Our arrival in Paris was accompanied by cool grey skies, and in the evening, rain. The trip in the train was relaxing and we arrived at Gare du Nord at 3.45 pm. With a long queue for taxis and some traffic, it was an hour later before we reached our apartment at Chattelet Les Halls. Here is a screen capture from my phone showing our speed through the French countryside

The door to our apartment is just behind the Arena restaurant on Rue St Denis. It is much more basic than our apartment in London, but much more quiet without the traffic noise of a busy road. True to it’s location, thus being a red light area, it is decorated in bright pink and cream with orange and blue furnishings. It is in a great location, however, and we can walk to most of the inner city tourist sites. Here is the view from outside our window.

Because of the rain on our first night, we just walked down stairs to the Arena Cafe. The stairs in this building must be a couple of centuries old and are windy, narrow and and the wooden steps are worn with foot steps from many years of use.. If we walk down one half a flight of steps, we reach an elevator, as big as a large fridge, and can catch it to one half a level up from the entrance door. We were reminded that although the French are leaders in fine dining, the food in every-day cafes on the street is boring and stodgy – a little meat or fish and a giant load of potato chips accompanied by a token lettuce leaf and slice of tomato.

Without any real plans to do this, we spent our first day in Paris visiting a selection of churches. One church that we had not seen before was the Chapel of St Chappelle within the grounds of the Palais de Justice. It is renowned for it’s walls of decorated stained glass windows that go from almost the floor to the enormously high vaulted ceiling. These windows were built in the 1300’s and some are currently undergoing renovation. It was a pity that we were not able to gain a complete view of the rounded end of the chapel, but we could see enough to get a good impression of it’s splendour.

From there, we wandered around the corner to Notre Dame. (Via a corner coffee shop that we remember visiting on a previous trip. I was tempted to ask for the ‘usual’, since we had been there before, but I wasn’t sure whether the waiter was new, or not).

We walked around the square near Notre Dame looking at the statue of Charlemagne, the flying buttresses at the rear of the cathedral and some gardeners who were planting tulip bulbs in between the pansies. These grounds were being patrolled by young men in uniform with automatic weapons. I asked one whether he was a member of the police or army and he told me quite emphatically that they were an army antiterrorist unit. I don’t think that they were the sort of people that one would mess around with.

Heading back to our apartment and just around the corner, we noticed the area of Les Halles. This was the old site of Paris’ central market, until it was moved to a more modern location. It is now a park with a subterranean shopping centre. Across the way, was the very grand Church of St Eustache. The afternoon sun was now low on the horizon and the buildings were bathed in a beautiful golden light. I found a good photo spot with some reflections of the church in a fountain and popped off a couple of shots.

The final thing for the day was dinner at the Renard (Fox) Bistro a couple of streets away. Nice steak and duck, but again, a lot of chips.

3 thoughts on “Paris

  1. Was that a scary speed while on the ground i.e. not flying? We are such a long way from fast trains in Australia and yet we really need them? lazy Governments or too small a population?

  2. Bruce, we must be following parallel life paths! I’ve just come back from France, Portugal and Spain, where my partner and I spent an enjoyable month (18th Aug ’10 to 20th Sept ’10). We spent a week in Paris. We did the TGV from Paris to Irun (on the Spanish border), and never realised we were travelling so fast!
    I don’t think we hit the high 200’s, though, more like a bit over 200kmh. In Portugal, their high speed trains don’t look anywhere near as impressive as the TGV, but we still hit 218kmh! The Portuguese trains are very new, and well run, though.
    Things I liked about Paris. 1. The fabulous pastries! The French cook croissants like nothing I’ve ever tasted! 2. The mostly crap food! Couldn’t get a decent piece of red meat, like a good steak, anywhere. Salads are generally poor in relation to Aussie salads. 3. The hotel lifts you can’t even get 2 people in! 4. The bathrooms you can’t turn around in! 5. The amazing public transport system. There are trains going everywhere, at all hours, and the amount of underground train levels is astonishing! 6. The amount of beggars and homeless people. 7. The amount of trinket sellers. 8. The unbelievable crowds. We wanted to look inside Notre Dame and found the queue was about 400 metres long! 9. The late dining hours of the French. We went up the Champs Elysees one night at 11:00PM, and all the restaurants and shops were open, and people were still dining! – and the crowds were enormous!
    You’re right about the French Police. The Police jump on the train at the borders, and go through it like a dose of salts. They are tough-looking Police, I wouldn’t want to be a crim on the run. We saw the Police in Milan rock up to the train station, jump out, and start smacking some petty crim around! He wasn’t doing anything beforehand, that we could see, but the cops must have known who he was, and what petty crimes he’d been up to!
    I trust you enjoyed Paris. We did, enormously. We walked up to Montmartre and went through the stalls and then went through the Sacre Couer Basilica. Fabulous view of Paris from the hill, and the front steps of the Basilica!
    The ferry services up and down the Seine are great! Try to check out the Invalids Museum buildings and church, it’s a beautiful spot!
    The Montparnasse Tower is a great spot to view the city, if the Eiffel Tower is crammed with thousands of people, like it was when we were there.
    The only two downsides of Paris, to me, were – 1. The amount of smokers, and smoke smelling rooms! We are far in front of the rest of the world as regards smoking regulations. 2. The stench of urine in every street corner, set-back doorway, steps, and anywhere where homeless people camped. The place needed a good wash!
    Thanks for the interesting stories! Cheers – Ron.

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