Friday, 4 April 2014

Paris Part Deux

We must have walked for miles all around Paris and by using the Metro system it didn't really matter if the attractions we wanted to see were close to each other. To be honest, the time spent on the Metro gave me the break from walking that I needed to recharge my batteries ready for the next bit.

This is the Sacre Coeur. With its Byzantine dome it's one of the major tourist attractions in Paris.

It's as high as the Eiffel Tower and allegedly has fantastic views from the viewing gallery.

The view of Paris from the steps was enough for us.

Every time we've been there's always been a harpist on the steps entertaining the tourists. Sometimes it's a woman but this time it was a man. He was very good but I suspect that the electronic equipment he was using as a backing track made him seem better than he actually was.

The area around Sacre Coeur is called Montmartre and is very touristy with lots of overpriced cafes and dodgy "artists" peddling tacky paintings of the area.  A few hundred metres down-hill though is the tiny Montmartre Vineyard. It's vines are very old and produce around 1500 bottles of wine every year. It's supposed to be pretty foul stuff though.

Neither of us are "culture vultures" and the thought of visiting the huge museums such as the Louvre or the Musee d'Orsay held no appeal.
We've " been there, done that" on previous visits with friends but this time the only thing I wanted to see was Rodin's sculpture of The Thinker.

The queue to get in the museum may not look very long but there was only one person on the cash desk and he was very slow so it actually took us almost half an hour to get inside.

The exhibition is housed in the Hotel Biron but the most famous of Rodin's sculptures are outside in beautiful gardens and as the weather was warm and sunny this suited us very nicely.

This is "The Gates of Hell".  At 6m tall and 4m wide it's pretty impressive and is Rodin's extremely dark representation of the Inferno written about by Dante.

The huge bronze sculptures start off in small scale

before being scaled up for the final exhibit. These are "The Three Shades"

I think Rodin must have been a very troubled man. The overall impression I got from his work was of misery and depression.

This is the one I'd wanted to see. "The Thinker"

More delicate sculptures made from plaster or clay were housed indoors.

I really liked this one. In fact I'd tried to make something similar years ago at school in my pottery class. It's not as easy as it looks!

From the sublime to the ridiculous......This "sculpture" was on show in the courtyard of one of the very exclusive hotels near the Place de Voges.  Rodin's work may have been dark and troubled but is definitely preferable!

One of the great things about just wandering aimlessly around the Parisian streets was all the fantastic shops we came across.

This patisserie was so tempting.  The English equivalent?  ......Greggs!

This tiny shop just sold shellfish, oysters and crustaceans, no fish.

The French equivalent of Harrods or Harvey Nicholls has to be the Galeries Lafayette.

The main dome over the cosmetic hall is amazing, as are the gilded galleries from which the shop gets its name.  It was mind-blowingly expensive and the only people we saw actually buying anything were the Japanese.

Paris has always had a problem with graffiti and the railway corridors are covered in it. A new troublesome craze has started however, and we saw lots of white vans that had been "decorated". Some versions were better than others but it must be soul destroying to park your van somewhere overnight and come back in the morning to find this.

We saw lots of these little Twizy cars around Paris. I suppose their size makes them the perfect solution to parking problems and as they have two seats, one behind the other, they're not quite as small as they seem.

Roger was rather more taken with this motorbike though.  It really was gorgeous, with copper mudguards and detailing and was obviously someone's pride and joy.

Both of us love the French cafe culture and food plays a big part in our visits to France. Some of the best meals we've ever had have been in small cafes like this, rather than in posh restaurants.

Brown paper "table-cloths" just add to the ambience.

Confit de Canard and saute potatoes remains a firm favourite of ours and this version was just delicious.

I like to try different foods and wine varieties whenever possible and the Basque restaurant that we had dinner in one night was a good example.

The Poulet Basquaise (Basque Chicken) and Madiran wine were delicious. I'll certainly be looking out for this on the wine shelves in our supermarkets.

The best restaurant that we ate in was this one near Anvers. The 1000 & 1 Signs is a very small place with only around 20 places and is run by a young deaf guy whose mother does the cooking.

The food is Moroccan and you order from the menu by making the hand sign at the side of the dish.

 The walls are covered with photographs depicting the most common hand signs.

This is the sign for "Please"

When we were still building boats, one of our employees was profoundly deaf and we both learnt some sign language so that we could communicate with him.  When we told the waiter this he became quite excited and we had a good "chat" with him. As you'd expect, French sign language is different to English although some of the basic signs were the same.

Our food was really nice. Roger had the chicken, prune and almond tajine and I had a lamb one. The couscous that came with the stews was so light and fluffy it was like eating a cloud!

Of all the restaurants we ate in while we were in Paris this is the only one I'd go back to.

Well that's all folks!  I hope you've enjoyed visiting Paris with me.

I'll be back to blogging about our canal travels again tomorrow.  We've moved out of Market Harborough Basin and are now moored up on the main line in a nice quiet spot.  The canal has been quite busy today with Canaltime hire boats, which operate out of the Basin, coming and going. I suppose it's a sign of things to come, after all it is almost the Easter holidays and up until now the canal has been extremely quiet.

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