In Which we Achieve Great HeightsSeptember 5, 2017 in France
I remember being fascinated as a child watching Dr Who for the first time. It was beyond my belief that the inside of the Tardis could be so much larger than the outside. Some fifty years later I had my own personal experience with an Inverse Tardis. I had carefully chosen our hotel using the Internet and the pictures of the rooms certainly looked large and luxurious. After a week of Internet starvation on the MS Andante we could not wait to explore the massive rooms we had booked in Paris and enjoy the benefits of unlimited high speed Internet access.
Our hotel (name withheld) was certainly located in a lovely part of Paris. The left bank is the home of the Latin Quarter, The Sorbonne University, the Musee D'Orsay and many other wonderful old buildings. After our high speed train trip from Basel to Paris Gare de Lyon we stumbled out through the crowds to the taxi stand and proceeded to do battle with the hundreds of others who were also waiting to grab a taxi. Some are obviously more experienced at this form of mortal combat so it took some time before we managed to pile our bags and ourselves into a vehicle and start moving. It took a good while longer for the driver to push his way through the impenetrable tangle of other taxis (all the while with the meter running) and finally emerge into the haphazard street network that makes Paris so bewildering for first time visitors.
From the outside our hotel looked great. The concierge was even expecting us. "We have a lift" he proudly explained as if it was a brand new invention. We were directed around the corner and found the object he was so excited about. It was about the same size as a bar fridge. Maggie took one look in it and took off up the 3 flights of stairs to our room. I was left with all the luggage. I put one leg into the tiny lift and tried to pull in a suitcase after me. The door wouldn't shut. I squashed my face into the wall and pulled the case tightly against me. I pressed the button, hoping that the damned thing would not trap me inside. The door finally shut and the contraption slowly ground its way upwards. It was not pleasant, but sometime later I fell out onto the third floor landing. I had to repeat the process another two times before we were all reunited again.
The room itself was good, or at least it would have been perfect if we had both been pygmies about 3 foot tall. It was quite a challenge to get both us and our luggage inside at the same time, but it was clean, the bed was comfortable, the bathroom was excellent and the air conditioning actually worked well. It was our home for three nights.
One of the first things we did in Paris was to walk to the Montparnasse Tower. It was one place we had never explored before and I was interested in seeing a new view of Paris. Maggie saw the queue and panicked. "I am not doing this" she yelled in my ear. "It's perfectly safe", I tried to reassure her. I felt her fingernails dig right into my palms, almost drawing blood. We shuffled forward and paid our 17 Euro each. Maggie threatened to have a turn, and I really thought that she was going to.
"It's bigger than the lift in our hotel" I explained, knowing full well that no lift on the planet could possibly be any smaller. Somehow she stayed upright and made it into the lift. A few second later we emerged on the 56th floor. Maggie went a nasty shade of pale green, but somehow made it to the window. Amazingly she was soon so distracted that the heights were forgotten. Her camera started clicking and she started looking for the landmarks of the city that we knew so well.
On the very top of the building is an outdoor observation deck, requiring another couple of flights of steps of climbing. I set off to the top, knowing that Maggie would never follow me. To my surprise, she did. We also met Greg and Andrea, who had also chosen this same time to visit one of the highest points in Paris. Apparently Greg also suffers from a fear of heights, but was also distracted enough to actually enjoy the experience.
After an hour or so of picture taking and a pretty ordinary coffee, we took the trip back down and returned to our hotel. Later in the day we met up with Bob, Greg and Andrea and Gordon and Sue for a night cruise along the Seine. Although we had done it several times before, it is still a great way to see Paris by night, even if it was starting to drizzle a little.
All seven of us then walked the riverbank all the way back from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre. The rain had passed by and the evening was warm and still. A couple of wandering musicians were playing haunting French melodies. We stopped at a lovely Brasserie to enjoy coffee together, after all we were in Paris and it seemed the appropriate thing to do. By the time we finally tumbled back into our room our feet were tired, but it had been a wonderful day.
The next day we joined with David and Carol to have lunch in a lovely little cafe on the Isle St Louis. We had previously eaten here several times and knew that the Plat de Jour lunches were always excellent. We than had a brisk walk to Angelina's Cafe du The on the Rue de Rivoli. This place is one of the most famous tea rooms in Paris and is known as the place where the rich and famous love to be seen. Ten of us stumbled in dressed in crumpled clothes and tried to look the part. We all failed miserably, especially Bob.
The hot chocolate is almost enough to instantly clog every artery and the cakes certainly require a huge amount of determination to devour, however we all did our best to do the place justice. Even after the long walk back to our hotel we still felt bloated, so much so that the thought of dinner was enough to make us almost want to puke. Eventually we found the Monoprix Supermarket and bought a couple of punnets of raspberries. It was just about the perfect ending to a long day.
On our final morning in Paris we packed our bags, confronted the lift for the final time (it didn't seem quite so small this time) and assembled in the foyer. The concierge had now become our friend and we exchanged a few jokes before catching a taxi and heading to Gare Montparnasse for our train to Rambouilllet. This is where we will resume our cycling adventure to cycle to Mont St Michel. Although we loved Paris dearly, we were keen to get back out onto the paths less travelled and see some more of the real France.Read more