wonderlanded: (holly gracious)
[personal profile] wonderlanded

Right. It’s probably time that I do a proper trip update, rather than a rushed list of Tourist Things, and a litany of very funny disasters. (The funny, I’m told, will become apparent in time.)

For those of you wondering what have become of my shopping genes, I did a decent amount of acquisition before I left Brisbane, the result of which is my shiny new green iPod Mini. It’s simply fantastic, and perfect for long trips, and I recommend everyone owns one immediately. I expect my cheque from Apple will be in the post shortly.

The first real thing we heard in Paris was a man playing the accordion on the train from Charles de Gaulle, which was lovely in a very odd way. And then the very first proper thing we heard, after leaving the Metro at the Île le de la Cité, was the sound of the church bells at Notre Dame calling the parishioners to 10 o’clock Mass.

We made an astounding discovery that first morning – the new Monument to the Victims of the Deportation. It’s at the very eastern end of the Île de la Cité, and it’s very movingly rendered, especially with its use of light, which is focused and mirrored over the grave of the Unknown Deportee.

Our appartement couldn’t have been in a better spot: at number 4, Rue du Miromesnil, literally steps away from the Palace of the President and Rue du Faubourg-St Honoré. There was an awful lot of walking as a result, and baguettes and ham and cheese and plenty of chocolate, which just puts the Australian stuff to shame. Paul: please tell Damien to hold off on the Violet Crumble care package; I find that I don’t need it just yet.

As I’ve mentioned, we did all the touristy stuff. The Louvre was really quite marvellous, despite the preponderance of painting monkeys. The crowds around the Mona Lisa were more interesting than the painting itself; but some of the other collections – particularly my own pets, the Dutch School, and the Renaissance Italians, were just fantastic. If anything, the Louvre suffers from too much art, in much the same way as the National Gallery in London, except that the National Gallery doesn’t cost you 8 Euro. It’s all too much to really for we cultureless Australians to appreciate properly in one day.

I think that’s why I found the Orsay better – more manageable, along with the best collection of Monet at my pet, Degas, in the world. We ate in the restaurant behind the clocGk faces at the Orsay, overlooking the Seine. It was the best steak I’ve had outside Goondiwindi, and Mum’s salmon was similarly fabulous, or so she tells me. A waiter accidentally flung a knife in my general direction at one point; which landed innocuously on the sleeve of my jersey. As a result, we were treated to fantastic champagne and little nibbly things. I would invite any other wait staff to throw cutlery at me at a time of their choosing.

Would anyone like to take a picnic to Versailles with me? Because while the Château itself left me in an apoplectic revolutionary rage, the Park is lovely. The one thing I took away from most of the French museums and palaces was that they really do belong to the people. There’s an atmosphere of shared ownership of places and heritage that’s lacking in Britain, where you rather feel you’re visiting under suffrance. Austria suffers a bit from that attitude, too: that you’re privileged to be admitted to see this stunning collection of faded draperies.

Paris went from 2ºC to 23ºC in the time that we were there – rendering useless my Enormous Coat; but meaning I got plenty of opportunity to layer my clothes and, even better, to see the gardens come alive with the warmth. The Tuileries were lovely by the time we left, and the walk back across Pont Alexander III from Les Invalides – which is well worth a look, by the way – was just wonderful in the so-called heat.

You’ve all heard about my Scottish adventures, barring the fact that Edinburgh was gorgeous and the people of both Edinburgh and Glasgow were just lovely, so long as they didn’t work for Ryanair.

Tips for the wise:

Don’t pay the extra couple of Euro to go right to the top of the Eiffel Tower; the view is just as good from the middle level and the crowd of people less stupidly suffocating.

Ignore all those people who tell you to enter the Louvre via the shopping centre underneath the Jardins du Carousel unless there’s a massive queue – the I M Pei pyramid is well worth it.

Godiva is just near Place Vendôme. No, really, I don’t care if it’s Belgian, this is information that it important for all travellers.

Save your shopping dollars for London or Milan or even Vienna. Paris is overpriced and frankly overrated. I’ve seen better shoes and handbags in Vienna than in my entire week in Paris.
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February 2010

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