Paris revisited

The last time we visited Paris was Spring 2020 – the Coronavirus was gripping the world, lockdown was just around the corner. We experienced a Paris we’ll likely never see again and you can read about that trip here.

Two years on, due to celebrate a BIG birthday, my husband asked if I’d like to return to Paris. As well as loving the city, the book I’m currently writing, due for publication next summer, is partly set in Paris and he thought it would also make a good research trip. Thinking he was joking I laughed. Like many people my anxiety has escalated during these past couple of years. I had barely left the house, hadn’t seen many friends, rarely saw family and I couldn’t imagine even going to the shops without feeling panic. After I’d stopped laughing, I had a little cry, thinking about how small my world was. How I was scared to do anything, particularly after the restrictions ended.

How this year I’ve contended with health challenge after challenge and I’m still here. Still waiting for life to begin again.

And then I said yes.

It was an odd couple of weeks waiting for our trip to roll around. My husband knew me well enough to know that I’d likely change my mind a million times if we talked about it, so we didn’t mention it at all and then, the day arrived, and, masks on, we caught the train.

The train!

I was out in the world and rather than being overcome by fear I was excited. Grateful. My family, like many others, have been through so much since Coronovirus hit, experienced so much loss. As I watched the countryside flash past the window I felt something I haven’t felt for such a long time. Hope for the future.

We stayed at the Hotel Le Walt. Our room had a view of the Eiffel tower and it was a joy to drift off to sleep watching the sparkles and then wake to the sight of this wonderful landmark. The staff were so friendly and helpful, the hotel very clean. We loved the location. There are plenty of places to eat and drink nearby, and a metro stop directly outside the hotel. Each evening we walked back through the Champ De Mars, a large greenspace by the Eiffel tower. There was such a lovely atmosphere here with families picnicking, people drinking wine, waiting for the tower to illuminate.

Our days were busy but our highlights were: –

A photo shoot! This was so out of our comfort zone but, back to the BIG birthday, I really wanted to mark the occasion. Paulo our photographer was wonderful and we were quickly put at ease. The photos are wonderful, we’re still going through them (I think we got around 500!) and it’s a lovely reminder of a perfect trip.

The Musee Rodin was very special. It was quiet. The gardens are small but lovely to wander around and my husband, not a fan before we went, came away with a real appreciation of sculpture. It was lovely to see ‘The Kiss’ and ‘The Thinker’. The museum itself is two story. There is a lift to the second floor. The food in the cafe was fresh and flavoursome. We loved eating in the sunshine.

We also adored the Musee de L’Orangerie. Monet offered 8 enormous water lily paintings to the French government in 1918. In exchange, the government agreed to showcase them in a custom built monument. The water lilies are set in curved panels in two adjoining oval shaped rooms and they are truly breathtaking. Even my husband was lost for words (that never happens). Again, it was quieter here. Afterwards we had an ice cream in the Tuileries Garden. It was a joy to see so many families enjoying the sun.

We took an evening boat cruise on the Seine. We had hoped the city would be beginning to light (it was billed as an illuminations trip) but it wasn’t, but we enjoyed it nevertheless, and the wine.

I’m going to mention the Louvre here, not because it was a highlight, because it was the one thing neither of us enjoyed. We’ve been to Paris several times we’re always asked if we’ve been to the Louvre and seen the Mona Lisa so this time we thought we’d ‘nip’ in. We all like different things so if this is one of your favourite places (as it is my sister’s) then I’m glad you enjoyed it, and if you want to go please don’t let me put you off. This is solely my opinion. But the queues were ridiculous, even with pre booked tickets, it was SO hot inside the glass pyramid. My husband and I were wearing masks but we only saw a couple of other people wearing them and it was very crowded. Rather than the usual tourist, gift shop as you leave experience, there seemed to be a gift shopping centre. What?! It took us almost as long to get out as it did to get in. I’d never go again. In the future it’s my beloved Musee D’ Orsay all the way.

Saint Chappelle is beautiful. It was was intended to house precious Christian relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns, acquired by Saint Louis. The 15 stain glassed windows are 15 metres high and they’re stunning. If you have mobility issues ask the staff and they will take you upstairs via an elevator based in the next building.

The entrance ticket included entry to the conciergerie next door a royal palace that became Marie-Antoinette’s prison. There was virtually nobody here and worth a quick visit.

We returned to the gorgeous Place des Voges as last time we visited Victor Hugo’s house was closed and, being a writer, I’m obsessed with other writers. This author of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and ‘Les Miserables’ has led an interesting life and the cake in the cafe is worth the visit alone. If you’re not interested in the house the Place des Voges is still worth a visit. It’s the oldest planned square in Paris and is so pretty. It’s lined with contemporary art galleries which are fun to browse and, of course, cafes.

Les Invalides was a five minute walk from our hotel. A military museum as well as a hospital and home for war veterans. The Dome des Invalides is the tallest church building in Paris (107 metres) and houses the tomb of Napoleon. We loved the dome, and the photography exhibition. We didn’t have time to look around the museum although we did manage to squeeze in some cake in the cafe (there’s a theme here).

I’m going to finish up with the Alexander III bridge because it is so other wordly. The writer in me romanticises it, imagining horses crossing with carriages containing women in beautiful ball gowns by lamplight. Anyway, if you’re close by it’s worth seeing and photos here will have the tower in the background.

My tips are not to plan too much. There’s something magical around every corner in Paris but if there is stuff you want to see do prebook skip the line tickets.

Comfortable shoes are a must. Even using the metro or cabs you’ll walk further than you think (and don’t worry about what to wear. Anything goes).

Paris is possible with mobility problems but perhaps takes a little more careful planning. I did put a note on my previous blog about this.

Regarding the Coronoavirus, there weren’t many people wearing masks and nobody social distancing. However, we wore masks all the time indoors, and often on busy streets too. When we took cabs the drivers were wearing masks, the windows were also down (we took a couple of ubers too and didn’t find this to be the case but of course it’s up to the individual driver). We ate outside most of the time, used hand sanitiser constantly. We’ve been home 10 days now and thankfully both tested negative.

I’d love to hear of your favourite places in Paris, I’m already planning our next trip.