The second incarnation of my blog
I’ve thought about exploring a city on my own for a while, but I believed it would be to rude to Pete to do such a thing. I found out that I could get a substantial discount on a Eurostar ticket, so I mentioned it to Pete and he said “go for it”.
So yesterday morning at 4.15am, the first of two alarms went off and I got washed and dressed and set off on the walk to the station with my backpack stacked with breakfast and camera gear. It was very dark. I’d forgotten that the local council is saving money by turning off the street lights… making our roads less safe and home less secure.
The 4.58am to London is a slow train compared to those that run all day, but I made it to the Eurostar lounge at 5.50am and was pleased to see it very quiet. So I grabbed myself a coffee and a seat and listened to a podcast. The crowds then arrived. Lucky timing.
At 7.01am exactly, we left St Pancras International, non-stop to Paris. It was a busy train, so I quietly listened to music and checked my plans for the day. I had looked for new areas in the city that we/I hadn’t explored before and had a list longer than was possible to see in a day. We entered the channel tunnel at 7.31am; travelling that distance in no time at all still amazes me.
We arrived in Paris at 10.22am local time and I was in the streets 2 minutes later.
I walked east to Belleville via the canal. On a sunny morning, the canal looks lovely and was a nice start to the day. Belleville is a bit run down and is a mix of cultures, but there was some interesting architecture and lots of graffiti, especially in one street that has no brickwork left untouched. I walked around the sloped park and then to the Metro.
I arrived in Bercy expecting to see some interesting buildings and shops, but it was actually a bit dull. I walked through the long modern park and then another Metro to Bastille. It went a bit wrong at this point as I got a bit lost and the directions I had to find a park that sits on top of an old rail line were not great. I had a coffee and then walked for a while above the streets (on Promenade Plantee). This all took a bit longer than expected and I had to cut one idea.
I went to the Cite metro due to it’s design and a quick route around the island before heading to the Arab Institute, which was further than the poor map implied. It was a warm day and the walk was beginning to tire me out. The reason for visiting the institute was to get to the 9th floor where there is a terrace (which is quite high for Paris). It’s a nice terrace, but you can’t see the Eiffel Tower from it! Outside the building was a full replica of a steam train and carriages of the Orient Express which you could queue to look round.
Next stop was a late lunch, which was always my plan. I had a lovely salad to start then a steak with a beer and coffee and then a short walk around the Latin Quarter.
Another Metro and a queue to get to the top of Montparnasse Tower. The Americans I was standing with were funny, in that they were not very worldly wise or in fact, not very wise. This part of the journey took longer than I planned, so I decided to cancel my journey west to see a couple of sites and instead headed north to Montmartre, being close to the station home.
So at 5.15, I wandered around the streets, trying to avoid tourists and hoping to find the cemetery, but missed a turn and ended up seeing other things instead. Maybe next time to see the graves.
I made it back to a busy Gare Du Nord at 6.40pm, so had a beer standing at the bar in a local establishment. I arrived at Eurostar departures, with an hour to relax before the train home. We whizzed through the French and Kent countryside back to London. A jog to Kings Cross meant I could get the fast train home.
An exhausting, warm and interesting day, using my very limited French and seeing some areas that I hadn’t even considered before.
Some more pictures will follow…