I had a few days vacation of the "use-it-or-loose-it" variety and my dear wife and I decided that we would go and spend a few days in the Norfolk Broads. After a few days of searching for a suitable hotel, B&B or self-catering place, we were beginning to despair on finding a place in time. We delight in watching certain TV programs, one of which was Monty Don's French Gardens. In one episode, he discussed going to Claude Monet's garden at Giverny. He then went on to show us a little bit of Monet's Waterlily panels on display in Paris. "I'd love to see that!" said my wife.
"Why don't we go there then?" I asked, having attempted several times before to take my wife to Paris in the springtime (even though strictly speaking, this would be pre-springtime).
So it was that we decided almost on the spur of the moment to go to Paris. Eurostar offered some specials with various hotels and before we could say "Jack Robinson", it was all booked and we were ready to set off. Wow - 4 nights in Paris, what shall we do? Straight to the library and the internet to research things to do, sights to see. Everything said the same: the Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower and shopping, shopping, shopping. Well, we are not the world's greatest shoppers, so we left that off the list.
The journey itself was uneventful and we were deposited on the platform at Gare Du Nord and left to fend for ourselves, in a city full of Frenchmen, who according to various horror stories imparted by well-meaning friends, hate the guts of anyone speaking English! And here we were, barely able to say "bonjour" between the two of us. It must be said that we have never had any such experience ourselves. Luckily we had bought a guidebook with a Metro (underground) map and this allowed us to find our way to our hotel where we booked in, dumped the suitcases and had a breather.
Then, as we were tourists, we had to head out to see the sights! Our first point of call was Montmarte and the Basillica of Sacre-Coeur.
This is built on the highest point in Paris and commands a great view in all directions. For the observant among you reading this, you will have noticed the skies are grey and low. This combined to ensure that we were unable to see this view, no matter how lovely the guidebooks all said it was.
There are a lot of grand buildings in Paris which have these verdigrised statues outside them, this one guards the entrance to the church. I love the way they seem to shine green against the grey background of the mighty edifices behind them.
Around the world one comes across some strange signposts. This one baffled me. Does it mean no synchronised skipping? Or is it stating that the scene behind it is illegal, the man ought to be holding the hand of the child? I never found out...
The front door to the cathedral Saint-Pierre de Montmarte, just around the corner from the Basillica. It was closed when we were there, else we would have gone in and looked around. From this side it doesnt look like much, but apparently it is beautiful inside.
A day wondering Parisian walkways would not be the same without a cup of coffee and a crepe, now would it?
Heading back down the hill took us past this famous site, but we didn't go in, as we did not have the correct dress code!
The next day dawned as cold and grey as any we experienced the whole trip. We did get seriously cold there! So onto Day 2 - guess where we went and what we saw?
This is in a building that most people enter near a glass pyramid, go downstairs and buy their tickets, then get to wander along 17 kilometres of corridors of absolutely amazingly awesomeness.
Don't you just love the spiral staircase? The Louvre contains so many items on display that as (according to various guides we heard) if a person were to spend three minutes in front of each, then it would take 3 months, twenty four hours a day, to see them all.
As we only had a few days, we decided we would be exceedingly selective and headed directly to the Mona Lisa. Yes, very touristy I know, but now at least that is one off the bucket list!
Now, I work with a man by name of Bassano, a very fine man. But what, I want to know is this: what happened to all the money Jacopo Bassano made from painting for the Doge of Venice?
Then there were a few of the Dutch Masters' works....... This one is Vermeer's The Lacemaker.
There were some, which I did not recognise and know nothing about, except that the colours were so fresh and vibrant that they looked like they were finished yesterday.
After these astounding pieces, each of which blew my mind just a little bit more, we decided to take a break and we headed to the area of the museum devoted to statues and carving.
This was an enormous area covered over with glass and had the most amazing pieces spread out all over the place. I was simply gobsmacked by the works in front of me, and I am afraid that I do not remember much from here except I was stunned.
I cannot name these pieces, I have no photos of the great works there, but a few really took my fancy and I hope in time to be able to try my hand at these with some woodcarving. This "green man" above would be a lovely piece to do, I think.
This plaque above, too, would be a nice one to make an attempt of.
The ceilings were not immune to being displayed. There are some incredible ones to be seen. Here we have half of the roof span. The detail is quite amazing.
