Continues on - following Montpellier
16.12.2013 - 18.12.2013 12 °C
It's too hard to squeeze everything in - I'll get back to the other adventures from Montpellier when/if time permits.
We're in Paris, the sun never gets over the yard arm - it doesn't even get half way up to the yard arm!
Yesterday we had a long train journey from the south to the north of France - I guess about 800 km at speeds up to about 250 km/hr. They are awesome trains, the poor old Spirit of Progress was never this good. Most of the way I read my Norton's Anthology of English Literature, Volume 2, so I'm very temporarily an expert on William Blake, Robbie Burns, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Wordsworth - 194 pages of 2,543 pages read!
We are at Maisons-Laffitte - about 18 km from the centre of Paris. After the luxury of our last accommodation, we have to adapt to a small apartment on the first floor. M-L has a 2.2 km racecourse (the Hippodrome) - it's grass - all in a straight line; the longest in the world, and it runs along the banks of the Seine. None of this clock-wise vs anti-clockwise nonsense for them! There are other race tracks in town too, but the Hippodrome is its' most famous. Mercifully, the horses are spelled over winter.
Today we went to town - first stop: the Cimetiere de Pere Lachaise in the 20e Arrondissment (sorry, I don't know how to add accents, and fighting the American spell check is painful); we paid our respects to Jim Morrison, Fredrick Chopin and Oscar Wilde, and gave up the search for others because we were too mean to spend 2.50 Euro to buy a map. From a high point we could see the Eiffel Tower on the other side of central Paris.
We walked down to the Place de la Republic, had some crepes and coffee + hot chocolate. Then the train home - why don't we have trains half this good in Melbourne? There's not enough people buying local cars in Australia to keep General Motors running, so why don't the governments build railways and cut down on the balance of payments cash hemorrhaging out of the country to buy imported cars?
This evening we walked down town (down Maisons-Laffitte town) to look at the Christmas lights and have dinner.
I'll post some more photos very soon, even though they are getting out of synch with the blog.
Bridget's going into Paris tomorrow to see Amy who has been polishing her French at school in Belgium since the start of the year.
We rose early, visited the Tourist Information Centre for directions, and then found the local market - Sharon's Pavlovian reflexes kicked in so Bridget and I kept a wary eye on purchases. Fortunately, Sharon didn't try to buy any of the offal that was on stomach-churning display, but I'm not sure what it is she bought, but time will tell.
We dropped the proceeds of the shopping expedition off at the apartment, and all 3 of us took the train into Gare de Lyon, where Bridget was to meet Amy and her sister out front. The station is a monster - all sorts of decorative plaster piled up an up to a huge indescribable mass of self-importance.
Bridget spotted Amy and her sister, and we were dismissed - good grief, our baby set loose in Paris!
We took the train back to the previous stop Chatelet Les Halles. We walked from their towards the river and detoured to the Louvre - I've spent many hours here musing on the huge queues waiting to get in - today the queues were shorter, but we had a different mission. We planned to visit Saint Chappelle which is very close to Notre Dame. It is closed between 1 and 2:15 and by chance we arrived at 1:00 p.m. There was a long queue, but they may have been trying to get into the Courts next door?
We proceeded along the street to our next destination - the first residence of the Kings of France - the Conciergerie. The stripped back Gothic grandeur of the largers rooms were marred by an exhibition to do with loss of freedom. There were images of prison cells, movies of gagged people trying to talk; a documentary about an Australian girl telling of her experiences in mental hospitals and of her belief that she was really a reincarnation of Jeanne d'Arc.
Almost as disturbing was a room representing an old people's home; it was populated by senile rulers in their wheel chairs which move at random from time to time. As I stepped out of their way, I had to resist the temptation to say "Pardon, monsieur."
Of the rest of the palace, a room represented the cell where Marie Antoinette spent her last days, there were photos of documents signed by powerful people, but not a great deal else.
We next went to Notre Dame Cathedral - I don't know why we didn't go back to Saint Chappelle. We've been inside Notre Dame on each previous visit, but Sharon said she was too cold and tired to climb to the higher parts which are the only parts I haven't visited. Sharon gave some money the the Little Sisters of the Poor who stood expectantly with baskets by the door. We walked up the street where we found something to eat on the run, and walked past the Centre Pompidou which I haven't seen before. It looks enormous.
Sharon and I are now back home, thawed, and awaiting Bridget's return.
There's some "optional details at the bottom of this blog - I filled it in yesterday; today is perhaps 8 degrees cooler, and while the sun has popped out a couple of times, it was only something to see, not something to feel.