Friday 18th November – SNCF to Paris St-Lazare
After a busy trip back to UK we then had one final treat before settling down to our new normality, i.e. living in France for the winter!
Our weekend started with our first experience of French railways, taking the SNCF train from Valognes to Paris St Lazare, a very smooth and quiet three hour journey arriving in Paris on time too! After a short metro journey we made our way to our hotel in the 7th Arrondissement of Paris which proved to be very central with all the tourist attractions within walking distance! The Hotel Saint Germain was bijou and very comfortable and we decided that it would be an excellent choice on another visit.
Hotel Saint Germain
Having arrived in the late afternoon we didn’t have too much time left before dark but sufficient to make a foray out to the Eiffel Tower. It is many years since I had been to Paris and for Alan too but the Tower is just as majestic as we both remembered it to be and as it was nearing dusk it was gradually being illuminated, magical!! The queues to go up were very long and so we decided against joining them, choosing instead to walk along the banks of the river Seine before returning to our hotel. The access to the river is total, with wide, illuminated paths on both sides.
Views of the Eiffel Tour
Saturday 19th November – Batobus, the river Seine
We had spotted the Batobus the previous evening and decided that it would be a good way to explore Paris. It’s a ‘hop on hop off’ service which stops at 9 places along the river and runs very frequently, it was ideal.
However, we had also noted that our hotel was just around the corner from the Musée Rodin and so on a bright and sunny morning we stopped there first! It was fascinating and sad at the same time as it seemed that Rodin was a tortured soul searching for much of his working life, 37 years, for the perfect sculpture to depict “The Gates of Hell” from Dante’s poem “Inferno”, becoming the defining project of his career. He continually added, removed, or altered the more than two hundred human figures that appear on the doors. Some of his most famous works, like The Thinker, The Three Shades, or The Kiss, were originally conceived as part of The Gates and were only later removed, enlarged, and cast as independent pieces.
The Gardens at the Musee Rodin and the Gates of Hell
We then made our way to the Seine to board the Batobus. Having decided that we didn’t have time to do justice to every attraction we chose to go to the Palais Royal du Louvre, primarily to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa!
The glass pyramid entrance to the museum seems at odds somehow with the magnificent buildings it sits amidst but we didn’t think it hideous as has been suggested. A curious juxtaposition of styles yes but beautiful in it’s own way!
The museum was amazing and so worth the visit. We spent a long time in the gallery looking at all the wonderful paintings before emerging to stroll along the Jardin des Tuileries. At this time of year the gardens were of course not looking their best but from the Palais Royal du Louvre you can see the Place de la Concorde and beyond to L’Arc de Triomphe, an amazing view! We then hopped onto the Batobus again to continue our ‘voyage’ along the River Seine.
More of the sights from the Batobus
The river circuit took us under the Pont de Grenelle and just behind it and southwest of the Eiffel Tower is a small island, Île des Cynes (Island of swans) where there is a replica of the Statue of Liberty, one of three in France. It faces the direction of the Atlantic Ocean and thus its big sister in New York harbour. This was the original statue designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and was a gift to America from the people of France. The replica on Île des Cygnes was a gift from the French community in America to France to mark the centennial of the French Revolution, Bastille Day 14th July 1779-1879 and to symbolise their shared ideals of republicanism.
The Statue of Liberty, Île des Cynes
The two other replicas are found in the Jardin de Luxembourg, Paris and the other in Colmar in the Alsace region of France where its designer (Bartholdi) was born.
We continued on the Batobus to the Musee D’Orsay, hopped off and walked back to our hotel but not before taking this shot of the riverside by the Palais Royal Musee du Louvre bathed in light, so pretty!
Sunday 20th November – L’Arc de Triomphe
Our final tourist attraction for our weekend in Paris! We didn’t have too much time and so we took the Metro to the Champs-Elysée and then strolled all the way along it up to the Arc de Triomphe. There were many people taking advantage of the Christmas market stalls which were already setting up on either side of the avenue and which created a definite buzz! Naturally you can’t arrive at this imposing monument without then scaling it, all 50 metres! We climbed up the 284 steps to the viewing platform from where you can see the twelve avenues which radiate from the Arc. It was quite a view!
View from the top of L’Arc de Triomphe – The Champs-Elysée and the Eiffel Tower
Down again and at the centre of the ground floor of the Arc, the grave of an unknown French warrior is to be found, duly decorated and revered. The tomb was commissioned by the the French Minister for War, Andre Maginot, on 11th November 1923 when he lit the eternal flame for the first time. Ever since that date it is the duty of the ‘Committee of the Flame’ to rekindle it at twilight every day.
Time to retrace our steps back along the Champs-Elysées and to collect our bags from our Hotel before catching the Metro and train to Valognes. We had had the most enjoyable and interesting time in Paris and promised ourselves that we will be back another time to visit the sites we didn’t get to see on this occasion!
The Eiffel Tower at night and looking majestic!