A Day Spent with Special People in Paris

Today we are being the tour guides and we had planned to rise early to cross Paris and meet up with Kathleen & Mick, Clare & Richard for a fun day out before another celebratory dinner for my birthday at the Eiffel Tower this evening. Ah yes, this big birthday celebration extends for the rest of this year!!! According to my husband and who am I to disagree with this being a milestone birthday.

Back to the days’ events…….we’d arranged to meet at the Batobus terminal at the Eiffel Tower stop, around 10.30am, given both couples were close to the Tower albeit on different sides of the river. The Batobus, for those who may not have been to Paris, is similar to a ferry and makes stops at all the main attractions along the River Seine. Made sense for us to go to them as we knew our way around this city of romance. Kathleen wanted to visit Jim Morrison’s grave..her only request.

Lesley and Liz had decided not to join us as Lesley felt she might be a liability given the speed I walk and the places we were going. Pere Lachaise was not a place for anyone not sure-footed with uneven surfaces and lots of hills. They opted to go to Montmartre and I had hoped we might also take our group there.

We arrived at the Batobus terminal at 11am, forward thinking found Richard almost at the head of the queue for the tickets….good man!!! The rest of us handed him the money for our tickets. We took the cruise along the river as far as Hotel De Ville. As we left the Batobus we were passing a café/bar so I thought ” it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” and said to the others in the group ” Should we stop for a drink before we head to the metro?” Everyone agreed so we made a sharp left hand turn into the café situated on a small rise above the river.

The sign said ‘wait to be seated ‘ and we did as we were told…..they had no tables set up for 6 so we had to wait whilst the wait staff took a long time to move 3 tables and six chairs together. We would have done it but we weren’t allowed to move from the entrance….one foot over the invisible lines brought a number of requests to Please wait Monsieur & Madams’. Ok we’re waiting but we could do this for you – we were all thinking the same thing I’m sure.

Finally, our table was ready, now where’s the waiter to take our drinks order?? There were four of them wandering around – can someone catch their eye we’re all fading away from thirst?

Eventually our  waiter returned to take our order. Everyone but Clare and I had beers, we had soft drinks and we were discriminated against.  The waitress supplied coasters to all the beer drinkers but not for us.

Drinks finished, further chatting would have to wait until lunchtime. Time to move on to our first destination Pere Lachaise and the grave if the Doors singer.

Ty and I had already purchased our tickets for the metro, and other Paris transport options, this morning. We purchased 10 single tickets for the sum of 13.70 euros. These would give us 5 trips each.

We alighted at Pere Lachaise metro station and it was now well after 1pm, time for lunch before attempting the cemetery. We decided on a café across from the metro and chose alfresco seating. The baguettes were scrumptious and everyone was happy with the choices they made for lunch. The waiter was very congenial and we felt he deserved a tip….and we don’t tip willy nilly only service that goes above and beyond what is expected is deserving of our tipping!!! Richard found my idea of tipping amusing…….but we don’t have a big ‘tipping culture’ in Australia – we tip for exceptional service not for getting the service we expect.

One last thing to do before venturing to the cemetery and that was for us women to go to the toilette (I like the French spelling and pronunciation – seems so much better than toilet) well we don’t want to risk being caught short in the cemetery!!!  Ok, now we’re ready to wander among the famous and not so famous dearly departed.

Jim Morrison’s grave was first on the tour. Morrison, The Doors singer, had moved to Paris several months before his death.  Supposedly he went to Paris to write and possibly escape the trouble he’d had in Florida in 1969 which caused bad publicity and promoters to cancel many of his concerts. There are several different versions of what caused his death, no autopsy was ever performed so it remains speculation to this day.

This was my second visit to Pere Lachaise so I knew it was a huge cemetery and the road leading to the grave is, at times, steep and winding as well as having a very uneven surface….

As we approached the gravesite we could see barriers around the area…..it had been cordoned off with a number of other graves so I assumed the number of people visiting his grave was causing damage to other headstones around his.  On my previous visit there was no such barrier.  Security was also visible and the security car drove pulled up and stayed for some time watching the visitors.

