Sightseeing in Paris and a day at Versailles. There are so many world class attractions that one gets completely overwhelmed.
This article is no. 2 in a series of 10. The 25 days long journey was on an InterRail train ticket a long time ago, in August 1991, to Germany, France and Italy. What follows are transcripts from my travel diary at the time. I have changed or added very little.
Sunday 4.8.1991, Paris
How we got there
Yes, yes, yes. Then I’m here in the old capital of the Franks. My girlfriend is really looking forward to seeing Paris again, this is my first time. And it will be exciting.
We arrived in Gare du Nord and went directly into the streets to find a suitable place to stay. We found the following where we stayed for three nights.
- HOTEL BRABANT, Rue des Petits Hôtels. Room with private toilet and shower for 250 French Francs (FF). Alright place with breakfast included. Map
Currencies: 1 FF = 1.2 NOK = 0.17 USD.
Start of sightseeing
We left on foot down broad avenues and boulevards. It was a bit early in the day, and Sunday, so the shops had not opened. After a while we arrived at the Pompidou Centre. Unfortunately they had not opened here either so we missed the opportunity to try the famous escalators in the tubes on the outside of the complex. Exciting nonetheless.
We continued our walk down to the Seine and across to one of the islands there, Ile de la Cité. We ate god and cheap breakfast in a genuine Parisian pavement cafe.
After this we entered the first queue of the day, into Sainte Chapelle. This was according to my guidebook (Let’s Go Europe) of superb architectonic character. Many and grand mural paintings. This area is by the way filled with one monumental building after another.
Notre Dame de Paris, the world’s most famous “Our Lady” church, was large. Despite this it disappointed me. The exterior was not as powerful as other churches I have seen. The interior, with an ongoing service, was not as rich as many other churches. The best was after all the spiral staircase in stone up to the towers. They offered a splendid view of the city. After waiting in another line we were let in to see the bell. It is really big. Including all the weight was 15 tons. But the fool who showed us around was not particularly successful. Unfortunately we did not see the bell man in Notre Dame, he with the hunchback!
Continuation of walk
Our walking continued, this time over to Ile St. Louis with its small, narrow streets.
We took the metro back to the hotel. In the afternoon we took the same means of transport to Jardin du Luxembourg. This is big and lovely park, not a garden, with a palace, trees and a Kurdish folk music concert. We continued on past the Pantheon to a restaurant street. We dropped that one and instead walked further down to the Seine and the Quartier Latin. Here there were lots of restaurants – especially Greek – of which we picked one. There were a lot of people out and lively as the evening went.
One has here in France what is called a “menu”. It is (usually) a three-course dinner from 40 FF and upwards. Absolutely tasty.
Monday 5.8.1991, Paris
We took the metro to Les Halles first. It is not a market like in the glorious past but has been turned into a modern shopping centre of glass and steel. Boring.
Then we went to the Louvre. There a misguidance by a guard at the museum brought us way off. It is a huge castle, of course. The castle/museum is enormously loaded with paintings, sculptures and tourists (not least).
I found three famous paintings: 1) Mona Lisa was tucked into a dark frame with 200.000 people around it; 2) La Liberté (Joan of Arc) who’s stripping on a fortress wall in the middle of a battle; 3) Napoleon B crowning himself.
In addition I recognised the statue of Venus of Milo, also with a slanted smile. The new glass pyramid in the front of the palace was becoming and smart in my opinion.
Then our serious walking started. First through the Jardin des Tuileries to Place de la Concorde with its tall column with hieroglyphs, obviously stolen in Egypt. Up Champs Elysees to l’Arc de Triomphe – the former being less exciting than expected, the latter must truly be the world’s largest, as the advertisement claims.
After this we drank 12 litres of water each before my girlfriend went off to the suburb she used to live in as an au-pair. She did not meet any she knew.
I went for the Eiffel tower. It was incredibly mighty to stand there under this huge metal skeleton. And surely the queues were long, first up to the first platform and then a full hour in queue to the top on the second. But it was exciting. Even though there was a queue going down as well.
I took a bus (#42) back to the hotel and got to see much along the way. (Haute Couture shops, the Opera, Madeleine church, shopping streets etc.)
A couple great viewpoints
In the early evening we went to Montmartre with all its artists and tourists being drawn, and Sacré-Coeur. The latter a white church on top of the hill with fine views of the city.
Downtown we had a look at the place where my girlfriend went to school, near the skyscraper at Montparnasse.
We then dined in a cosy restaurant in my girlfriend’s restaurant street. I had frog legs. They were alright but with a bit too many legs (bones) and little meat, almost like chicken wings.
Tuesday 6.8.1991, Paris – Versailles
Versailles, the palace of the Sun King Louis the 14th, was easily and free reached by train. A long, long line to get in. But the halls and the rooms were worth it. After seeing the interior we walked around in the large park area.
Back in Paris we stressed for hours to find a photo shop, as we were going to buy more film. It was almost impossible to find. Irritating city, I thought.
Well, well. We were going to celebrate today. In the evening we went out to find a romantic restaurant to celebrate in. Unfortunately we didn’t find one, only Greek which we didn’t fancy. The evening was thus quite ordinary.
Our journey on a map
This is the map of our journey through parts of Europe, on this InterRail. It includes all published articles, both travelogues and the World heritage sites we visited. There are also markers indicating links to articles with pictures from a particular country (including pictures from other trips).
We travelled by train, however the lines on the map show what a road trip by car would have been. Unfortunately, it is not possible to draw train lines on Google Maps.
All chapters in this series from 1991:
(1) Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany: Here is my diary from an InterRail train journey through Sweden, Denmark and Germany, to France and Italy.
(2) Paris & Versailles: Sightseeing in Paris and a day at Versailles. (THIS ARTICLE)
(3) Normandie and Bretagne: A famous tapestry and D-Day beaches in Normandy and a strange mountain in the sea in Brittany.
(4) The Loire Valley and its palaces: Grand palaces and parks in the Loire Valley.
(5) Provence and the Cote d’Azur: The papal city of Avignon with an unfinished bridge, picturesque villages in Provence and a first look at the French Riviera.
(6) Monaco: A short stop in Monaco before continuing to Rome.
(7) Roma and the Vatican: In Italy we went to Roma (Rome), several cities in Tuscany and a final day in Venice, before returning to France. Here is first the account of the Eternal City of Rome and a visit to the Vatican.
(8) Toscana: A few hectic days in Tuscany, in the old cities of Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Arezzo and Siena.
(9) Venezia: Venice on a day trip, like many other visitors. But even a day made us realise the magic of this famed city.
(10) French Riviera: Lazy, lovely days on the Cote d’Azur… and the long way home.