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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Holiday postcard

Let's be honest here this is not a postcard but a rather long travelogue which you may find photo heavy and long in the text too - in which case I am sorry but I am writing it for myself as well as for any readers and I want to remember all the facts!  Blogging is an interesting past-time and I find that I learn a lot when writing my posts since in the interests of accuracy I tend to check up on facts using the internet and then find out all sorts of things I hadn't realised and this then makes the post even longer.  You may therefore need to have a cup of tea to hand and plenty of time to spare/waste if you intend wading through this lot!

Living as we do surrounded by beautiful countryside and within easy reach of the coast when we fancy a change we tend to go for a city break and this is what we did recently.  On the day of our departure we woke to pouring rain but by the time we set off for the station it had turned to a misty drizzle.  As the train sped towards London the clouds began to break up and a watery sun to poke through so that  on arrival at Waterloo we left the station in sunshine!  We caught the bus, bus passes at the ready, to St Pancras (what a shame for us that Eurostar moved its terminus from Waterloo to St Pancras in 2007!) 

However St Pancras is a fascinating place and a famous landmark in the city.  Opened in 1868 it had taken 6000 men and 1000 horses (wonder which bits the horses constructed!) over 4 years to build and is an ornate red brick Victorian edifice as you can see.  Over time it fell into decline and in 1990s was a sad symbol of UK railways neglect. Sir John Betjemin campaigned to have it restored as he said it would be "a folly to destroy a building which conjured up wondrous images of architecture and light in the minds of every Londoner" and eventually it was in fact renovated which took 6 years and cost £800 million and has given us "a glittering emblem of the future for railways".  It took 18,000 panes of glass in the restored roof, 150 tonnes of dirt were removed from the brickwork (probably much of it due to the smoke from all those steam trains) and 20,000 litres of blue paint were used to repaint the ironwork.  Now it is a fabulous place with shops and restaurants and various events including music and art. As St Pancras is where my paternal grandfather apparently worked and as I have always loved railways I am glad to think that the future may be bright for railways!
Looking up from the departures level you notice the fantastic glass roof which is apparently 100 feet high and 243 feet wide and is the largest enclosed station covering in the world.  I was intrigued to see the clock is made by Dent which is my mother's family name. (more about this clock later)

Here's where we were going.  We were off to enjoy 6 nights in Paris.  You may remember that in the past we had been a couple of times on package deals called Paris on Foot which each included 3 guided walks round different areas of Paris and which we had enjoyed.  (if you want to check out these posts click here , here and here ) We decided that we could do the same independently as the company Paris Walks offers plenty of other walks we hadn't already done and all you have to do for most of them is to turn up and pay 12 euros and off you go.  So Mr M did his research and we found a hotel we liked the look of, booked tickets on Eurostar at a good rate, by booking back in July, and we were all set.  This is a great way to travel - it's quick and comfortable and as green as it gets and as I said I love trains!

As the train sped through the rather dull and flat countryside of northern France it began to rain and the drops slid horizontally across the windows, no doubt due to the speed we were travelling, so we arrived in Paris in the rain!  We made our way to the hotel which turned out to be very pleasant, comfortable and with friendly staff.  Luckily it stopped raining and by the time we'd made ourselves a cup of tea and unpacked etc it was time to go out and find somewhere to eat.  The area had lots of little restaurants and we were spoilt for choice.


We woke on our first day to a cloudy but dry morning and after breakfast - the one downside to the hotel was the small size of the breakfast room which made for rather cramped eating  - we set off on foot to explore.

 Within a few minutes we came upon this lovely small garden - Parc Monceau - an English style garden with a more natural design than the usual formal symetrical French designs.  There were several pieces of statuary set amongst the plants including this rather lovely range of columns curving round the pond.


  As we came out of the park we found we were in a gated road of fabulous buildings such as this one and another across the road which must have been a school as dozens of young children were being shepherded in crocodiles into the park - noticed that there seemed to be but one teacher or responsible adult to about 20 children.  I am sure the rules in the UK stipulate the ratio of adults to children must be much higher than this or it was back when I used to go as a helper on occasions when the Wanderer was at school and an outing was being planned.

 We came out through this ornate gate and just across the road from the opulent street...

 ...was this touching little vignette!  Not sure where the homeless person was but I did drop a few coins in the tin and went on my way.  There were so many homeless people in Paris and we came across many sleeping bags and possessions in various doorways sometimes with the person there begging and sometimes not.

I didn't realise I had this chap in the photo which I took to show the long straight avenue of trees on the Champs Elysee but this was yet another contrast that I noticed - that between the poor (this man had shoes that were in tatters and the soles coming away from the uppers) and the wealth as was obvious in some of the shops such as Louis Vuitton which shouted money as we passed.

 We didn't actually visit any of main tourist sights (having seen most of them before) but the Arc de Triomphe was just here on the Champs Elysee so I took a photo - you'll be pleased to know I was waiting on an island for the lights to change for us pedestrians to cross and not actually in the middle of the road, though as this post shows signs of being very, very long you might wish that I had been!

 As we walked we came across this sign and I suggested that we might take advantage of using the facilities knowing how few and far between toilets are in France and how often they leave a lot to be desired.

The toilets were in a small boutique which sold all manner of things to do with toilets such as toilet seats, wash basins, toilet rolls in every colour imaginable and some with crosswords and so on printed on them as well as cleaning materials and so forth.  Each cubicle was decorated in a different style and this was the one I chose - the wall paper was available to buy as were the articles in the glass fronted showcase behind.  It was absolutely spotless and the hand washing facilities too on leaving the cubicle were also amazing!!  I felt it had been worth the 2 euros it had cost!!!

