We blogged the following entry during our 3 month trip around Europe in 2012. With all the recent tragedy Paris and France has suffered, this entry serves as a reminder of what a beautiful place France is to visit and how hospitable the locals really are.
There is no doubt in our minds, we will return to France with our daughter when she is older to experience this wonderful country and her people.
– 12 August 2016
“Avec vous appris de nous émission?” or that’s at least what we thought we heard as we wandered in a men store on Champ Élysée. Unable to understand we asked if the lady spoke English, to which came the response, “I thought I was speaking English”. Slightly embarrassed we continued our shop, picking up some cheap wool knits for the cooler weather which we are told is coming by months end. Hard to believe at the moment with the sun not setting until well after 8pm, and clear blue skies welcoming us each morning.
Our week in Paris now in full swing with any thoughts of jet lag long behind us. Our first day on Thursday fought the jet lag and took on one of the worlds greatest museum, Musée de Louvre. You can literally spends days maybe even weeks in this colossal museum that stretches for miles. Many see the Louvre as a pilgrimage and you have not really been to
Paris unless you venture under the great Pyramid.
Maybe we don’t know Art or culture enough, but we struggle to see the fascination with Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Sure it’s historic, but why the interest. Why is there 200 people in the gallery at one time angling to get the best picture of themselves with ol’Mona Lisa for Facebook? The painting itself is tiny and is dwarfed by many works throughout the Lourve.
In all seriousness the Louvre is fantastic day out and here you can appreciate the history of the world from ancient Egypt to Napoleon reign over France to great Italian painters. It’s all here for the viewing. Be warned its heavily crowded, waiting for toilets is a nightmare and food is overpriced. But hey, can’t be any worse than the MCG!
The majestic gardens of Versailles should not be missed. The magnificent palace expanded by Louis XIV and later instrumental in the overthrow of the French Monarchy, is only a short train trip from central Paris. Louis XIV used the château extensively throughout his reign, and the Hall Of Mirrors is a fine example of the wealth of the Monarchy during his reign. Opulent chandeliers give way to gold guided statues with paintings adorning the ceiling and mirrors the room length, opening up views of the garden. The château is used today for celebrations and by the French President, and it is not hard to see why.
The extensive gardens, around 40 sq km are popular place to picnic (free entry) with grand vistas, canals and word lands making the gardens the perfect place for a sunny afternoon. It was here at Versailles, that Louis XVI provided Marie Antoinette the Petit Triannon, a summer house on the estate for her exclusive use to escape court life. Her greed and apparent sympathies for the Imperial Austrian court contributed to the end of the French Monarchy and her (& Louis XVI) death in the late 1700’s, and the beginning of the French Revolution.
It was like we had stepped on to the set of “Benny Hill” as we ventured out got dinner late Saturday night. After hours on our feet, we craved a quick casual meal near our hotel in the 9e. . Just round the corner we discovered a small pizzeria with cheap pizza and pasta on the menu.
Our garçon found us a table close to the window, which then set in motion an award winning performance over dinner. The pizzeria, modest in size, had an abundance of statues of theCatholic faith with our clearly Italian garçon looking after all the tables, front of house and the take away orders as well. During our meal, garçon managed to leave the restaurant to assist a mademoiselle in distress as her Renault had flat battery blocking the one way street; then took
a phone order; answered his cell phone and wait the tables. If only this was a great story but 100% true….
Garçon was inspiring in his “Benny Hill” routine and short of the tune, which Susie hummed for us, the whole situation appreciated the spirit and generosity of local Parisians. We added an extra 10% tip to our original tip for the complimentary performance only to be informed “we must have Schnapps!” So down it went on the house and down come the curtain of tonight’s performance.
One of our many goals, was to live like a Parisian for a week. Originally our plan was to spend a month in Paris followed by a month in Germany, however the simple of cost of living in Paris for a month did not allow us to do that. Instead we settled on a week. Paris is one of the world’s premiere tourist destination and it’s not hard to see why. For every street corner you turn it’s like walking into a postcard or a film set.
Sure there are the ‘big icons’ of this famous city, Eiffel Tower to your left and Arc de Triomphe to your right. But beyond these icons is a city waiting to be explored. It is easy to be caught up in visiting the ‘must sees’ but we urge you to explore beyond and you will be rewarded. Using our good friend Mr Google and Mr Fodors, we discovered a local market (Marche d’Aligre) in the 12e.
Exiting the Metro, we followed the locals go the Marche along the side streets. We come prepared with our picnic set and shopping bags to fill with fresh produce. From freshly cut roses arranged so carefully to full ripe juicy peaches, to local cheese and fresh baguettes still warm from the oven, fish so pure it was like it was just caught then – Marche d’Aligre did not disappoint. This was the real Paris and true way to connect with local growers.
Entering the Fromagerie, greeted by a local whom spoke enough English to get us by. He spoke to us about the finest fromage (cheese) that France produces. We managed to be convinced to purchase double brie with truffles, hard cheese (the name escapes us now) and some pâte. Later as we sat in Jardin des Tuileries we were grateful to this young Frenchman for taking us on this food journey. The French know cheese, hands down!
We continued throughout Marche collecting jambon (ham), figs, grapes, peaches, some riesling and a baguette. We had prepared a grand picnic for the afternoon to take advantage of the warm Fall day.
It was something very special sitting in the Jardin on chairs (one can not sit on the grass in Paris) watching time float by in the sun. We seemed a world away from the lives we normally lead and we soaked up every moment.
This blog was originally posted on TravelPod on 15 September 2012.