Jim Morrison's gravesite

Jim Morrison’s gravesite

We then proceeded to the resting place of Oscar Wilde…….hoping I could remember its whereabouts we headed off to the other side of the cemetery. We’d been walking for a while and still weren’t any closer.  Richard thought it best to ask someone and I agreed, we could be here for days otherwise.  A couple nearby were consulting their map so I listened to see if I could hear English being spoken. “I’m sure this lady is speaking English” I told Richard and then I went to her and asked for the direction to Oscar.  The couple was in fact Irish.  Off we walked with a bit more determination in our stride, and walked, until we were a little lost again, but as luck would have it Richard and Clare found a map just near the vaults that hold people’s’ ashes…..Maria Callas is one person whose ashes are in this hall but no one in the group knew who she was!!!  We weren’t far from Oscar at all and his grave had a perspex barrier around it to stop women from leaving lipstick kisses. Previously women, and possibly some men, would leave a lipstick kiss on the  monument.  It was covered in thousands of lip imprints.  Now, however, it had been thoroughly cleaned and the barrier erected.  The plaque said it erected by the Irish Govt in respect of his family. We did notice that it hadn’t stopped very determined kissers though….a few imprints have been added a little higher above the barrier.

We had been in the cemetery for a couple of hours and time to head out….a different exit as there are several ways into Pere Lachaise and after wandering around it would be rare to end up back where you entered.  We eventually found an exit and took it knowing that there’d be a metro close by.  Any metro will take you to a connecting train. The exit was in a residential area, not the most salubrious of places and we did get a few odd looks from the locals but Mick, Richard and Ty were focused on finding a bar…..not too difficult anywhere in Paris and just past the hardware store there were 2 bars, one in each corner.  No picking and choosing which one, couldn’t be bothered to cross the road so we chose the closest and sat at the nearest table.  Beers all round, coffee for Clare and I but I didn’t stop at coffee, on the menu the café had what appeared to be lemon cheesecake (fromage ….) so “one of these please” I said to the waiter.  When my cheesecake arrived it was a glass dish of what looked like cream…..we all looked at it and everyone waited for me to try it.  It was a bowl of yoghurt!!  Well that made everyone laugh but I had to eat it. The flavour grew on me but not enough to finish it all!!

Beers all round

Beers all round

After a few more drinks someone looked at the time……it was almost 5.30pm  and we’d better get moving, we’re on the opposite side of Paris to our accommodation and we have to meet at the base of the Eiffel Tower at 8.30pm for dinner.

We had planned to go to Montmartre today as well…..best laid plans!!!  Our guests will just have to go back again for more of fabulous Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Days in Paris with One Dodgy Lift

After a very pleasant flight on Malaysian Airlines we arrived in Paris at 6.40am. We didn’t book a transfer this time preferring to take taxi to the hotel. Unfortunately we didn’t even think about peak hour traffic just getting to the hotel for a shower. One hour and 20 minutes later we arrived at the hotel to be told our room wasn’t ready, someone was in it. ‘How can that be?’ I asked in the most polite voice I could muster after a long flight and at least 30 minutes crawling through a smelly road tunnel, “We booked in from the night before”. The receptionist shook her head and said ‘sorry, it is already booked” as she headed towards the office. Within 5 minutes she returned and in her limited English said ” Sorry, we had checked you in yesterday so it is you who is in your room!’ Thank goodness because I was becoming just a little annoyed, everything was good again and we could shower.

Our room was on the 6th floor of a typical Parisian building…with a tiny lift. I placed my bags in the lift and went up to our floor. The lift was so slow and kept stopping for a couple of seconds…..not something I was keen on especially on my own. I waited outside the lift for Ty to come up with his luggage. The photos on the intranet were supposed to be a shot of our room…..unfortunately the bright airy room I saw on the intranet was not the room we walked into. Paris hotel rooms, as such, are small, as are many hotel rooms throughout Europe so we had no expectations of a spacious room, thank goodness I had decided to book the duplex room, we could keep our luggage downstairs and sleep upstairs. The room also had air conditioning, a benefit Ty won’t be without, as well as a balcony.

