in other shops (who absolutely refused to listen to us in English), but generally the people who spoke no English were more than happy to communicate using broken French and hand signals.

And so. Our whirlwind trip was over almost as soon as it began. Here we are at Gare du Nord train station, ready to head back on the Eurostar with all of the other English folk. They were grouping around the coffee shops and buying baguettes en masse.

The one thing that I absolutely loved was this: a giant clacker-board of notifications. Forget about digital; this sign was all about clickity-clacking its way through the letters to make up the right displays. The noise was incredible. Every few minutes you'd hear a whir, and then the clackers would wake up and start spinning, making their way down the board to update the departure times. I tried to take a photo of it in action - you can see the turning letters about half way down (where some of them are red). Proof. We'll always have Paris.

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