Monday, 19 May 2008

Paris, France

Some months ago, the usual bunch of us decided it would be good to go to Paris for a weekend. It took a bit of organising, but eventually we had our Eurostar tickets and on Friday, off the seven of us set. Six of us caught a train from Royston to Kings Cross where we met Jane, then walked to St Pancras and, after a coffee, checked in.

The pause for refreshment allowed those of us new to St P to investigate the sculptures. For your information, we are all agreed that the Betjeman is brilliant, and the kissing couple are a waste of space. They might be OK if they were located somewhere you could actually get a decent look at them, but they're not. I didn't waste a digital photo on them.

Because our train wouldn't get to Paris until 10:30, we'd laid on a picnic to help pass the journey. Jenny and I supplied 1 rosé, 2 white and 3 reds, others produced bread, cheese, ham, and a selection of salads, followed by fruit salad. The young Italian woman in the 8th seat was a little startled, but took it in good spirit, especially after we plied her with wine.

We checked into the Hotel California Saint-Germain around 11, but were still fired up, so shot across the road to a café for a nightcap.

In the morning Jane had some shopping she wanted to do, so she disappeared quite early, leaving the rest of us to investigate the Pantheon and agreeing to meet outside the Musée du Quai Branly around 12, since she'd bought timed tickets online.

Having investigated the Pantheon crypt, which was quite disorientating, Jenny and I resurfaced, only to see Peter and Julia high up in a gallery. I would have liked to go upstairs myself, but reasoned that there probably wasn't time. As we hung about waiting for them to reappear, we did start to get a bit concerned that we weren't going to keep our 12 o'clock meeting arrangements. And still they didn't appear.

Finally they turned up at 11:30. They'd somehow got mixed in with a guided tour, who's guide had locked the doors, so they couldn't escape. We hurtled to the Metro, but were still 15 minutes late. Fortunately, the tickets were good even so, and in we went. I was quite stressed by the whole thing, but Jane was as cool as a glass of chardonnay, as usual.

One outside wall of the museum is covered with a pocketed membrane in which loads of plants grow. Of course, there's an irrigation system, but I'm still astonished at how well it works! The purple stuff is aubretia.

The museum was brilliant, as ever, and after a while we emerged for lunch in the museum café. You can come out and re-enter once, so we'd known we could do that from the start. Then back in for a second bite.

The spectacular feather tunic is South American and made from parrot feathers. From behind it's blue, but the photo is rather dark and I don't have time to Photoshop it right now.

When we finally emerged, we strolled gently down some avenues in search of a coffee.

This was the only bad bit of the trip. We stopped in a café where we were served by surly staff and then charged 42 euros for 3 coffees, 2 cappucinos, one tea and one orange juice. That's about £35, the exchange rate being rather worse than it was a few months ago. What a rip-off! Sadly I didn't keep the receipt, so can't tell you the name of the place avoid.

In the evening it poured with rain, so instead of searching for somewhere interesting to eat, we shot straight over the road to where we'd been drinking the previous night. It turned out to be excellent, and we had a really great evening.

On Sunday we went to Sainte Chapelle which is spectacular. Built in the early 13th century by Louis IX to house the Crown of Thorns which he'd bought for more than he spent building the chapel, it has just the best wow-factor of any church I've been in. When you go to Paris, you must do it; it's definitely worth the queue. Apparently, two thirds of the stained glass is original 13th century. Amazing it survived the Revolution.

After yet another coffee, we returned to the hotel to collect our bags, then took the Metro to the Gare du Nord, where Jenny and I have eaten at the Brasserie Alizé several times before. It met our expectations, particularly with the bottle of Petit Chablis that accompanied our meals (mostly gigantic salade Niçoise or Caesar salads).

Then it was a simple matter to hop on the train and snooze back to St P., arriving at 5.30 local time.

Jenny, Jane and I had dinner in a local restaurant in Royston, being too idle exhausted to cook anything ourselves. It's a hard life.

I keep thinking of more stuff to add to this post.

One of the really great aspects, was that there were seven of us, we all had ideas about what we wanted to do, but managed all to be so relaxed about what we actually did that nothing really mattered. Whatever we did was OK.

I won, because I'd demanded Musée du Quai Branly, but then so did whoever suggested Sainte Chapelle and also the flower market on the Isle de la Cité, which we also did, but I failed to blog.

I have a feeling I'm going to continue to add to this post.....


ArcticFox said...

welcome back - sounds like a right royal knees up was had by all... with the exception of the world's most expensive cup of cofee! A worthy write up indeed.


Polgara said...

That church looks beautiful, might have to drag Chris off to Paris!
Sounds like you had a great time
Pol x

Rob Clack said...

I'm boring everyone I meet with tales of how fantastic the weekend was!

Oh, and I've Photoshopped up the pic of the feather tunic as it was rather dim. Might get around to adding the one of the back some time soon.

Jane.Dudman said...

Great blog, Rob, especially the pictures of Sainte Chapelle. I, too, am boring everyone about what a great time we had.

I really like it that we spent, collectively, the equivalent of two days (about 14 person hours) in the Musee de Quai Branly - and we all came out having seen different things and having had different experiences! It's a wonderful place.

Rob Clack said...

Thank you, Jane. I think the second Ste Chapelle pic (the single stained-glass window) is the best s-g window pic I've ever taken. Mostly they're rather fuzzy as the low light levels really require a tripod if you're to avoid camera-shake. Let's hear it for Panasonic's image stabilisation!

DJ Kirkby said...

What a fantastic post, loved the pics! That feather tunic is a bit scary...the museum is amazing, I want to see it in RL!