We had planned a quick trip to Paris as I hadn’t been since 1982 and then I discovered that Mark had never been. This surprised me as he and his father drove from Tasmania to Yorkshire in the 1960s, and so he’d seen a lot of Europe, but apparently as soon as they hit Switzerland his father couldn’t wait to get “home” and so they by-passed quite a few cities, including Paris. It then became an essential part of our itinerary.
I’m not sure how to organise this blog, so I think I’ll group it into themes.
First of all, Paris by night as I think it’s a really romantic place when it’s all lit up.
Once we ticked over to October, the Eiffel Tower was lit up in pink to highlight awareness of Breast cancer. I took a photo from the hotel but the only bit of pink that shows up is right at the top. Not sure it shows at all, really.
We spent a fair bit of time at the top of buildings, notably the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.
We climbed the steps to the Arc de Triomphe, but having climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower in my youth, I decided we would take the lift! I should mention that I couldn’t get tickets online for the Eiffel Tower so we got there about 70 minutes before they opened and were first through the security checkpoint. No problems buying the tickets inside. The wait proved interesting as we listened to the tour guides talking, and learned quite a lot, mostly about where the best bathrooms are! I also watched with great fascination as a young man conned his way to near the front of the queue. I am pleased he didn’t try to get in front of me as I would have had to to make a fuss.
The last photo shows me at the very top, of course I am extremely relaxed! I love that we could see the trees as the leaves began to turn into their autumn colours.
One of my favourite things about the Eiffel Tower is the history. Some of the photos freak me out a bit. Health and safety wasn’t on anyone’s radar in these times.
Eiffel and his daughter had an apartment at the top where they entertained. This is a model of them meeting with Thomas Edison. It was during the Paris Exhibition and Edison presented them with a replica of his phonograph.
We visited the Louvre, of course. Queued for ages to see the Mona Lisa, because it had to be done. I loved looking at the other art in the room, including the Wedding Feast at Cana, which I could have looked at for hours (and almost did!)
I think my favourite artwork in the Louvre is the Winged Victory of Samothrace, which needs to be viewed at a 3/4 position. She was made as an offering to the gods on Samothrace, a Greek Island. She graces the top of a magnificent staircase at the Louvre, the Daru Staircase. She is known as Nike, the winged goddess who heralds victory and is shown as she is about to alight from a ship. Even the ship fascinated me; nowadays we’d call it a trimaran!
Then, of course, there is Venus de Milo, the Roman goddess of love. As a child I lived in Cyprus where Aphrodite, the Greek counterpart, was said to be born at Paphos, where she rose from the foam of the sea. We swam a lot at that beach, which is stunning, and is the reason why I am always drawn to any reference to Aphrodite or Venus.
I have a gazillion photos, but the only other one I’ll talk about is the glass pyramid at the entrance. I’ve been to the Louvre twice – in the 1970s and again in the early 1980s and this pyramid wasn’t there then. Apparently it was built to help manage the large crowds and it was very efficient at shuttling us all through security – another thing I hadn’t experienced in previous visits. It’s based on the pyramids at Giza and an interesting fact is that the glass is crystal clear without the blue-green tinge that most glass has. It’s cleaned by a robot with a squeegee, which I found fascinating, although originally it was cleaned by mountaineers, which would be much more exciting.
There are a total of five pyramids, with three used as skylights and the fifth being an inverted pyramid, which is rather lovely and which I was so interested in that I forgot to take a photo. This happens a lot!
I have a real love of pipe organs, but don’t often take photos as they tend to be in churches and I find it hard to take photos in churches.
This pipe organ is at Versailles, and is the grand organ of the Royal Chapel. I cannot imagine what it sounds like. I believe it is well maintained and regularly played. The surroundings are pretty spectacular too. I realised that I should have taken a close up, but you can zoom in if interested.
The second organ I found there is in a cabinet in the apartment of Madame Adelaide. This is rather wonderful, and I can’t imagine having a personal pipe organ.
This segues me nicely on to our visit to Versailles. Our first planned attempt came to naught as when we got there we found this sign.
Rumours abounded that the Palace would open in a couple of hours so we went into the town for coffee and a wander. When we came back there was a very long queue and eleven o’clock was touted as an opening time. I felt really sorry for some Spanish girls who had their tickets and would never get back as their itinerary was full. We abandoned our attempt and headed off to Sacre Coeur – more on this later.
