If you hadn’t already guess it, I love strolling around Paris.
The wind was nippy today and it rained on and off.
My friend had decided to do her own thing today, therefore I had no plans. I like these days when I can leave the map at home and just wander and see what unfolds.
Baron Haussmann’s renovation of Paris was to beautify and put order in the city. I guess that is the reason why I can leave without a map and use landmarks, Boulevards and the river and stroll without a sense of panic that I am lost.
For many years, I have put off going to the Concergerie. The all imposing building, resting on the edge of the Ile de la Cité, overlooking the Seine with turrets that are screaming out for flags, flapping from it’s slated roofs.
When something is close to home, sometimes you tend not to explore. The Concergerie is a good 35 hours from my home but always near by when I am staying in Paris. Perhaps that is the reason, I delegate it to the bottom of the list. I have photographed the façade at sunrise, sunset during the day, any season and almost every time I pass it but have never been inside.
Today I decided to finally visit the Concergerie.
Once a palace and a prison. This is where Marie Antoinette spent her final days before being carted off to what is now Place de la Concorde to be executed by guillotine in the public square.
The magnificent gilded clock, that aptly sits on the Quai de l’Horloge (horloge meaning clock) side of the building, is the oldest public clock in Paris and recently restored, dates back to the 13th century.
Although not all of the building is accessible to the general public, as part of it makes up the Palais de Justice, the law courts, a rather small section is. I have to say that I was slightly disappointed. Although there wasn’t a line up, to get in, the pokey rooms on display were too crowded for my liking, although I did enjoy the temporary exhibition that is currently on display, so not all was lost but I did need to escape the crowds.
Flâneur, to stroll, comes from the French.
Unsure of what to do next but needing space and time to breath in Paris, I did what I often do best.
I strolled, I am the ultimate flaneuse!
Heading south east along the river on the banks of the main island of Paris, Ile de la Cité and crossing over to the smaller island of Ile Saint-Louis, the crowds thinned out and I could feel myself relax.
As soon as this feeling sweeps over me, I begin to notice every detail. I pulled out the camera and started enjoying my day, happily snapping away.
Weaving my way through the eight streets that make up Île Saint-Louis and landing on the busy Pont Sully, the bridge where four years ago, late one night an Elvis impersonating taxi driver, rescued me and drove me home, I caught a glimpse of something green in the distance.
The flash of green reminded me that I wanted to visit and photograph – Les Docks
The river is high and flowing quickly and the wind coming off the Seine was chilly but I still opted to walk along the banks of the river.
The redeveloped old docks is now home to Cité de la mode et du design; The Institute of Fashion and Design.
The contemporary space that would feel right at home in Brisbane. Large open air spaces and a rooftop deck that I am sure would be crowded in the summertime.
The bright green iron and glass façade, with fantastic lines, brightens up a once neglected area of Paris. Thank goodness I have replaced my stolen camera, or I would have been thoroughly disappointed to be at this very photogenic building without one.
Crossing over the Charles de Gaulle bridge with my matching bright lime green umbrella, resembling Mary Poppins as I was swept across to the right bank.
The clock tower of Gare de Lyon train station in the distance inspired an idea, I would pop in (excuse the pun) to the train station for a sandwich and get out of the cold.
Now I am guessing that you are wondering why in the hell I would go to a bustling train station for a sandwich in Paris, when the city is dripping with charming cafés begging to feed me.
Le Train Bleu was my reason.
Ascending the sweeping staircase and entering via the revolving doors to this magnificent, opulent restaurant is simply breath taking, it was warm, inviting and luxurious.
It is not my first time to Le Train Bleu, and I doubt if it will be my last.
It was probably the most expensive club sandwich I have ever had but no more expensive than you would pay in a big brand chain hotel, except the massive chandeliers, frescos and sculptures on the walls and ceilings, brass fixtures and banquette seating, makes it worth every centime and it was absolutely delicious.
It seemed only fitting to be sitting in such place as it struck 12 midnight in Australia and the calendar flicked over to 2014 for some.
I could have sat there all day but I needed to prepare for New Year’s Eve celebrations at Jim’s.
Last New Years Eve at Jim’s was a pleasant surprise, when he invited me to his home to bring in the New Year. Apart from one other couple, I was a privileged guest amongst his 20 friends. This year was larger, more like a Sunday dinner and to begin with I was slightly disappointed. I wasn’t expecting so many people and had to change my mind set.
The food, like last year was wonderful and tasty. A smoked salmon salad to die for, roast lamb, sauerkraut and potatoes and I can’t remember the dessert! In fact it is surprising I remember anything!
On New Year’s Eve all the public transport in Paris is free. So as planned, around 10.30, in high spirits, we all piled on, taking over the number 38 bus to a jazz bar in Montparnasse and listened to Jim’s elegant friend Iris sing.
Unfortunately for me, being in need of my glasses to see through my bleary eyes, I couldn’t wear the gorgeous masks that were provided but Chicky Babe donned hers and I wouldn’t be surprised if she slept in it!
In need of a bit of fresh air, minutes before the clock struck 12 midnight, I was outside with one of Jim’s friends and spied the Italian restaurant over the road, setting up a box of fireworks on the medium strip of Boulevard Montparnasse.
With 1 minute to spare, rushing inside to find Chicky Babe, who with expert timing had organised two glasses of champagne, I shouted over the crowd, quick come with me.
Without hesitation we grabbed her coat and at the very minute we opened the door to the jazz bar and the clock ticked over to 2014 – BOOOM!
From a smoking cardboard box in the middle of the road, the fireworks went off. It was spectacular better than we anticipated, as good as any fireworks display I have seen, loud colourful and directly above us!
Standing on Boulevard Montparnasse, under a shower of fireworks, French Champagne in hand, Chicky Babe wearing her shimmering silver and red mask, looking absolutely stunning, we kissed, French style, one for each cheek and brought in the New Year in Paris.
Taking advantage of the free bus, we headed back to the right bank and made a bee-line for my favourite bar.
Petit fer a Cheval, takes it’s name from the small, horse shoe shaped bar that dominates the heart of the very small cafe. Ten patrons, and it is considered crowded.
The masked Chicky Babe and I arrived to a rowdy, pumping and jumping place where we could barely squeeze amongst the 70 or so people sandwiched in there.
Free champagne was splashed into our glasses as we entered, which had us jumping up and down to the music along with the other party goers and the staff were slicing up the small area behind the bar with gyrating moves.
I have seen Petit fer a Cheval crowded before but never like this. The atmosphere was electric.
The masked Chicky Babe shouts above the music and the crowd, ecstatic and beaming; I can’t believe I am in Paris.
In a typical French manner, I shrugged my shoulders, cocked my head to the side, pouted and replied; and people wonder why I always come to Paris each Christmas.