The best bits of Paris

In November, I met up with my sister in Paris.

An opportunity had come up for her to attend a conference there and after some last-minute hunting for flight (her) and Eurostar (me) deals, considerable fossicking around on accommodation websites and much emailing, we managed to cobble together a pretty fabulous rendezvous for ourselves.

It was not my first trip to the City of Light – that was way back in 2000, and I’d been three times since (as a tourist, that is) – but this was the first time I’d visited so late in the year.

Temperamental to the core, Europe’s grand old dame put a pretty formidable foot forward, for the most part shrouding herself in icy-grey light and a bone-chilling wind. Occasionally she would toss her drab cloak aside, yielding a few hours of brisk blue sky before her grey mood returned. But Autumn had smeared its dazzling colours over her tree-lined boulevards, smattering her towers and turrets with its trademark reds, oranges and golds. We were enchanted.

Autumn

L to R: Jardins du Luxembourg; Les Jardins du Pont Neuf (taken from the Padlock Bridge); behind Notre Dame Cathedral

I mentioned before that this was not my first trip to Paris but for Lil Chicky it was. As with all first times, there are must-sees-and-dos so a long[ish] list made its way across the world and based on what I knew – and a rather tight planning window – I made us a bit of a plan.

Disclaimer: I do not profess to know Paris well, not like some other people I know. But those ‘others’ have given me some cracking recommendations for my previous visits – my last trip was in 2013 and involved pootling around some lesser known places in between hours spent reading in sun-drenched parks or lingering at outdoor cafes watching the world go by.

So here was my dilemma: How should I balance the new versus the I’ve-seen-it-before, the I-need-to-see-everything against quiet moments of contemplation and reflection that for me make Paris…Paris?

It turned out to be easier than I thought. It had been so long since I’d done the first time things that it was a real treat to go back and do them again. And in most cases, we managed to add a little something extra. So hang on to your woolly hats peeps, here’s your armchair tour of my best bits of Paris.

The Hop-On-Hop-Off (affectionately known as HOHO) bus drove us around the city sights for a couple of hours on Sunday morning and we got some great photos particularly of the ferris wheel on the Place de la Concorde and the Eiffel Tower.

Bridge and Eiffel Tower

The following afternoon we joined a small skip-the-line group (skip-the-line is so worth paying for – I will never live in Britain long enough to love a queue), so were on la Tour Eiffel just as night fell. The city lit up before us and with the tower glowing and sparkling above us…

Eiffel Tower

Far right: Standing on the second level as the light show happens.

…we got the lift right up to the summit (a first for me, very windy and VERY high – over 1000 feet!). We treated ourselves to a [plastic] glass of [expensive] champagne to toast our efforts – it would have been rude not to.

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One morning we spent an hour visiting the stunning Sacre Couer Basilica in Montmarte…

sacre couer

…then strolled through Place du Tertre, its cobbles dappled with easels and Autumn colour. We walked back down the hill of Montmarte via Rue Lepic, stopping to admire the local art and architecture along the way…

Montmarte Artists

…before pausing opposite the Blanche Metro at the bottom for a cheeky photo of the Moulin Rouge. Many years ago I went to a show in this area but have never stopped here during the day – the Pigalle district doesn’t look anywhere near as risque in the daylight.

Moulin Rouge

On a another afternoon we wandered up the Champs Elysees to the Arc du Triomphe…

Arc du Triomphe

…then climbed the 284 steps to the top for the most spectacular views of both Paris and the star-shaped Place Charles de Gaulle below us. We booked our skip-the-line tickets just as we arrived so were able to show them on our phone and walk straight in and up. Definitely my top pick for Paris views.

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On our last morning we spent a few hours at the Louvre Museum wandering through the extraordinary palace building and admiring a few of its most famous exhibits…

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…as well as some not so famous ones (yet!).

Statue.

I laugh out loud every time I see this photo!