We decided to give the people at Versailles a day to get over the strike and then had another go. We got there ridiculously early, but decided it was much easier to wait at the front of a queue than at the back. We were almost the first people in and it was lovely to wander through the various rooms without the crowds.
I do enjoy a good ceiling and there are many, many beautiful ceilings, including the one in the two bottom photos which is in the famed Hall of Mirrors.
I have an historical interest in beds – I did an assignment on them in the first year of my degree, when I studied the History of Art, so the beds at Versailles were a special source of interest.
The fabrics used are beautiful and it was easy to instantly pick the beds which were used by women.
All the beds are short and the last two beds appear to be more like day beds, but in fact the occupants didn’t lay down flat, due to a superstition that laying down was a position of the dead and therefore not to be done. I can’t think that anyone got a good nights sleep in a half sitting position. The King also had a going to bed and getting up ceremony each day. Imagine having the patience to go through such a rigamarole!
The fabrics throughout were stunning. I wouldn’t want them in my house, but I did enjoy looking at them. I think the small armchairs are actually footstools.
There were some magnificent tapestries, where the borders were as beautifully designed as the actual picture. This one took up a whole wall.
This was a beautiful fireplace and would have warmed quite an area. I like the royal crest in the back of it. I’m not sure that the photo gives the scale, but this is an enormous fireplace.
Of course no visit to the Palace of Versailles is complete without a visit to the gardens, which are extensive and breathtaking. And extremely manicured!
The view of the parterre gardens is best from the palace itself, but a lot of walking is needed to see all the fountains, terraces, sculptures and forests.
When we left the Palace we noted that the queue to get through security was out of the very outside gate. Probably 350m long; getting there early was definitely worth the effort.
Walking back to the train station we found a Saturday market. Beautiful fruit and vegetables on offer.
As mentioned, when we couldn’t get into Versailles on our first try, we got the train over to Montmartre. I really wanted Mark to see this area as I knew he would love it. Sacre Coeur is a magnificent cathedral, with a beautiful pipe organ and stained glass windows.
I always enjoy a good busker and it was hard to believe that the statue on the left is actually a man. That boy is trying in vain to distract him. The accordionist with the cat round his neck also attracted me – I note his neck was well padded!
We did use the funicular, but on the way down, having climbed a lot of steps on the way up!
I’ve stayed in Montmartre before but don’t remember the fabric shops, which surprised me as there are many. We did visit a few and I bought a lovely piece of checked wool flannel to make Mark a shirt. It was half price so it would have been rude to leave it there. That is all I bought, so I was pretty pleased with myself.
I love the way the sewing machines are just stuck on shelves, so different from the way they are presented at home.
We walked to the islands in the River Seine. So worthwhile. We couldn’t get tickets to see the stained glass windows in Saint-Chapelle, which was a little disappointing, but I was cheered up enormously when we stumbled across the Flower district on Rue de la Cité, near Pont Notre Dame. There are a lot of small shops filled to the brim with flowers and assorted knick knacks. Definitely worth a visit.
The Metro stations are also rather lovely, and I am reminded of the ones in Montreal, when I visited my lovely friend Hélène.
We enjoyed a visit to the Musée de l’Armée, with the plane on the forecourt, the amazing knight porthole windows, the empty moat complete with bee hives, the little tank designed by Renault and the magnificent pipe organ. We walked past it all the time as it was quite close to where we were staying, so it was nice to go inside. We’d also noticed it from the top of the Eiffel Tower, and it is much bigger than it appears from the front.
We did a boat trip on the Seine and I did enjoy seeing all the bridges. The first two photos in this slide show highlight a magnificent wooden bridge, which is beautiful. We could see the progress being made on the Notre Dame and several well known buildings.
I couldn’t resist showing you the staircase leading up to the Pont Alexandre III, which is the most beautiful bridge, highlighted in the slideshow above, from the fourth photo on.
It is, of course, celebrating Christian Loubatin and his iconic shoes. I enjoyed walking up those stairs!
I couldn’t resist showing some of the other beautiful buildings that we came across. The first photo shows the tourist office with the newly installed olympic rings as Paris is hosting the Olympic games in 2024. Unfortunately we couldn’t go inside this part of the building.
So that brings our Paris trip to an end. We enjoyed amazing pastries, terrible coffee, delicious crepes and the most amazing falafel. We missed a lot, but we did tick off the big things to do in Paris, as well as some of the lesser known. I did try to get to the Schiaparelli exhibition but couldn’t get a ticket and didn’t have the appetite to queue for one. I also would have enjoyed the Banksy exhibition but ran out of time.