My whole life, I’ve listened to songs about Paris: I Love Paris, April in Paris, Paris sera toujours Paris. I’ve always loved listening to them, but I never really understood them until I spent an afternoon in Paris after our trip to Vimy this past April.
My whole conception of Paris has been formed by old movies, most particularly ‘An American in Paris’. Feeling that this was most likely out of date, I really didn’t know quite what to expect; although, I was told that it hadn’t really changed much at all.
We entrained at St-Omer, not far from our hotel. In an era of steel and glass contruction, St-Omer Railway Station was inspired by 17th century French castles. It was constructed in Neo-Classical style in 1904 using blue and white slate and is beautifully symmetrical in aspect. Today it is rather derelict, but its grandeur is hard to hide.
We arrived at Gare-du-Nord in late morning and found a taxi to the Eiffel Tour. It was a cliché choice for a first stop, but never having been to Paris before, it had to be seen. Along the way, the driver and I had a fabulous discussion about politics, France, Canada, Vimy, politics and Trump. My French language skills had recovered a fair bit during the week and I was back to virtual fluency once more.
La Tour Eiffel – people speak of how plain it is without the magic of photography or film. I loved it, despite the carnival and incredible queues at the base. The driver dropped us around the corner, on a quiet street.
We popped into Café le Castel for a bite to eat, sitting next to three students from three different countries who had met at university the year before. They had all travelled to Paris see each other during break. Lunch was very good and we left feeling ready to explore.
And then it was time to tour.
Next we took a rickshaw over to Place de la Concorde, with its Egyptian obilisk, Ferris Wheel and wonderous traffic. I would highly recommend rickshaws when travelling in Paris if you don’t wish to take the Metro (which is by far the most economical way to travel). They aren’t much cheaper than a taxi, but they can go places no taxi can.
We wandered about Rue du Rivoli a bit, taking in the sounds and sights. Having played the role of Judith Bliss in Noel Coward’s fabulous play ‘Hay Fever’, I had an especially good time. The last scene is an epic argument between Judith and her husband about the roads in Paris. I can now say with assurance that Judith had the right of it in that argument. Rue St Honore does not meet Place de la Concorde, but runs parallel to Rue du Rivoli.
Thinking to walk to the Louvre, where we were meeting some friends we wandered along past shops and hotels full of beautiful people who were very important (if the personal security/bodyguards were any indication). We had bought advance entry tickets to the Louvre for 3:00, which meant we wouldn’t have to stand in the queue for quite as long to get in. Unfortunately, the walk was a little longer than we thought it would be for our already weary feet. Anticipating a fair bit more walking once we arrived we decided on another rickshaw ride!
Paris is an incredible city. There is no way to see even a small part of it in one afternoon. The taxis are as omnipresent as people, the traffic is chaotic, but there is a charm to is all, a vibrance I’ve rarely experienced elsewhere. Perhaps it has to do with actually seeing Chanel after having read about it and seen it on film, or with looking up at landmarks I’ve heard about my whole life, or maybe it was the sun hitting April blossoms that glowed with colour.
I was going to put the entire afternoon into this one post, but I’ve been working on it for weeks now. I’ll leave it here for now. Next up, the Louvre and one of the most incredible journies I’ve ever taken back to a railway station.