Nom de Plumage

February 20, 2012

Architectural Splendour of Paris


When I had confirmed my plans to backpack around Europe, I needed to budget myself and spend less on accommodation and focus on the travel and food. So hosteling was the cheaper option and having never experienced a hostel, I was in for a surprise. It was a big disappointment! My room was clean but very basic. The mattress I slept on was thin, the bed sheets were an artificial material( like thin paper) that was rough and itchy on the skin and the pillow was flat. The bathroom facilities was, lucky for me, next door, so I did not have to travel far, but it was not pleasant. The shower faucet was unusual in that you had to constantly push a knob to keep the water flowing. Let us not even mention the toilet facilities. So a great night sleep in world class accommodation. I almost slept in and missed my appointed breakfast time with Julianne. Raced down stairs only to discover that Julianne had slept in also. Phew! Breakfast was a meagre offering of baguettes, butter, jam, coffee/tea and an apple (better get used to this because it is a standard in MOST hostels).
We revisited the impressive Paris icon – the Eiffel Tower, early so we could hopefully bypass the queue. Julianne came up with the idea of walking up the first half via the stairs. I agreed, but regretted it after 43 levels. OUCH! The last push to the top was with the elevator and once we alighted the cold air hit us and the blue sky disappeared and in it’s place, grey and miserable. The view was absolutely worth freezing for and to finally see the whole of Paris and it’s iconic masterpieces of architectural splendour, dotting the canvas was a dream. Once we took photo’s of every possible angle, we descended to the bottom with the elevator to a blue sky once more. The grey cloud-a-thon was just the beginning of the cold miserable weather that was to follow me every day that I was in Paris.
Not wanting to be pestered by pushy vendors again, we walked to the Marais District and to the reputed Moulin Rouge. The famous red windmill stood proudly before us and not for the faint hearted, we opted to enjoy the view from the outside and dream of what was inside. Not forgetting that I am still limping and groaning and still recovering from my blisters, Julianne was very patient with me, but we still walked a great distance and I felt every step.
On my list of ‘absolute-have-to-see’, Notre Dame was right there at the top. This cathedral has enchanted me for ever so long, in it’s history and almost destruction, the age of master-craftmanship and Medieval architecture and the part it has played in many French books of literature. It is as stunning and mythical as I knew it would be. For me, it was an honour to walk within the exquisite and ancient place of worship, with a choir singing so beautifully in the background. I was in awe of the high ceilings, detailed carvings in stone and the ambience of the place. It is maybe not the most beautiful or biggest Cathedral that I was to see on my travels, but to me it was the most perfect and special. I touched each pillar as I passed and could only marvel at the craftsmanship of those who left such a legacy behind.
Not far from Notre Dame is another institution for any book lover (me at the very top of that list), is the famous ‘Shakespeare and Co’ bookstore. It is a perfect little building, situated in a perfect little corner, filled to over flowing with all things book lovers dream of. What I loved so much about this place, is it’s character and smell, not this new modern antiseptic place that feels cold. I could only browse and delight in the wonderful books that were available and had to with great reluctance, walk out empty handed.
Lunch was at a nearby little cafe. The French cafe’s are something to behold, as each tiny space is utilised for maximum patronage. If you have a fear of sitting on top of the table next to you, get used it, this is Paris! There was barely 30cm separating each table. Julianne came to the rescue with her understanding of the language and was able to order for us both. I ordered a buckwheat crepe filled with cheese, ham and mushrooms as my main, for dessert an apple compote filled crepe and to drink, an alcoholic apple cider. A traditional lunch and each morsel was delicious.
We continued to the beautiful gardens at Luxembourg castle. Flowers were still in bloom, yet the trees were already losing their leaves. It was a stunning combination. Last stop was at Park Monceau for an apparent seven metre wide tree, the largest in Paris? We think we saw it, but with no signage, we can only guess? Dinner was at the hostel due to our tiredness.

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