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Queensland, Australia
I'm an Australian author of Contemporary Romance, Romantic Action/Adventure, and Historical fiction. I live in Queensland, Australia. www.noelleclark.net

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Week in Paris ... Day 4 - the evening

Filled with pleasure at seeing the treasures of the beautiful rose windows and from hearing the haunting organ trumpeting forth and echoing through the vaulted ceilings within Notre Dame cathedral, Matt and I venture back outside into the bright, late afternoon sunshine.

The next item on our agenda for this wonderful and epic day is to board a bateau (boat) at Pont Neuf (one of the most beautiful bridges in Paris), for a relaxing cruise up and down the Seine River, right through the heart of the city. The sun still holds a pack of heat – it is hard to get used to the days being so long compared to ours at home – and we are wishing for a cold drink, a bit of shade, and somewhere to sit and rest. Matt spies some others on the boat drinking beers and bottles of wine. Within minutes, he miraculously returns to me with two flutes and a bottle of chilled champagne (French, of course). Ahhhh. Trés bon!

The bateau fills up, making our deck seem like a party boat, full of talking, laughing people all with different accents, enjoying this wonderful Sunday afternoon alongside the mother and son from Brisbane. We eventually pull away from the jetty underneath Pont Neuf and head upstream. The commentary, whilst informative, is a little distracting as it is broadcast loudly in four languages…by the time the English version comes on, we are not listening and miss it. The champagne goes down extremely well, and in combination with the hot sun, the stinging of our sunburnt arms and face, we begin to feel as though we are in a semi-dreamlike state, so relaxed that there is a danger we might fall asleep and miss some of the wonderful sights.

The cruise is soporific, calming, relaxing. We let it take us upstream whilst we enjoy the views. We pass the stunning ex-railway station which is now the Musee d’Orsay, then the Assemblee Nationale. We round a bend and there, very close to the river, is the Eiffel Tower. It is only about 10 hours since we were standing underneath her this morning, but we are feeling so intimate with Paris now, after our walking tour, that it is like visiting an old friend. The river cruise is a wonderful way to get another perspective on the tower, and also a great way to get different photo angles.

The boat does a u-turn just past the Eiffel Tower, giving us a great view of the Trocadero. The grassy banks of the river between the Trocadero and Place de la Concorde are dotted with people relaxing, soaking up the suns rays, talking, hugging, kissing, sharing a bottle of wine. I am reminded of all the romantic songs about Paris as I spy couples lying together on the grassy banks of the Seine, lost in their own conversations and gazing into each others eyes. So, this is how Parisians spend a summer Sunday afternoon. Not so different from home, I think to myself, as our parks and riverbanks also are a magnet for couples who want to just hang out together and enjoy their cities.

We pass underneath the Pont Neuf again, this time down stream, and travel firstly along the narrow left hand channel between the river bank and Ile de la Cité again gaping at the wonderful architecture of Notre Dame cathedral. We pass the massive edifice of Gare de Lyon, then Bercy, Grande Bibliotheque – a unique view of the major monuments and sights of Paris, and then back downstream, this time navigating through the right hand channel past Ile de la Cité .

Two hours pass by languidly, so relaxing, so wonderful. Sadly all good things must come to an end, and so we pull in once again to the jetty under the Pont Neuf and we all disembark. A photographer on board had taken some snaps of all on board. Our photos are waiting for us to collect when we disembark. Lovely reminders of a lovely cruise.

The glorious, sunny, satisfying day turns into a golden, twilight evening. Footsore, tired, but with a glow happening somewhere deep inside us, Matt and I continue our long day in the City of Light. Paris – such a beautiful, enchanting and bewitching city. I feel so at home here. So comfortable using the Metro system, so comfortable finding my way around. Maybe I was a Parisian in a former life. Or at least French.

