Saturday morning and as is my wont I was up bright and early (I was awake from 4am.. actually, this was not my wont at all but I made good use of that time drinking espressos and planning for my day) and out of the hostel by 8am. The breakfast lady HAD managed to have the coffee ready by the time I left so I did down a hasty additional cup but it was awful coffee so I wasn't sad to leave it..
AS I left the hostel the cold hit me, it was windy and grey and fecking freezing!! I headed to Musée d'Orangerie, to get there at 8.45am and be second in the queue to get in when it opened at 9. Omg such a cold windy and unpleasant queueing experience but thankfully only for 15minutes and the gallery is right on the stunning Place de Concorde with views across the Seine and down the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomph in the distance, so it's not like I had nothing to look at. I was glad I got there so early. Monet's Water Lillies cycle fills two light and airy oval rooms, which he painted them specifically for with the idea of their providing an oasis of calm in amidst the hustle and bustle of Paris. That it did. They were calming and tranquil and beautiful and captivating and because I was there so early could sit and have an uninterrupted view with just a few other people in there and only rarely people crossing my field of vision. Defintely worth the wait in the cold. On the lower level there was other great art so I passed a good hour and a half.
I had intended to try to get tickets to the ballet or opera sat eve but both were sold out. I could have come at 5pm to queue outside the Palais Garnier in the hope of a last minute ticket but having had one lonely queueing experience I decided that was one best left for a warmer day.
I wandered the area south of Bastille in search of the box office there, a fruitless search it proved since it didn't open til 2h30. Then back up to the centre and I popped into a little store Le Bio d'Adam et Eve for a warming pot of homemade soup.
Refuelled, I walked northwest to the majestic Opera Garnier, where I was lucky enough to stumble upon a brass band of teenagers playing awesome swing and versions of lady gaga numbers on the steps of the opera. I had a mooch through the alternative universe of Place Vendome, a beautiful octagonal open square housing the likes of Chanel, Van Cleef & Arples, Dior and Louis Vuitton shops. The spaces infront of the shops were roped off with designated spaces for chauffeurs! It was incrible moneyland as was the street I left it via, where bouncers stood outside the shops and people clearly wearing millions of pounds worth of clothes strutted about. I did see one crowd of bodyguards and film cameras around a stunning oriental lady, I papped her myself just for the sake of it but I have no idea who she is, will put the pics on facebook see if anybody else knows!
Galleries Lafayette was quite simply the most beautiful department store I have ever been in and I don't particularly like shops. After that my day deteriorated a bit since I was so so tired and exhasted I kept trying to get back to the hostel but was so tired I couldn't think straight, kept going the wrong way and retracing my steps and getting lost and things! Finally managed to find a metro station and collapse onto a train. Thank god for a carnet!
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(continued sun evening at 8pm)...
I've had a really good day today! I think perhaps it's because I didn't stick exactly to my plan? I started the morning as I'd planned to, by buying another day pass for the Velib (boris bikes) and biking down to Place Bastille to check out a big market there on a Sunday morning. It was everything one would expect from a french market: fromage, saussison, olives, poissons, boulangerie, crepes, autres choses. Unfortunately it was cold and starting to rain as I got there so I didn't stop long to browse! Straight back onto another Velib to cycle along the left bank of the Seine to Musee d'Orsay. The way the Velib works the first 30minutes are free on each bike so you have to dock the bike within 30mins and swap it for another one to continue the journey to avoid being charged, which seems a bit nuts. It took me two bikes to get to Orsay.
Orsay was great! The art museum is in an old railway station adapted with a central aisle full of sculptures then rooms off both sides. It was a lot busier than anywhere else I've been even though I was there for it opening at 9.30. The most famous works had people shuffling shoulder to shoulder infront of them but there were plenty of less googled-at works to admire. It's strange - after a while I was walking past these incredible breathtaking paintings thinking "meh, just another priceless masterpiece..."
After Orsay I wandered through the streets of the St Germain du Prés to get to the Musee du Moyen Age (the Cluny as it's known) where I pattered out my well rehearsed "J'ai 24ans et je suis anglaise (conditions for free entry) mais j'ai oublié mon passeport a l'hotel" and for the first time since I've been here they let me in for free whooo! Every other museum said -no id no free entry- so I saved myself a few €.
I'd actually planned to do Montmatre and Pere Lachaise this afternoon but it was so cold and nasty I did the inside Cluny instead and it was very good - not sure I'd have thought it worth paying €8.50 since the Our Lady of the Unicorns tapestries that I really wanted to see were closed for refurbishment but there were some beautiful medieval manuscripts and bronzework and things and a choir was singing medieval music in a high vaulted room with incredibly acoustics that filled the museum. The whole building was impressive actually, in a huge old 15th centuary civil building and in entered from one of those beautiful french squares surrounded by tall buildings with a green park and benches in the middle at their best at this time of the year with all the blossom out.
After the Cluny I explored the streets of the Latin Quarter, searching for an open boulangerie having realised that it was sunday and panicked that I'd not yet bought a baguette to make my packed lunch for tomorrow. As it happened I needn't have worried since there were lots open where I went later on.
Demi baguette in hand like a true Parisian, I hopped back onto another Velib and recrossed the river to the right bank and Hotel de Ville - I felt so exhilarated doing so, I thought "I've cracked it! THIS is what the Velib is all about! It's about 20minute journeys from one side of the river to another to save your feet!" It's perfect for that sort of thing - going a bit of a distance when you know exactly where you're going and there are bike paths all the way.
The rest of my afternoon was spontaneous and I have to admit I think it was better for being so - I've been really quite rigid about sticking fixedly to my plan up til this point and in a way have been ruled by my guidebook / plan, I think I've missed experiencing things to some extent through having my head in my lonely planet but this afternoon I just wandered the areas of the Marais and Haute Marais. Not at random, I still checked every couple of streets on the map to see where I was - old habits die hard - but I actually followed the frenchies since there were flows of people down certain streets. I think it was the best possible plan, I really got to see where the frenchies hang out of a sunday! I rummaged in awesome vintage shops and peered through the windows of high class boutiques. I went down Rue de Rosiers, the jewish area and admired pastries, delicacies and challah piled high in the windows of the bakeries. They're not closed today!
This eve I came back to the hostel for tea then back out on another Velib for a quick 45min spin alongside the Seine, which was perfect - a day pass for the bike cost me just €1.70 and I got so much use out of it!! I'm tired now so it is time for a peppermint tea then an early night. Tomorrow I'm hitting the Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomph then Montmatre and Sacre Coeur. I'd like to make it to Pere Lachaise too but it does depend on time and the weather - I'm glad I changed my mind and go today, cold wind and spitty rain are not the perfect conditions for exploring a cemetery...