31 October 2013

Mona Lisa smile, Long or short lines and Châteaus...

Now, this isn’t neglect but more that summer came and went way too fast. Can’t complain summer was great! Kick-starting summer 2013 with sunshine and tourist antics was you guessed it, Paris.

In the last post on Paris I highlighted the top ten places visited. This time I have focused on the best of the best with some brand spanking new entries:

Notre-Dame: Arriving mid-morning, unlike last time, and met a huge line. Wandering around reading the signs on the scaffold seating erected (celebrating 850 years of History, Art, and Spirituality) I walked towards the entrance. Hearing my name I turned and my friend had sneaked into the queue. With a quick side step behind the group of Asian tourists we were inside without the long wait.

Luxembourg de Jardin: Bright sunshine, and Palm trees. Best photo of the trip is the Palm tree shadow on the sand. While we walked through I noticed the sailing boats in the pond with flags of the world (and the jolly roger) - like to point out where was New Zealand?! 

Catacombs: Given its name from Catacombs of Rome. Something I learnt. The long maze of narrow passages, a mere five-story building below ground (20 meters or 130 steps), created in the galleries contain the six to seven million Parisian remains.
The verse "Arrête, c'est ici l'empire de la mort" [Halt, this is the realm of Death] above the entrance is one example of giving pause for thought. The eerie labyrinth was plain strange. My opinion on the experience was numb. I don’t like the dark or death or the feeling of enclosed spaces, but got through it. After spending all afternoon in the hot sun you were back up the 83 steps to the land of the living in less than an hour. 

Musee d’Orsay: Arriving at the museum late afternoon meant a short queue. Before heading in we ate our cheap baguettes on the steps with free entertainment, live band and dancing old lady too sweet for words. This trip I was told to “get some culture in your life” because I find art museums tedious. If I knew a thing or too about artists in the first place maybe I’d appreciate the work. Van Gogh was the artist of choice for the visit and at least I've heard of him and of Starry Night and of Claude Monet. You’ll see below the stealth photographs taken!

Musee du Louvre: The underground entrance is still faster. We bought our tickets from a souvenir store in the mall at the on the ground level to by-pass the long queue at Pyramid entrance. Yes, Mona Lisa was her usual smirking self.
Tour de Eiffel: Wait the 50-minute or less Sunday morning elevator queue to get to the top or walk it is faster. If you expect to turn up in the evening to go up around 5:00 pm, you’ll be sorry. Although people are still queuing it’s blocked off. You will miss out if you plan the trip up last.

Château de Versailles: Louis XIV’s château gold plated entrance gate showcases the Sun King theme of his majesty Louis-Dieudonné (Louis the God-given). I skipped the inside tour of Hall of Mirrors and what is; now, Museum of France (or according to our guide a glorified celebration of Napoleon Bonaparte). One day might go back to tick off the list. Instead our group embarked on the huge tour of the gardens. The Orangerie of 3,000 orange trees was the highlight. All the gardens are impressive and have funny and excellent stories. Will leave these stories for the guides to tell when you visit.

Marie-Antoinette, seeking to flee the Court of Versailles, ordered the construction of her Hamlet. From Petit Trianon to Queen’s Gardens, her Estate reveals her personal taste on Versailles. The cute village mimics a true Norman village, with eleven houses spread out around the lake. Marie-Antoinette also had her own flock of pink sheep and as dressed as Bo-Peep would stroll through the gardens.

Et voila à nouveau:

P is for Part Deux. Paris has become my summer destination to devour the yummiest chocolates and macaroons. What is also good about visiting the same city more than once? To do list is pretty much crossed off. Two highlights missed last year is down to one. Musee Georges Pompidou escapes my plan and to visit next time.

A is for Accommodation. St Christopher’s Gare Du Nord opened in July and perfect for coming off Eurostar with a short walk away. Management clearly opened earlier than expected (floors still under construction, rooms half set up, and bathroom designs terribly flooding every single time). Our room was a six person with four bunk-beds set up. When we arrived three beds were taken. Back down we went to inquire, but I decided to claim the space. Either the staff overbooked an incomplete room or moved the other girl.
R is for really long queue. We thought the queue for Notre Dame was long. How wrong could we be? Arriving to Catacombs following the line around to the opposite side of the garden looked close. Until we heard the queue was going to take 2 hours. Last admission was 4:00 pm, and we arrived at 2:00 pm. Making friends with Australians in front and Canadians behind we sweet talked the guard to allow us all in. Luckily after counting everyone in front we made it by the skin of our teeth, once the Canadians walked into the lobby the door behind slammed shut! 
I is for Interesting walks. Walking around Paris is a staple. This trip we made our walking ventures in the dodgiest worldly parts of town. The walk from Gare du Nord to Notre Dame was long and made up of sex shops and an area notorious for prostitution. The second long walk happened to be from Sacre Coeur to Pigalle to see Moulin Rouge, another raunchy tourist alley with many sex shops and cabaret. 
S is for See you soon Paris. It’s time to decide whether Paris will be a winter destination. Family coming for Christmas and would be an opportunity to see this amazing city of lights in a different light!