Showered, and feeling reenergised, we were ready to step out of the hotel to get our bearings and find the closest metro. Unfortunately the lift had become uncooperative and after waiting for at least 10 minutes we looked at the spiral staircase and said “well looks like we have no other option” and proceeded to take the stairs. In the time taken to transfer our bags and freshen up the lift had died…..of course we weren’t aware of this until we reached reception, we just thought it was busy.

The hotel lift had indeed broken down and apparently the technician that  came to fix it had it working but it broke down again after he left. We thought they should find another technician. Lesley has knee problems so couldn’t negotiate stairs very well and certainly wouldn’t manage with luggage. I was becoming annoyed with myself for believing photos and reviews on the hotel. However, It was very clean, reception staff were very friendly and obliging and it was central to everything but so are many hotels in Paris. Walking up 6 flights of spiral stairs is not much fun I can tell you. The internal staircase was hot, stuffy, narrow in parts and steep. Luckily we didn’t have serious knee and leg issues – I didn’t fancy being a prisoner in our room.

The metro, Grands Boulevard, was a 3 minute walk around the corner on Blvd Montmartre. Every trip to Paris I’ve stayed in a different arrondissement and have always been lucky with the proximity of the metro. We were in the 9th arrondissement this visit. I’ve always stayed in a private apartment as well but as this was a short stay an apartment wasn’t practical.

We decided we should walk today, we had several friends and relatives arriving this afternoon and this evening so we wanted to stay awake as long as we could and, as you know, it can be difficult fighting those feelings of jet lag. I fancied lunching in the Tuileries with a crepe or baguette….of course it was only 10.30 so thoughts of lunch had to be parked for a while!!

Marigny Square

Marigny Square

We wandered through the streets in the general direction of the Louvre and the Tuileries. It was already a warm morning so we stopped in the Tuileries for a cold drink….’Should we sit under a tree or should we take away the drink and keep walking’ I asked Ty “We can sit if you like’ he replied. So we sat and ordered 2 soft drinks ….the waiter duly arrived and requested payment immediately….12 euro 64 cents…..rather expensive soft drinks!!! Obviously one of the places where it costs more to sit under a tree!! Moving through the Tuileries we arrived at Concorde, crossed the wide street towards the Champes Élysées where walking was becoming a little difficult as the footpaths were being set up for the end of the Tour De France on Sunday. Many deviations were already in progress and security was high.

Ty relaxing in the sun at the Tuileries

Ty relaxing in the sun at the Tuileries

On our return stroll we stopped at a van that sold crepes, hot dogs, cold drinks and other assorted foods….a banana and chocolate crepe sounded yummy but we opted for a limone and sucre crepes and headed into Marigny Square, a small park with bench seats and a grassy area. No seats available in the shade so we found a patch of grass under the shade of a massive old tree. Sitting amongst the workers, on their lunch break, and other tourists I noticed a Fabio lookalike had sat down beside us and was listening to our conversation. This meant I couldn’t tell Ty to look over his shoulder. Fabio was smiling away at whatever was amusing him and now lying on the grass with his head resting on his suitcase. I assumed he had come to town for the Tour de France, he certainly didn’t look like a vagrant.

Lunch over and Ty still saying he was hungry we headed off towards the Tuileries again. All through the gardens there were chairs where you could sit and enjoy the gardens or just sit and relax part way through the walk. Young men were playing Boules dressed in their suits, people were sunning themselves soaking up the amazing weather. Others were sitting around the fountains in the direct sunlight, a number of men had removed their shirts in order to take in Vitamin D and getting some colour, women slouched with their legs hanging over the armrests of the chairs. We sat again for a short while to watch the passing parade of strangers. We also listened to the screams and laughter coming from the rides in the fairground which had been closed when we came through earlier in the day.

