Once in Paris it was time to do what the Parisians do best, tuck into wine and cheese. The families had come out to join us for the weekend and we had two large townhouses in the north eastern suburb, set tall and thin off a cobbled street. No longer feeling the need to fuel up for exercise, I skipped dinner and just joined in for the wine once everyone had returned. Stories were shared from the week, but it wasn’t long before everyone was off to bed.
In the morning recruits were sent out for Pan au Chocolat, Croissants and baguettes. Coupled with rounds of coffee we were ready to explore. Daisy and the girl clan were off shopping, while I as an honorary member of the boys team, joined Dad, David and Andy to the Pere Lachaise cometary. Although this doesn’t sound like a highlight of Paris, this is the rest in place of Paris’s recognised and elite as well as foreigners who resided here. We walked amongst the yard is like chambers, some as big and decorated as small chapels. The bottom was made up of wiggly paths where the top was tree lined uniform avenues and soon we found the grave of Oscar Wilde. He had a crowd of people around him and a glass screen protecting his grave, and still it was covered in lipstick kisses. Further through we found Jim Morrison, his grave colourful compared to the well respected sites of the rich around him. The barriers erected were tied with colourful bands, the tree covered in gum and the passing crowd were eclectic and expressive in their respects.
From the cemetery we walked into town, stopping to sample the Parisian coffee houses on the way and marvel at the changing architecture. We crossed the Seine to walk past Notre dam, the blossom adding to its fairytale feel. We missed the walking tour we were planning to take and so had to self guide ourselves river side past the book and magazines stalls which always make me feel like I’m in the Victorian era. With the drizzle came out the umbrellas, and the sellers who previously were selling trinkets, appear armed with ponchos and Eiffel Tower adorned rain gear. We took cover near the Louvre and were approached by many sellers, hangers full of miniatures to which Andy replied, “I’m good for Eiffel towers at the moment, thanks!”
We trudged up the Champs-Elysee, our numb fingers not feeling like it was a late April spring day, so we bought some playing cards and took refuge in McDonald’s in a particularly competitive match of Canasta.
Early evening we went to the Eiffel Tower to meet Kate and her boyfriend. The drizzle felt particularly Parisian and a mark of a week of turbulent weather. David, mocking passers by exclaimed loudly to anyone who would listen about how “it’s so much bigger when you get close” and how magnificent it was in real life.
In remarkable contrast, the next day was beautifully sunny and we headed out for the Sacre Coeur, the church on the hill overlooking Paris. It was Daisy’s 14th birthday and her first birthday wish was for all of us to ride the carousel. Although I was enthusiastic, it took David much pulling and persuasion from the girls and we all clamoured upstairs to claim ourselves a horse. To the amusement of the others, David rode his horse first side saddle, and then backwards.
The view over Paris was beautiful from the elevation of the top of the many steps, the many uniform lines leading to the Arc D’Triomphe and the iconic Eiffel Tower catching our eye first. While the men joined the queue to enter the church, the girls walked to the courtyard to the side where coffee houses, souvenir shops and portrait artists spelled out onto the streets vying for your attention with noise and colour.
Another continental treat, the toilet issue. We dug deep into our loose change to find a euro for the toilet, another one for our cultural ticklist. We ate our picnics of baguettes on the grass with everyone else also enjoying the sun. This is where Jane announced she was too hot in her jumper and would buy the most tacky t shirt she could find from the sellers, as a replacement for her unsuitable attire. On the way back down the hill we found many of the tackiest contenders, all sporting the Eiffel Tower in glitter or sequins. The winner was a site frilly number with a typical French scene on the front. Bartering complete, we got to walk around as her t shirt announced our tourist status.
We wanted to also visit the Moulin Rouge and on Janes suggestion, we would walk rather than take the metro. I had Ella, 12 on one hand and Immo, 10 on the other and spent the walk trying to distract their attention from the sex shops which were becoming frequent on either side of them. Both of their reactions when they caught a glimpse of the window displays was first discuss, followed by questions, to which David and I would come up with an inventive answer.
Next, we crossed Paris and emerged near the Seine, following it down to the Notre Dame for a late afternoon beer, and a well deserved one at that. As I was saying goodbye to the others shortly, it was a last chance for birthday celebrations and story sharing before we parted ways.
Dad escorted me to the Gare de l’est station, rather less weighed down than my previous trip with only a small backpack and waved me off, he said to make sure I actually left. Charming. Next stop Hamburg!