We made an early visit to l’Arc du Triomphe to avoid the inevitable crowds. Lucky for us our legs have slowly been attuning to the multitude of circular stone stairwells that abound key Parisienne sites. It was fun to watch the chaos of drivers negotiating the road around l’Arc.
Afterward we walked along the Champs Elysee to the Musee l’Orangerie, a museum specifically constructed to house and display Monet’s huge waterlily paintings. These were simply stunning and we allowed them to wash over our senses as we absorbed the various seasons and times of day the artist had injected into them through his use of colour and light. Downstairs we enjoyed the Impressionist collection and a touring exhibition on Debussy and his influences.
Our afternoon was spent in Musee d’Orsay, a glorious building converted from a C19th train station into a museum. On the way there we crossed a bridge over Seine where lovers declare their undying love by securing a lock to the railing and throwing away the key. By the time we arrived we were having a sugar-doodle moment due to lack of nourishment, so made our way to the tea-house cafe only to find it appeared to be having a bomb-scare! A security guard had blocked off the entrance and provided no information to the throng of hungry museum visitors whilst an announcement asked for the owner of a lost bag to come forward. We decided to brave the cafeteria downstairs with pre-packaged food and a scary waitress who was keeping queuers from taking an empty table before their party reached the front of the line. All round, quite entertaining. Refreshed, we took in the many galleries including van Gogh, Gaugin, a large-scale model of the Paris Opera House, Impressionists including Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, and too many more to recount.
Early evening we wandered through the Marais district in attempt to spot Victor Hugo and Picasso’s residences on our way to discovering some delicious French cuisine. Came across a delightful looking MIchelin restaurant which couldn’t fit us in (well, it may have been our attire…?) so we continued wandering through interesting streets with houses that appeared to be thrown together and barely able to support their own weight, and navigating the cobbled pavements until we came across Cafe Hugo. We were shown to a squishy little table between two Dutch couples, one of whom were sharing a cheese plate so stinky that we just had to have one. I’m sure the waitress thought we were a little mad to begin our degustation with dessert; but begin we did!
After a delicious meal we waddled to the nearest train station and hopped off at the Eiffel Tour to take in Paris by night. On the hour the Eiffel Tour lights up and sparkles, giving the appearance that it shimmers.
Day 6 we took a day trip out to Versailles to see the palace and its extensive grounds. We were there on a day when all the fountains in the garden were running which was a simply magnificent display. The palace itself demonstrated French grandeur beyond belief, and it is easy to why the people revolted when such displays of wealth were displayed in the face of the population’s general poverty.
Our last day in Paris we spent wandering through Montmartre, beginning with breakfast at ‘La Cafe qui Parle’ – luckily we arrived early as their brunch is so popular that the queue was 20-odd people long by the time we emerged. This sustained us through a day of walking up and down hills to see van Gogh’s apartment – complete with sunflowers set in the window box; Sacre Coeur cathedral with its myriad of tourist souvenir sellers outside; and finally wandering across town to see the catacombs, but alas the queue was so long that people were being turned away – better luck next time. Undeterred we visited the Opera House and had a wonderful tour through their performing arts museum with some gorgeous costumes, set maquettes and portraits of star performers. The architecture itself was pretty special and we were able to step into a box seat to see the stage house itself. Not much room for the plebs it seems, but many plush private boxes. Perhaps we’ll be able to get tickets for something when we come back through at Christmas.
We ended the day with a stroll along the Seine to the Trocadero for a last lingering glance at the Eiffel Tour and its lovely surrounds, followed by a last taste of Paris from our local boulangerie…