On Wednesday last week Edgar and I managed to successfully board the 12.24pm Eurostar London to Paris train. Travelling at speeds of 300km/hr, this 495 km journey begins at St Pancras Station in London; goes under the English Channel and resurfaces in France, ending at Gare du Nord in Paris. It is an engineering marvel that began construction in 1988 and finally opened to the public on May 6, 1994.
We spent over three days in Paris taking in the sights (I spent over three days eating croissants still warm from the oven of a nearby patisserie… but I digress). Thanks to travel agent Kirsten’s careful planning we were able to visit the Louvre and the Moulin Rouge.
Our first morning in Paris we got up early to visit the iconic Eiffel Tower (built in 1889 and measuring 324m high); having been warned to expect lengthy delays for up to four hours as there was only one lift in operation. We arrived just after 8am and already there was a reasonable queue even though the tower didn’t open until 9am.
In my best French I turned to the young couple in front of us and said, “Bonjour, parlez-vous anglais?” (Good morning, do you speak English?). Luckily for me and my almost non-existent French, the young couple were Nicole and Chris from Sydney. After a quick chat it was decided that Chris and I would go off in search of breakfast food while Nicole and Edgar waited in the queue. We returned before long with a couple of very fresh baguettes, some ham, cheese and a big bunch of grapes which sustained us all nicely until we made it up the lift and to the second level of the Eiffel Tower.
Edgar and I had to remain on the second level, as there were quite a few steps up to the next lift that went all the way to the top; at 115m the view from where we were was still most impressive.
In the evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner and an absolutely spectacular show at the Moulin Rouge. Established in 1889 the Moulin Rouge is a Cabaret or Music Hall. The artist Toulouse-Lautrec secured rapid and international fame for the Moulin Rouge with his posters and paintings. More recently the 2001 film Moulin Rouge! by Baz Luhrmann, starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman renewed the general public’s interest.
A visual feast of colour, choreography and dancing girls as well as a number of other entertaining acts, including the world’s fastest juggler, Mario Berousek. The show was non-stop entertainment for several hours and definitely a highlight of our trip.
The next day Edgar and I spent the afternoon at the Louvre with our very helpful multilingual French/Algerian guide Nabila. The Louvre is the most enormous complex and the quality and sheer volume of artwork it contains is almost incomprehensible. Originally built as a 12th century fortress, it was converted into a royal palace in the 14th century. The French King Francis I established the first art collection at the Louvre in the 16th century. One of the works of art he purchased was the now famous Mona Lisa painting.
As you can imagine there were thousands of people there, all wanting a glimpse of the Mona Lisa; Leonardo da Vinci’s famous portrait painted in the early 1500s. This was one of the times where Edgar’s wheelchair came in handy as we were given priority viewing in a cordoned off area right in front of the Mona Lisa.
Our last day in Paris was the 14th July, Bastille Day. The French national holiday celebrates the 1789 anniversary of the storming of the Parisian prison the Bastille during the French Revolution. At 11.30pm we flew out of Paris as the celebratory fireworks began across the aptly named “city of light”.
We arrived back to Barham around 11am Monday morning and I stepped out of the car at Willow Bend and into the arms of Max, Sam and Henry. It has certainly been the most incredible trip and an amazing four weeks but at the end of the day, in all the world, there really is no place like home.