Where to now? The Louvre beckons and so we slowly walk along the river bank until we get to the massive structure that is the Louvre. It is so, so huge. It must stretch for three city blocks. Thirty years ago, on my first visit to Paris, I went inside to see the treasures it holds. The Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo. Today, especially today, when we are now so tired, and it is too late to go in anyway, we just want to go and see the glass pyramids in the square. The ones that featured in the movie ‘The da Vinci Code’. Stunning. They are so, so beautiful in the flesh. Crisp, clean, modern. A total contrast to the solidity of the massive stone buildings surrounding it that make up the Louvre Museum. I am told that the locals, especially the traditionalists, were aghast at the monstrosities and that they believed that the pyramids took away from the history and grandeur of the buildings. But I think they complement them. They are unique and, in my opinion, are now yet another draw card for tourists and worthy icons of this beautiful city. The photo opportunities are wonderful, with the low, low sun showering the glass walls of the pyramids with a golden glow.

It is now about 8pm. We start to cross the road from the Louvre heading towards our regular hangout, the restaurant/café in the square underneath statue of Joan of Arc. We are stunned to see some gorgeous gendarmes on roller blades booking cars as they weave through the traffic. The drivers look stunned too. We gratefully take our regular seat out on the pavement where we can keep a good eye on Jean d’Arc, and order a lovely French meal, some gorgeous crisp white French wine, and relax before we join yet another tour – a bus tour through Paris to see the lights. They call it the “Illuminations Tour”. Matt and I look at each other over our meal, agreeing that this day certainly has more than 24 hours in it. How else could we possibly have covered so much, by foot, and seen so many wonderful places and experienced so many things that will live with us for life.

It is now nine o’clock and time to join our ‘Illuminations’ bus tour. There are only about seven people on the tour. I am all geared up to take both still and movie pictures, awkwardly juggling the two cameras. We are looking forward to seeing the spectacular laser lights on the Eiffel Tower that sparkle and spangle for 15 minutes every half hour. Off we set, excited in our expectations of seeing the ‘City of Light’ all dressed up. We are not disappointed. Our cameras click away in time to our companions on the coach. One thing I had not factored in is that the streets of Paris are cobbled. Really big, rough cobbles, and so all my photos are turning out shaky. I think perhaps a good quality SLR with a fast shutter speed might be better, but as I review my photos I see that I have some fairly stunning shots with red and white ribbons of light blurring across the photo. Still good. I end up with a series of photos which are a kaleidoscope of colour, of patterns, all reminiscent of the vibrancy, colour and life of Paris by night.

We drive around the rough cobbles surrounding the Arc de Triomphe, conservatively flood-lit as befits the sombre and proud monument that it is. The bus is unable to stop so we must capture this moment with our eyes, minds and cameras as best we can. Next thing, we gasp with delight as we near the Eiffel Tower and she bursts into a spectacular show of white laser lighting shooting up into the sky and flickering on and off. She is SUCH a showoff. But a beautiful, graceful and fun-loving showoff.

We can’t get enough of watching her do this dance for us, twirling and coquettishly flirting with all who are watching. But just as a flirt does, she suddenly turns off her charms and retreats back into the shy and fetching young lady, just waiting until some more unsuspecting tourists come by when she will once again burst into life and sparkle and shine and lure them in to her charms. Such a wonderful, wonderful sight.

The mood changes as we drive now to see Les Invalides lit up in her regal and graceful lights, showing off her pride and strength and conveying a sense of safety and protection for her inhabitants who have seen the worst the world has to offer and who now are enveloped in this calm and peaceful place where they live with other ex-soldiers of France.

Our Illumination Tour ends all too soon, except we are glad to stop the vibrations caused from driving over the cobble stones. Surely the bus had no suspension. We drag ourselves off to the Metro station and eventually find ourselves back at Place de Clichy. It is past midnight. We have walked and walked for at least 16 hours today. We have seen some wonderful, memorable sights, and we have experienced Paris from the footpath. We are both happy, delightfully happy, but very tired. But a good nights sleep is all that separates us from bouncing out of bed again tomorrow morning, bright and early, and doing it all again. Tomorrow we plan to visit Versailles.

Bon nuit.

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