Tuesday, 14 August 2012

days 51-57 Paris

Ok so first off, I think we can all agree that I've been crap at updating for England. There is a post in the works, but we have had a few technical difficulties with the camera, so I haven't finished writing it. So it is now going to go slightly out of order while I write about our week in Paris. I'll try to get the England post finished and uploaded as soon as possible.

So back to Paris.

We arrived on Tuesday, after catching the train from London to Paris. The idea of catching a train to a different country still amazes me, we can't even catch the train from one end of our country to the other. The train was pretty uneventful, but we somewhat appropriately played French travel scrabble on the train. The actual game is french which means that some of the letters are worth different amounts, so we had to come up with some new tricks, and some of our old ones didn't work in the same way. The trip was so short that despite starting the game before we left the station in London we still hadn't finished before we arrived. As soon as we got out of the tunnel in France we were avidly staring out of the window for our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, and therefore Paris.
Our first view of the Eiffel tower, can you see it?
 After we had organised everything with the apartment we were staying in, we went off to explore Montmartre. Turns out that we are staying in the middle of several places used in the movie Amelie, which is pretty cool, and just down the road from Sacre Coeur. We went out for dinner, and had le Formule from one of the places near Sacre Coeur. Le Formule is amazing, it is a really cheap way of getting a very good meal, you usually get a starter, main, and desert for slightly over the price of a main. I had French onion soup, followed by penne de Basilica, and creme brulee. The onion soup was a little disapointing, but the rest was delicious.
Sacre Coeur
On Wednesday, we wandered around Montmartre a little bit, and then went to Notre Dame to have a look around. I've wanted to go to Notre Dame, ever since I was six years old and watched Gina Lollabridgida in the Hunchback of Notre Dame. It wasn't at all disapointing. The place is amazingly beautiful, which is just as well really as we had to queue for an hour to get into the church and then another two hours to get into the towers. I learned a lot whilst in Notre Dame, did you know, for instance, that it is home to not only two peices of the true cross, but also to Jesus's Crown of thorns?
Rose window
The Crown of Thorns is supposedly in the red glass .

The view from the top was stunning and completely indescribable. Not even photos really do it justice, but the view was completely worth walking up the 400+ stairs to get there, and I got to see some of the Grotesques for myself.
This one is my favourite. I love how thoughtful he looks.

On Thursday we went to Graveyards. First the Montmartre Graveyard and then Pere Lachaise. I love graveyards, and I could (and did) spend hours in them. French graveyards are very different to English ones, each family seems to have it's own sepulchre, in which whole families get interred. In the Montmartre graveyard, we found a sepulchre with my family name on it, as far as I am aware, I don't have family with that name from france, but it would be interesting to find out if they are related to me. Either way, their sepulchre was beautiful, a lovely blue, and presumably showing the way in which they died. On one side it had a ship sailing, and on the back it was sinking with people in the water.

At the Pere Lachaise cemetery, we wandered around for a while before finding the essential graves to visit: Jim Morrison, and Oscar Wilde. Both were behind fences to stop the fans from destroying them. Oscar Wilde's was behind a glass wall because his family didn't like the fact that so many people would kiss his tomb and write messages on it,  I can kind of understand not liking the messages, but I think if he were my ancestor I'd be touched that so many people love him in that way. It seems sad to lock it up behind a glass wall, although that hasn't stopped anything. To be honest I'm not sure how much I actually like his tomb, it's a weird modern angel thing, and somehow it doesn't seem to suit him. My mum sent me a quote of his of what he imagined for himself after he had died "To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head" Which seems so far removed from what he got, I find it quite sad.

On Friday, we went to the Louvre. We'd read up about it before of course, heard that it was impossible to see it all, and you had to get there early to avoid the queues. We managed to do that, we got there half an hour before it opened, and there was already a queue there, but while we were waiting it trebled, so it was lucky we were early. We had decided that the best policy was to head straight to the Mona Lisa, as this would be the most popular place and we wanted to get a decent look, and then work our way around from there. We did this, but there was already a crowd. 

After seeing the Mona Lisa, we decided to make our way around the rest of the floor seeing as much as possible. We systematically walked around the floor, looking at the paintings taking photos of the things we thought were pretty. It took us an hour and a half, and then we decided, to have a look at the Venus de Milo and go and get a drink. Which we did all the while talking about all the people who said you couldn't see the Louvre in a day, it had only taken us an hour and a half to see one floor. or so we thought. When we were having a drink we looked at the map, and realised that we hadn't seen a whole floor, we had seen part of one wing of one floor. We decided to look at the rest of the floor, we had to see at least one Floor of the Louvre. It took us five and a half hours to see one floor, and then another half hour to get out. After four hours our brains had turned to mush and we weren't really taking it in. It was a complete sensory overload, there is, apparently, only so much beauty you can see in any one day. We had to spend the rest of the day doing nothing and recovering from it. It was an amazing experience, but I think to see it all you would need weeks, because you would need to spend a couple of hours a day there and leave before your brain melts.

Stop, Here is the Empire of the Dead!

On Saturday we tried and failed to go to the Catacombs, with one thing and another we got there late and the line was so long that it would have taken nearly three hours to get in, and they closed in less than two, so we decided to come back the next day. We went the next day, and got there early, just as it opened, but we still had to wait for nearly three hours to get in, luckily there was a friendly American family standing next to us which gave us some good conversation.  The Catacombs were amazing. I would recommend anyone visiting Paris go to see them, and get the audio guide, you learn so many interesting things. 

On Monday, we went to the Eiffel Tower. It may because we had already seen so many beautiful things, but this was my least favourite of all the things we did in Paris. The view was good, but the one from the top of Notre Dame was better, and to be honest the tower itself is somewhat ugly. I'm glad I did it, because it was one of the things on my bucket list. But I enjoyed it more because it was visiting the Eiffel Tower than for actually doing it, if you understand what I mean. 

We went out for dinner on our final night, and had very similar meals to our first night here, only this time my onion soup was much better. Then we came back to the apartment to pack, because we are going to Orleans today. I'll keep you all informed of how it goes, and make sure to tell you if I have any visions from god, or hear any voices from Saint Catherine. I'm hoping there will be some Joan d'Arc tribute I can see. I've always been fascinated by Joan d'Arc, so when we decided we were going to go to the Loire Valley, I was pushing for Orleans. Although of course we will be trying some of the amazing wine as well. 

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