Last night Mr Boes the cat woke us up at 4am but this time Jip got up to let him in.
We then rose at 7am, had our breakfast of bread with cheese and hams and packed our lunches for the big drive ahead. I was first up for the drive and it was really wet. It didn’t take us too long to get to the Belgium border but we knew we had changed countries. Firstly, we had a big dip and bumps followed by really really bad roads that needed some better upkeep and apparently that’s what their roads are like in Belgium!. We stopped at a place called Nazareth in Eastern Flanders to switch drivers and eat some morning tea. Jip was then at the wheel for the next two hour stretch which led us into France and onto our first toll road. We took a ticket from the entrance to the toll road and then at the other end, you feed the ticket into the machine followed by a credit card. We needed fuel so we pulled into the next petrol station only to find that they seemed to not have any fuel as each pump was cordoned off. I asked the attendant what was happening and she told me to drive a further 30km (Paris was only 20km away) to the next station. With that said, we sat back in the car and had something to drink and before we knew it, the ropes were removed and the pumps were active again; such an odd experience. I drove the last 40 minutes into Paris and it wasn’t so bad. Our hotel provides free parking at a car park down the next street so we went to park the car underground. This was all fine but when we went to leave the car park, the roller door had shut and the lights went off - it was like a dungeon. Thankfully, we found an escape staircase and got out. We later found out that at the roller door there has a button to press to leave.
After our little ordeal, we went to the local train station Tolbiac and we purchased a ‘visitor day pass’ for €12. We went several stops before getting off at the closest station to the Notre Dame. We had both seen it before but never entered. We first walked around it and found some beautiful gardens along one side that had sunflowers and little pansies, almost like a community garden scene. We then joined the long line of people to enter and in about 5-10 minutes we had stepped foot inside. It was beautiful. Every window had stained glass and gave the Gothic look of the Notre Dame a more serene feeling.
The Notre Dame was initially built in mid to late 12th century and set the standard for a new architecture called Gothic and is thought to replicate the Roman basilicas. It was only in the 14th century that the Notre Dame started to take shape into what we see today and continues to be renovated to keep up with modern standards such as a larger organ and 8 new bells.
It was a short walk along the Siene River to get to the Louvre and it was well worth it. We entered the grounds at 4.45pm and there wasn’t any queue. No one at the security entrance nor at the ticketing area. We were fortunate enough to walk straight into the museum floor and towards the “best known, most visited, most written about… art in the world” La Gioconda - also known as, Mona Lisa. The entire section that Mona Lisa is in is devoted to Italian, French and Spanish painters from the 15th century to the late 17th century and it was mind boggling. The sheer size of the Louvre and the exhibitions were overwhelming. I don’t believe any photos that I managed to get can do it justice. Some of the artworks by Raphael, da Vinci and Delacroix were so intricate yet on such a large scale that I can’t believe that someone painter them!. One particular hall known as the Grande Galerie houses 240+ artworks all lined up next to each other and doesn’t give you time to appreciate each one entirely but at the same time they belong together in such an expansive space.
We left at the closing time of 6pm and Jip contacted his friend who lives in Paris and he agreed to meet up for some dinner. We took the metro system to the République area of town that has many restaurants and bars and Adrian took us for a pre dinner drink at a corner alfresco area. I ordered a rum and coke and I think they forgot the coke, it was so strong! Afterwards, we went to a place called Melt. They slow cook beef, pork and chicken for 14 hours and we had it with many sides. We chose fries, broccoli and zucchini fritters all washed down with wine and IPA. After dinner, we were all feeling like something sweet and after Adrian spoke with some locals, we were led to a real French Creperie. It was completely authentic right down to serving traditional apple cider in porcelain teacups and having liquor poured over the crepe and then flambéed.
We said our goodbyes to Adrian and went to Oberkampf station and caught the metro down to Place d'Italies where we walked the quiet cobblestone streets to the hotel. In bed at 1am.