France - Round The World Tour 2003 T-42

pre-departure

Paris

Thursday 30th January

Paris day 3 is well under way. I’m sitting in the Centre du Pompidou (some kind of museum/arts centre) having just watched a few French dance/art performances on a big screen in one of several screening areas. It was quite relaxing and you soon look past the nakedness of the various artistic performers, as you drift off into a restful state of relaxation. I would have remained asleep for a few minutes longer had it not been for a staff member who came in and systematically woke everybody up. At least I wasn’t the only one asleep. Since Sandy has gone off to find some fountain that she has been reading about, supposedly near this building somewhere, I thought I’d whip out the laptop and put some more words down.

With another peaceful night behind us, we ventured out once again into Paris to savour its delights. This morning it would be Notre Dame that enticed us back into tourist mode. The Notre Dame is a cathedral located on a narrow island in the middle of the river Seine. Breathtaking architecture both inside and out kept the shutters on both cameras active throughout the morning and well into the afternoon. Although we could not climb to the very top of the tower today, the view from about 50 meters high was no less spectacular than those of the magnificent stained glass windows and vaulted, gothic ceilings from within. It must be said, however, that the spiral staircase to the towers did take its toll on our legs.

Of particular interest to me was a visit to the embankment on the other side of the river just behind the cathedral. This is where Liam Neason played the role of Jean Valjean in some of the final scenes of Les Miserables the movie. Captivated as I have been by both the show & movie, being there was a special moment for me. It’s one of the many places in Paris where the camera’s eye view, if aimed correctly, will detect nothing modern and where time does indeed appear to stand still. I could picture inspector Javert manacling himself before plunging into the depths of the Seine to relieve himself of the torture inflicted upon him by Valjean’s unending compassion for human life and forgiveness.

After walking around the general vicinity of the Notre Dame for an hour or so, we walked into the Centre du Pompidou building and partook in a chocolate muffin and some liquid sustenance. When Sandy comes back, we will again head out further. Not sure exactly where we will go next but I’m sure Paris and its delights will continue to welcome us.

As it turns out, our next destination was back to the hostel for a rest and some well earned dinner. Dinner at the hostel tends to be French bread with something. Today, the something was a packet of fish fingers that I’d bought yesterday whilst at the local supermarket just around the corner. Had I noticed at the time that half the bill at the cash register was for the fish fingers, I probably wouldn’t have bought them. However, since they were there waiting for us in the freezer, fish fingers and a baguette for supper it was. And delicious they were too.

Once again rested and re-vitalized, we decided to take a stroll out on the town. Not that we had a specific destination or activity in mind, however, we simply wanted to soak up the Parisian evening atmosphere. According to our friendly, and by now fairly familiar, tout who was now manning the front desk, one of the best places for this purpose was the Arc de Triomphe and a subsequent stroll down the Champs Elysees. So be it. Since we were now somewhat familiar with the workings of the Parisian metro system, navigating our way to the necessary station was swift and efficient – much like the metro system itself.

Earlier in the week, we had turned down an opportunity to climb up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Since the weather was now clear, if not still a bit breezy and chilly, it seemed like a good idea to rectify the situation and off we set. Fortunately, they accepted our credit cards for the tickets to climb the arch. I say fortunately since Sandy had decided to leave her bag, and thus our only means of obtaining money from an ATM, back at the hostel. At the time of this writing, we are still waiting to find out what the correct PIN code is to may bank issued ATM cards (but that is an entirely different story altogether – don’t get me started!).

At €7 per person to climb the arch, this was to be a fairly pricey proposition given that we spent most of the day at the Louvre for the same price. Nevertheless, the resulting vistas were certainly worth the toll taken on our legs and knees by the spiral staircase that we had to navigate to get to the top – even though we were still feeling the effects from our earlier legwork at the Notre Dame.

After a few nice shots from atop the Arc de Triomphe, we headed off down the Champs Elysees. The street bustled on both side with Parisians and tourists alike soaking up the atmosphere. Not that there was anything in particular of interest as we strolled up and down, it’s just that you haven’t been to Paris until you’ve been to the Champs Elysees.

So, with another ‘must see’ checked off the list, back we headed to our hostel on the now familiar metro line 2 to the Barbès Rochechouart station. The trip back would have been uneventful if it not for a presumably drunk and somewhat animated character that insisted on addressing half the travelling occupants randomly in a flamboyant and jocular fashion. Of course, Sandy caught his eye and was, therefore, also one of the recipients of his attention. Paris, it seems, is not unlike other major metropolises in that it also has its weirdoes. But, he seemed harmless enough and was the co-source of our evening’s entertainment.

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