Friday, September 28, 2007

Paris Part 3

I woke up on Tuesday, my actual birthday surrounded by the remnants of the night before's champagne, chocolate and smoked salmon. We checked out of the hotel, took advantage of their bag holding facility and went off around Paris to make the most of our last day.

We started off by going to the church of St Madelaine. This was in the centre of the Place de la Madelaine, on a central island, and for all intents or purposes looks like a Graeco - Roman Temple. Whilst very beautiful, wondering around it was a bit disconcerting. The statues were definately of Christian saints, as were the frescoes, but all the pillars and colonades were marble and granite and corinthian. It all felt terribly and wonderfully pagan!

The Place de la Madelaine was full of posh shops, foodie and otherwise. Fouchon is based there, know as the millionaire's supermarket but we are poor students so we bought crossiants and Orangina from a cafe and ate them watching the traffic on the steps of St Madelaine. The rest of the morning was spent meandering along streets. We picked out some church steeples in the distance and decided to walk towards them.

This took us accidently on a route of famous French sites. We came to the Place du Concorde again and following our steeples ended up outside the Assemble Nationale, which is again in imposing classical building festooned with tricoleur flags. Pausing to rest our feet in a courtyard behind the building we laughed and joked that a besuited man parking his bike on the railings of a statue of Liberty/Marianne was a depute. And then he trotted off, flashed a pass at the policeman at the gate and walked into the building! There were many bikes around this monument which makes me think that the French deputes are as green as the EU reputation may have us believe!

We did manage to reach the steeples we'd seen in the distance and they belonged to the church of St Clothilde. I'm not sure whether this was an orginal gothic church or a faux gothic one from the 1800s but it was full of tapestries and wall paintings, finely carve wood and rich colours. A lot of the church was being renovated as the frescoes appeared to be crumbling off. But the charming thing about this church was a small orchestra of strings and percussion that were rehearsing with a small organ for a recital. Slipping away from Tom I went and sat and listened for as long as I could, relishing in the music and the glowing colours.

Steeple chasing again, we followed a gold dome in the distance when we'd tired of modern church music. this turned out to be the building on the map that had intrigued Tom anyway, the Hotel des Invalides, the major historic barracks for the French Army I believe. It housed a museum about the army, an art gallery, and attached to it was the Soldiers's Church and the church where Napoleon is buried. Now you had to go and pay to see his Tomb so we ignored him and wondered around the soldiers's church trying to guess which country belonged to each of the flags hung as campaign trophies around the rafters.

Then came a RER ride to the Ile de France because, well, we were hungry and there was a decided dearth of restaurants around the Hotel des Invalides. The Ile de France was tourist heaven. Lots of cheap restaurants, touristy souvenir shops and little windy streets. Stopping in an auberge, we celebrated my birthday over moules marinere follwed by confit du canard with saute potatoes for me, and a plate of assorted cod meats, grilled salmon and rice, and chocolate mousse for Tom. I can see why Robyn is enamoured by it so. It was tender and delicious and fell of the bone.

the end when I can promise!

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