 We left the Champs Elysee at Franklin de Roosevelt Metro station and walked on towards...

 Saint Augustin and on to the Boulevard Haussman ......

 past the Opera and eventually found somewhere to have a sandwich and a sit down. (According to Google we must have walked about 5 or 6 kilometers by now)

 After lunch we walked on to St Paul Metro where we met up with the group wanting to do the Mariais walk taking in  "the northern Marais, the old Jewish quarter and the Place des Vosges along with stories of royalty mistresses and intrigue"  We were pleased to find our guide was Chris whom we had been with several times before on our previous trips and who is an excellent guide and makes his walks really interesting and who has a great sense of humour.  This is the synagogue in the Jewish quarter one of only 7 now whereas in the past there were 17.

Sadly the children and teachers here were rounded up and sent off to the concentration camps during the war.

This dirty looking building is one of the many "hotels particuleurs" and behind the walls lies a large mansion - when these were built the moneyed aristocracy didn't want their homes to look too opulent in case of revolution and so hid them behind these simpler facades.

On the gates are carved heads of Medusa as this they thought would prevent anyone looking too closely in case they are turned to stone according to myth.  The reason why the building is dirty when most of the lovely buildings in Paris are golden and clean is that the law passed in the 1850s which required that owners of buildings must clean their facades every 10 years gives exemption to certain buildings and I am afraid I can't remember which and can't find it on the web either!

You will never see a pawn shop in Paris apparently - they have the Credit Municipal de Paris and it is one of the oldest financial institutions in Paris and is being used even more in the current recession - see the link.
One of the hotels particuleurs set behind the high walls mentioned above.

Our walk finished here in the Place des Voges - built by Henry IV.

Built of bricks which is a contrast to the golden stone of most ancient buildings in Paris.

There are covered arcades housing shops and apparently the curved windows above the shop fronts were where the artisans and shopkeepers used to sleep and store their materials and goods.  Not sure what's up there now of course.


We decided to walk to Montmartre which is an area I find fascinating and where I know there are some wonderful fabric shops.

 We had on our list of places to visit the cemetery Pere Lachaise which was said to be worth visiting but we discovered this cemetery at Montmartre and had a look round here and decided that if Pere Lachaise was larger than this one we'd never find any of the interesting graves anyway and when one has seen one French graveyard one has perhaps seen them all!

 This place - like most French cemeteries which I have seen - is like a small town with enormous graves like mini houses set in streets making up a small village or maybe town.

 We did come across Berlioz's grave.

 I couldn't help wondering how much money a grave like this must cost and how that sum might have been put to some more charitable use but that is my non-conformist background speaking I expect.  personally I would prefer a small grassy mound like my grandmother's or better yet to have my ashes scattered on the wind somewhere.

 I did feel sorry for these poor souls who had been buried in a quiet corner of the cemetery only to have their eternal rest spoiled by the constant noise of traffic on the bridge which now covers their graves!

We left the dead and continued our walk and soon came to the base of the butte Montmartre.  We didn't climb up to the Sacre-Coeur as we've been there before but wandered round one or two of the fabric shops (I was very good and didn't buy any!) before having a coffee in the Halle St Pierre.  We walked on towards the shops and bought a couple of filled baguettes and a drink each before getting the Metro to Bastille where we planned to walk along the Viaduct des Arts .

 This is a defunct railway line and underneath these arches are various shops and galleries whilst above where the railway track would have been is now a green space.

 We sat on a bench and ate our picnic lunch and then set off to walk the 4.5 kilometre green corridor.

 We came out alongside the Boulevard Peripherique the busy, many laned road which forms a ring round Paris - what a contrast to the quiet green space we'd just walked!  We finished up near the Bois de Vincennes at Porte Doree where we sat with a drink at a pavement cafe and people watched.  It felt just like being on holiday!!!

Having finished our drinks we took the Metro to Place de Republic where we walked along the canal in the late, by now, afternoon sunshine.


By now our legs were tired and we took the Metro back to our hotel stopping on the way to buy  some strawberries which we ate with a cup of tea sitting on the bed!

There is more but I think that I will stop here and do the rest another time as I am sure if you are still with me you will have by now lost the will to live?


  1. Not at all! I feel as if I have been walking along with you and seen all the best bits:-)

  2. Oh, I did enjoy a return to Paris! Many years ago my daughter worked there, and I remember sitting in the Parc Monceau with her one sunny afternoon.
    Sadly, begging is not confined to Paris. We saw so many of those notices even in Brittany, and the Food banks were very necessary.

  3. I have only been to Paris a couple of times and that was mainly passing through... I loved joining you on your walk it was really interesting and makes me want to spend some time doing the same.

  4. Your travelogue posts are an entertainment and an education at the same time! Brilliant! Lx

  5. Oh it bought back such happy memories....
    We are hoping to visit in Dec...I can't wait :)

    Thanks for the tour
    Tilly x

  6. Wonderful -- thank you for taking us along with you.

  7. A lovely promenade, thank you for the invite!!
    Paris is...Paris...
    Seen it through coloured rose spectacles, it is far better than I remember...

  8. Lovely! My favourite city in the world. some places I knew, some I didn't. You must have been tired though you had certainly covered some territory. Look forward to the next installment.

  9. Thank you very much for sharing your day. I loved reading it and seeing the photographs. Keep them coming, please.

  10. What a wonderful photo tour! Thank you so much.

  11. A most enjoyable outing Jane and the time slipped by. I look forward to the next instalment.

  12. Lovely tour of Paris. I went in 1999 to a few museums with my art class. Was to scared to venture out too far. X

  13. At last you've left St Pancras! That was a fascinating first half, now catching up with a week of blogs and looking forward to finding the second half posting in the list.


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