Monday, December 15, 2014

Breaking our journey at Paris

Iceland is calling. The end of 2014 is just over the tip of the Solar Maximus cycle and it is a do-it or forget-it decision. The next cycle will be 11 years later and who knows what happens then. So carpe-diem!

We opted for a direct flight to Paris and used it as a launchpad to the northern tip of our planet. Paris is long overdue, our last visit being 10 years ago. Singapore Airlines had a 2 to go offer, though with 3 of us at almost $6000, it is still a big deal for a holiday on a whim. Nevertheless, I am thankful!

Belfort Hotel
Our Paris base was Hotel Belfort ( Charonne station ) in the Bastille area. It was highly recommended by Tripadvisorians, a portal I have been using for my DIY trips. Commute from CDG was not direct, with a change of RER to Metro at Gare du Nord and another Metro change at Oberkampf for a flat fare of €9.50. The entire trip took about more than an hour, made worse when the RER B train was stuck in its tracks for a good 10 odd minutes, just 1 station shy of Paris Nord, our interchange station.

From Gare du Nord onwards, our transit to Belfort Hotel began challenging. Though we packed minimally for winter, it was still too much when the transit points at Paris Nord, Oberkampt and Charonne were built without escalator. No wonder the hotel suggested changing at Chatelet and Nation to get to Charonne. DIY holiday in Paris is definitely not for the physically challenging.

It was late morning by then. While waiting for the room to be ready, we checked out Voltaire area. The french denizens were a friendly lot, helping us with the purchase of a SIM card and acting as tour guide. We ate at a friendly cafe nearby and H exercised her French muscle. It was the first time we heard her converse and thought she really spoke like a native. The food was meh, but the friendly service was consistent with our experience so far.

Our room at 301 was some walk up the stairs. The dumb-waiter lift was meant for loading our luggage and then we had to run up 3 flights of stairs to receive it. The room was bare and barely warm - the teeny heater was doing a losing battle against the weather ( 5 C with light shower ). What made it acceptable was the warm comfortable beds, spacious room even with our luggages open and a huge toilet ( unheated ).

We made it to the Pere Lachaishe cemetery nearby, famous for the resting place of Paris' famous people. It was a futile attempt locating Chopin, Edith Piaf and its famous residents until we were approached by a tour guide. We took his helpful explanation of the place, unaware that we were walking into a tourist trap. While I appreciated his help locating the tombs, the walk left nothing in the way of photographs of the beautiful cemetery. Even with this complain, we saw Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piath, Delocrouix, just to name a few.

Unknowingly, we were led like cattle from one place to another. He refused to let us go and we were too polite to say no. We parted with €20 as tips, a ridiculous amount for the 'wild tomb' chase.

From Gambetta, we took the metro to Arc de Triomphe, a 20 minute ride. Originally, I was thinking of a long 1.5 hour bus ride to take in the city but the long journey was baulked at by the other 2. It train ride was a wise choice. It rained shortly after we were done with photo taking at the Arc and Champs Elysee which lit up in the evening to its pre Christmas splendour.

Arc is an old friend, though it looked older under the grey skies. It has been 10 years since I last saw this lovely structure and every angle still fascinates. If the weather had been warmer, or we were less jetlagged and our feet were not hurting so much, I am sure we would have surveyed the Arc from every possible angle.

At the other end of Champs, a huge ferris wheel was set up at Place la Concorde. Most years, fireworks were set off from the temporary structure and hopefully this year , it will still be the same.

Light rain caused the mercury to dip by 5pm. The intrepid 2 were clothed appropriately except me. The expensive Timberland wind breaker and woollen sweater were no match for the weather. By 5.30pm, I threw in the towel, gathered the exhausted family and headed back to Voltaire for the last meal of the day.

No comments:

Post a Comment