Hope you’ve had an enjoyable week! Ours began with a 7 hour drive back from Colmar. It wasn’t an easy drive as it rained all day, quite heavily at times, and was foggy in parts as well. The freeway is very unpleasant in these conditions – visibility is reduced further by a lot of wash coming up off the road from car and truck tyres – so it’s quite trying and tiring. To add to that, we took the wrong freeway at one point which took us about 1/2 an hour too far east – with nowhere to turn around or exit, we just had to stick it out until we could get off. After quite a bit of time on back roads we rejoined the right freeway and finally arrived home. It was nice to spend Tuesday and Wednesday at home.
On Thursday, we left our car at our French teacher’s place, she drove us to the station and we took the train to Paris – a pleasant, relaxing journey of 3 1/2 hours. After lunch and checking into our hotel near the Place de la Bastille, we walked up to Boulevard Haussmann to have a look at the big department store windows – like Myer in Melbourne, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps windows are decorated for Christmas, however, the displays, while interesting, weren’t very Christmasy at all! Paris is a great city for walking, there are many statues and monuments, the buildings are beautiful and as the majority of them are only 7 stories high, there’s plenty of sky and light, making it feel open and airy.
Friday we took an early train tothe Palace of Versailles. We visited it in 2010 but it was summer and there were so many people there it was shoulder-to-shoulder walking through the rooms and we didn’t stay long. This time, being just after opening time and cold, there were very few people and we often had rooms to ourselves so it was much more enjoyable. We hired a couple of push bikes for a bit (an electric one for me!) and rode around the gardens which was good fun. From there we got on the train to Trocadero from where you have a great view of the Eiffel Tower, walked to the Arc de Triomphe and down one side of the Champs Elysees – the Christmas markets were in full swing so it was nice strolling past them, although they were all similar to the ones we’d seen in Strasbourg. We went then to the Musee de l’Orangerie which is home to some big and lovely Monet landscapes as well as works by Picasso (his less abstract ones), Renoir and Matisse.
Saturday was another strolling around/sight-seeing day – took the metro to the Concorde, walked to Boulevard Haussmann again(had to do a spot of Christmas shopping), walked along the other side of the Champs Elysees to the Eiffel Tower – we’d hoped to take the lift to the top (it was closed when we were there 2 years ago) but the queue was huge and the top again closed due to congestion so we got on the Batobus (a shuttle boat on the Seine), got off at Notre Dame, had lunch on Ile de St Louis, got back on the Batobus to Eiffel Tower to catch an after dark ‘Paris Illuminations’ bus tour which wasn’t possible – the driver spun us some yarn about not being able to pay by credit card, it was a bit odd and confusing – so we jumped back on the Batobus to Notre Dame and walked back to our hotel. After dinner at a Chinese place opposite the hotel, we thought we’d go somewhere else for a bit of dessert so went to a chain restaurant ‘Hippopotamus’ – we’ve eaten there before, in Limoges and Grenoble and had had lunch there in Paris on Thursday. We were met in the foyer and were asked if we had come to eat, I replied yes, for dessert. Oh, no, the guy said, not possible, you have to want something to eat. I reiterated, we’re going to eat dessert. He shook his head and said there’s no places available. David looked around and said loudly there’s plenty of empty tables! The guy insisted, no, they’re only for people ordering a meal! We were gobsmacked and left in a huff. We couldn’t believe a restaurant, and not a classy one at that, would turn away paying customers. And it was 9pm – certainly time for dessert! So we went to a posh patisserie/chocolaterie and bought a luxury cake each.
Today, after a stroll along the canal near our hotel, we headed to the station for our return train – again a very relaxing 3 1/2 hours. We were met by our French teacher (also called Christine) and her partner (Hugo) and after a lovely afternoon tea with them, drove home to a freezing house! With the fire going and other heaters on, it’ll soon warm up again. We were very lucky with the weather while in Paris – while it was very cold each day (around 5 deg) and Friday was overcast, Saturday and today were sunny so that was nice.
We’ll be home this week til Friday when we’ll head off for one more short trip before Christmas – down to Toulouse and some small but apparently amazing villages in that area.
Have a great week
Chris and David