We visited the breathtaking Notre Dame Cathedral…

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…and the 13th century royal chapel on the Ile-de-la-Cite, Sainte-Chapelle.

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Map in hand we stalked the famous, and infamous, at the Pere Lachaise Cemetary…

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…and throughout our stay in Paris, found a few ways to honour those that we’ve loved, and lost.

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A month has passed since I let myself into the snug hotel room at Villa Pantheon and hugged my sister hello. We went on to create so many wonderful memories. For five days, we ambled through the boulevards, avenues, gardens and alleyways of Paris together. We walked until we didn’t think we could walk anymore, falling into our beds each night with aching backs, feet and legs only to get up and walk all over the city again the following day. We drank wine, got lost and explored (not always in that order). We laughed – sometimes until we cried (there may have been a ridiculous hat involved) – and ate far too much cake than is considered good for a person.

Paris cakes

L to R: Our trip to the fabulous Angelina on Rue de Rivoli (with special Aussie friend); our discovery of an Angelina outpost at the Louvre and its location-themed special; this absolutely divine tarte tatin at Brasserie de la Tour Eiffel was scrumptious – the cake of trip for me!

But above all, we surrendered to the joy of simply being together…

Arc du Triomphe Paris 2017 2

…and that peeps was definitely the best bit of Paris.

Paris parallels

Firstly, I know I said that the Armchair Tours of Paris would start next but Mother’s Day (the Aussie version) falls on Sunday 12th, which is tomorrow, so you’ll have to wait a little longer. C’est la vie.

In thinking about how I would roast honour my lovely Mum this year, I was taken back to my very first visit to Paris…with Mum. We’d been away for 5 weeks and Paris was the final few days of our continental grand tour. We were tired and non-French-speaking so we had a few multitude of silly moments together in the City of Lights. (A rather ridiculous session of charades with a patient shopkeeper in an effort to get directions to the nearest cash point springs to mind.)

And I took what seemed like a squillion photos then too (which, in the pre-digital age, cost me an absolute fortune to have developed). Mum took more.

It is well-known in our family that Mum is a little…well snap-happy.

And this has been borne out over the years as her wanderlust has expanded to take in places like the USA and Canada, and adventures like a snowstorm in Petra, a cruise on the Nile and a whole lot in between.

I know this for a fact. I’ve been back to Melbourne. I’ve seen the evidence photo albums.

Anyway, I had been wondering whether I had kept any photos of her from our inaugural parlay with Paris…and you’re in luck (Mum maybe not so much…) So here’s how much things have really changed.

There was our bird’s eye view from the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower on the night of our arrival in 2000…

Paris2013_eiffeltowerme+mum

…while this time my opening night perspective was a little more grounded from the Place de la Concorde.

Paris2013_parismay13concord02Being new to the whole travelling lark, we were fascinated by the public loos in the streets of Paris. There was some consternation about what would happen if you got stuck in there. Mum was relieved in more ways than one when the door opened……while this time around I was just relieved my loo with a view came with no windows directly opposite.

Paris2013_hotelpavillonoperabourse6This was a rare moment of still and quiet contemplation for Mum near the Jardin des Tuileries……whilst last Sunday I found mine – with a good book in hand – on the way from Raspail to the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Paris2013_parismay13tojardindeluxemborg11And finally there was Mum’s first espresso on a cafe terrace overlooking the Place de la Concorde (she succumbed my nagging sound advice after five days of having moaned about Paris’ horrible and expensive cappuccinos)… 

Paris2013_EspressowithMum …whilst not too far away, on a grey afternoon more than 12 years later, I found heavenly, chocolate-y solace – and a coffee – at Angelina.

Paris2013_EclairatAngleinaSuch great, great memories!

So all that’s really left to do is to find her an armful of gorgeous flowers (freshly pic’ed from the Jardin du Luxembourg)…
…and send her lots of love and squillions of virtual hugs.

Happy Mothers Day Mum!