One advantage Europe most certainly has for me over the US is its shorter flight time….though one is always grateful to finally get off the danged plane.
And relieved when you see your luggage has likewise made it safely off 🙂 we were especially glad to be reunited with our toothbrushes. On every other longhaul overnight they give you a little toothbrush together with your eye mask & ear phones….so I hadnt bothered packing ours in the carry on. Of course, Air Frances onboard packet did not include a toothbrush….pretty yuck after 10 to 12 hours of travel a couple of “meals” & a glass of wine.
I normally avoid alcohol on flights which are dehydrating and leave you feeling gaggie enough but I had to test my few phrases, so, when the cart came round “du va rouge sie vu pleis” (s,cuse spelling..it teaches you to speak…not spell lol) and Voila….I got my red wine…, ok, good start
Through customs (far friendlier than the Brits & far more relaxed than the US) and a long trek through CDG we board the train to Garde (Station) Nord & from there switch to the one to Rouge where we get off & find our way through the market as per our hosts clear instructions. Its a small but busy market, about one or two blocks at most. Tables piled with spices while baskets of root veggies and fried nuts line the sidewalk, mostly though there are loads of fish, trotters and a mind boggling amount of plucked chicken corpses pushed up against one another & the glass of the large refridgerated display case which is also pushed out onto the pavements leaving us to bump bump along the cobbled road while trying to avoid the universal dodgy buggers trying to sell you sunglasses / cds/ cell phones etc with one hand while no doubt deciding if the can pick pocket you with the other. But we’re South Africans & thus skilled at the ‘walk briskly, eyes simultaneously straight ahead while peripherally keeping an eye on these ‘entrepreuners’
We’re supposed to get the key from a restaurant across the way, Navel (which, after trotters, dead chickens & scaly fish in abundance I am heartened to see looks like a Hindu place…thank god, any god, there will certainly be vegetarian fare there!)
It only opens at 11:30 so we still have some twenty minutes to kill…we bump along and find an open pub /cafe at the end of the road. The few regulars scattered around barely glance at us as we drag our sorry arses + luggage in from the chilly air.
I am simultaneously elated & frustrated….the barman clearly understands from my baby French that we want something to eat…elation…! Elation again, whatever I just said sounded accurate enough that he replies, also in French…frustration…damn what did he just say?
Next time I travel I will most definitely start learning the language earlier so I can cram more in my brain. I must thank Adele for introducing me to ear worms (downloadable, phonetic language lessons)
Luckily where interpretation lets me down body language & gestures dont. He’s pointing to the clock, ah, they only serve food from noon. Fine two cappucinos then. Delicious. Revived and now past 11:30 we go to fetch our key.
Its an old building smack bang in the middle if the market. Through the front door, across the lobby, through another door leading out to a courtyard, across the little courtyard another door and now we’re in our block. Old, with crumbling red brick walls, peeling paint & a musty smell its a far cry from the super smart Vegas hotels or ultra modern NY apartments we stayed in before, it reminds me of Italy & the ancient building where we stayed in the backpackers there. I love it!
Winding wooden stairs lead up to the 5th floor. No lift. 1 large suitcase, a backpack with my laptop and my carry on (with my textbooks, why are text books always so bally heavy?) ….mmm less love. I clunk up the stairs comforting myself with the thought that this is a great work out….and so what if my right arm ends up a bit longer than the left.
Inside its clean, open & while small much larger than in NY. I am constantly amazed in large cities where space is at a premium how clever they are. What I thought was a broom or coat closet behind the front door turns out to be a lovely modern little ensuite shower & basin. There is a moments consternation until we work out that ‘wall’ with the coat hooks facing you as you open the front door is in fact the door behind which the loo hides.
Teeth clean & the three ‘S’s taken care of we set out to go grab a bite from Navel across the road. Small but sweet and covered top to toe in Hindu symbology its very welcoming. Like St Francis is my favourite saint, I identify with Ganesh the elephant god of the Hindus & am happy to find him looking down at me in a strange city.