Another fine example, this one being painted, not sculpted (moulded?).....
And finally we came to a certain statue from Greece. Anyone know who this is?
This delightful lady came from the island of Milo...
And here she is in all her glory. What an incredible piece!
It is amazing that in this building, the staircases, the doors, even the windows are not just functional, but become works of art all by themselves.
Leaving the Louvre, as we could not take in any more, we walked down through the garden towards the Obelisk and the start (end?) of the Champs Elysses.
From here we made a sharp left turn and entered the Musee d'Orangerie, where I experienced one of the most amazing things in my life - the panels painted by Claude Monet. I cannot begin to explain what I felt as I sat and stared at these magnificent, incredible, indescribable pieces. I could have stayed there for days!
No photography was allowed of the main exhibition of the Waterlily panels (humph!), but there is a different section where you can take photos. This section hold paintings from many people, not just Monet, but this is one of his many that he did at Argenteuil. This man was an absolute genius!
A friend of my wife had told her we needed to go to a certain area (Cadet) to look at at knitting shop, which we did. Having left there, we discovered this sweet shop above. Everything in the window is made from chocolate, even the puffer fish!
Around the corner, in a little glass-ceilinged passageway, we found a needlework shop that had the most amazing items on display, and some were too irresistible and had to be bought.
The following day found us outside this little building. It is currently celebrating it's 850th anniversary and rather a lot of people were there to wish it well! Didn't see a single hunchback though.
Look at the size of those doorways!
Strangely the spire of this cathedral is rather muted, compared to those others I know, such as Winchester and Salisbury
And from the south, showing the rose window, which is astonishing from the interior.
This is a little bridge over the Seine from Isle de la Cite, the island that the Notre Dame is on, to the South Bank.
After coming out of the cathedral, we discovered that it was rather cold and decided a hot drink was required. Also, we needed to sit and rest a while so this is a photo of a cup of hot chocolate enjoying it's last moments before oblivion.
On all of the bridges over the Seine, one can see hundreds of locks, locked to the structure of the bridge. What one is supposed to do is to write your and your lover's name on it, lock it to the bridge, then throw the key into the river, so you are joined together for eternity. How romantic.
Wondering the roads and alleys of the islands, we came across this little shop and discovered we were a little peckish. We disappeared inside and devoured a delicious three course meal.
Which just happened to include deux verres de vin rouge. Meet Ms. Beaujolais and Mr. Bordeaux.
I take a certain delight in photographing doorways. Not artistically or anything like that, but straight-on and I make no apologies for this. I simply enjoy the different ways people make portals. Here are a couple of them for you to enjoy too!
This one is exquisitely decorated on top of it all.
From this point, all distances from Paris are measured. It is known as Point Zero, or Kilometre Zero. It is just outside the entrance to Notre Dame.
The oldest remaining bridge over the Seine - Pont Neuf, leading to the Right Bank.
Outside the cathedral is this statue of Charlemagne. Wow - what a moustache this guy is sporting!
A close-up of all those locks - it is so popular that the street venders are selling the locks & pens to write the names with!
Saturday was just as gloomy as all the others, although there were signs that the grey blanket was beginning to thin and fray. This was the day we headed to that great piece of engineering, the Eiffel Tower. What an incredible structure for it's day and it still is.
The view from the top was rather misty and constrictive, but we could just about make out the Basillica in the distance which we had visited on our first day.
This is one of the few quintessential sites we did not get to, the monument to triumphalism, the Arc de Triomf. An enormous and imposing edifice, but I think that is the whole point of it! Isnt it amazing what Photoshop can do? This was such a misty image, like the others for today, until I used the built-in Auto Image Enhance function.
Looking east from the tower, the city of Paris sprawls over the Left Bank
Apparently every hour, for 10 minutes, the tower sparkles at night, as these triangular lights twinkle. It must be beautiful, but we didnt get to see it as we were both knackered by about 7 p.m. each night from all the walking around we had been doing, plus the misty weather. Something to go back for...
This is just to proove we were there & didnt just get the pics from some random place! Boy, it was a cold, cold day!
I just loved this telescope and could not resist photographing it. I love the way the top disappears into the background.
This was a terrific trip and I didn't even mention our visit our visit to the Musee d'Orsay, the home of The Impressionists. That is another story and another visit that blew my mind! I shall never be the same and I blame Monty Don for this. Damn you, Monty!