Friday, May 18, 2007

A Quick Break in Paris (France)

We spent our first afternoon in Paris in a cute little corner cafe. By now, we were pretty used to trying to fit a huge city into a few days, and we knew the best way was to start with a solid plan. Over tea and espressos, we made a plan for the next few days. Unfortunately, while we were doing that, we also missed one of the few brief periods of sunny, clear skies that Paris would show us.

Our first stop was the Eiffel Tower, and since it was a rainy, grim evening, we were some of the few tourists who decided to make the accent (although somehow we yet again managed to pick the lift full of German teenagers). The top level was closed because of the strong winds, but level two was perfectly high enough to experience the wonderful views (and the horrible winds).

Dinner that night was in a blissfully warm award-winning little restaurant a short walk from our hotel in the Latin Quartier. Feeling a bit poor, fat and not overly hungry, we decided to just order an entree each, which confused the waitress - she had to go and check with the chef it that was alright. Everything must have been fine, because shortly after, they brought us wonderful serves of pate de fois gras and Camembert. We followed our small but very rich meals with desserts of apple tarte tatin and chocolate amadeus.

The nice people running the Paris Walks had an excellent morning walk around the Marais district the next morning, so we decided to tag along (after receiving the devastating news that the Paris Chocolate walk was all booked out). Again, it was a good dose of history and interesting stories, and a great way to see part of a big city. We grabbed a quick lunch of bagels, quiche and almond croissants bought from a Jewish bakery and ate them amongst the former mansions in the Place de Voges.

Then it was a metro ride across to the Musee d'Orsay so Karina could get her fill of Monet and other impressionist paintings. We had hoped to get to the Musee Rodin to see the sculptures, but we spent too long looking at paintings. So instead we decided to walk all the way along the Champs Elysees - in the rain - to the Arc de Triomphe (stopping for a coffee and people-watching along the way). We climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for another bird's eye view of Paris (and a chance to see the cars, buses and scooters try to negotiate the roundabout below).

We had dinner at a place in the Marais, just on the other side of the River Seine from where we were staying. After dinner we walked past Notre Dame, which was all lit up for the evening, and across the Ponte Louis, which is apparently the most romantic spot in Paris (we're guessing because of the accordian player on the corner, but we're not sure, because he wasn't that good).

Simon was very excited about going to the Musee des Arts et Metiers (the depository for scientific instruments and equipment) - especially to get a chance to see Foucault pendulum. Karina was not. So the next morning, while Simon looked around the museum like a small child in a lolly shop, Karina went shopping and bought a new pair of shoes. Seemed like a good compromise to us! After we met up again, we decided to finish our ABC tour of Europe, with a visit to Notre Dame. We climbed up a thousand million stairs to get to the top of the bell tower, talked to the gargoyles (Karina was disappointed - they looked very under-fed, and not nearly gargoyley enough), and then climbed back down.

After a late lunch of French onion soup and an omelette, we managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the Musee Rodin before finally making it to the Louvre. It supposedly would take 9 months to just glance at every item in the Louvre, so we settled on just visiting one wing - predictably the wing that contains the Mona Lisa. We spent two hours looking at hundreds of fabulous paintings, before joining the small crowd in front of da Vinci's most famous work. After quickly getting bored of a picture we'd both seen thousands of times in other places (even if this one was the original), we made the fateful decision to quickly check out a couple of the Michelangelo sculptures before going out to celebrate our last night in Europe.

But we never made it.

Despite having walked up and down hundreds of thousands of stairs on this trip, climbed over rubble and ruins, navigated slippery paths and rocky roads, it was on the second last step of a short flight of marble stairs in the Louvre where Karina managed to fall down and break her ankle.

Of course, we didn't know it was broken, until five hours later, after we'd found the Louvre infirmary, ridden in a fire truck, discovered there's no such thing as a reverse-charges phone call in France, dealt with non-English speaking nurses and waited in casualty until 2am.

We were stuck in Paris for an extra night while the travel insurance people sorted things out for us. If there's a city in the world that you have to be stuck in, you could do much worse than Paris. We didn't manage to walk around Montmarte (which we'd planned for our last morning), but we were still able to have our special "last night in Europe" dinner (Simon tried snails, Karina stayed with the pate), and to enjoy some more people watching and cheese platters from Paris' wonderful cafes.

What can you do? C'est la vie!!

No comments: