Bonjour from the beautiful city of Paris! We have settled in and are happy to have a short break from packing and unpacking.
Sunday, Feb 8 – Paris
Great trip into Paris on a high speed, double decker train. Man we were moving!
Our Airbnb apartment is on Oberkampf in the 11th arrondissement (division). The apartment is spacious, central and has a large deck that we hope we can use for something other than drying laundry. The walls are a bit thin and we were used to our neighbours morning routines after a few days.
‘Rue du Oberkampf’ used to be considered a blue-color neighborhood. But in the last few years, the stirrings of artistic souls migrating from Bastille and the 20th arrondissement have placed Oberkampf in the “circuit”. Apparently you will find less than predictable Paris nightlife here. Sounds interesting.
We walked to our neighbouring village of Bellieview which is at a higher elevation, to get a better view of the city. It was our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, far, far off in the distance. Hello Paris!!
Monday, Feb 9
We went to the neighborhood market today. OMG it was crazy! It was huge – block after block after block. The locals were out with their wheeled shopping bags buying anything from produce and meats to clothing, dishes, toys; you name it. The vendors were all shouting over the competition to get your attention and sale. Wall to wall people. Quite the melting pot in there.
After that, we decided we needed something a little quieter so walked to Père Lachaise Cemetery. Can’t get much quieter than that. Joe is awesome with researching places to go and how to get there so he had a list of famous graves for us to find. We managed to find Jim Morrison:
and ‘Chopin’ with a little effort, but the site is huge and takes a detective to figure out what is where.
Other beautiful spots:
So as we stood there deciphering the map, a lively fellow (with a binder) walked by us quickly and offered to direct us to our next plot. He seemed friendly and very helpful. He told us in his thick, French accent that he had been a tour guide here for 46 years and said follow me! We thought that was a great idea to have people helping tourists maneuver their way around. Hmmmm…
We spent about an hour with this guide and he showed us where everything we wanted to see, plus more. He had interesting stories about a lot of plots. We never would have found half those places.
Oscar Wilde (he was a little wilder than we thought):
Bugatti (car maker):
Bernard Verlhac (murdered in the January shootings in Paris):
Don’t even ask what we were doing here – awkward and long story…
Not sure when it was in that hour that it clicked with me that this man was going to want to be paid for his services. I turned to Joe and made the money sign with my fingers and he didn’t like that at all. The guy was getting crazier too, just a tad scary and a little too touchy feely with me for our liking. We knew we had to bail but didn’t want him flipping out as we didn’t have any money with us – except for 3€. The time came and Joe asked where the exit was, we thanked him very much for his help and information and Joe gave him the 3€. Guide guy stood there motioning and saying ‘more, more’ and we told him that was all we had. His smile disappeared SO fast and he turned around and left without a word. We exited quickly.
I researched this when we got home and the Cemetery does not employ any guides nor do they provide tourists with any information other than a map on a sign at the entrance. There are, however, several ‘Self-Appointed Guides’ that wander the grounds or do pre-arranged tours. Our guide was not listed in the article but it said there is cutthroat competition, where the spoils of tourist season go to the guide with the best source material and acting chops. Ours was an actor alright!
Tuesday – Wednesday, Feb 10 & 11
Joe’s cold has returned so we have been lying low. We are really enjoying eating in most meals with an occasional dinner out.
We walked the other way down Oberkampf today and discovered a whole new world! So many restaurants, and shops. We explored for several days.
Thursday, Feb 12
We bought a pass for the subway today and that was ‘interesting’. The fellow helping us was in training, and between them, could only speak a few words of English. So they typed into a translator and showed us the response. This worked, just glad there was no line up behind us. Off we went on the subway to see some sites.
As soon as we came up from our destination subway station, there she was – the Arc de Triomphe! We did not remember it being so huge! The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the western end of the Champs-Élysées.
Next stop was the Eiffel Tower. It was a little foggy which gave her an eerie appearance at first.
We spent some time in lineups to buy advance lift tickets for Joe’s birthday on the 24th but were told you could not buy in advance. Even though the website said we could! Bah!
We walked backed towards Champs-Élysées and saw what appeared to be offices for Givenchy and others designers. Interesting people coming and going – so cool!
Once on Champs-Élysées we strolled along and window shopped. We stopped for a glass of wine and people watched on the famous Champs-Élysées. Fasinating! We are in Paris alright!
Dinner out in a neighborhood restaurant. Fantastic!
Friday, Feb 13
We went back to our neighborhood market today and we both bought shoes for 10€ each. Cheap yes, but we (think we) are styling! They only have to last another 3 weeks anyways.
Saturday, Feb 14 – Valentines Day!
Walked to the ‘Bastille’; about 35 minutes from home. The Bastille was once a fortress in Paris, and was used as a state prison. It was stormed by a crowd in 1789 during the French Revolution, and was later demolished and replaced by the Place de la Bastille.
