Paris – home now

So, we went for a short walk around our area on Tuesday evening, had a nice pizza in a local restaurant and went into the city centre via Metro. All as planned.

We had been quite lucky, having an apartment so close to everything, especially the Metro.

Just a short walk and we were on the 6 train that goes north to ‘Charles de Gaulle-Étoile’, in fact the Arc de Triomphe, at the head of the Champs-Élysées. It is certainly a colourful experience, walking down this main thoroughfare, with all the shops lit up, along with the monuments and the red and bright lights of the traffic. What surprised me most was the amount of down market establishments present (McDonald’s, Starbucks etc.) alongside the more salubrious joints.

It was colder now than it had been all week, not as cold as it is here at home now, but chilly. That led to a brisk walk back down towards the river and us half way to our temporary home. The river was very busy and even prettier than the Champs Élysées. The Bateaux Mouches were lit up like Christmas and cruising up and down the river, under many of the lit-up bridges. A really pretty sight.

We continued home by walking along the bottom end of the Champs de Mars and then following the Metro line to our street. We had our last drink in Paris sat outside the bar on the corner: 1 pastis + 1 Perrier = €9.40!

So, what will I remember most about Paris, and perhaps recommend to others? [Flickr Album]

  • Les Invalides
    - Although occasionally free (out of season) it’s well worth paying the entry fee to take a look around this museum and mausoleum. The gardens surrounding it are free. Just look for the golden dome.
  • Coulée Vert
    – Starting just south east of Place Bastille, the walk along this old railway line takes you above various parts of the city – where you can see some of the art deco/nouveau architecture up close, through small housing estates and parks – almost as far as Chateau Vincennes – which is well worth the extra mile or so.
  • Eiffel Tower
    – Being just around the corner made it easy for us to be there quite early (10:30am ish) and to avoid the massive queues that build up. If you can purchase tickets online (book early) do so – otherwise come early. We had a short 20 minutes wait queuing to get tickets and then to enter the tower. Go to the very top for magnificent views. It’s a must.
  • Sacré Coeur
    – Various Metro routes and stops will place you at the bottom of the hill from Sacré Coeur. Take the funicular up the hill if you must, but the walk through the gardens is worth the effort. The views from the top are superb and the proximity to Montmartre make this visit worth planning a full day.  
  • Walking
    – We simply planned a Metro stop, got out and walked. There’s so much to see in and around Paris that you can do much of it on your own. If you need more information about the city – take a guided walk. This is how we found The Louvre, The Musee D’Orsay, Notre Dame, the river and so on. Simply walk – and look UP.

Back now :-)

Paris – Tuesday

Architecture

We spent today, mostly walking along the Promenade Plantée (Coulée Verte).

This is an excursion into the real Paris – of Parisians. We took the Metro to Bastille and knowing roughly where the walkway started, made our way towards Avenue Daumesnil and there is is – a long viaduct upon which you meander as far as Boulevard Peripherique.

Well, not quite, from time to time you have to descend and walk through housing and along routes not quite as obvious as they should be. It was interesting nevertheless to see into bck gardens and to get eye-level views of the architecture. Around Gare de Lyon, there was some quite superb statuary. Despite the slight lack of signage here and there, we did manage to plot our way right up to the Peripherique and then under that as far as the Bois de Vincennes.

The walkway seems to have passed beneath the motorway at one time but not now. My advice to anyone wanting to make a day of this trip – is to take picnic, or when you get to Saint-Mandé (just the other side of the motorway (we turned left – but it depends where you get across) buy yourselves some sandwiches and a drink. The ‘Bois’ isn’t far away and even nearer are two pleasant lakes – we stopped by the Lac de Saint-Mandé.

We then made our way north a little and found the Château de Vincennes. This is the end of Metro line 1, so we knew we could get back easy enough. They seem to be doing an awful lot of reconstruction here, so it’s well worth a visit again. We didn’t visit the Donjon itself, but you could (@ €8.50 each) – and there’s plenty of room around, or across the road for that picnic.  Just take the yellow Number 1 Metro line to the very end.

Tonight, it being our final night in Paris, we intend to eat locally and to then take a Metro trip to the top of Champs-Élysées. We’re told that a walk down here, once the sun has gone down is well worth the trip. So – well see!

Paris – Sunday and Monday

We had breakfast out on Sunday morning.

