Saturday, 19 May 2012

The penultimate city - Paris

After meeting so many adventurous Belgians on out trip, like Mio in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and Tommy in Afghanistan, we were tempted to make our penultimate city Brussels on the way home. Despite Mio pointing out that the station the Eurostar left from, London-bound, was also called the Gare du Nord, Brussels just didn't have the same romance as Paris. There was just one problem Vienna had blown the budget so we needed somewhere to stay. Searching our facebook contacts for inspiration James remember that his old French exchange friend from when he was 14 was now living in Paris. Having not seen him for 15 years, but through the wonders of facebook, we sat in a cafe near the Gare du Nord waiting to meet him. All I knew was that he was now a actor.

Looking out the cafe window, across the greyness of Paris in December, I saw a tall, effortlessly stylish man. 'He looks like he could be an actor,' I pointed out to James. 'That's Bertrand!' James replied.

Bertrand was a fantastic host. We stayed on his sofa bed in his bijou Parisian apartment, just a short walk from the Gare du Nord, which was not only conveniently located but a cosy place for weary travellers to put their feet up. Cobbled streets, flower shops and a covered food market with rows of pheasant and geese to tempt the Christmas shoppers were all on the doorstep.

We took in the sights, mainly on foot and where entrance fees were not required. On a cold blustery December day we walked down the Rue Royal over the Place de la Concorde towards the Seine but before crossing the river turned left to take in the Tuileres Gardens and fountains. The glass prism in the Louvre courtyard came into view as we continued, it barred our way, forcing a route across the Seine via the Carrousel bridge and to the South Bank. We got lost in the windy streets of St Germain and Sorbonne and had a pizza slice for lunch before doubling back through the Jardin du Luxembourg and locating a metro station which would take us back to Bertrand's apartment.

One evening we ate in Bertrand's local West African restaurant eating fried fish and bananas, all washed down with an excellent Bordeaux.

The following day, to make the last leg of our journey, we walked to the Gare du Nord in time to catch the 16:13 to London.

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