The French Connection – Part 1

We had a fabulous 8 days in France with perfect blue skies and up to 35 degrees (only a bit of rain one day when visiting De Panne in Belgium). It was our 6th wedding anniversary, which reminds me Happy Anniversary to mum & dad Sears. Happy Birthday to A-L and P.

Each time we go to Paris it is harder and harder to find a free Wifi connection besides going to McDonalds and buying a coke in order to use their service. Many people are more aware now of 1) protecting their connections and 2) businesses charging for connections instead of providing it as a free service to their customers. Get with it people, it is a necessity now! One hotel we stayed it was trying to charge 25 Euros for a 24 hour connection. I don’t think so mate! Hence I have to do the posts now, after the fact.

Anyway, last Thursday night took the bus down to London (see previous post) ready for our Eurostar journey early Friday morning. We arrived at Paris Gare du Nord around 10.30am in time for some breakfast. We decided to walk from Gare du Nord to our hotel in the Latin Quarter. A slight problem as I hadn’t thought to bring our Paris map. Generally you don’t need one as maps are often posted on bus shelters for tourists. However a back up is a good idea for one reason. If you walk in the totally wrong direction, leaving the tourist area, then you don’t get those maps as frequently! Guess what we did. Ah huh. Thankfully Steve had brought Susie (our GPS) with him. Thanks love, that got us back on track.

About 2 hours of strolling through the streets of Paris we arrived at our hotel to offload our bags and continue our journey. We stayed at the Hotel Observatoire Luxembourg as it was across the road from the gardens that I love. As our feet were rather sore we spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the gardens and watching the local businessmen playing Pentanque during their afternoon lunch break before returning to work (playing in suits and all!). That evening we visited Rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter to find something for dinner. Found a lovely Algerian restaurant where we had couscous and a chicken tagine. Yum. The restaurant owner was a rather keen man and gave us a free wine taster and a refreshing mint tea after dinner. I think he was trying to ensure we stayed a long time in order to pull in other diners as there were few other people in the restaurant.

On Saturday we visited the Petit Palais so I could see my favourite work of art (La Femme au singe) but it was closed! I was rather disappointed but you expect these things on occasion. Of course we then headed to our favourite restaurant near Abbesses metro (Le Relais Garcon) for our heart stopping salad. That evening we had a call from some friends that we had been trying to get in touch with. We met them at the Paris Plage for a picnic. Paris Plage (beach) happens ever August where areas along the Seine are turned into beach with sand, deck chairs, music, dancing, free games such as pentanque, fencing etc. Dancing areas operate throughout summer on the left bank and our friends N and C had a dance in the samba area. People just turn up with music and friends and specific areas are for specific styles of dance like samba, rock and roll, ballroom, country etc. It’s fabulous fun with a good vibe. About midnight we headed to N & C’s car and they took us on a tour of Paris by night. We took the Champs-Élysées but soon gave up as the traffic jams were incredible even at that hour of night. We went for a walk under the Eiffel Tower which was still heaving with tourists and even though it was midnight it remained very humid.

Sunday saw more walking and by this time I had developed some very nasty blisters on 4 of my toes. We went to dinner at N & C’s that night and had a wonderful evening catching up, talking to A-L in Australia on the phone, meeting new people and of course eating N’s wonderful cooking. Thanks so much guys for an awesome night and the lift back to our hotel!

As always Paris leaves us in awe of its beauty. Some observations this time around as our 5th stay here include locals speaking more English freely (possibly due to the height of the tourist season?), August means a number of shops are shut as the locals take their summer holidays, tourists are in astronomical abundance so don’t expect to get into any places without large queues and prices have definitely risen since we were last there in April. Next post will cover our other 4 days in Lille.

Playing in the park - Petanque
Jardin du Luxembourg
Jardin du Luxembourg
View from our hotel window
Paris bike scheme
Another view from our window
Algerian tagine
Petit Palais and fountainPont Alexandre III
Feeding the bees in the park
Isn't she beautiful at night!
Fabulous street with a plethora of art shops & food places
Sainte Chapelle
Coffee in Paris is about looking out not in

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