Paris April 2009

The whole thing was an accident.

Our relatives Kevin & Jane had bought daughter Abbi a 5 day honeymoon in Paris as a wedding present. Unfortunately, when fiancé Jared arrived from his home in Canada they found that his visa restricted him to the UK. Kevin & Jane were going to lose most of their money if they cancelled, so they paid to change the names, and we bought the trip from them - a sort of happy ending - even Abbi & Jared were happy with their alternative.

We flew from Bristol - a nice small airport but a rotten journey from Wareham. Abbi & Jared live in Oxford, so it would have been fine for them of course. The flight was good, but we made a really bad decision to go from Charles de Gaulle airport by train. This involved very long walks, escalators and stairs. We did the return by the dedicated bus that runs direct from the city centre - much, much easier.

Saturday 25th April

On our first morning we went straight to Notre Dame, but there were crowds and long queues, so we took a bus to the Musée d'Orsay. Not much of queue to get in, and after a quick lunch we spent the whole afternoon wandering round. Amazingly you can photograph as much as you like, although you can't use flash in some areas.

We went out to eat in the evening and found a Korean restaurant just down the road from the hotel. Afterwards we walked along to Rue de Faubourg Montmarte  to find the restaurant where we'd be meeting Anne's cousin and family tomorrow. We found that the Folies Bergere was just along from our hotel, but it's closed now.

Sunday 26th April

We took the metro straight down to the Opera House, and queued to get in. We spent the whole morning wandering around this amazing building - the proper name is the Palais Garnier.

After a quick coffee we went back on the metro to meet Karen and family at Restaurant Chartier. An amazing institution. We had a nice meal, but the main thing was meeting the family, especially Benjamin's wife Shahrzad who we'd not met before. She was all you'd expect from a modern Iranian woman - good looking, charming, and trilingual (Farsi, French and English). Benjamin's English is still very good - when I offered to pay the restaurant bill he said "Don't even think about it!". A couple of hours went very quickly, and then we went for a stroll. They took us through some old shopping arcades and eventually to the Jardins Royal. Benjamin & Shahrzad set off for home after this, and we continued with Karen & Robert.

This was really enjoyable - Robert is very knowledgeable about central Paris, and he's also very funny with a dry sense of humour.

In the evening, after Karen & Robert had gone home, we went to see the Eiffel Tower light up. A great view watching from the Palais de Chaillot, but spoilt by continuous pestering from hawkers, and a great deal of noise from a protest meeting being held by Tamils. Ended up about 10pm having a pizza and a beer at an Italian restaurant near the hotel.

Monday 27th

A busy day. Straight down to Notre Dame which was much quieter this time. A coffee afterwards (€15 for two!) then the metro to Montparnasse for a trip up the tower. Fantastic views, and good value overall with the displays etc.  We had a beer and a bagel while looking at the views, then did some shopping in the centre below the tower before going by bus and metro to Sacre-Couer.

It was hot and we were thirsty, so we had a beer in the square where we'd been with Ian & Sheila some years ago. After a walk round (and a long chat with a nice American couple) we went into Sacre-Coeur.  Evensong was just beginning, and so we just sat there for about half an hour listening to wonderful unaccompanied singing of six nuns.

We took the metro back to the hotel, and the rain started just as we emerged from the station. Luckily (being Brits) we had waterproofs with us. By the time we were ready to go out to eat it was absolutely tipping down, so we abandoned plans for a walk to all the restaurants in the Rue de Faubourg Montmarte, and went to the first place along the road. This was a traditional husband-and-wife run brasserie where we had, as you'd expect, a very good meal.

Tuesday 28th

Last day. Left our luggage in store and went straight to the Louvre, only to find it closed! We hadn't checked - most other museums close on Mondays. Instead we went to La Sainte-Chapelle and The Conciergerie, as recommended by Benjamin.

After that we could see dark clouds approaching, so we got the metro back to the hotel. Walking from the station we went into a local café we'd been to on our arrival. We ordered omelettes and beers and were really surprised when the patron remembered us from our previous visit.

We got our luggage out of store and got a taxi to the Opera House, where there were at least three of the shuttle buses waiting. We got on and were really glad we'd decided to go early as it immediately started to rain really heavily. The bus was a good move as we were dropped right outside our terminal. We had to wait about 15 minutes for our desk  to open, but we were then straight through. We had a very leisurely beer until the flight was due.

A long drive home as we didn't notice that the satnav was taking us on a very strange route. We just managed to stop and get a pub meal in Sturminster Newton at 9pm.

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