Well, we’re now in Paris. City of Love. Here’s how we got here:
- When I last left you, we were aboard a bus heading for Grenoble, or as my old mate Dan calls it, G-town. Shortly after the bus deposited us in G-Town, Dan arrived with his fiancee to pick us up and take us up to his place. Dan lives and works at a camp centre in the French Alps, not far from Bourg d’Oisans (which, an English speaker can easily approximate as “Board was on”, thanks Dan!).
- The next morning, Dan headed off to do his duties. Anna and I felt that we need a little holiday from our holiday and took it easy. I polished off a Harry Potter novel that I had started in Monmouth, fortunately there was a copy at Dan’s place. By mid-afternoon, feeling that our bones had been sufficiently lazy we put on our cold weather gear and went out for a walk in the snow. Unlike the snow we had seen on the footpaths of London, this was serious snow, steep and deep and smooth. After we had exhausted ourselves we headed back, satisfied that the day had not gone to waste.
- The following day Dan had managed to slip away from his duties and he, Candine, Anna and I took a drive up to the ski lifts and from there took a ski lift up to a ski resort. This was a great deal of fun. I have never been to ski fields before so everything from the winding mountain roads, (Dan would sound the horn before driving around a bend in case there was oncoming traffic) to the ski lifts to small-town feel of the ski resort was like nothing I had previously experienced. We walked through the resort to a wooden cross on the edge of a cliff. From there we could see up 1500 metres to the top of the slopes. On the walk back through town I asked Dan what the point of “snow shoes” was (we had seen snow shoe tracks on our walk the day before). He pointed to the soft snow either side of the track and said that with with snow shoes you could walk on the soft snow, without them you would probably sink to your waist in the snow. I had to give it go. I sunk to my waist in snow.
- That night we sampled a local liqueur made from Berries grown at 2000 feet or higher. I can’t remember what they are called, but as always, I enjoyed trying something new.
- Afterwards we watched the movie “Mission Cleopatra”, an Asterix and Obelix film based on the comics. The film was in French only, so we had to rely on our memory of the comic and Dan and Candide’s patient pausing-and-explaining. This was an awesome film! I can’t beilieve I haven’t heard of it before.
- The next day it was time for us to go. We bade Dan farewell and caught the bus into Grenoble, then the high-speed train into Paris and the Metro to our hotel. Speaking as a connoisseur of Australia’s Countrylink and Sydney’s City Rail, France certainly know how to do trains. The high-speed train was smooth and comfortable (it even had a powerpoint so our laptop stayed fully charged while we watched Top Gear DVDs), apparently reaching 200km/h. The Metro (Pasis’s equivalent to London’s underground) was also fast and easy to use).
- We managed to find a Casino not far from our hotel and spent a bit of money there, stocking up on the essentials (Casino is a supermarket chain in France). We had a simple tea of baguettes and fromage and headed off to bed.
- Day two in Paris: We started out walking from our hotel to the nearby Pantheon. From there we continued into the city, meandering about until we stumbled into a metal pointy structure we both instantly recognised at the Eiffel Tower. We marvelled at this for bit and then climbed aboard our open-topped bus tour. This took us back around the tower, back past the Églişe du Dome, the Musée Rodin and the Hôtel des Invalideś all the way to the Notre Dame Cathedral.
- At the cathedral we hopped off and admired the amazing building. Apparently the cathedral is a good example of French Gothic architecture. If by that they mean extremely impressive, highly ornate and adorned with beautiful arches, gargoyles and flying buttresses then I’d have to agree. On the inside there was no shortage of impressive stained glass, interesting alcoves and dizzyingly high ceilings. Being shoulder to shoulder with our fellow tourists, listening to chatter of hundreds of other visitors and the snapping of dozens of digital cameras made the setting feel more like a tourist attraction and less like a place of worship – this placed Notre Dame in stark contrast to other churches we visited such as the Abbey in Bath or St Paul’s Cathedral in London where there was still a sense of serenity and peace. Outside we joined the queue to climb to the top of the cathedral, but after five minutes the line, stretching half the length of the cathedral, had not moved and our hungry bellies and itching desire to experience more than one of Paris’s landmarks inspired us to abandon our posts.
- We climbed back onto the bus and headed up the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Now I don’t pretend to be an expert on French history (it was hard enough pretending to be an expert on British history) but from what I gathered, the arc was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 as a monument to the various triumphs that he and his troops had had about the place. Unfortunately at that point in history French Kings, Emperors and Presidents didn’t seem to last too long and Napoleon died before it was finished. Anna and I climbed the approximately 10 billion steps to the top and enjoyed an amazing view of Paris. Looking straight down we could see the Place de l’Étoile, the square on which the Arc de Triomphe is built. It is an enormous roundabout onto twelve different streets when basically anything goes.
- The bus tour, nearing the end of its day, deposited us back near the Eiffel Tower where we sat and watched the tower lights come on as it got dark. We caught the tower’s light show, which occurs on the hour and lasts about five minutes – strobe lights suddenly light up the tower like a disco Christmas tree. Finally we Metro’ed back to our hotel.