We stopped for a Valentine glass of wine and did more people watching. Joe cooked us a lovely dinner and we had decadent chocolate eclairs for dessert. So good! Hope your Valentine’s Day was filled with love. And chocolate…
Sunday, Feb 15
We continue to share a cold between us. For the last two months. Joe was almost over it and has passed it to me. We are getting very tired of it!
The language barrier goes beyond just conversation. Our apartment is filled with cleaning and laundry products, with labels none of which I can understand. The pictures didn’t always help so I used my google translator app to scan the label but it is too new to include all the vocabulary. I almost cleaned the tub with stove top cleaner and not sure what I used for the first load of wash. However, we are getting better with French phrases and practice on each other.
Monday, Feb 16
Our attraction today was The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica.
This is a popular landmark located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. It is a good climb up lots of stairs. What a fantastic view from here!
Then for some reason, we PAID to climb 300 narrow, winding steps up to the Dome of the Basilica. It was worth it though, not just for the amazing view but to see a couple of young girls winded and exhausted from the climb; much more than we were – HA!
Tuesday, Feb 17
Our next adventure was going to be the catacombs but when we got off the subway and followed the line up around, and down the block, we decided to take a rain check on the two hour wait.
We went back to Arc de Triomphe and found our way under it. Very beautiful. Another line up to climb to the top so will save that for an early morning. The city seems to be getting busier and in our almost six months of travels, we aren’t used to waiting….
Check out the Creepy photo bomber at the top of this pic.
Cruised Champs-Élysées again. Always interesting.
Wednesday, Feb 18
We went on a self-guided walking tour of the neighborhood of Montmartre today. This is back where the Basilica is and thankfully our friend Jane Mintern encouraged us to explore here. Thanks Jane!
Our first stop – Moulin Rouge! The Moulin Rouge is the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Today, the Moulin Rouge is a tourist attraction, offering musical dance entertainment for visitors from around the world.
The surrounding streets are primarily sex shops, so we worked our way into the trendy part of Montmarte. We loved the local shops here; more of a quieter, traditional Paris feel.
Later we came upon the “I Love You : the Wall”; a space where love comes together in every language. It was created by François Baron who collected the declarations of love and had them put together by a calligraphic artist. You will see French, English, and Chinese “I love you”, but also in forgotten and unusual dialects such as Navajo, Corsican or Esperanto. In all, “I love you : the wall” is over 311 written declarations in 250 different languages. (We couldn’t find the English actually).
There are two Sympa stores in Montmarte that are said to be excellent places to find cheap clothing, sometimes brand names that are either irregular or just fell off the back of some truck. I looked through a few bins but it is neverending. According to one blog I read, if your arrive early on Saturday when new stock arrives, the sight alone of women shoppers is remarkable. She said elbows fly, hands spin through sweaters, clothes sail over shoulders, arms grow heavy searching mountains clothes. What fun!
Thursday, Feb 19
This was an early up and out day. We were at The Louvre by just after 9am, got tickets and were inside and beside The Mona Lisa by 9:45.
Other famous pieces:
This woman is studying her re-creation of the painting behind her – incredible!
We spent almost 4 hours walking around and saw the many exhibits we did not see when we were in Paris in 2009. What a fantastic place and an enjoyable visit.
So much to see!
The Louvre Museum is one of the world’s largest museums and a historic monument. Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres. The Louvre is the world’s most visited museum, and received more than 9.7 million visitors in 2012.
We realized today that the increase in tourist traffic and Chinese New Year are not coincidental. Lots of group tours today.
Then we were hungry so we left the museum and started walking towards the Ferris wheel. The Roué de Paris is a 60-metre tall transportable Ferris wheel, originally installed on the Place de la Concorde in Paris for the 2000 millennium celebrations. It left Paris in 2002 and has been in service at numerous other locations around the world, but returns for the holiday season. With it being transportable, it can be erected in 72 hours and dismantled in 60.
Next we came to the Obelisk of Luxor. It is a 75-foot monumental pink granite pillar that looms over Place de la Concorde, Paris’ largest and most famous square. Erected in 1836, the monument was gift to France from Egypt, one of the twin obelisks marking the entrance to the Temple of Luxor. Following the turbulence and bloodshed of the French Revolution, the Obelisk was erected in Place de la Concorde as a symbol of peace, replacing the former statue of Louis XV that was famously substituted for a guillotine during the uprisings and effectively erasing some of the square’s gruesome history.
We crossed a bridge and found the only restaurant for miles, right next to the United Arab Emirates Embassy. It was great to sit down and relax for awhile. We couldn’t believe how many incredible places and things we saw today!
Thanks again for following along with us. See you after we finish our month in Paris!! We hope there is more blue sky and less of our jackets in the next few weeks!
Paula and Joe