Tuesday 11th August
Today we had an early start farewelling Blois. It was a last minute decision to stay in Blois because our previous location fell over towards the end of our planning but we feel privileged to have come to understand the city with its aristocratic past and ancient beauty. Curiously my only brush with the wrong side of the road in Europe came five minutes from dropping off the Fiat 500 at Avis, last night taking a left hand turn into a major road in Blois and not seeing that it was a divided main street. Luckily for us two guardian angels in fleuro gear working alongside the road bravely stood out into some serious traffic coming straight at us and waved them down enabled me to crawl bashfully to the side and get off the road. It was a healthy reminder not to get too cocky as I think was beginning to happen and again we were very conscious that someone is looking after us even when we do something really silly! So we farewelled our Fiat 500 and prepared for Paris.
We took the TGV train this morning from Tours to Paris after an early local train to Tours. In Paris our hotel was an easy walk from MontParnasse Station (thank you Moranda from HellowWorld Belgrave!) Having put our luggage in storage we had a (very) early lunch and took a bus directly to the Louvre only to have our first fair dinkum National Lampoon’s Vacation Wally’s World experience. There were no queues…yes the Louvre was closed on Tuesdays! It is the two week Summer vacation currently in France so Paris especially in the morning was a ghost town but the Louvre was closed all day so we had to regroup.
We walked off shell shocked, ( unlike Mr Grisling in National Lampoons we decided not to break into the Louvre!) across the beautiful Seine River with all its tourist boats and barges and became very muddled trying to find our way to the Hotel des Invalides and Napoleon’s tomb which we eventually found not far from the new Rodin museum which has been built since we were last in Paris.
Napoleon’s tomb and the Church of the Dome in which it is placed had a distinctly Medici tomb feel about if for us. Napoleon Bonaparte certainly did a great deal for France in culture, modernisation, leadership and government after the Revolution apart from being a heroic military leader even if his grasp exceeded his reach or whatever the proverb is. But this tomb goes a bit far in my view and to have its location created as effectively a Baroque church with altar and candlesticks and much gilt and marble was not to my personal taste.
On the other hand the Hotel des Invalides still does an amazing job caring for war veterans and also contains within its vast walls two amazing museums, one of military arms including what must be the largest collection anywhere of knights in shining armour and their weaponry (superior I think even to the Doge’s Palace!) and secondly a fascinating museum of the history of both world wars as it was seen from the French point of view. This museum is brilliantly put together with engrossing and horrific war time film footage especially of the impact of bombing on French forces and cities.
We returred past the impressive formal Tuileries Gardens, had a good view of the Eiffel Tower and returned to the bank of the Seine and enjoyed watching Parisiennes enjoying their Summer break with their children hiring all day “cabins” for all day games and seats, playing totem tennis and badminton at various defined play areas, and generally relaxing, reading the newspaper and enjoying not working. It is the first time we have really stopped to look at the vastness of the D’Orsay and Louvre Palaces and the huge square they border. This is classical grand architecture to die for and makes for a very grand and romantic city indeed. Luckily for me most of the fashion shops we passed were not open!
Midnight in Paris is one of my all time favourite movies and this city is difficult not to love, Its grace, elegance, style and élan always make an impact. We are glad to have a couple of nights here.