They hold a huge street market around here on Sundays, so we walked the full length of that – along The Boulevard de Grenelle from the Metro stop at Dupleix to the next stop at La Motte-Picquet-Grenelle. Then turning left along the Avenue of the same name we followed the market further. Exhausted after spying so much superb produce; meat, fish, cheese, fruit, vegetables etc. – we stopped at a bar just before the Place Joffre (where the military area starts. The best thing was – freshly squeezed orange juice. delightful.

We then continued along the bottom of the Champ de Mars and on to Les Invalides. We spent the morning, and a good bit of the early afternoon exploring the various museums here and Napoleon’s Tomb. My pic. We then had a drink on a moored bateau mouche, before heading off the the Musée d’Orsay.

View from top of Musee d’Orsay

The museum used to be a railway station and this can be seen when viewing the inside main area. We were lucky enough to be visiting on the first Sunday of the month when this museum opens its gates for free. The queue was huge but fast moving because there were not tickets to issue. There was no queuing at the earlier museum, because they do charge :-)

We snacked before returning to wash up and go out for dinner, which ended up being a Lebanese place just down the road.

On Monday we decided to visit Montmarte. To do this we walked along the river and then across it to Trocadero. We walked then, down to the Arc de Triomphe, at the head of the Champs d’Elysee and caught a Metro to the foot of the hill upon which the big white basilica of Sacre Coeur stands.

We spend a good bit of time searching up and around here before descending to a restaurant recommended by Steve Halstead: Bouillon Chartier. To get there we had to walk down through Montmarte’s entirety, past Pigalle with ladies coming on duty and down the busy streets to Rue Fauberg.

It was very busy. We had to sit with a German couple who were as open-eyed as we were with the magnificence of the room and of the atmosphere.

I had Museau de boeuf vinaigrette (as recommended) and Pot au Feu, which was disappointing. It was under flavoured and messy. Messy is something that comes with pot au feu, but you cover that by giving a bigger dish. But – that was my choice, everything else looked great. The museau was good.

We ate nibbly bits for evening meal – being full from our late lunch.

 

 

Paris – Saturday

This is our first full day in Paris – day one (arrival) was reported on my Saturday Walks blog, yesterday. We eventually got the oven to work (Sharon made a cup of tea and hey presto the oven worked – no idea how or why!!). But we still have THAT smell.

Tour de Eiffel

Following a leisurely breakfast of bread and croissant (for me) and two almond/chocolate croissants for Sharon, we were on our way. To be fair, I only asked for one Almondine in the shop but I seemed to be charged for (and received) two, of which Sharon only ate half of one. Just saying.

We walked along our street, around the corner and there was the Eiffel Tower in the mid-morning mist. It was cloudy in Paris today until about 1.00pm but not too cold. We queued for about 20 minutes to get our tickets to the top and to begin our accent – a good start to the day really. For history’s sake it cost €15 each to the sommet. SommetThe views were fine, but not spectacular because of the overcast sky – but we could now buy the teashirt (we didn’t but .. we could).  We walked down from 2eme etage, which was exciting. 

We then wandered blindly on and found the Jardin des Invalides, a pleasant garden which, if I’d brought my Panasonic camera wire, I’d show some of – but I stupidly left it at home – doh. We may visit the Museum (des Invalides) here tomorrow.

We eventually found the river again and had lunch upon a stationary bateau mouche. We then weaved for a while en route to Notre Dame along the left bank (I think and came up onto the road that The  Musee d’Orsey (We may visit the Museum here tomorrow) and spent quite a while in the grounds of the Palais de Louvre. (We may visit the Museum here tomorrow).

The queues for Notre Dame were just too long so we passed it by and set off to see the Pompidou Centre (We may visit here tomorrow). But we came to the Metro Station first and returned to the apartment as we were worn out ;-)

Metro

 

The Wedding

picture of wedding cake - modeled on suitcases

Travel cake

So, we spent three nights in Gibraltar.

It’s such a small place that we kept bumping into other friends as we wandered around or had our meals.

Our favourite breakfast spot was the Royal Calpe on Main Street – not because of the service, which was often surly and neglectful, but because the food served was exactly what it said on the menu, and hot, and quick – AND – because they had free WiFi ☺ http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187510-d3588883-Reviews-The_Royal_Calpe-Gibraltar.html

The wedding itself was a magnificent success.

The bride looked stunning, as did the groom in his Full Dress scarlet uniform (his scarlet’s).

Kings Chapel was full and in excellent fettle (apart from the scaffolding which had been erected much to Michelle’s disgust). Outside, the weather was excellent and we all managed to work our way to the reception via a variety of bars in and around Casement Square.

