Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Une journée à Paris ...

So... last Monday my mum and I took a trip on Eurostar to Paris as part of 'Quirky's Super-Extended Birthday' celebrations. Somehow I manage to spread out my birthday over several days every year and then brace myself for the inevitable post-birthday comedown ... But anyway. PARIS.

Incidentally, I got myself a gorgeous Android phone last week and since then I've become addicted -- ADDICTED -- to Instagram. If you're reading this, other Instagrammers, please do feel free to follow me @quirky_brunette.

Où allons-nous?!

La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre
(to give it its proper name)

Mother Quirk and I walked from Gare du Nord to the slightly dodgy of the city, towards Montmartre and Sacré Coeur. 

Our mission initially was to hunt down a restaurant we ate at when we were on a coach tour in 2002 -- all we remember collectively is that a) it was on a square and b) we could see Sacré Coeur through a passageway nearby. Of course neither of us managed to fish out this picture prior to our trip, which would have given us a much better idea of where the restaurant was... ahem...

The view ... from 2002
Anyway, we had a walk around inside le Sacré Coeur (MQ thought it was more beautiful on the outside than the inside but I thought it was fairly stunning, especially the painting inside the dome). The view from the steps  was quite breathtaking and oddly comforting. And not at all like the beginning credits of Moulin Rouge but we'll forgive that.

We trip-trapped down the steps, dodging the pedlars and purveyors of overpriced trinkets on the way down. Then began a lengthy walk up and down the Bvds de Clichy and de Rochechouart, looking for the Moulin Rouge amongst the sex shops (classy!). 

In my infinite... OK, clearly finite wisdom, the only road map we had was a less-than-detailed one in my Paris Moleskine, which was all very well for finding Paris in the context of the world, less so for finding landmarks. Apparently the idea is to fill in your own landmarks on the maps. Who knew?

via here

En route!
J'adore l'architecture à Paris!
MQ got us a far more comprehensive map in the information office, and we eventually found the Moulin Rouge on the Bvd de Clichy (here). 

All right, the place is flanked by adult shops and I doubt you'd find Harold Zidler inside, but there's something infinitely charming about a building with a windmill atop, n'est-ce-pas? 

After the inevitable QB photo opportunity, we popped into Carrefour for macarons (which I forgot to photograph) and a saucisson for Pa Quirk, then took the Metro from Pigalle to Concorde.

There, I took one of only a couple of distance shots of Le Tour... not worth replicating here, it really was some distance away and we agreed lunch was a priority over schlepping up towards the Tower. We decided to eat in the Jardin des Tuileries, at the Cafe Renard, and ordered a glass of wine each plus a Croque Monsieur with salad for MQ and frites for QB -- salade, as it happened, equated to some leaves and a quarter of a tomato but the Croque itself... and the frites... and the wine, actually, very tasty. (Mine's the vin rouge.)

du pain...

du vin...

After lunch we used les toilettes -- not usually a noteworthy event but these were hilarious, with a fake Mona Lisa and neon scrolling signs in the foyer, a sweet stall adjacent to the queue and other quirks... Worth every cent. We then walked back through the Jardins towards the Louvre, passing the rather lovely young gendarmes on roller-blades on the way.

Then, after being hoodwinked by allegedly deaf-mute representatives (who failed to draw to our attention their requirement of a minimum donation of 10 euros before they got our support... hmm... Je pense que non...) on we went to find the Notre-Dame. 

The queue was much too long to consider joining (if we stood any chance of catching our train home) but we took a short moment to admire the architecture (and hunt down the hunchback -- think he was in hiding).

We had a brief sit-down, then, in the gardens that run just behind Notre-Dame -- Square Jean Xxiii -- where several wicker pods have been erected to preserve the shrubs... with one on the riverside for photo opportunities.

Then, the tolling of the bell (sanctuary! sanctuary!) signalled it was time for us to start heading back to the Gare du Nord. It took us a little time and concentration to find the right Metro line back but we made it, and we were back on rainy British turf by nine o'clock that night. 

Surreal to think you can hop on a train and spend the day in another country, isn't it?

There are so many other Parisian landmarks I didn't see; I think a city of that much breadth and diversity needs a visit of much longer than a day, but it was a magnificent taster.

And who knows, we might find that restaurant yet...

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