Last fandango in Paris

How do you spend your last day of a holiday full of the culture, history, cuisine and sophistication of France?

At Euro Disney, of course!

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It was bitterly cold, and misty rain on and off, but we managed to have a blast anyway. Peter avoided most of the rides because of his back, but he is undisputed king of Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. Nicola was nervous to go on Big Thunder Mountain, but as soon as it was finished, she was nagging to go again!

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Nicola decided against the Indiana Jones ride, but I took a deep breath and ventured on, and was rewarded with my first ever loop-the loop!

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Overall assessment: not as good as Anaheim, but fun. Enough indoor rides to get away from the weather if it’s a bad day. Food and souvenirs terrifyingly expensive. Not as many photo opportunities with the characters. But you gotta do it for the kids, right?

Best rides: Indiana Jones, Big Thuner Mountain, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, and the classic Teacups.

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Paris treats

Celebrating a special Paris birthday for my special 14 (yikes!) year old daughter was fabulous. After birthday phone calls, gifts and breakfast, first up was the never-ending quest for good coffee, this time (successfully) at Dose, 73 Rue Mouffetard.

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Then one of those discoveries you make on the way to somewhere else, in this case St. Étienne-du-Mont, which I had never heard of but is a stunning church, with a gorgeously decorated chapel to Saint Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris.

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Next it was on to the Pantheon, interesting and impressing, but I found it a bit severe after the church.

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So amazing to see all those famous names in one place: Hugo, Dumas (born in the same year, I’d never realised), Curie, Voltaire, Rousseau, Braille, and so many others, but almost all their tombs were identical, with no expression of their unique personalities or gifts.

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So many stories, so many amazing lives…

I had to run some errands ( secret Mum’s business), so Peter and Nicola went shopping, and after we met back at the apartment, we all went out for a flash meal at the wonderful Cafe de l’Alma, at 5 avenue Rapp. Not cheap, but a fittingly magnificent end to a wonderful day.

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French food

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I’ve realised I haven’t posted much about the food we’ve been eating here in France, so here goes…

I have to say that the first few days were a bit hit and miss in Paris. Peter had a dodgy dessert that gave him gastro, Nicola had a couple of meals that had way too much cheese and rich sauce for her, and never having eaten a croque monsieur before, I finally had one and was not very impressed.

Add to that the fact that you spend Euros like AUD, and the menu prices don’t include tax, and you start to resent the fact that you’re paying very high prices for sometimes very ordinary food.

OK, gripe over. We have actually had some cracker meals too, and I’ll try to include restaurant names and addresses for future reference, just in case…

First great meal is pictured above, sorry I can’t remember the name of the place (near the Eiffel Tower), but the chicken was cooked perfectly, so juicy, and the gravy was fabulous. Didn’t get to try Peter’s prawn risotto, but he polished it off before I had finished my meal, so that’s a good recommendation.

Next awesome meal I don’t have a photo of, but was at a place called Cafe l’Atome, 29 Boulevard de Grenelle, also near the Tour Eiffel. I had chicken and lemon risotto, full of cream and dressed with pesto, so rich and yummy, but topped with a mound of rocket that cut the richness just enough to gobble the lot down! I’ll definitely try this one when I get home.

Skip down to Aix-en-Provence, and we have Hue Cocotte, 9 place Ramus, where the meals were mini-casseroles, served in little pots. Mine was veal, Nicola’s lamb and Peter’s baby octopus, all top notch and very reasonably priced.

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But best of all so far has to be la Cerise sur le Gateau, coincidentally right next door at 7 place Ramus. Also coincidentally, we had beef, lamb and calamari, all cooked in completely different ways to next door, and all fantastic meals.

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This tiny restaurant is a one-man show, with your host, waiter, chef, sommelier and dishwasher looking after you delightfully, in full view as he prepares your meal at the back of the minuscule space.

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The restaurant only seats a maximum of 14, so make sure you book, and bring your cash; no cards. Not that you will need much: we had mains and dessert for 3, plus 2 glasses of wine for €72.

And the food! Absolutely divine, with my fussy daughter wanting to take the chef home with her, and all 3 of us waxing lyrical over the meal. Highly recommended if you ever find yourself in Aix.

Death & decay; war & treachery

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Yesterday and today’s highlights were both the choice of my daughter, both possibly not what you’d expect to be on a 13 year old girl’s list of French holiday priorities.

First up was the Catacombes de Paris, a maze of 780m of corridors running 25 metres or more underground in the 14th Arr. in the southern part of the city, set up as an ossuary to house the bones of millions of Parisians, relocated from the overcrowded cemeteries around Paris in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

You might think it would be sad, or creepy, or disturbing, or even gruesome, to visit such a place, but I found it fascinating, knowing next to nothing about the Catacombs lace until we descended down the 130 steps after an hour and a half wait in the queue to the entrance.

The skulls and femurs were placed in decorative patterns forming walls, behind which the other bones were piled. Pithy sayings about human mortality, Bible verses and tombstones and other grave decorations were also added for effect. The overall effect, for me, was one of a shared humanity with millions of people from times long ago, and a sense of my own historical insignificance, and at the same time an appreciation of the significance and respect owed to each individual on the planet.

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Today’s expedition was to see the Bayeux tapestry, a 70 metre long embroidered pictorial account of the lead-up to, and the events of, the Battle of Hastings. It was incredible that a 1000 year old piece of fabric had lasted so well, but I was also impressed with the embroidery techniques used and the artistry expressed in the scenes depicted on the tapestry. Harold’s treachery against William and its aftermath are depicted realistically and beautifully, to such a degree that you hardly notice the limited colour pallet and the green horses until they are pointed out to you.

Day 1 in Paris

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Well, we arrived safely yesterday and settled in to our temporary home in Paris, a fantastic apartment near the Eiffel Tower.

Unfortunately Peter was feeling pretty ordinary, having eaten something that disagreed with him last night, so I scratched together a meal for Nicola and me, and then we all collapsed into bed.

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A good night’s sleep did us all good, but we were a bit slow to get going, as Peter was madly trying to deal with some work challenges, but eventually we headed off for a coffee and then to the Musee d’Orsay, where Nicola was keen to see the works by Van Gogh, Monet and the other impressionists. I also particularly enjoyed the neo-impressionists (Seurat etc.) and the Art Nouveau school.

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We walked all the way home, via the Hotel des Invalides (top photo), and the supermarket for some essentials. Peter had been invited to see the Wallabies play France (rugby), so he went off with the blokes and Nicola and I stayed in for the evening.