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Archive for May 29th, 2016

Yes!! We went to Paris for Lunch! How marvellously indulgent is that. Having a British Passport really opens up the world.

When I first arrived in the UK back in 2001, I was on a South African passport with the accompanying ancestral visa.  Having this was, in my ‘book’, just the ultimate! It meant I could live and work in the UK, it also meant I could apply for visas to visit Europe and the USA…I really thought that was the ultimate.

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But as the years went by, I realised more and more what a real gem the ‘little red book’ is, the places I could go……instead of having to apply months in advance, spending a fortune and having to take off a lot of time (sometimes losing out on work due to visa appointments), the time got nearer to my making the decision to become a British Citizen (although that was a given anyway…I really wanted to be a citizen of the UK from when I first arrived), and apply for my British passport…..and now I have it. 🙂

 

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I have a list of ‘things I want to do’ when I get my passport, and one of them was to just book a ticket on the Eurostar and visit Paris for the day.  Thanks to my ‘wish angel’; aka my daughter, as part of the celebration of becoming a BC and getting that little red book, she, along with two of my sisters arranged a day trip to Paris for lunch!!!

Wowww, amazing!!! What an extraordinary feeling it was to be able to just get on the train and go….no visas, no limits! I didn’t really appreciate the freedom having a British passport would give me.

We set off really early in the morning of the 24th April, the day after my birthday and headed for Ashford where we were due to meet the Eurostar.

Paris for Lunch by Eurostar

5 minutes to go…..Paris for Lunch by Eurostar

To say that I had butterflies of excitement would be an understatement. I hadn’t ventured to Europe, or Paris for nearly 8 years…it just got tooooo expensive for the necessary visas, and after the trauma of getting a visa for our trip to Iceland I had decided I wasn’t planning any further trips until I had my British passport….but finally we were on our way!!!

Paris for Lunch by Eurostar

Paris for Lunch by Eurostar…and a bit of a selfie there 😉

Bubbling with excitement and barely able to keep my feet on the ground, we finally reached Ashford then whoosh, the Eurostar whizzed into the station and without further ado we were on our way!me and train I could scarcely contain myself.  My grin almost reached my ears. It was really awesome to be able to share this trip with my daughter and we chatted and planned and took dozens of photos…and we hadn’t even left the UK yet!!! LOLme and cj

Suddenly, like Alice, we were hurtling at speed through a tunnel and under the sea…or was that Nemo?

I still marvel at the engineering feat of the Eurotunnel. How extraordinary to be able to travel beneath the sea in a train…..okayyyy so it goes through a tunnel, but you know what I mean!

Before we had drawn breath we were in France…..although if you had woken up after a sleep you’d think you were in England….the landscape is exactly the same.  The modern accoutrements of roads and telephone wires, houses and bridges etc are of course somewhat different, plus they drive on the wrong side of the road on the continent, but other than that….the landscape is just the same.  I recall in 2008 seeing the rapeseed fields in England and after popping out the tunnel on the other side, seeing exactly the same fields in France.  It’s weird.

The excitement built the nearer we got to Paris and then we were there, on the outskirts and none too soon we drew to a stop at Gare du Nord.  The last time I had been there was in 2008 and of course prior to that, the most marvellous trip my daughter and I made in 2005 for my 50th.

Heading straight for the Metro we planned our journey through the maze and soon we were in the centre of Paris and a short walk from Notre Dame.

Paris for Lunch by Eurostar

the maze of the Paris Metro system – remarkably easy to use

Wow, that building is just awesome. I love that it stands on its own little island in the middle of the Seine; il de la cité….quite appropriate.

We didn’t go in but set off to find the restaurant that my daughter had in mind for lunch.  It was a place she had visited previously on a day trip, and felt it would fit the bill.  We tramped about, along the West Bank, down lanes and across bridges but the restaurant was nowhere to be found!!! Eventually she got onto google and located the place…right where we had initially been!!! LOL. By then I was beginning to despair and time was flying by.  As usual, channelling my inner tourist, I was really keen to see as much as possible, but as she reminded me, the purpose of the trip was to have ‘Lunch in Paris’…

The restaurant, la fourmi ailée, was an absolute delight. The interior is quirky, and very very French (naturellement)… 20160424_131621 - Paris for lunch 24.04.16

