Paris – Cinquième Journée

7 June 2010

The day started with a shower that swiftly turned into a heavy downpour accompanied with thunder and lightning, which was great as we really needed the hot weather to break but also bad as we were planning to have a picnic with Karin and famille at lunchtime.

Undaunted, we set off anyway, via our local bakery, where we joined the queue to buy pains aux chocolats, goats cheese quiches and an éclair au violette. Yes, violet eclair! How genius is that?

Met up with Karin by the St Martin Canal and walked back to her apartment through a really lovely neighbourhood, which seemed more real and French than the central Paris that we have become used to. We had a really great ‘indoor picnic’ and enjoyed some interesting conversations about films, books and the differences between American, English and French cultures. It was a lot of fun!

After this we went for a stroll around the Parc aux Buttes Chaumont, which is a beautiful park in the suburbs of Paris. It used to be a quarry but was made into a park in the middle of the nineteenth century as a means of appeasing the populace. Everything in it is manmade from the lake to the waterfalls to the cliffs to the ‘wooden’ concrete fences that line the paths. No matter though, as it is incredibly lovely and a really tranquil and delightful place to spend a few hours. The view of Sacre Coeur from the top of the pavilion was particularly good.

I don’t much like Montmartre so we never go there – it’s pretty from a distance though!

Felix the daredevil.

I loved this cave with a waterfall – it was really fun and also quite soothing.

After our walk around the park, it was time to say goodbye to our new friends (thank you so much to you both!) and take the train up to St Denis to view the Basilica. I remember going there while writing my dissertation and finding it very dark, gloomy and empty. It has changed a lot since then though and was full of people, although it was still relatively gloomy inside.

The tombs there are splendid though – I’ll be writing a more lengthy blog post later on just about the sculpture and architecture. I love the really big ones that have the people kneeling in prayer on top and then at the bottom, their naked corpses lying in a state of morbid iniquity. It is all very sic transit gloria mundi.

The stars of the show, of course are the statues of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who kneel side by side amidst their ancestors. It makes me sad though to see them there – I’m glad of course that they have now been interred in their proper place but I imagine that during life they anticipated a very different end to their stories.

There was some sort of jazz concert going on while we were going around, only it wasn’t jazz as we know it. No, it was thunderous, awful sound that involved pounding drums, wailing, sirens going off and God only knows what else. We eventually took refuge in the crypt, where we saw the mummified heart of Louis XVII, the tombs of several Bourbons including Mesdames and Madame Élisabeth and also several coffins.

Saint Denis is a very interesting place to visit and truly magnificent and awe inspiring, but it really drags the spirits down so there was only one thing to do after this – take the train to the Champs Elysées and have a bit of a potter around. Dave took Felix up the Arc de Triomphe for the second time while I took Oscar for a quick stroll down to Ladurée, where we bought some macarons and admired the beautiful art nouveau decorations of the shop.

I bought macarons in Violette (a bit too tart), mimosa (possibly the most delicious thing that I have ever eaten), vanille (second most delicious thing ever), pommes verts (third most delicious) and cerise (meh). I’m going back to the Rue Royale shop tomorrow to get some more!

Oscar decided in Quick that the best way to eat ice cream is to dip chips in it.

So of course, Felix had to copy…

Took a walk from the Arc de Triomphe down to the Palais Chaillot to get a really good view of the Eiffel Tower as Felix just can’t get enough of it. I can’t believe that I refused to go near it in my younger days, on the grounds that it is just too tacky for words. What was I thinking?

We waited until the lights were switched on at ten, which was brilliant and then, even better, just as Dave and Felix were posing for me to take a photograph of them there was a collective gasp and ‘oooh’ from dozens of people as the first of the hourly ‘sparkles’ started when thousands of white bulbs flash on and off, making the tower sparkle like diamonds or, er, Edward Cullen.

One thing that I won’t miss about Paris are the street salesmen as they really don’t know when to bugger off.

After all this excitement we got the train back to the Palais Royale and are now in our apartment resting our extremely painful feet and planning tomorrow, which is our last full day in Paris. We were planning to go and see Fontainebleau but I’m not sure that my poor feet are up to it so we may have to think of something else to do instead.

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