We’re resting in the afternoon on our second day in Paris. Yesterday, our arrival, was pretty much a write-off. We were so exhausted and grumpy after the particularly awful seats on the plane for this leg of the trip that after we had collected the keys to the apartment, snapped at each other buying groceries and took an unsatisfactory walk through the Jardin de Tuileries – now a dustbowl after the recent cold snap killed anything growing – we just went to bed and slept 15 odd hours.
Our studio apartment is in the centre of Paris between three points formed by Les Halles, the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral, which we visited today.It’s basically a 10m by 5m box with a bed, a couple of chairs, two TVs, a bathroom and a small kitchenette. It’s decked out on grays and silvers – apparently this is the fashion as we’re seeing this colour combination everywhere. Inside the street door is a maze of turns and steps up and down in order to get to our door. I’d hate to have to do this drunk. The place is fine for our purposes and the bed is very comfy.
The parvis, the plaza in front of Notre Dame, is filled with Italian and American school students on vacation as well as with eastern european beggers who think they can screw more from English speakers than the natives. They were continually harrassing us until we twigged to respond to their question of whether we speak english with a haughty “non!”
Notre Dame is a wonder of the medieval age. It’s at once a place of worship, a fortification, a symbol of power and a religious textbook in stone. I need to know more about it. Because last time we were here, I went inside the main apse and Kathi wasn’t interested, this time we decided to make the climb to the top of the towers. The narrow spiral stairs (70 vertical metres of them!) make you dizzy and the worn stone steps make you fear slipping and falling into those coming up behind you.
Halfway up you cross from one tower to the next to complete the journey, passing by all the gargoyles you’ve seen and loved. Clambering through the tiny wooden doorways in to (or out of) the bell towers is tough on a large chap and a backpack sure doesn’t help but the nimble Italian minxes manage it with no problems at all. Damn them.
From the top of the south tower, you have a 360 degree view of Paris that is a marvel to behold. You can see all the famous landmarks pass by as you take a turn aroudn the parapet: Sacre Coeur at Montmartre, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Saint Serverin, the big domed building (whose name escapes me), etc. It’s obvious from this angle that Paris was largely built in the 18th century. There are lead roofs everywhere studded with tiny chimneys and any space where they can’t put a building is given over to a neat little garden (hmmm, didn’t I say something similar about Hong Kong?).
After this we wandered the Latin Quarter and paid a visit to the Shakespeare and Company bookshop where all the Lost Generation writers hung out (like Ernest Hemmingway and Henry Miller) and other instances of bohemia such as a quilting shop and games store. I’ve been surprised at just how easily interacting with people in French is for me this time around. For every shop we visited I made sure I kept myself occupied by chatting with one of the sales people while Kathi looked about (also, a well known shoplifting tactic – or so I’m told). By the time the petites boutiques have (temporarily) lost their appeal for Kathi we were exhausted and had lunch at one of the innumerable little cafes before wandering home sore-footed again. Now we’re going to have a snooze before heading out for the evening.