Monday, September 28, 2015

European Trip 2015 - Day Fourteen

Big sleep in this morning. Around 10 am before we got going. Headed to Montmartre to visit shops and the Sacre Coeur. The basilica was beautiful inside, but modern, so not a classic beauty. No photos allowed inside but that didn't stop too many people so I thought I'd take one myself. Heaps of souvenir shops and the crepes were pretty crap too. Settled on one souvenir shop with good prices and made our purchase. Going down the hill we found Pain Pain which won milleau of 2012 in Paris - must be an award for best baker. Bought a prize-winning baguette, a chocolate eclair and a croissant aux amondes. Lovely food. Then we found some cheaper souvenir shops - dammit. Lots of shops are run by Indians so English was no problem.

Steps leading up to Sacre Coeur at Montmartre

Overlooking Montmartre



Love this gargoyle

Difficult time of day to take a shot of the basilica

Streets of Montmartre
Took the metro to Saint Denis to visit the Basilica of Saint Denis. As it was under reconstructino there was a discounted entry to the royal burial chamber and crypt. The tombs of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were spectacular.

Ventured to some street markets. Fruit and veg were so much cheaper than our local greengrocer. We felt safer in a crowd of Negros and Arabs than at the tourist attractions where we'd always been very mindful of our belongings. It was obvious that we were tourists as every time we passed a fake La Coste shirt seller they approached me. So busy too. Long trip back by metro to Cluny La Sorbonne and the five minute walk home. Miky cooked gnocci and some meat we'd purchased. Such delicious food. After dinner she went out for a coffee.

Dirty streets around St Denis

The dirty streets are cleaned up quite quickly

Inside the basilica at Saint Denis

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

The missus and Marie Antoinette

The crypt
At 9 pm I journeyed to the Champ de Mars to view the Bastille Day fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. Arrived at 9;35 with no hassles but no grass left to sit on that had a full view of the tower. Settled for the top half view in a standing spot as thought that the wait would only be for 15 minutes. Beautiful symphony orchestra playing classical composers' music to the masses.

Crowd building for Bastille Day fireworks at Champ de Mars

Lights on

The tricolour
Fireworks started at 11 pm - when it was actually quite dark. I must say that the French do an extremely nice fireworks display. No cringeworthy songs playing during the show. After 37 minutes of fireworks it was time to brave the crowds using the metro to go home. The streets outside were mad with pedestrians mixing with impatient motorbike riders and car drivers. If ever there was an evacuation of Paris required they'd never manage it.

Fireworks on the Eiffel Tower

More fireworks

Yet more fireworks
Stood outside the train station for nearly 50 minutes before being able to get inside. The crowd was crushing at times and people were yelling out to stop pushing and that infants were being crushed. Bit stupid that the metro wasn't free.

Missed the first train as it was full. Got the next one OK. When we reached a full station there was a groan from the passengers but a cheer at a practically empty station.

Reached my train station at 12:54 am only to find that the last train had run. Thank goodness I had a street map with me or I'd never have made it home the two stations that I needed to walked (went in opposite direction to home initially). Arrived home at 1:30 am. Great experience.

The crowd waiting to use the metro. Forty minutes wait from here just to enter the station.

Packed in like sardines

European Trip 2015 - Day Thirteen

Up early again as we had to head over to Paris St Lazare station to catch an 8:20 am train, 15 euros each way/person, to Vernon. From there we transferred to a shuttle bus, which was eight euros each return, to take us to Giverny so that we could visit Claude Monet's house, garden and water lily pond. Three buses filled with tourists in all so it was going to be a popular spot.

Attempted to purchase a coffee at a cafe. They told us, a little bit rudely, to go down the back to the chalet for the coffee. Then the gardener, who had ignored us before, served us and someone else. Not a great start to the day and unlikely that we would be returning to their establishment. Would've made all the difference if they'd called the gardener to look after us instead of basically shooing us away.

Not sure who picked up whom from the street
 Wandered around to Claude Monet's house to find quite a queue. Looked at the nearby shops before lining up. Thankfully it was an overcast day as I had to wait 20-25 minutes in line. Purchased a combo ticket for the Impressionists Museum in town as well. Turns out that there was no monetary saving to be had by doing this though, just time. Miky didn't want me to purchase the other ticket.

Claude Monet's house gets quite a few visitors
 The queue for the house was long so we joined the queue for the water garden. They redirected this queue so we went back to the house. Large place with a surprising number of Japanese paintings and pictures. He obviously lived reasonably comfortably for an artist.

Huge garden. And the garden where the water lilies are, which you have to go through a subway to reach, is massive. Most likely took more photos of the garden than Monet himself painted.

Flowers in bloom

Monet's studio

A few of his artworks on display

Boats on the pond

The famous water lilies and green bridge


Beauty wherever you look

The water lily pond is huge

Delicate flowers in bloom

Water lilies

Poser on one of the bridges

Tourist couple in the garden
 By lunch time we'd seen enough. Bought a sandwich only as soupe de jour was not available. Walked to the museum which had heaps of Degas exhibited. Some recognisable and brilliant pieces - great artist. Miky thoroughly enjoyed her visit to the museum.

There was some confusion at the bus stop as the driver of the first bus, which was full, would only talk in French and didn't want to leave until it was the scheduled time. Caught the second bus and made it back to the train station with plenty of time for our train. At Gare St Lazare we did a lot of grocery shopping and some more clothes shopping. Back home for a rest.
Rue Claude Monet intersection in Giverny
 Left around 7:30 pm so that we could catch a 9 pm river cruise from the Eiffel Tower. Lovely cruise and scenery except for some loudmouth Aussies behind us. As we finished the cruise they started to light up the tower which we viewed for some 20 minutes before heading home.

The Australian embassy is well situated

Eiffel Tower in sepia

Alexandre III Bridge

Buildings alongside the Seine

The Eiffel Tower lit up at night

Europe Trip 2015 - Day Twelve

On the menu today was Blue Bike Tours Best of Paris bike tour today. Met Thibault again. Our guide was Cecilia, from Paris, and on the tour were a Canadian mother and daughter, a pot seller from LA, a lady from Santa Barbara, mother and two sons from Perth and us.
Bikes for hire
 First stop was Notre Dame Cathedral, then a love lock bridge which only had one month until all of the locks were to be removed, ride around the island that the cathedral is situated on, Alexandre III Bridge, ride past L'Hôtel national des Invalides, stop for lunch at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, and a ride through to the courtyard of du Louvre before concluding the tour. Only one spill - the missus at Notre Dame but no damage done.
Entrance to Notre Dame Cathedral

Behind the cathedral on a love lock bridge

Les Invalides

Lunch break at the Eiffel Tower

Streets of Paris in sepia

Little Arc de Triomphe at Du Louvre

Entrance to Musée du Louvre

Couple of tourists

On your bike
Home for a rest, quick nap for me and McDonald's coffee for the missus, then we ventured to the Arc de Triomphe. Huge monument with glorious sculptures. Walked across all 13 intersections, trying to obtain a great photo, before heading off to do some shopping at clothing stores on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Not many stores were open as it was Sunday evening although we were able to shop until 10 pm. Saw the Eiffel Tower in lights but only the top of it. Late night for us.

Arc de Triomphe

She's big, the arch that is

Majestic and near impossible to photograph without traffic in the shot

Stopped in the middle of the road to capture this shot

About as close as I was willing to venture