We drove on Wednesday morning, to Bordeaux, past wineries that we didn't have time to visit. We had given ourselves extra time which turned out to be a good idea as we used most of it up going around in circles trying to find the Europecar place at Gare de St Jean. Eventually Mark went in an 'authorised entry only' spot and stopped and asked a taxi driver. We found it. Very glad to give the car back - driving in foreign cities full of one way routes is no longer our thing.
We were quite early anyway but to get an earlier train would cost 20 euros more and we were too mean so we waited. The trip itself was very comfortable and took almost 4 hours. We sat opposite a quiet Japanese couple with tables in between us (we have been doing these longer trips first class and it's worth it!) The views were nothing special so we read and dozed. We arrived at Gare Montparnasse at about 4ish on Wednesday afternoon.
We hopped on a bus a la advice from our hotel and walked only 200 metres to our hotel. We are staying a little further out in the 17th arrondissment and are very happy with our delightful hotel. It only has a bath but it's a red, claw footed bath.....The room is large by Parisien standards and has a door to a 'balcony' that at least we can open for fresh air and to test the temperature before we dress for the day.
We had rain the first evening so didn't go too far.....The next day some early showers and then the sun came out and it really felt like spring. Of course outside it's warm, in the metro its inbetween and n the shops it's hot!
But hey - Paris isn't about the weather. This really is a magnificent city. Around every corner is a WOW factor. Especially when you don't know your way around and aren't expecting anything there are just so many amazing buildings. The downside is that everything is so busy and we hadn't done our preparation. So to go to the top of the Eiffel tower means a 2 - 3 hour queue or to buy tickets in advance but when we looked the earliest available were in June! We compromised by going to the Arc de Triomphe early and waiting for half an hour to buy a ticket and had a really good view from up there. It was hazy/cloudy but still good enough. We were happy not to queue for hours, nor did we want to climb the 700+ steps as an alternative. We hear that the queues at other major attractions are similar.
So yesterday we walked down to the Arc, did a boat trip down the Seine, visited Galleries LaFayette and were gobsmacked by the queue, monitored by security, of Asians waiting to buy Longchamps bags. Probably 30 people or so. Ridiculous. We walked down to the Hotel des Invalides and just generally started to get the feel of the place. We got the metro under control so today felt pretty comfortable making our way around. In the evening we went to a concert (a quartet of cello and 3 violins) at Saint Chapelle, a sidekick of Notre Dame. It was amazing! Lovely music and a magical setting. Afterwards we found somewhere to eat a pretty average meal.
Today's forecast was poor but despite a few showers it was generally a mild and sometimes sunny day. We wandered down the Champs d'Elysees and admired the glitzy car shops - Citroen, Renault, Mercedes, Peugot (and after dinner tonight - Rolls, BMW,Nissan,blah blah). We visited the Museum of Decorative Arts for a Trompe L'Oeuil exhibition (which wasn't quite what we were expecting but interesting all the same and - no queues!) We shopped or window shopped down Rue St Honore and went for coffee at Fauchon. Coffee at Fauchon was silly - we sat down and when we realised we'd have to pay 8 euros ($10) for a coffee and ($15) for a cake we slunk away! We'd already tried Fauchon in Dubai and it was much more reasonable. We bought a fab baguette of comte (my favourite cheese) and jamon at Hediard for lunch and ate it on the steps of a church along the way. Inbetween we came across the enormous and imposing church in Place de la Madeline and had a look inside there. Then tonight we had dinner at a local restaurant that we'd read about and it was just great. Full of French people, cosy and the real deal. The waitress could speak enough English to help us avoid pig's ear, pig's trotter and blood sausage and we loved our dinner of 3 courses finishing with a grand marnier souffle.
Exhausting days as they always are in a big city but a bath and a big comfortable bed at the end of the day works wonders. Tomorrow is our finale. Up and early for the Louvre. Wish us luck - it's Saturday!