If you just came from reading the first part of ‘Romance En Paris’, you’ll probably have gathered that the second day needed to be a little less sightseeing focused. Having seen a good portion of Paris’ really top-end sights, we decided to chill out a little for the second day, and set out mid morning to explore the Montmatre area, around our hotel.
One of the things you easily forget living in English cultures is just how much other countries often close down on a Sunday. We soon found almost literally nothing was open, aside from a little line of market stalls along one of the main streets, selling lots of imported clothes and food (mmm, cheesy pretzels) and a few cafes. Parisians seem to go into all out ‘we’re cultured’ mode on a Sunday, spending their time looking classily underdressed (as in ‘smart casual’, rather than half naked…) in the gardens in front of churches or outside tiny coffee shops. Of course, being English and male I’m pretty much incapable of the ‘well dressed’ thing and tend to complain when I’m made to do it, but still.
Random wondering around Paris is somehow better than other cities. I’m not sure if it’s the regal side to the buildings (and a slightly excessive penchant for gold – see the Seine bridges in particular), or just the atmosphere, but it’s certainly far from dull. The most expensive and exclusive part of Paris, of course, is the two islands in the centre of the river, and we decided to spend our afternoon relaxing on those, via another quick ride on the river bus.
The first island is the home to Notre Dame, which manages to look impressively different depending on the angle you look at it from. I must admit, when it comes to the inside of these ornate old churches, I can’t help thinking there’s not much difference between most of them (a byproduct of growing up around Salisbury Cathedral, perhaps), but the outside is pretty special, with the sweeping gothic-ness and the weird angles. Around the outside, though, is another spot that’s become a real tourist hot bed. There are so many souvenir shops and overpriced coffee places that it borders on annoying, so we had a quick look around and hopped over the second island.
The second Seine island is a little less touristy, but also one of the most expensive bits of real estate in all of Paris, and the houses are just incredible. It looked like most had been made into flats, and the shops had prices that were bordering on comic – the cheapest tube of toothpaste, for example (we happened to need one) was more than 6 Euro. Still, it had a beautifully chilled out atmosphere, and we spent our afternoon cruising around the shops and drinking a few glasses of wine in a little street side café. While we were sat around, a huge parade came by from the local church, singing to celebrate the first mass of some local children, which felt extremely French – I can’t imagine anything like that happening even in traditionally religious Ireland.
The Seine islands just call our for romance, and we decided and extremely elaborate picnic – together with beer, local ham and cheese and a whole load of interesting extras, like herbal bread and big jars of olives and gherkins. We just sat by the river and snacked for a couple of hours, and I have to say that for all the great sights, the picnic was by far my favorite part of the weekend. Two days, in truth, is nothing like enough to see Paris. We didn’t see much of the Arc De triumph or Champs Elysee (though we did walk through it on the first day), and there are more little quirky attractions than you could possibly see in a week. Not to mention Disneyland…
Still, it’s not so far to go, we can always hop back and explore the less touristy side another time. Nothing wrong with playing the tourist every so often, especially not when the sights are this good.
Until next time!