The morning sees us Paris bound. We’ve not approached Paris from this angle before and it offers two surprises. The first is that Paris is adjacent to a forest. A forest that boasts deer and most surprisingly, wild boar. Just outside of Paris! Extraordinary. The other great surprise is the skyline, I’m presuming La Defence, the high rise business centre. For a moment there it looked like Melbourne. The Eiffel Tower on approach to the right dissuades that image.
There’s another first: we’re here in the summer high season, usually we’ve been here in the autumn. The difference a few weeks makes is extraordinary. We’ve never experienced Paris swarmed by tourists and endless queues, but all that is set to change today. Paris is under siege, drowning under the expectations of an experience hungry public. Queues are endless, the river boats packed. Luckily we’ve seen all the “main” attractions before.
Mid afternoon, we go a little off the rails. It’s after 1 pm by the time we arrive, too late to see the Parisienne markets we love, so I chose instead, its heart: walking past the Louvre,
the Grand and Petite Palais,
all along the river Seine.
It’s a sound plan, albeit besieged by wave after endless wave of tourists. It’s my way of reacquainting myself with being here and I can drown out the hordes, even if they challenge my photos.
Himself however, is out of sorts and is determined to not enjoy it: he can’t get wifi, he’s too hot, he’s too cold, he forgot his hat, there are too many people. It’s a performance that would earn a recalcitrant toddler an Oscar. I can’t tease or cajole him out of it and consequently, as the afternoon unfolds, I could cheerfully smack him.
Luckily, there are many lovely things to still that urge. The Petite Palais is hosting an art and sculpture display and it’s the first time we’ve seen its beautiful Belle Epoque interiors.
The Petite Palais, the Grand Palais and the Eiffel Tower were built in this gracious period for the Exposition held in 1896. With its mosaic marble flooring, fresco ceilings and intricate plaster work, it’s a work of art in its own right.
The art and objet d’art on display are soothingly lovely too. I particularly like the minxy coquette on the red chaise lounge.
Notre Dame has cleaned up a treat too – it was under scaffolding five years ago – restorations for a key anniversary. Unsurprisingly, the queue to enter it snake for hours.
Much more fun is the only remaining pet shop on the Seine. Lots of gorgeous fluffy things to long over and Paris being apartment living, lots of teeny pets too. These little sleepy mousey hamsters!
Sadly most of the string of pet shops that used to be here are gone, replaced by new developments. No more chipmunks, no more chinchilla – they offered hours of fun on prior visits. I challenge anyone to find anything as soft as a chinchilla. And its hard to enjoy being nipped, unless it’s by squeaky handful of chipmunk.
By late afternoon, tempers flare and alcohol is called for. We find ourselves in the vibrant rainbow bar scene. And I take more a wee pinch of pleasure in watching Chris get hit on by a buff young waiter, amongst the daddies, twinks, otters and bears, still oblivious to the fact he’s sitting in a gay bar. This despite the fact it’s drapped in rainbow umbrellas.
Much amusement. It’s not until after we leave, and pass another thousand or so rainbows and the Bears’ Den that he twigs – “there seem to be a lot of blokes here” he says.
Finally, a shared laugh. He wants to know what a bear is. 😂😂😂 🐻
We decide to stay in Paris for the evening, having dinner at an Asian restaurant that serves hand pulled noodles.
We’ve been missing Asian food. Whilst you can eat like a king in the provincal areas in France, good French food can be hard to find in Paris, outside of the Michelin rating system. Ironic, no? International cruise in Paris, meanwhile, shines.
There’s time for a final stop at the Hotel de Ville for a twilight shot before we leave. A ceremony is underway, commemorating the day the tanks rolled into Paris at the end of WWII, liberating it. Historical footage is being played and the band’s music is very moving.
Let’s hope for calmer waters tomorrow. Paris is after all, one of my favourites places on earth. And for this, I’m willing to forgive the old girl many things. Including being beseiged by tourists.