6:00 – The rain they forecasted has started. But it held off all day, and it was really quite sunny and warm for most of it. So no complaints there.
Well. Another full day in Paris. Considerably more relaxed and less crowded than yesterday (though I did wait 45 minutes in line to get into a museum – it was worth it – and I did climb a few hundred steps to the top of a dome – also worth it). Getting myself ready to go, a brief rest before heading out in search of dinner (you can’t eat before 7 in this country – and even 7 seems to be considered early…)
So, after breakfast, I took the Metro (becoming quite the metro expert – transfers and all!) to the Place de la Concorde on the Champs Élysées. Crossed the Seine and sent a nice couple hours wandering around the older part of town there. Found a little cafe for an espresso.
Made my way to the Musee d’Orsay. This place is completely fabulous – a huge old train station converted into a museum highlighting French art – Monet, Manet, Degas, Gauguin, a host of others. Mostly painting, but also sculpture and a fascinating display of opera set models. Truly grand. I think I enjoyed it more than the Louvre. The scale was a little easier to handle, and the crowds were less (though there was still that 45 minute wait to get in…). Lingered there a good few hours, able to actually appreciate the art without the hoards of hoi polloi elbowing their way in.
Lunchtime by now, and a hunt through the sixth arrondissement for a suitable cafe. Rejected many before finding a delightful little place on Rue Jacob, Le Pre Aux Clercs. A French meal (sort of – French beer, French burger, and French fries, but all really quite good, an honest to goodness Frenchman at the next table ordered the same thing, and it was all local ingredients, homemade this and that).
After that it was a random wander – found some real gems. The Jardin du Luxembourg (the grounds of the Palais du Luxembourg. A real treat in the middle of the city – be-statued fountains, lawns, gardens, benches full of people everywhere. It’s a student area – there’s a beautiful old university just down the road, so it was full of students.
Some ancient churches along the way, including what’s left of Cluny (closed alas – tip: museums in Paris are all closed on either Monday or Tuesday – fortunately I hit the Louvre and the d’Orsay on the right days!)
The Pantheon was my last real stop, spent quite some time there. A perfectly grand basilica built in 1755 by Louis XV with the goal of outdoing Saint Peter’s in Rome. The building itself is beautiful, all white neoclassical, and the crypt was really something – saw the tombs of, among others, Voltaire, Rousseau, Marie Currie, and Victor Hugo. Then there were the steps up to the dome for some more fantastic views of the city.
After that it was purely practical matters – figuring out and timing my route to the train station (I’m leaving from a different station than I arrived). Seems easy enough. Train isn’t until 10:25 tomorrow, so my morning won’t be overly rushed. Should have time for a proper breakfast in the hotel for once.
And then we’re off. Paris has been quite an experience. Such a big city, makes even Berlin feel small. A little overwhelming at times, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Now all we have to worry about is dinner tonight.
Looking forward to being back (home – it sort of feels that way, same hotel, and it was so pleasant the first time) in Amsterdam. I arrive in the early afternoon, so I’ve really got a good day and a half there. Some nice low key days, strolling the canals, searching out some good food, maybe a museum or a gallery if the weather’s no good. If its sunny, I’m going to rent a bike and see the city like a local. Perhaps I’ll visit the Anne Frank house again. She was really the initial motivation for this trip. I was writing, I think it was “Too like the lightning”, or maybe the next one, and my character was thinking that maybe one day she’d see it, and I thought – well why the devil don’t I go and see it. And thus the seeds of this adventure were planted.
And it’s been a grand adventure.
All for now. Getting hungry. Let’s see if we can’t have as much luck with dinner as we did with lunch. I’ll write a final adieu later on tonight.