We wandered into the fair and were almost at the end when I saw the Ferris wheel said to Ty “Let’s” “Ok” he replied….he went off to purchase a bottle of water whilst I lined up to purchase the tickets for the ride. It was not as impressive as the ‘bubble’ cabins of the London Eye just a giant Ferris wheel but we were the only 2 in our ‘cabin’. It was a clear sunny day and the views were impressive. Sacre Coeur sat majestically above one section of the city, the Eiffel Tower over another….well worth the 10 euros each.

View from Ferris Wheel

View from Ferris Wheel

We had walked at least 10 kilometres and by the time we reached our street we were both hungry again so we stopped at a small cafe for a baguette and cold drink which cost just under 8 euros. Of course, dear reader, the suburbs are much cheaper that the main tourist areas for eating and drinking.

Back at the hotel our friend Lesley had arrived around 4.30 pm, Clare and Richard arrived at their hotel about the same time. My niece, Kathleen and her husband, Mick were not due to arrive till 10pm tonight as they were staying quite a distance from us on the other side of the River Seine. We probably wouldn’t be seeing them till tomorrow morning.

Clare contacted us when they arrived and we set about organising a rendezvous for this evening also including Lesley and her friend, Liz, knowing Lesley couldn’t go too far. Clare and Richard decided it was easier for them to come to Blvd Montmartre to meet us for dinner. We all had dined together but due to the number of smokers taking up the tables outside we were relegated to a table indoors so missed people watching opportunities on this busy boulevard. I understand smoking is not illegal and it’s an individual’s choice but it would be great if the eateries in France and many other parts of Europe could have one side of their alfresco area for non smokers. It’s disappointing to have to sit inside a restaurant on fabulous evenings, we love dining alfresco. Lesley and Liz went back to the hotel at 11.30pm. However, the wave of jet lag I’d been feeling had dissipated again and I was wide awake so we kicked on. The four of us headed to another bar for more drinks. I’d already had a vodka and orange, which was quite strong so I thought I should have water or soft drink….no, no, not allowed, “have a wine” Richard insisted. ‘Oh, ok then I will’ it didn’t take much to convince me. I looked at the wine list and saw the word Zinfandel and I quite like the white Zinfandel so ordered a glass. When it arrived it was red not rose ….. Totally different and very woody with a dry flavour. Damn, obviously the vodka earlier had affected my judgement and eyesight.  Clare had ordered a lemonade with her wine to make a spritzer so I added lemonade to my heavy red….a little odd but better than the dry taste. I can see all you dedicated red drinkers screwing up your faces and tut tutting!!!  Just as well Rumpole wasn’t nearby. For those of you who don’t know Rumpole ..one word..’Google’.

The waitress also dropped off 2 bowls of olives and 2 small bowls of nuts. Olives were very nice….. The four of us were deep in conversation, and not people watching, when a hand reached over the table and took one of our toothpicks and picked up an olive, by the time we realised what was happening the hand was starting to reach over again for another olive. We assumed it was a street dweller although she didn’t appear dirty or unkempt. Clare quickly moved the olives and told her to go away from our table. She wandered off with a smile. Some of these people are so cheeky. She had placed the toothpick from her mouth back into the olives so Clare pushed them aside….we wouldn’t be eating anymore of those!!!

As is the norm when I have a second alcoholic drinks I tend to become more animated , oh, and louder I think, and for whatever reason my hand holding the wine glass seemed to rise and tip slightly over my arm between elbow and shoulder spilling the wine. Luckily the wine landed mostly on my clothing and not the people seated behind me. That could have become a nasty scene if it had….Ty may have had to apologise profusely to defend his wife against an angry couple of diners……..

By 1.30am we felt it was time to head home to bed, as usual I had organised another busy day for tomorrow. Plus I’ll never get over the jet lag. So, in true Two Ronnie’s style it’s goodnight from me and goodnight from Ty. Don’t know the Two Ronnies? Google will help!! Oh, and the lift still hadn’t been repaired so it was a long hard climb to the top at this time of the morning. Between Ty pushing me up the stairs and me laughing it was a wonder we made it to our room at all. I have the feeling we may have disturbed the guests on every floor as we made our way to the top floor and eventually our room. I heard that Lesley had to be helped up to the 4th floor by the night reception man.

Paris in Business Class all the way!!