 

picture of the bride's paretn - John and Carol

Bride’s parents

The reception itself was a wonderful success. Gaily decorated tables (scarlet to match James’ uniform and the bridesmaids’ dresses) were set in a large marquee for us to eat our main course of barbecued meats and salad, and dessert; whilst in Kings Bastion itself we were all served with a huge variety of tapas (a’la canapé), Cava and other drinks. The tapas were a fabulous success, tasty, succulent and seemingly never ending. We were sat with a number of James’ relatives and a great night was had by all.

The following day we moved out of our accommodation and out of Gibraltar, to Marina De La Alcaidesa.

Gibraltar

I probably won’t be allowed to call this last week a holiday: There’s a chance that a holiday will be taken later in the year, but that depends on lots of things (like finding something we both like and agree on, and having the time to search).

We’ve been in Alcaidesa, southern Spain for four nights and spent earlier three nights in Gibraltar.

We were there to attend and to celebrate Michelle’s marriage to James. Michelle is John and Carol Taylor’s daughter and she met James while serving in the Royal Navy, whilst posted to Gibraltar. James is a Captain in the Royal Gibraltar Regiment. Michelle fell in love with the man and the area and managed to get herself posted there (semi)-permanently. She’s recently taken redundancy due to re-posting/cut backs and will stay on to study nursing at degree level (she should probably be the teacher, but despite all of her experience she has to attend a degree course).

Anyway: we were there with my brother Andrew and his girlfriend Debbie who just happen to be visiting us from their home in Australia. We had booked ex-army accommodation (via Michelle) in Gibraltar to keep the costs down, and a wonderful apartment in Alcaidesa – which isn’t necessarily the cheapest.

In Gib, we met other friends who were also attending the wedding (to bolster Michelle’s half of the church ;-) ) Graham and Sue; Jim and Yvette; Alan and Roberta; Debbie and Ian; Susan and Terry; David, Gail and Natalie (who had travelled all the way from Thailand to attend her cousin’s wedding).

We’ve never stayed overnight in Gib before so it was interesting to see it go through different cycles of a day. We’d always seen it as busy, busy, busy; but actually, it does go very quiet; the tourists go back to their hotels and cruise ships and the town goes quiet – many pubs closing earlier than you’d think. However, it is a constant buzz of noise with new buildings going up, old buildings coming down, roads being repaired etc. Every morning and throughout the day we saw streets being cleaned and paths being swept. I don’t remember seeing a beggar (unlike Cadiz later). tbc …

Calais

Old church, CalaisIt was a steady drive from Reims up to Calais, part of it on ‘A’ roads as far a Laon – which looks like its worth a stop-off next time we’re in the area, and the rest of it on toll motorway. We just wanted to get there with enough time to look around, as we’d not really spent any time in Calais itself before.

We’d booked into the Hotel Meurice, situated in what must once have been a favourite spot for travellers to stay. The hotel is surrounded by other typically French hotels, there’s even a Mercure. Nevertheless, the area is a little run down and has the character of an out-of-favour Victorian holiday resort in England. That isn’t to say it isn’t an interesting area.

As we drove into the area (not central Calais) we passed the makeshift camps of would-be illegal immigrants and when we stopped at Bleriot Plage, Sangatte for another picnic lunch, we saw them sleeping between the beach huts. Still, it made for an interesting lunch, with our picnic rug spread on the deck of an unoccupied beach hut. It was fun to watch the ferries going in and out of the port too – so close we could almost touch them.

Ferries crossing

After we’d checked in we went off to check our route to the Euro Tunnel terminal and took the chance to do some hypermarket shopping (mustard and gherkins mainly!).

The hotel was nice, a little faded – just as the others have been, but the bedroom was clean, the linen was crisp and new and the WiFi worked – what more could we want. The restaurant attached, under separate management, was superb. The food was freshly cooked; chosen from a quite brief selection of dishes and tasted wonderful. half a chickenI had half a chicken (poussin) in mustard sauce and this came with dauphinoise potatoes (again), and a garnish of haricot beans, turned vegetables and garlic mushrooms – all delightfully prepared and tasty. Sharon had a cod dish but to be honest, mine was so nice that I took no notice of her food ;-(

And that was that!

We set off back to England on the 10.10am train and arrived back in England dead on 10.00 o’clock. An uneventful crossing this time. The fun came when I missed the turn off the M20 onto the M25 and ended up heading towards the Blackwall Tunnel. But, in the end it mattered little. We made it home in time to unpack and go to John and Carol’s for a well needed meal. ;-)

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