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Archive for May 24th, 2010

Odds Blog: Paris – the highlights….

Posted by indigodream on 24 May, 2010

Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd May

Toulouse fans waving their flags and a stricken Biarritz fan on the big screen.....

We abandoned Indigo Dream this weekend in favour of Richard’s idea of a romantic weekend, well our annual pilgrimage to the Heineken Cup Final (Rugby Union). Having been around the UK for the last several years, this year it was in Paris – oh yes, Paris in the springtime – how lovely!

Not that Indigo Dream was out of our thoughts – I persuaded my cousin Denise and family to stay on the boat to explore the delights of Billing Aquadrome for the weekend. They had a great time and I’ll post Denise’s blog when we get back to the boat next weekend. They were often in my thoughts – I love Paris but I also wanted to be on the boat taking them out onto the river!

Blue and Lou had a little holiday with Richard’s mum – she has the best garden for dogs and they had a very active time. I’m writing this on Monday – they’re so tired they haven’t moved off their duvets all day!

I won’t do a travelogue for Paris – I was thinking that you’d need a year to explore its many delights and then another year to capture it in words! Instead I’ll just describe a few highlights and lowlights…..

The highlights….

Seamus is such a poser....

1. Eurostar: It’s fantastic! There’s a lot of walking to be done round St Pancras but the new station is clean and has good facilities;  check-in via our printed tickets was very efficient. There are several classes of ticket – we had ‘Leisure Select’ tickets – a step up from standard and a step down from first class – very nice it was too! The seats are very wide with generous legroom and the solicitous stewards delivered food and drink to our seats throughout the journey. It certainly beats flying! Gare du Nord in Paris is a bit crummy, but it also has good facilities and the loos, at 70 cents a time were suitably spotless! Our claim to fame on the way back was that we were in the same carriage as Deborah Meaden of ‘Dragon’s Den’ fame (her favourite sport is rugby union). We maintained our dignity and didn’t stare, ask for her autograph, photograph or a spare £500,000 🙂

2. The Paris Metro: It’s so comprehensive, if a little incomprehensible at first. There are numerous lines and even more numerous stops – this means that you can get just about anywhere in the city via metro and you’re never far from a station. There are several types of ticket, including the equivalent of london travel cards – we bought a 3-day ticket which was only 20 euro. I’m not sure whether we got the best from it – a single just about anywhere was only 1.6 euro. Top Tip: To get to Stade de France DO NOT take the obvious route to St Denis via the metro – use the overground railway line B1 – it’s a lot less crowded.

That's our hotel on the corner (with the smoked glass and the art deco detail)

3. The hotel – Plaza Tour Eiffel: A small modern hotel conveniently placed for exploring the Trocadero and Eiffel Tower etc. Yet it is in a quiet residential street. The rooms were pleasant though ours was a bit small BUT it had a great view including the top of the Eiffel Tower which is truly spectacular when the lit up after dark. The best bit was the service – the staff couldn’t have been more courteous and helpful.

4. The shopping: Richard had unwisely agreed to my suggestion that his birthday present to me should be a shopping trip in Paris – I can feel the men wincing as they read! The thing is, I don’t like shopping and tend to get a whole year’s clothes in one go if I can. I particularly like small french clothes shops, most of which seem to provide very stylish clothes for short round women like myself. They’re not ‘outsize’ stores – they just seem to realise that women of all sizes have bumpy bits! My favourites are the reasonably priced Jaqueline Riu and my new favourite, Catherine Gerard (35 Rue Chaussée d’antin, 75009 Paris, France 01 48 74 75 34‎) which is pricey but fantastic quality and so chic. I bought lots of nice things and only the fact that we needed to get to the rugby put a stop to my little spree……. (and the men to recover from all the “coffee” they drank in various cafes next to clothes shops).

Classic view....

