Thursday, January 1, 2015

Eve of 2015 in Paris, the end of our 20 day in Europe

31 December Wed 

Undeterred by the failure to get up the Tower of Notre Dame, we tried again, after doing the research online.

This time we got it right, the location at least. I thought one hour was too long a lag before the doors to the Tower at Rue de Cloitre would open, but my, was I wrong ! At 9 am, there was already a long queue by just as determined tourists for the first visit to the Tower at 10 am.

It was cold, though at 6C it was considered balmy by yesterday’s standards. H helped passed time with her jokes and made waiting bearable.

Entry was €8.50 for each of us and we had to negotiate more than 350 steps up. It was grueling but I was glad I made it without any problems.  The first levels were breathtaking enough – the gargoyles added texture to the city’s skyscape, each creature looking menacingly over the city. Every Parisian icons – Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, and La Defence were visible from the viewing gallery.

Another flight of head spinning steps led us to the highest point on the Tower. It was the panaromic gallery, very small and each were allowed only 5 minutes to view the city. I did not find it as photo worthy with the absence the gargoyles.

The descent down the spiral stairway was just as difficult and it felt like eternity to get to the road level.

From Cite station, we trained over to Rue du Bac. It was  a chi-chi area with chic boutiques, expensive patisseries and a very upmarket grocer. It was a non event for me despite the hype online. I bought 2 boxes of gourmet cheeses to bring back to Singapore, and half hoping that the clothes will not smell too badly when we reach home.

We had our first good quality pizza lunch at Mama Roma, off Rue du Bac. For €30 it was one of the most satisfying pizza meal in Paris.

Another train ride, with mind bending number of train transfer, and we found ourselves at Ecole Militaire. It was a short walk to Eiffel. The sun was out , the weather dry and crisp and we snacked in the park, with Eiffel Tower as backdrop. It would be perfect in summer.

We clowned around the tower, taking copious number of photos and generally being silly there. After all, it was the last day of the long Europe holiday and revelry was in order.

We walked towards the Tower and baulked at the crowd milling around the Tower , spilling to Trocedero. Military personnel with assault weapons patrolled the area to keep trouble at bay.

We took a train from Bir Hakeim station , one of the above ground train tracks in Paris to Cluny La Sabourne. Christmas markets were open and the selling was in full steam. We logged our last evening in Paris on ‘film’ all the way to the hotel and beyond.

Like most of our DIY holidays, we rested in preparation for the midnight countdown. There was minimal packing because we have adopted a system of pack as we travel. The evening was spent writing our travelogues before dinner. It was one of the most restful 3 hours in hectic Paris!

Our original plan to have a simple dinner at Quick was quickly forgotten as we were lured by a foie gras set dinner at a pub near Senlis ( €39 per set ). We had one of the most generous block of foie gras and steak for a fraction of the price in Singapore. By the 3rd and last course, we were stuffed and unable to stomach the food. The 2 hour dinner meant that we were away from the cold longer than planned.

Public transport in Paris was free and running all night. In fact, thre free ride lasts to 12nn on 1st of January. We enjoyed the free commute to Ecole Militiare. The area around Eiffel was teaming with people, full of revelry. Celebrations were in full swing and more than 10 tour buses disgorged tourists to wait for the lightup of the tower.

By midnight, without fanfare or countdown, the tower lit up with shimmering lights. No fireworks, no music, no auld lang syne. Everyone waited in anticipation but the odd firework privately put up made the entry into the new year one of the most unspectacular events I have ever seen. We have been spoilt silly by last year’s show at Taipei 101 so this doesn’t measure up.

It was a let down and like the thousands of people, we took the free train back. Thus ends our 20 day long holiday in Europe. Tomorrow on the 1st of January 2015, we leave for home. It will be a year of many unknowns and we look forward to embracing it by the grace of God. May many good and wonderful things continue to happen.

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