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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A Paris Walkabout!

A Paris Walkabout!

Just a couple of days ago, we arrived in Paris after a two hour train journey from Ebbsfleet International Railroad Station in Kent, England. Our friends, Alan and Elaine, had kindly risen early with us in order to take us to the station and we bade farewell to them for the next few days as we excitedly prepared to board the Eurostar

From the moment we emerged from the Chunnel, we were greeted with blue skies and sunshine and, after we had checked into our hotel, we set off for a walking tour of some of the major sights here, in this beautiful city. Mark has been to Paris twice before; but for me, this was going to be a first!

Although it says the walk is just over 3 hours, we took just under 7, counting all the stops. 

The first stop was the stunning Basilica of the Sacred Heart (La Basilique due Sacre Coeur). Set up high on a hill overlooking a good part of the city, it was only about a 20 minute walk, and we sat on a bench to eat the picnic we had bought on the way up. The Sacre Coeur is one of the most well-known buildings in France, and it certainly lives up to its reputation for beauty. 

Love the blossoms in this picture

Although I had seen it many times in photographs, I was not prepared for the wow factor when seeing it for the first time in reality. 

The Main Altar

Model of the Basilica

We spent some time exploring inside the church before venturing out into the sunshine once more to resume our walking tour. 

Next stop - Monmartre - where artists display their works and tourists flock to enjoy the outdoor cafes and the plethora of artistic gems. There was such a wonderful feeling of freedom and a sense of being totally laid back, which was infectious. 

We had to take a shot of the steps of Montmartre - the same ones that were showcased in the movie, 'Midnight in Paris'

The Steps of Montmartre

One of the things I noticed - and loved - was how they had preserved the cobbled streets on many of the back roads. 

Cobbled Streets added to the ambience of the city

Wherever you go, there are places to eat/drink outdoors

After enjoying the ambience of Montmartre, we made our way to Boulevard de Clichy to see the famous, Moulin Rouge. Smaller than I had imagined, it still held the sway of eliciting a thrill of being so close to another famous landmark, and the birthplace of the modern version of the can-can dance. 

On the way to the Moulin Rouge, we saw a public toilet. Now, why would we include this in our blog about such a beautiful city? Well, we were very impressed with this little construction because, after each use, the door closed and the whole interior was thoroughly showered and disinfected! You just had to remember to wait until AFTER the cycle had been completed before entering!!

The toilets were mechanically cleaned and disinfected after each use.

From here, we proceeded south towards the Palais Garnier, more popularly known as the Paris Opera House - and the setting for the novel, stage show, and movie of 'The Phantom of the Opera'. (Part of me wanted to go inside to see if the 'chandelier' was still there!) This is such a splendid piece of architecture, with gilded figures (atop) at either end, giving it a sense of symmetry. 

Carefully crossing the various streets (with eyes peeling in every direction!!!), we took a quick walk through the Tuileries gardens on our way to the Place de la Concorde

From there, we could see down the Avenue de Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, which was our next destination. 

We were surprised to see 'Marks and Sparks' - a solid British institution - on the Champs Elysees! 

A busy street

After seeing the Arc de Triomphe, in person, I am going to have to stop teasing Mark by calling it the 'Marble Arch'! (He has an Athena Block of the Arc de Triomphe at home, and I can always be sure of evoking a certain 'look' from him when I call it by its lesser cousin). In reality, there is no comparison as the Arc de Triomphe stands tall and proud in the centre of 12 radiating avenues, and is much more magnificent. 

We met two lovely people from Texas, with whom we shared photographic moments. Couldn't believe that Rose (on the right) was the mother of Anjellyca (on the left)! We have become Facebook friends, so hope that they get to see that they are mentioned in this blog!

Our new Facebook friends from Texas, U.S.A. 

Of course, the one monument I had longed to see was the most famous of them all - the Eiffel Tower - and it certainly did not thwart my expectations! 

I finally got to dust of one of my ambitions - to take a photo from underneath, looking upwards. 

We are looking forward to ascending the tower on our last morning, before we leave for our return rail trip to the U.K. 

The blossoms surrounding the area made us think of the song, 'April in Paris' - and the warmth of the sun on faces attested to the time of year in which we found ourselves in this wonderful place. 

Beautiful blossoms added to the ambience

Spending some time just taking in the moment, we continued our walkabout by taking steps down to the pathway following alongside the Seine, passing a variety of sights - buildings, bridges, and boats in particular. 

The Musee d'Orsay

Pont Alexandre III - very impressive bridge! (The first stone was laid by Tsar Nicholas II).

By this time, about 5 hours had passed and we still had to make it to our final destination before returning to the hotel - the legendary Cathedral of Notre Dame on the Ile de la Cite

Craning our necks at each turn of the river, the top of the towers eventually came into view. We were delighted to see it completely bathed in sunlight and could not have wished for a more wonderful introduction!

I've always wanted to see those famous buttresses

The carvings on the main entrance doorway are incredible

The sheer detail of the stonework - wherever one looks - is truly breath-taking; and it left us wondering about the dedication of the builders and various sculptors, most of whom did not live to see the fruits of their labours in the completion of the edifice. 

The interior was just as splendid and we were allowed to visit in silence while a Mass was being celebrated. 

The Nave

The largest Rose Window in Europe

Side Chapel

Back outside in the sunshine, we made our way around the Cathedral and noticed a corner cafe called, 'The Esmeralda Cafe'. I half-wondered if we would see Charles Laughton swing down to pay a visit to Maureen O'Hara!!

Cafe Esmeralda

After 7 hours on our feet, we were happy to catch the Metro back to the hotel. 

However, after a couple of hours rest, we decided to go out again and took another walking tour to see the City of Light in all its glory. (These pics are not in any particular order). 

Ferris Wheel at Place de la Concorde

Musee d'Orsay

Notre Dame - all lit up!

The famous pyramid entrance to the Louvre

The pyramid up close

The Eiffel Tower at night

Walking along the Seine

We certainly slept well on that first night!!

Light display, every hour, on the hour!

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