We still haven’t fine tuned the heating in the apartment so had to resort to opening a window last night which is ridiculous given how cold it is outside. I’m beginning to think that all the hot air in the building rises to this apartment on the 5th floor and am now trialling no heaters. Seems to be OK!
Ever eventful in the centre of Paris, we had a performance of Christmas carols (??) in the square on the night that we arrived, then the (short!) market yesterday and this morning the Paris Marathon running right past our doorstep down Rue de Rivoli! It started with a wheelchair race and we thought that it must have been a bike race preceded by the wheelchair race. We watched out our kitchen window and then decided to Skype our boys. We were able to show them the race and our view using the iPad which they quite liked (well at least no moaning about us being here without them).
By the time we finished the Skype call and wound our way down the stairs, we found that the race had turned into what we surmised by then was the Paris Marathon (and later found out that it had 40 000 runners). Any thoughts of breakfast in a cafe on the other side of Rue de Rivoli went out the door. The runners came thick and fast for at least an hour and there was no way we could cross the road. We tried a new cafe not far from yesterday’s cafe but after getting our coats, hats and gloves off (which is no mean feat) and getting seated, we found out that they weren’t serving food yet. Thank goodness for those lovely cafe owners and staff who speak more English than I do French. Still going very well with the Parisians! So we had a coffee and croissant, then returned to yesterday’s cafe and the same breakfast. Except that this time there was no Police playing but we did have the Paris Marathon right outside the window!
By the time we had finished breakfast, the marathon runners had dwindled to a few walkers and we could get across the road. They had side streets blocked with street cleaning equipment ready to pounce on the trail of rubbish left by the runners with their water bottles.
Our original plan had been to go to L’Orangerie and Musee D’Orsay today as well as Musee Rodin. I had read that the first two are free on the first Sunday of the months which just happened to be today. However, hubby did some last minute Googling and said that only applied to minority groups.
So we headed for Galleries Lafayette (big department store) in hopes of finding a leftover winter coat on sale for me… No luck as they are closed on Sundays!! Grr! We were close to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur and while we don’t have any fond memories of this area from our first trip that we wanted to re-live, we thought that we might as well walk on and see it. Turns out that we were right – not worth returning to! The tourist shops and sleazy street sales people are a real turn off. It was hugely crowded and I was nearly pulled backwards down the steps to the basilique as I walked past several girls trying to get what I assumed was a petition signed. I politely declined and they came after me. Crazy, given that they must have missed heaps of other people while they were chasing me!
The inside of the basilique is beautiful and I lit a candle for my Mum.
While the basilique sits on a hill that is one of the few in Paris, the view is greatly obscured by haze. Today was actually sunny for the first time and although only 11 degrees, felt 10 degrees warmer than yesterday. There were times when we actually took our gloves off and didn’t lose a finger.
We staggered through the first part of the chaotic artist market behind the basilique and then made a run for it. We couldn’t stand the crowds any longer. Once outside the tourist zone we stopped and had lunch at a cafe. By this time the balls of our feet were really starting to hurt from walking on cobble stones. Also I realised that my pedometor had malfunctioned (or I had) as it was displaying no where near the amount of steps that I thought I had taken. Touchy things. My clothes may have been holding it too tightly and not allowing it to move freely. I gave it to hubby after that and it worked OK with his clothes.
Next we decided to walk down to L’Orangerie and see if it was still open. The feet were feeling very tender by now but it was downhill and nowhere near as far as we had come already.
We walked through the Jardin des Tuileries to L’Orangerie and found that it was free after all! We went straight to the oval rooms with Monet’s water lilies and sat down to contemplate them. They are beautiful and so calming when you are surrounded by them. It is like meditation, the more you look at them and try to unfocus your eyes, the more depth you see in them. I love the rooms themselves. They have an oval dome with skylight that is separated from the room by a layer of fine fabric which diffuses the light. I think that it is all natural light. This is my all time favourite gallery. It is short, sweet and digestible.
We came out and briefly considered crossing the Seine to go through Musee D’Orsay if that was also free today. However, the pain in our feet defeated us. We headed back to the apartment along the Seine. The sunshine was beautiful and had brought an incredible amount of Parisians and tourists out.
We were really slowing down by this point and every footstep hurt. We decided to buy some food for dinner and stay put in the apartment for the evening. What really annoys me about being in unfamiliar territory is that you seem to walk past a wonderful array of food in specialty shops, fruit and veggie stores and supermarkets. You never need it when you are walking past but it is never convenient (or even possible sometimes) to find it when you want it! We had used a couple of nearby supermarches since we had been here and walked past the most luscious looking fromageries. However, as we limped past the apartment in search of these stores, they were all either closed or we couldn’t find them! We eventually tracked down enough to eat and walked very slowly up the stairs. Taking our shoes off was scary!
We eventually settled down to a light meal of quiche, baguette, luscious strawberries and brie. Not bad!
Then I tried to calculate how far we had walked from the map. Any wonder our feet were sore – i was 32km!! Madness! Here’s a photo of some typical apartments that we walked past today. We are surrounded by buildings all of this level of gorgeousness which only seems to be enhanced by their light patina of grime.