We made our way to a table at the rear of the restaurant and I spent the next few minutes simply gawking and admiring…..the place is a delight. Two of my favourite features were the painted ceiling and the books from floor to ceiling. We selected our meal and placed our order with the delightful waiter…oh that French accent….it’s amazing how the French accent combined with the language can turn a simple phrase like ‘clean up your mess and wash the dishes’ sound like music to your ears…unless you understand what’s being said of course LOL

I do love it. And yes I think I do love Paris in the springtime.  I’m so lucky to have my birthday in spring in the northern hemisphere….in South Africa I was an autumn baby (which explains why autumn is my favourite season), but of the joys of seeing the trees smothered in glorious clouds of pink cherry blossom, the parks alive with hundreds of spring flowers; a rainbow of colours….IMAG3174 - 2016.04.24 Paris for lunch

Although the weather was overcast and a bit wet, after lunch we set off to see ‘as much as possible’.  I really wanted to walk along the West Bank of the Seine to Pont Alexandre III.

paris for lunch

Pont Alexandre III

So after a second visit to Notre Dame we set off, but instead of sticking to the riverbank we did a sort of zig-zag and strolled along cobbled streets that meander here and there, leading to tiny squares, secret parks and hidden churches, enjoying the marvellous French architecture, patisseries, charming little shops and quirky lanes that lead you further and further into the depths of the city.

I adore how in Paris all the cafes have chairs on the sidewalks….they look so chic!IMAG3163 - 2016.04.24 Paris for lunch

It fascinates me that some of the houses and buildings still have the pockmarks from exploding shells and bullets during WW2 occupation.20160424_144156 - Paris for lunch 24.04.16  - CopyThe architecture is wonderful, in many places so old and deteriorating, so bad you wonder how it stays up, but that all lends to the charm. We discovered amazing street art, secret symbols and charming murals.

We managed to flash past some of Paris’s most well-known landmarks and saw a few in the distance.

We killed two birds with one stone….from a roundabout on the Champs-Élysées20160424_160116 - Paris for lunch 24.04.16 we could see the Arc de Triomphe,

paris for lunch

Arc de Triomphe

from Pont des Invalides we managed to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance,

Paris for lunch

the Eiffel Tower in the distance

while at Notre Dame we saw the amazing statue of Charlemagne,

paris for lunch

Charlemagne

were just a stones-throw from Fontaine Saint Michel,

the famous ‘Metropolitain’ signIMAG3173 - 2016.04.24 Paris for lunch and the infamous ‘love-locks’ bridge.

One of the things I find most fascinating about Paris are the plane trees…they are so beautifully sculpted like soldiers in a row.IMAG3189 - 2016.04.24 Paris for lunch

All too soon we had to make our way back to the station.

paris for lunch

…is it really that late already???

On our way back to Gard de Nord we stopped for a quick look at the ‘Wall of Love’; now a landmark in its own right, this love-themed 40 square metres (430 sq ft) wall in the Jehan Rictus garden square in Montmartre, Paris, France. The wall, created in 2000 by calligraphist Fédéric Baron and mural artist Claire Kito, is composed of 612 tiles of enamelled lava, on which the phrase “I love you” is featured 311 times in 250 languages.

the wall of love

The ‘Wall of Love’ in Montmartre

We also bought and devoured one of the most delicious Nutella crepes I have ever had, and viewed the fabulous Sacre Coure in Montmartre….one of my favourite areas of Paris.

paris for lunch

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica and often simply Sacré-Cœur

Along the way we walked past the Grand Palais

paris for lunch

Grand Palais

passed through the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10thand 18th Arrondisement and stumbled across a protest march near Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt20160424_154701 - Paris for lunch 24.04.16

Then suddenly we were back at the station….6 hours in Paris had whizzed by and it was time to board the Eurostar for London….tired but elated!!

We had just been to ‘Paris for Lunch’.

paris for lunch

19 ; 01 à Londres s’il vous plaît

Paris both repels and fascinates me. I find some of the buildings to be quite ‘cold’ although the wrought-iron balconies are charming.

paris for lunch

I find the wrought-iron balconies on the buildings rather charming

The parks are wonderful and of course the famous landmarks are wonderful to see up close….or not so close 😉

Although I seldom visit a place more than once and try to see everything I can on any one visit, I suspect that there is so much more to Paris than meets the eye. I shall look forward to another such visit….it would be sacrilege not to! 😉

paris for lunch

Bonjour and au revoir Paris…..till next time

 

 

 

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