Luckily, the hotel was expecting me early. Unluckily, I first had to work out where on earth I was, and how to get to my hotel, in the dozy haze I'd got off the bus in. Unable to speak french, I was fortunate enough to get two very helpful French ticket ladies, the first who gave me a tube map, and circled where I was and where I had to get off, and the second who, after I'd got to the right stop, not recognising the street name (bad sign! it just happened it was down a tiny cul-de-sac), google-mapped it and then printed off the map for me. Yay!
My district was Pigalle, which I'd heard bad stories about (yes, there are lurid sex shops around) but it's on the border of a lovely area called Montmatre, below Sacre Coeur, filled with art galleries and bohemian shops, and I never once felt unsafe by myself.
The hotel turned out to be great; nice, clean, light, no bunks, yay! I was in a 3 bed dorm which was perfect; I shared with an American guy, Paul, for 2 nights and a really cool Aussie couple, Kane and Kim, for 3 nights.
Day 1: Thursday
After that horrible morning start, I got onto the internet and finalised ALMOST ALL my accommodation and trains around France. I was allowed to check into my room about 10.30, and after dumping my bags and freshening up, felt a tonne better. This feeling grew when I finally ventured outside that afternoon to walk up to Sacre Couer. The weather was beautiful, Montmatre was a maze of pretty winding streets, the view from the top where I stopped to have my lunch (of an amazing patisserie bought quiche... jeesh, I'm going to be enormous by the end of this trip) was superb. I even got mistaken for a Parisian several times due to my new London jacket and handbag, purpose-bought to blend me in a bit more (and maybe a bit because they were pretty). Score! (An effect which of course is ruined as soon as I bring out my trusty map or camera). Finally I thought "Yay! I'm in Paris!!"
Day 2: Friday
Today I was up bright and early. I took a one day hop-on-hop-off bus and toured the Champs Elyssees, round the crazy roundabout at the Arc du Triomphe, down to the Eiffel Tower and around, up to the Dome Church where Napoleon's tomb is, across the Pont Alexander III bridge (gold-bedecked) past the Petit and Grand Palais, to the Place du Concorde. Across past the Madeleine Church and the Grande Opera, at which I changed route to the Montmatre circuit to go back to my hotel for a jacket, as it wasn't the warmest day, and I was starting to freeze on an open double-decker bus!
Hopping back on again, I continued the circuit down through the courtyard of the Louvre, along the river, across the Pont Neuf, past Notre Dame, across to the other side, and up towards the Musee D'Orsay. I decided at this point to hop off, having seen a decent chunk, and walked back down to the Ile de la Cite. I went first to St Chapelle, a church my parents had raved about after their trip, and wasn't disappointed... a passage opens out onto a tall chapel ablaze with colour... millions of pieces of coloured glass making up windows that stretched to the ceiling. Stunning. Then it was off to the Notre Dame, where I did a circuit inside, then climbed the 480 odd steps. After my heart attack, I took in the gorgeous views, the great gargoyles, the enormous bell, and then went back down. One thing that struck me about Paris was that for a city with so few tall skyscrapers, you can get a great view from quite a few monuments - I saw it all 3 times, from Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower.
Anyway, after Notre Dame, having consulted my very handy Monuments Opening Times sheet which Shelley had put together for me, I saw that the Louvre had a late night, so I walked straight up there and was able to take in a good chunk of the treasures (I did the entire Objects d'Art floor, and then all the art galleries) from 7pm till 9.45pm. It was great to be able to see the Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory, and all the paintings like Raft of the Medusa, Leonardo's masterpieces, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, and some of the sculpture collection... a pretty good effort for 2.75 hours, wholly due to the smaller crowds that late at night. I could get way up to the front and still have elbow room, brilliant. I also appreciated the fact that a lot of my favourite paintings, the Joe Blogs tourists weren't interested in, for example, while everyone's grouping around the Mona Lisa, on the opposite wall is a huge and awesome Veronese canvas. Which gets completely ignored!
Feeling invigorated after that much beautiful art, I then took a stroll up from the Louvre all the way to the Eiffel Tower, taking in Paris lit up at night. Suddenly, at 10pm, the Eiffel Tower burst into glittering glory, with a whole lot of bulbs silmultaneously flashing, giving a glittery effect from afar. It was so pretty, I was jumping up and down in glee, but a little sad I couldn't share the moment with anyone. Except maybe the tramp that was looking at me like I was mad... Just kidding Mum! I was perfectly safe and there were heaps of people around :-)
Finally I got to the base of the Eiffel Tower, at 10.45pm.... only 15 minutes before it closed, so too late to go up which was a bumma (it took so long to get there because I kept stopping to take photos along the way!). It had also started to pour with rain, and my stomach also realised it hadn't been fed for 7 hours and decided to cave. Luckily, through the haze, a shining light... a crepe stall by the Eiffel Tower. So at 11pm, I was to be found buying citron crepes (I had to get two... the first one I gobbled down too fast) in the rain and scoffing them there and then in a most unglamourous fashion. They cost an exorbitant â‚¬3.50 each, so I spent NZ$14 for 2 crepes. But they were piping hot. Sticky sweet. Very French. Melty goodness. Bliss :-)
View from my hotel room in Paris onto the cute cul-de-sac outside
Me at Sacre Coeur
Me up the top of Sacre Coeur. A rogue strand of my hair (it was really windy) is pointing towards the Eiffel Tower :-)
A square in my local area of Montmatre with artists all doing portraits for tourists... a very cool vibe.
A cool little building typical of Montmatre, this was a funky little cafe
Eiffel Tower... the weather was a little grumpy.
The cool Egyptian obelisk in the Place de La Concorde... the sun was hitting the gold at the top, and with the ominous clouds behind, it looked really dramatic.
Me walking down the Champs Elysees through the Jardin de Tuileries... the weather had started to fine up.
Inside St Chapelle... an explosion of colour.
The beautiful St Chapelle
Inside Notre Dame looking out
Behind the main altar, I loved how the light was hitting a beautiful statue
Up Notre Dame... Parisian spires
Me in front of Sacre Couer... it was cold again.
The beautiful art nouveau metro station entrances
I wasn't allowed to take a lot of photos in the Louvre, and also sometimes I just forgot, because I was too busy just staring at it, or a picture just doesn't equate to a decent postcard or seeing it for real. However there was this very cool sculpture, placed alongside all the classic sculptures in one of the galleries, that I really liked...
Another cool piece I liked... what was left of a great Roman artifact, which now had a definite Phantom-of-the-Opera feel...
The Louvre at night... spectacular!
The Pont Alexander III Bridge lit up at night... they really go hard out with their night lighting.
And finally... the Eiffel Tower, at night, in the rain, up close and personal.