Tuesday, 26 June 2012

France, Day 7: Petit Palais, Paris Illuminations

4 May

Reading through my journal for today is fantastic. As I read, I am reliving every delight I felt at the time, and so I have decided to once again simply quote from that journal. 

Today being our last full day in Paris before heading south to do our canal boat trip, after breakfast we strolled along rue de l’Opera to have another glimpse of the fabulous Garnier Opera House, and then around past the Madeleine – lovely, classical building.

The Madeleine

 Looked again at Maxim’s with that “should we or shouldn’t we”, but decided that it’s probably not us. Perhaps her little sister, Minim’s, which is right next door, is more to our style.

A long lovely stroll through around The Tuileries and then down to the river left us perfectly positioned to take a right and walk along to the Petit Palais and Grande Palais, magnificent buildings constructed – as so much of Paris was – for an exhibition, the 1900 Paris Exhibition.

Some else strolling with us.

The Grande Palais is now used for specific events, such as touring exhibitions, while the Petit Palais is a permanent gallery open to the public. This is not the Louvre, but it is absolutely sensational, with ceilings that take your breath away and a truly spectacular art collection.

Petit Palais

Stunning entrance.

Okay, I’ll ‘fess up: I prefer it to the Louvre. Its creamy walls and colourful ceilings, without all that opulence, make it the loveliest place to visit.

One painting in the Petit Palais which really caught my attention and claimed me for quite some time is a rather large work of “The Good Samaritan”. It is truly beautiful, and I think will prove to be unforgettable. It’s such a different depiction to the sanitised pictures we have in our Sunday School lessons, but I imagine so much closer to reality.

It’s easy to pass hours in this delightful place, and then to enjoy a long, leisurely (what else!) lunch in the café and restful gardens. Even though there were a few people around, this is obviously not somewhere that most tourists to Paris all rush off to see and so it’s an excellent respite from the crowds of the Louvre, the d’Orsay and such places.

My busted ankle was really giving me trouble today, and so after leaving the Petit Palais we caught a Batobus for a nice long circuit of the river – a great way to rest the ankle while still gazing on Paris.

Verandah of the Grande Palais
Grande Palais
(not nearly as pretty as the Petit Palais, is it)

In the evening we dined at our favourite Café de Carrousel. No, it’s not the food; it’s definitely the location. Sitting at an outdoor table across the road from the Louvre and with Joan of Arc triumphantly sitting astride her horse is pretty hard to beat.

After dinner we joined a Cityrama Paris Illuminations coach tour.

The Conciergerie

The city is truly spectacular at night, as we knew, but it was great to see it from the different perspective of seats high up in a tourist coach – well recommended, actually. The Eiffel, need I say, is incredible. Although it’s lit up beautifully anyway, it has an amazing flashing light display which goes for 10 minutes every hour, and the coach tour was perfectly timed to coincide with that. Notre Dame is also pretty impressive at night – I think the darkness suits such buildings.

Notre Dame

So too is the incredibly ornate and imposing Hotel de Ville (town hall), which looks big enough to house the whole European Parliament.

Hotel de Ville
(Paris Town Hall)

The Montmartre/Pigalle area at night definitely looks a bit seedy, and I think everybody on the coach was surprised at how small the Moulin Rouge looked. That famous red windmill is in reality only half the size it looks in movies.

I really enjoyed our coach tour and think it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours, even if you have seen most places on foot during the daylight hours.

Sleepy people now. I phoned Crown Blue today just to confirm all is well for our canal trip, and so tomorrow we’ll leave Paris for Decize and the next exciting phase of this holiday.

See you then.

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