i can’t believe it’s the last day of my paris trip…that was 6 days?
we packed quite a bit in but i know there was still so much left to see and do. europeans are so lucky. travel within europe is inexpensive and everywhere is so close. flights from london to rome is only a 2.5 hour flt! apples to apples, that’s more exciting than travel from vancouver to los angeles! intra europe flight deals on ryan-air or ez-jet can border on the ridiculous. i’ve seen £1 roundtrip plus service charges with only one carry on baggage allowance. i can live with that. If i was european, i would be on a flight every chance i get. meanwhile airfares withinin north america remain too costly.
but i digress…
for our last day in paris and after our croissant breakfast on the cinema bench in clichy (such creatures of habit we are), we decided to go to the immense and sprawling grounds of hotel des invalides, along the seine’s southern bank. also there was the eglise du dome, a golden dome you could spot anywhere in the city. it’s under the dome you’ll find the tomb with the remains of napolean. as neither of us don’t care a hoot about dictators, we skipped seeing this.
walked across the bridge to gawk at all the statues and columns. the french were not subtle with their architecture and decor. everything radiates blindingly of pomp and bombast. it’s like a texan woman’s belief that the higher the hair, the closer to god. the french proudly screamed excess back in the heyday. the word minimalist? you may as well be speaking a foreign language. i’m not trying to slag the french. not at all. on the contrary, i went through a phase where i liked, bought or decorated with classical statues and gold gilded accoutrements, but that was over 10 years ago and my decor style pendulum has swung 180 away from such flashery. and i’m sure the french has too, with the very modern (and at that time, controversial) pyramid in the louvre’s classical square.
we walked to the nearby place de la concorde, the city’s largest square. in the centre of the square stands a 3300 year old pink granite obelisk given as a present from the egyptians in 1831. this square is huge. you can probably fill 10 piccadilly circuses in place de la concorde. and don’t even try to jay walk. there’s no rhyme or reason to the cars driving through the square and little chance to dart across the wide streets, so you end up using all the crosswalks the long way around. looking like some pending presidential visit, there were barricades and grand stand seats being installed. it ruined the postcard picture taking moment, but then we realized it was all for the upcoming bastille day celebrations july 14.
once on the other side of the concorde, we cut through the tuileries gardens. it’s very resplendent, with a couple of oversized fountains thrown in and open air cafe’s darting the edges of the grass. there’s also a bigger than big ferris wheel where the gardens meet the square of the louvre. and so continues the thinking of ‘go big or go home’. for me, my aesthetic sensibilities much prefer the luxembourg gardens.
chris thought it would be great to spend the afternoon up at montmarte, as it was on the same part of town as our hotel. taking a last walk through the hill, you can’t blame tourists for making sure to check out montmartre. it really has an incomparable view of the city below. and it’s worth climbing all those steps tp get up there. or if you’re lazy, there is a small gondola tram you can use to go up and down the hill. we found a little divey place with questionable service to eat our official last meal in paris. normally i don’t eat savoury crepes, preferring the sweet ones instead, but the egg, cheese and tomatoe sauce crepe was pretty darn good.
we leisurely walked down the mountain and went into pigalle and came to have our last drink in paris, coincidentally at the first cafe we had our first meal in paris, at cafe mansarat. on our way back to clichy, we walked through the cimetiere du monmarte. so this is where the felines of paris are, as we caught sight of what must be 3 resident cats of the cemetery. ironic that in hindsight, our last day is our first day in paris, but in reverse order. funny how things work themselves out like that.
we grabbed our baggage from the hotel storage room and tubed it to gare du nord. something was amiss as we entered the train station and on the display board, all the trains’ status said ‘retard’, which means ahem, late. not one or two trains, but all of arrivals and departures. late. security and checkin closed. how bad was it? how late?
our train’s check in was on the second floor and the queue stretched so far back, and in some places, 4 persons deep, that there wasn’t enough room for people to get in line at the back where the escalator comes up. on the whole ground floor, imagine the worst human traffic jam standing about. i’ve never seen anything like it, and i’ve been to grand central station in new york. this was quite the catastophe that the evening news cameras were there. eurostar’s people have no pr skills, telling us it was a track problem and not making nice with bottles of water or any sort of good will. all the trains coming in late at the same time on different tracks and platforms? i’d wager not likely. it would be more believable as a computer or technical malfunction.
we ended up waiting over an hour upstairs, and then check in and immigration opened. having passed that, we waited about another 1/2 hour before we were allowed to board. having to stand about in the teeny, tiny departures lounge, under the hot lights was making everyone a little this side of rioting. it was ridiculous, as we were sweltering in the lounge and yet we were right up to the stanchions, where we can see the platform outside and downstairs. and of course feel the slight breeze and fresh air just steps away. it’s awful how the heat can make people who are detained feel slightly rabid.
when the stanchions came down, people raced to their air conditioned rail car to sit down. hallelujah! we were on our way after just over an hour’s delay. it was a relaxing ride, otherwise, but i was tuckered out. 2.5 hours later, we pulled into st pancras and before it could fully sink in that we were back in london again, we bought our tube tickets quickly just as the announcement that the victoria line just shut down service for the night. chris and i had to make sure we both caught our northern line and piccadilly line trains, respectively, before the metro shut down altogether and we were both stranded. because that would just be icing on the cake if that happened.
still our return did not detract from the whole of the trip. paris was amazingly beautiful and its people and culture absolutely enchanting.
so i come back to london a little heavier, a little feet weary, a whole lot tanned and a whole lot relaxed.