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.