Our flight today is to France via Kuala Lumpur with Malaysian Airlines. We treated ourselves, once again, to Business Class so Ty was keen to spend time in the Qantas Business Lounge. I think I’m becoming accustomed to business class travel and believe me it isn’t difficult.

We dropped puss at the pet boarding facility before going home and loading the bags into the car. Smokey was not impressed, cried and,as usual, disgraced herself on the 5 minute drive. Animals have a way if making us humans feel guilty as if we’re abandoning them when they’re only having a holiday away from us. We call it fat camp given she won’t be fed on demand so will loose a little of the extra flab she’s carrying from over eating and lack of exercise!!

Why is it, even though my bag is packed and everything is organised the night before, I still madly rush around up to 1 minute before we leave the house?? We were up early washing towels and bed linen ensuring everything was tidy, bins emptied, power points turned off, etc, etc and so on……….does everyone else do this??

Bags weighed, locks on and placed in car boot. Too bad if we have forgotten anything – the airport is next stop.

Finally in the car, phew, we both felt like we’d completed a 2 hour Zumba class.

As we arrive at the airport and head to check in I wonder how full the fight would be given the events of the past week. Malaysian Airlines were giving people the option of refunding but we had no desire to refund or rebook and airplane travel on the whole is quite safe. It could happen to any airline. I wouldn’t say I was nervous as I love flying and when you live in Australia you need to fly to see the world. I was conscious of those poor souls on the plane shot down over Ukraine and whenever I travel my mind turns to thoughts of updated wills and what mess would I be leaving my family to sort out. But neither Ty or I would consider not flying…..we both love it!

Check in was a breeze, no one in the Business Class line, we received express passes to take us through customs and baggage check. Unfortunately the express pass didn’t prevent me from having to step into the full body scanner for the second time this year. “Place your feet on the yellow outlines and place your hands above you head, with tips of fingers meeting” instructed the female customs officer. I struck my pose as requested and noted, to myself of course, that this was a similar stance to one of our Zumba numbers…I didn’t think the customs officer would appreciate my analogy.

First stop was the Pandora shop where my husband purchase the obligatory pandora charm for whichever bracelet I’m wearing on the day. This has become a ritual when leaving for an overseas holiday…by looking at the bracelets you’d think we had many holidays but that’s not the case , he is quite generous to me.

That ritual taken care of we’re off to the Qantas Lounge for a relax, a little food and a glass of something cold…..like wine!!!

Boarding the plane was very fast, we walked up to Gate 31, passport and boarding pass checked straight on and shown to seat 2. There are many babies and toddlers on this flight but thankfully none up this end of the plane so the cabin us very quiet. Our last flight from Hawaii was full of littlies with several toddlers around us screaming for the duration of the flight. Made for a most uncomfortable time.

An hour after takeoff we were served drinks and an appetiser of sate chicken and beef. Ty, ever the messy eater, dropped sate sauce on his crisp white tablecloth so before serving the next course the stewardess whipped away the stained cloth and replaced it with a clean one. A short time later arrived an entree of finely chopped potato salad base and smoked salmon terrine. We had ordered a special main meal from Chefs on Call as well so by the time my meal arrived I could barely eat it. Let me tell you Business Class is not good for the waistline!!!! I always eat way too much. On the other hand husband has a bottomless pit as he polished off all the items on every plate AND happily accepted a mango flavoured Weiss Bar washed down with a black coffee!!! I know who will be coming back a porker from this trip and it won’t be me:)

The staff are very attentive and happy, lots of smiles, nothing too much trouble for them.

No overnight stopover for us this time….a 3 hour layover at KL then on an A380 to Paris. Supper, a flat bed seat with inbuilt massager and a few hours sleep……need to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for a busy day in Paris.

We’re almost 4 hours into the flight and I’ve watched a movie, written this blog and now I’m looking for something else to occupy me. Could read I suppose…..

Arrived in KL now and relaxing over coffee in the Malaysian Airlines Golden Lounge before the next leg. The porker with me has decided it’s food time again – lol!!

See you all in my next blog from Paris……..