15.11.2012 - 19.11.2012 14 °C
It would not have been right to have spent six months in this part of the world and not make a return trip to romantic Paris. Second time around it is still a city we love spending time in, and even in the cold it has the power to lure you out onto the streets to explore new places and encourage you to reacquaint yourself with familiar ones.
This leg of the trip was originally planned for a trio + 1 (i.e. Rhi, Lisa and Diane plus Andrew!). We had grand plans of drinking champagne and eating macaroons as Diane experienced the city for the first time, Lisa having spent her 32nd birthday here last year. It has been a difficult few days wandering the streets knowing how much she wanted to be here with us and still trying to process why she is not. In honour of our special friend it was now just the two of us on a mission to have the Parisian experience we had all hoped to have together.
Paris is a beautiful city for walking, but when it gets too cold above the ground their metro system is fantastic – every corner of the city can be reached, it’s fast and it is warm! With some of the world’s most recognisable monuments littered around the place and scenic city parks we did our best to stay above ground, and when admiring the city in the cool November weather became too much we retreated inside for coffee and pastries.
In the Opera district in the heart of the city you can find the famous Parisian department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, both perfect options for an escape from the weather. Whilst Rhi was enamoured by Dior, McQueen and Blahnik, Andrew took equal pleasure in admiring the Parisian women. Every Friday afternoon the Galeries has a fashion parade that is open to the public which was a bit of fun (albeit torturous) and another great way for us both to be entertained!
The city was well dressed for the festive season (with the Galeries’ store windows glamorously dressed by Louis Vuitton) and it was a great surprise to stumble along the Christmas markets on the Champs Elysees. Locals and tourists mingled with food and mulled wine, and the kids had a ball in the ice skating rink. Being away from the usual routine of home the season has crept up on us quickly, so it was nice to wander the streets with the carols sounding and the street decorations alight to get in the spirit.
As with any trip to France, we spent a lot of time eating and achieved the perfect balance of sleepy mornings, a little bit of sightseeing and savouring the local fare. We drank champagne, ate croissants and generally filled up on all things French in between visits to churches and museums and of course an evening at a French cabaret venue. We chose the Crazy Horse this time around, but if you have not seen the Moulin Rouge that is the best one to see!
One church that is a must see is the Notre Dame cathedral – one of the most visited attractions in Paris. Ironically we skipped it the last time as there were too many people trying to get in! Built in the late 12th century it is considered to be a gothic architectural masterpiece and whilst the inside is beautiful, it is possibly more captivating to walk around the outside of it marvelling at the details and of course the gargoyles.
Another beautiful chapel that we had picked out for this visit was Saint Chapelle, a site described as a ‘jewel box’. Easy to see why on arrival – the floor to ceiling stained glass windows on the upper level of the chapel are unlike any we have seen (and we have seen a lot of churches this year!) The chapel is currently undergoing restoration where each panel is removed and painstakingly restored to its original glory. King Louis IV had the chapel built to house the recent acquisition of the Holy Relics, most notably the Crown of Thorns (the cost of which exceeded the cost to build the chapel). The relics are today housed in the treasury at Notre Dame.
One of the things we love about Paris is that we have now been here twice, and there are still loads of things we haven’t seen or done which makes it the perfect place to return to again and again. Museums, cathedrals, restaurants and then there are the sights just outside the city too. No doubt we will be back again one day, maybe next time we will get to share it with Diane.