It’s another warm day today, warm and muggy, the sort of day when even moderate activity makes you feel hot and sticky. We started by going to the post office to buy stamps. I don’t know whether this is general in France but in the local office you have to press a button labelled with the sort of transaction you wish to perform and you then receive a ticket with a number on it. You wait until that number is displayed on a board together with the number of the clerk who is to serve you. This chore done, we caught the bus to Monmartre. We had seen Sacré Cœur from afar on our previous visit and intention to go up there this time.
Unlike some equally famous monuments to religious fantasy, Sacré Cœur is not all that old. The first stone was laid in1897 and the job completed by 1919. As buildings go, it is quite striking but, in my view, nothing special.
Its most spectacular feature is its setting on the heights. A good way to appreciate this elevation is to arrive by bus, as we did, at the lower level and then climb to the top on foot. Once up there, you are rewarded with spectacular views over Paris. By the time we arrived the sky had clouded over so the views were dull and veiled. One should choose a bright, clear day.
All the Parisian monuments are infested with souvenir sellers, some of them quite aggressive. They are not above standing in your way or even grabbing your arm, which I regard as beyond the pale.
Walking down the steps and steep slopes to the town below is a lot easier than climbing up. This seems to be a good place to go for all kinds of cloth, as there is a whole street dedicated to this trade.
After a coffee, we took a bus for the Trocadéro. The bus terminated short, however, and as the sun was shining we sat in the park – Parc Monceau, to be precise – for a while.
We finished off the bread and cheese from last night’s picnic and fed the sparrows, some of whom could be persuaded to take bread from the hand.
There is concern for sparrows in the UK because their numbers have declined drastically in recent years and they have virtually disappeared from towns. In France, they seem more abundant, at least in the parks.
After this interlude, we continued on by bus to the Trocadéro. Here too there are good views, especially of the Eiffel Tour.
I think the Eiffel Tower to some extent suffers from its popularity. Everyone knows it and its image appears in so many forms in so many contexts that it comes to be taken for granted. Until, that is, you see it and are bowled over by its sheer size. You then see it in a different light and realize that how elegant its shape is for so huge a structure.
We did not ascend the Eiffel Tower either this time or on our previous visit. I imagine that the ascent is memorable and the views spectacular and hope to make the trip on one of our trips. Likewise, we put off visiting Le Musée de l’Homme until another time.
Yesterday and today we travelled everywhere by bus, using the three-day travel cards we bought on arrival on Saturday. We decided it was time to try them out in the Metro. They worked perfectly. One of the good things about them is that they do not appear to limit the hours when you can travel, like similar tickets in the UK.
We travelled by Metro to La Place de la République and then took a bus back to the hotel for a cup of tea and a rest. We will go out again later when, all being well, it will have cooled down a little.
We finished the evening with an adventure. Or perhaps it would be fairer to call it an almost-adventure to distinguish it from one of those proper adventures where we stray too far and fail to make it back for the night.
For supper we went to Thaly, an Indian restaurant just down the road that we had had our eye on. The food was quite pleasant though nothing out of the ordinary.
Then Tigger asked whether I wanted to go back to the hotel, go for a walk or go for a bus ride. As our 3-day tickets are still valid, I chose a bus ride.
We thought of taking bus 30 to the Arc de Triomphe but couldn’t find the stop. If that sounds daft, just wait until the day you are at the Gare du Nord trying to find where a particular bus stops…
In the end we took the 39 which was going south to Issy Val de Seine. Look it up on the map and the rest of the story will make more sense. We had a nice ride and disembarked at the Terminus-tout-le-monde-descend-svp and looked around. It was dark and there wasn’t a lot to see so we politely enquired of the bus driver the time of he next departure. He politely informed us there was no departure: his service was now finished for the night. Oops.
We asked how we would get back to the Gare du Nord and he said that was difficult from where we were. Then he kindly offered to take us unofficially in his bus to somewhere where we could pick up a connection. See what I mean about Parisians being kind and helpful?
So he switched off the internal lights and off we went. The plan was to drop us at a stop for the 42 which take us back. Then he asked whether we had ridden the tram yet and whether we would like to. I said you betcha so he dropped us off at the tram terminal at Pont du Gariliano where we could get a tram going to Port d’Ivry. Your map will show that this route is tangential to our desired direction of travel but it does go through Porte d’Orléans where we could transfer to line 4 of the Métro.
And that is what we did. The Métro was stuffy and hot but it took us all the way to the Gare du Nord, our famous 3-day tickets being valid for it.
As I said to Tigger, getting around Paris is a doddle, innit?
So now we are back in our little room on the 3rd floor, about to go to sleep to get up our energy for another day’s exploration tomorrow.