Friday, October 1, 2021

France 2021, Day 14, Paris

Early breakfast included delicious French toast, a chocolate croissant, fruit, and English Breakfast tea.  To our surprise, Earl Grey is considered the tea of choice in France, so we were happy that on the Buri it was easy to get our preferred flavor.  What a shame to leave and return to an empty refrigerator!
Last glimpse of Lyon at night with the Basilica lit up in the distance
Our taxi was not only early but also came all the way down near the gangplank, instead of waiting up by the street. It was lightly raining as we drove to the Lyon Part Dieu train station.
Kayakers on the Rhone by the ship
I finally figured out how the French trains work! If the seat has been assigned, the ticket states the voiture and seat number. But what had confused us last week was trying to anticipate where on the platform each voiture would end up - and guessing wrong. I could see there were letters on the platform but I couldn’t reconcile them until a friendly passenger explained that the monitors provide the letters matching up to the voitures, indicating where to wait on the platform. However, it didn’t do us that much good as the platform and train were packed and we had to push our way on anyway and again the luggage area was instantly full. This was particularly annoying because the ticket booking website had said to pay extra for luggage, which a) we didn’t get any value for and b) no one ever checked, although our tickets got scanned before we took the elevator to the platform. Determinedly, I elbowed my way onto the train and found space for our luggage at the opposite end.
Looking down over Paris
Once back in Paris, we took the Metro to Place de Clichy, a bustling neighborhood near Montmartre. No escalator and no elevator so we struggled with all our belongings and a friendly man helped us reach the street and pointed us in the direction of our hotel at 5 Rue Caulaincourt (down in the Metro, we passed a woman in a wheelchair with family even more frustrated than we were – no sign of a human to help them). I knew the neighborhood would be steep so was relieved when our Ibis hotel was close and not difficult to reach. I wouldn’t describe it as seedy but it was definitely barebones and there were a lot of random-looking people hanging about the lobby. I asked for a quiet room and was amused to find we looked out on a picturesque cemetery!
From our hotel window - very quiet!
I had chosen the hotel so we could experience a different neighborhood and also so we could conveniently visit Sacré-Cœur, so we set off, up the hill. Although allegedly just a mile, it was hot and incredibly steep, the cobblestones tedious rather than charming, and, at times, wearing a mask made it difficult to breathe but there were hundreds of people out and about, enjoying their Sundays, so masks were essential albeit uncomfortable. On my previous visit in 1992 I had admired the work of a painter near the Moulin Rouge but didn’t buy the painting because I couldn’t figure out how I would get it home. If I had seen something I liked today, I would have bought it regardless but I only saw one artist actually painting.
First, we stopped at Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, a 12th-century parish church that would get more attention if it weren’t literally in the shadow of Sacré-Cœur. Then we walked around the corner and saw Sacré-Cœur in all its majesty! Like many other things, it would be better if there were no tourists about and could be enjoyed, not to mention photographed, without disruption. Oh well. It was just as impressive as I remembered, although I had definitely approached it previously from a completely different direction – your reaction is different if you see it in the distance as you approach.
Chapel of St. Angela Merici,
founder of the Ursulines
Although tempted to take the funicular down, I was afraid that would result in an even longer walk back to the hotel for weary us so we retraced our steps (it never seems as far once one knows the way!) and I set off alone for the Hotel de la Republique, where we had stayed before the cruise and which was holding on to my camera. Not that they could find it when I arrived (I was offered a lot of random items from their lost and found) and I was about to give up and leave when they finally found it, so that was a relief.
Inside Sacré-Cœur
Our friend Cynthia Bechet had emailed Saturday to tell me that Christo, the famous public space artist, as his final installation wrapped L’Arc de Triomphe in 25,000 square meters of recyclable polypropylene fabric in silvery blue and 3,000 meters of red rope. It had just opened the day before and would stay up until October 3. In fact, Christo had died and his nephew was carrying out his final project with help from the French art world. Once I had read the NYT story, I thought we should see it before we left Paris.  It wasn’t that difficult to reach the area near L’Arc but it involved way too much underground walking before we emerged on the Champs-Élysées, the most famous street in Paris which connects L’Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde. Everyone and her aunt had come to see the show but I have to admit that we thought it was a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
Although it was fun to be participating in a major event, we decided the Arc is gorgeous and impressive without being wrapped! Still, once we were there, I wanted a closer look. My mother sat on a bench while I waited in a moderately long line. I got worried near the front when I realized everyone ahead of me was showing a ticket to get into the cordoned-off area but it turned out only to be their Pass Sanitaire. The guards hesitated but accepted my vaccine card and I went close enough to touch the draperies. Afterward, I could not locate the bench where I’d left my mother as there were quite a few, but after circling the Arc for ten minutes, I found her. The hotel recommended a nearby café for dinner and it was a pity our last meal in France was disappointing. I wasn't very hungry and my gazpacho was fine but my mother was disappointed in her meal.
Close up of the fabric and rope
Home again, home again, jiggity jig. I will spare you the next morning’s subway trip to Charles de Gaulle: the airport train that never came, the mad rush – with a helpful architect from Oslo, who works as a flight attendant for Norwegian Air on weekends – to find a taxi and the flight home, so long I read three books. However, it was a wonderful trip: I am so glad we braved the pandemic and my mother was a good companion. It is hard to say what the best part was: I especially enjoyed Vezelay and Nimes and the cruise was just awesome.  I can’t wait to go on another!
Viking's Buri
Thanks for following along on our adventures!


Lex @ Lexlingua said...

Wow, you seem to have had a wonderful trip overall, despite the hiccups. More amazing still, you managed to read a fair bit too. It was lovely seeing the photos and travelling along side (by proxy!). :)

Dewena said...

What a dream trip! I do so love traveling vicariously through my blog friends' posts. You're a very good travel writer!

Cath said...

And thank *you* for all your lovely holiday posts, Constance. I have so enjoyed every one.

CLM said...

Thank you all for reading! It has been a melancholy return to real life, culminating in such chilly weather last night I may have to dig out the electric blanket!

Karen K. said...

I love Paris, thanks for sharing this. I was so lucky to be able to go when I lived in Germany and I really miss it. I think I loved nearly every place we visited but Paris will always have a really special place in my heart. Montmartre is one of my favorite neighborhoods and I think Sacre Coeur is the most beautiful building in the whole city. How nice that you were finally able to go!

Katrina said...

I'm glad you got home safely. It's ages since I've been to Paris, I really enjoyed your trip. I've been on three cruises, mainly because I don't like flying but I'll be concentrating on Scotland and mainland Europe now, although that won't be so easy now with Brexit. I've had to dig out our winter duvet as it has turned chilly here too.