It’s quite likely that I have been to France in the region of thirty times. I have canoed the Ardeche, the Tarn, the Loire. I have frolicked on the beaches of Normandy, of Bordeaux, and of the Mediterranean. I have carved snow in Corchevel, Meribel, Tignes, Val D’Isere, amongst others. I have taken in vantage points from the Massif Central, the Alps and the Pyrennes. But while I have seen the Eiffel Tower many times drifting by on our extended family car journeys, I have never been to Paris.
My Dad decided that 2010 was the year to rectify this injustice, celebrating my Mother’s 60th birthday with the whole family, and giving our Baby Ben (‘BB’) his first trip abroad. The idea of arriving at Gard du Nord on Eurostar, likely mildly hammered on cheap Champagne, ticks all the right Eurocrat boxes, but when we discovered Easyjet was exactly half the price of the train we obviously opted to tolerate a ride with the shit-munchers and save the money for opulent feasts in the city’s eateries.
Mum was delighted! Especially as she actually turns 59 this year.
Our unashamedly ‘touristique’ weekend started with the short walk from our hotel to the religious heart of the capital; Notre Dame. While disappointed there were no mad people swinging from belfries, it was amazing to see a place in the flesh that you knew so well. The movies clearly use wide-angle lenses, for while the towers were tall, they lacked any intimidating. doom-laden silhouette I was looking forward to seeing. But that could have been the icy wind talking; no-one was really motivated to stick around too long, and we made a bee-line for the Louvre.
“The bells, the bells!”
Subtle lighting inside was inspiring...
Sensitive treatment of the roof...
… and some bloody great big plasma screens.
Warming up on the way to the Louvre – Hot Chocolate went down a treat.
You can really see Dave’s chin!
Braving the elements again!
Local lads flirting with giggling hoards of visiting Japanese girls, armed with overpriced souvenirs. It must be easy pickings.
Focus of the first day of visits was really The Louvre. The promise of warmth and dryness underfoot was balanced with a healthy interest in some of the vast collection of fine art. And ‘vast’ is the word; we picked Flemish and Dutch masters, and barely managed to scratch the surface of the subject, merely taking in some of the more well-known masters like Rembrandt,Van Icke, Vermeer and then a whole hall full of ‘Rubenses’. We left the French and Italian masters for the Japanese tourists, and did not have the will-power to attempt a run at the Mona Lisa. I already know what that one looks like anyway.
I must say, the scale and range of what was on offer was mesmerising, but I was left a little exhausted. I am far from being an expert in any of these subjects, and I appreciated it when you were able to see the artists’ sketches or process, or when they grouped different painters together to give a degree of context. I suppose, I would have just appreciated a little more curation, and less density in the way that the paintings were hung. I feel like you could spend a fortnight in there; in London you would simply visit a different gallery in a different part of the city to see the range on offer.
Deeply impressive, but a little intimidating. Although Benjamin didn’t seem to feel the same pressure!
Business class travel, down to the basement lobby area.
Arriving in style!
Snow gathering on the roof, we were happy to be inside!
Views through the mini-pyramids
Waving to a long-lost friend
Tracks in the snow
Benjamin appreciates the Rubens hall.
Benjamin’s first snowball fight.
The Eiffel Tower
No trip to Paris would be complete without a trip to the Eiffel Tower. A sunny, icy, clear day held promise for being able to see the edges of the city, and we duly queued-up for the elevator to the first level. Sadly, it slowly dawned on us that they were not going beyond the first level, and this was confirmed when we were told ‘ice on the tracks’ made the ascent too dangerous. Never mind, it was still a pleasure to see the fabulous structure, and get a feeling for the layout of the city from up-high. We were even treated to a very memorable display of public art in the grounds of the tower.
The fantastic subway.
Greeting other visitors
The space created under the arches is truly breathtaking.
A very public art show!
On our way to the restaurant for lunch, the ice really made negotiating some of the walkways difficult!
A very memorable lunch, taking in scenes of Christmas through the glass of the bar.
If you ask me, it’s the ‘other stuff’ that makes Paris so pleasant; the moseying along the streets, the hanging out in the cafe, the buying the bread. Paris is almost uniform in its prettiness, as opposed to the highs and lows of London; 60s high-rise sat alongside Greek revivalist edifice, opposite the ultra-modern statement. It almost reminded me of Japan, with its shops, eateries and gorgeous little details popping out now and again. It’s certainly a place I should return to.
Art Nouveau (very reminiscent of Charles Rennie Mackintosh) up on Montmartre. Especially love the spider’s web!
More Art Nouveau on the Metro.
And one more.
Views out across the city from Montmartre.
Looking out towards the Pompidou Centre (definitely need to tick that one off the next time I go).
Touring the streets.
Some buildings I once saw in the Tour de France.
Even the road-markings are interesting.
But the star of the show, naturally, was Baby Ben. He held up very well in the cold weather, and did very well facing delays at the airport in both directions. I shall miss you, wee man!
Gazing in wonder
Looking very pleased with himself.
Wait for it …