Clearly we are staying on the fringes of the less posh area. Its a wonderful mix of cultures. Around the corner from the very Hindu shop is a mosque, and the market & streets are filled with North & West Africans, Chinese, Indians….stores selling beautiful Ghanian robes sit side by with shops from which waft the scent of incense. Loads of Chinese faces and the odd Irish pub. All speaking French though so I assume born here or at the very least not new to the city.
Lunch is delicious beyond words…enough so to rival Bukarrah! And it is preceded by an appetiser of champers as we sit down, I decide I like Paris already if they’re going to bring me champagne at every meal. Our host seems lovely, he interacts so beautifully with the toddler of the only other couple (French) in the restaurant when we first sit down. He asks where we are from, ‘South Africa’….a nod ‘Cape Town’ a smile, he says something which sounds like ” I am Andain….” Pierre & I stare back blankly…I search my mind through the few words I’ve learnt…nothing. Seeing our confusion he mimes…batting a ball…..cricket…AH India! Much smiles, hand shaking…
We set off for the highest point of Montmatre and towards the Sacre` Coeur – a stunning Catholic Basilica perched on a hill, at the highest point of the suburb of Montmatre.
Inside the beauty is overwhelming…well worth the nearly 100 steps to get there. Huge is an understatement! To say it is beautiful does it no credit. Huge stained glass windows everywhere, beautiful wooden, marble, stone and various metals have been carved into intricate designs, Saints & scenes from the bible. In the most centre part reserved only for praying 4 huge beautific angels look down, one from each corner, on the faithful below. I can barely take my eyes off them do large, lovely and ‘real’ do they look.
Sacred heart lights flicker here and there but cant compete with the table of candles set out for people to light for a prayer, or for departed loved ones.
We buy a large candle, light it, Oums, Mandy, Tara, Patsys mom.. all lit our lives in some way, I say a silent prayer that they are now at rest in the eternal light.
Both of us more moved than expected we sit for a long while in quiet meditation. Similar somewhat to the Duomo in Italy I say later to Pierre that the artists who worked on these Basilicas must have put so much love, care & passion into these works, driven by their belief in its importance and / or their passion and belief in Christ that it must have imbued the very stones they carved, every pigment of paint the brushed….perhaps this is what we feel when we enter these places.
Leaving the church the entire area around there has a lovely almost festive feel. Its incredibly busy..so many people both local & tourists. They sit on the stairs in the front of the Sacr’e Coure, the square in front of it & the lawns set at various levels going down..drinking wine, playing music, children running around, scores of teens laughing together..a lovely vibe.
A bit of necessary shopping gives us a chance to explore but by the time we get back to the apartment around 4/5 we are totally cream crackered (knackered) and a snooze is in order….fortunately someone tried to call Pierre around 8pm or I doubt we would have woken in time for dinner.
Either I am becoming used to these underground systems or Paris‘s is particularly easy. Off then to Champs Elysee which is indeed impressive, particularly lit as it is now in the dusk…it only starts getting dark after 8pm, and despite the chill during the day the sky was blue & clear.
Dinner gave me another opportunity to practice my French….and as always I am delighted. Of course I think as my Italian salad, which from what I could make out seemed safe turns out to have cold meat on the side….learning to read a menu in French would have been useful too! However once Pierre relieves me of the meat the salad is just what the doctor ordered 🙂
We also ordered French soup….well, all I can say is….up to now what ever French soup I have ordered has been a poor imposter of the real deal!!! Wow it tasted good.
Got home around midnight (weekdays the trains run till around 1 am, weekends till 2 and they’re packed!) to find a fat party going on in one of the apartments nearby….but that did very little to keep us awake….
And now, a new day has dawned, chilly, bright & blue skyed. If it is not too busy a run up the stairs, back down and along the lower circumference of the Sacre` Coure is in order but I fear we may need to get up a bit earlier to beat the crowds so….if not perhaps a croisant first and then a google to find a running path or good long hike & then…..well…I will tell you tomorrow