5. Heineken Cup Rugby: I wouldn’t call it a classic final but it was closely fought with a bit of a thriller try from Biarritz in the last 15 minutes which meant a cliffhanger finish. The French were very strong in the 6-nations so it’s hardly surprising that the two club teams in the final had a high proportion of international french players. Both sides had awesome defences but I think Biarritz were missing those man mountain props they used to have. Rugby is always good natured despite the simply unfeasible amounts of alcohol consumed by all. Coming out of the Metro we were entertained by the chants and the dance which the Toulouse fans have to go with their chant! Next year’s final is in Cardiff (again!) – we’ve already bought our tickets!

6. The Eiffel Tower: Tourist trap – of course; engineering marvel – oh yes! You just have to see it, well, you can’t help but see it. The Paris planners have protected the vista with low planting and building. There’s a great view from the ‘steps’ of the Trocadero (makes sense when you get there) but it’s good just to stand under the tower and looking up – it’s awesome! It’s well worth going to the top – there’s nothing like the view from there, but do pre-book to avoid at least some of the queues. We’ve been up on a previous visit so we didn’t need to brave the queues this time and sat instead under the fragrant trees in the park below the Trocadero – bonne!

I'll have the most expensive one.....

7. The Food: Oh my goodness, the food! Even the meanest street caf’ has the best quality fresh food; there were luscious little food shops within sight of our hotel – the smell of fresh strawberries from the fruit shop was intoxicating. We have had the most wonderful food – now I know why the clothes shops need to cater for more ‘shapely’ women!

8. The Apartments: Our hotel is in an area of magnificent residential buildings – tall and graceful with ornate balustrades and charming roof gardens. Apparently foreign dignitaries and superstars live here in their luxury apartments – they look tremendous from the outside. I don’t fancy an apartment – I’d struggle without my own garden space. The only garden apartment (tiny garden) being advertised for sale was just under 5 million euros – the pound will never be strong enough for us to afford that!

9. The Seine by the Eiffel Tower: This is such a graceful river – the view from the bridge which crosses near the Eiffel Tower is priceless. We spent ages just watching the water and enjoying the river breeze which was refreshingly welcome in the dry continental heat. The river’s very busy with trip boats but they created very little wash and didn’t seem to bother the tiny hire boat (basically a wooden ‘rowing boat’ with a little engine) that was cruising along aimlessly like some speck of flotsam.There’s the most desirable residential mooring in the world just below the bridge – there’s an attractive dutch barge moored there with a little smart car parked on the generous ‘towpath’. What a magical place to live.

The locks by Stade de France....

10. The locks by Stade de France: we weren’t sure whether they were river or canal locks – whatever! They were enormous and we just enjoyed looking at them. We have an ambition to cruise the european waterways one day – it’s our BIG project for the far future as I think that Indigo Dream is just too small for the job – I think we need a dutch barge! This discussion is the subject of much gentle wrangling! So, we may need to find money for and buy a new boat, learn French (fortunately Richard has competent german), sort out dog passports or the equivalent (probably for the next generation of dogs given the timescale), and be able to take at least 6 months off work without causing us or our clients too much pain.

The Lowlights:

Our almost non-existent french language skills; the fact that Welsh rugby teams never get into the Heineken Cup final [1]; the fact that even the Irish didn’t make it to the final this year; Stade de France’s insistence that Seamus (aged 2) needed his own ticket despite the fact that you can only buy children’s tickets from age 7 upwards; the blinding, roasting sun on the east side of Stade de France – buy tickets on the West Stand next time; the cost – it’s not a cheap city to visit especially with the current state of the pound.

[1]  They got closer this year. In all fairness, the Cardiff Blues did winning the lesser Amlin Cup on Sunday (despite Jonny Wilkinson playing for Toulon) but sadly we could not shuffle our arrangements to make it to Marseille on Sunday.

We haven’t been to Paris for many years – why? I’d forgotten how lovely it is – we mustn’t leave it so long before our next visit……

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