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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Paris, 2011

Travel Dates 18th-21st May 2011.
Click on any picture to see a larger version.

I am now at the Club Quarters Hotel near Trafalgar Square in London and finally have access to a reliable free high speed wi-fi service. I will take the opportunity to post a few entries on some of the places I have visited on this trip. I will start with Paris, although that is slightly out of sequence.

I loved the Eurostar way of travel. I alighted at the Gare du Nord two and a half hours after leaving London's St Pancras fresh, relaxed and without the stresses of an airport arrival.

I bought a three day ticket for the metro/RER. Possibly it may have been cheaper to buy individual tickets for my travel, but it made it so easy to just get on a metro or bus whenever I wished to. However, I was a bit annoyed to find on my departure morning at 6am that the ticket expired at 5:30 regardless of the time of purchase. Later, I found that varied from city to city. Some, like Zagreb, sell daily tickets valid for a full 24 hours; others, like Paris and Sarajevo (midnight) expire at a set time.

The second picture is taken through the front window of the car at the front of the train on that metro line. Notice something - or somebody - missing? If you are interested here is more on the driverless Line 14 of the Paris Metro.

I used the metro to travel to the Pullman Paris Bercy. I found that web-site with directions instructions since then; at the time I wasn't sure of which station to use. I got out at Cour Saint-Émilion and wandered in progressively widening circles, with luggage, until I eventually discovered the hotel was east, not west, of that station. The Pullman is a fairly good 4* standard and usually charges much more than the price I bid on Priceline.co.uk for my three days. When I won the bid I was a little worried when I found that it is on the outskirts near La Peripherique. I need not have worried; it was only two stops to Gare de Lyon from Cour Saint-Émilion and not many more to the centre of Paris.

The Bercy district of the Seine appears to be an area used in the past for wharves and warehouses for goods delivered by boat, and still is to a lesser degree. The Bercy “village” of cafés
and restaurants reminded me of several other places where old docks have been converted for those purposes such as Sydney and New York.

I found the Parisians friendlier and more accommodating to my broken Franglish this time around. Maybe my French is improving (I doubt it ) or they are becoming more tolerant of tourists (just as doubtful) or maybe I just smile more and look more confused now that I'm a sexagenarian.

I managed the 284 steps to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, but each time I do something like that these days I am reminded that my brain may think I am still 25 but my body disagrees, and disagrees more strongly with each passing year. But I got there and the view was worth it.

This market was a couple of blocks from the Arc de Triomphe.

I checked out the Gare de Lyon long-distance section the day before I needed to use it to depart on the TGV Lyria to Lausanne. I was glad I did. The place is enormous. The SNCF/TGV trains depart from two major (blue and yellow) terminals upstairs from the also enormous metro/RER sections. I found I would be departing from the Yellow (Jaune) terminal which is a bit chaotic as it is under major reconstruction.

When I left the next day, I found that the platform number is only announced twenty minutes before departure. As there are about 20 platforms in each blue and yellow section it is important to keep watching the screens. There are no warnings of departure, no “all aboard” in French, the train just glides slowly and smoothly away from the platform. Don't be late.

I used the metro a lot over the next couple of days to wander Paris, re-visiting places I had been such as Boulevarde St Germaine and wandering through districts such as Opera, Bastille, the Latin Quarter and others.

I did the same things I love to do in all the places I visit in Europe. After ticking off the “must see” tourist traps such as the Arc de Triomphe that I had missed on previous trips I spent a lot of time sitting in kerbside cafés slowly sipping café au lait or vin rouge and watching the Parisians pass by. Yeah, I know, boring, but I love it.

I'm glad I wasn't driving this time and looking for a parking place. The police tow-truck was a common sight.

I took the first photo because of the patterns of light and shade as I stepped on to this bridge, then stayed a while to listen to the musicians.

As I left the bridge I noticed hundreds of padlocks on the balustrades. I found an article on them here: Love Locked on a Paris Bridge

Incidentally, while I was walking past the Hotel de Ville this little bit of excitement occurred. The police stopped us at a barrier; after a while we saw this bomb-disposal robot appear in the distance by the Seine wall. At the same time lots of additional gendarmes and army types turned up in a variety of vehicles following their sirens. But nothing blew up, so everyone eventually wandered off to the nearest café to chat about it.

This "Australian" café menu included two things to watch for in Europe. The "Drink wherever you want" statement is related to the common practice in Italy and some parts of France of charging different prices depending on whether you drink at the bar or at a table or outside at the street tables. The "minimum €15" is also a trap for the unwary; a similar note to watch for is the "cover" charge added to many bills all over Europe. It is wise to look for the words for "minimum" and "cover" on the menu in fine print in the local language or you will get some unpleasant surprises when you read your bill.

Cheers, Alan


  1. Hello,

    As always, very interesting article.

    Just a detail about "minimum €15": you missed two letters : "C.B.", an acronym for "carte bleue": credit card. So you can of course pay less than 15€, but only with cash.

  2. Thanks for the comment and for the correction Nico, much appreciated.

    Cheers, Alan