My journey did not have a good start as I woke up late (my fault, didn't start packing early enough). I phoned a taxi so I could arrive at the bus station on time. The taxi arrived promptly, reversed out of my drive, and burst a wheel on the kerb! There was no glass and no sharp objects lying around, apparently the kerb is just lethal. The taxi driver phoned for ANOTHER taxi, which arrived very quickly so I was still on time. Of course, I had picked the one weekend when the Victoria line was undergoing engineering works, so I had to travel along the District line to Embankement, then up the Northern line to Kings Cross St. Pancras. I rewarded myself with a breakfast at Camino. The price of the breakfast has gone up since December, but it's still well worth a visit.
I was a little nervous, as I've only travelled on Eurostar twice, and that was so long ago that it was still terminating at Waterloo. I decided to arrive an hour early just to make sure I didn't end up in a massive queue. Fortunately, I had a couple of books with me to pass the time. ;) Of course, I was also excited to finally see Paris again, as the first time I visited, I was only there for a day and it was so foggy I could only see half the Eiffel Tower! The sub-Channel journey was quiet and uneventful.
vifetoile was prevented from meeting me at the Gare du Nord by unexpected railworks on the Paris metro and did not have her mobile phone with her. Also, the French payphones do not take change but require you to buy a phonecard. Despite these problems, we bumped into each other and then went downstairs to queue for my Paris travelcard. There was only one window open and we were accosted by a girl who'd never been to Paris before and wanted to know how to get to her hotel. We helped her because it was the right thing to do, and also I would like someone to help me if I'm ever in a country where I don't speak the language and don't know where I'm going! This left us very little time to get to my hotel in Montmartre and there are NO escalators on the Paris metro, it's steps or nothing. And of course, Montmartre (meaning "mountain of the martyr" btw) is on a HILL. I am now convinced this is the real reason Parisians are all so thin, they walk up and down stairs ALL DAY.
My nearest station, Abbesses, is 35 metres below ground, which makes it the deepest station on the metro, according to my guidebook. This means that there is actually a lift to the main station area... and you then have to walk up two flights of stairs to actually get to Place des Abbesses. It has one of the famous Art Deco signs.
Here's a close up (not taken on the evening when I arrived!).
There was a lovely street market when we arrived (Marché aux Quatre Saisons) but we didn't have the time to stop and sample some of the wares. We rushed along the street to my hotel.
Here's a close up.
I then discovered that my hotel had no lift and I was on the fourth floor (for my American and Canadian readers, that would be the third floor). vifetoile helped me by carrying one of my bags (I brought two) up the stairs. I then had a fight with the door card because of stress and fatigue, but finally managed to open the door. I wanted to collapse on the bed and not do anything for the next half an hour.
Right view from my bedroom window.
Left view from my bedroom window.
We had reservations at the Moulin de la Galette (yes, that Moulin de la Galette), though, so I changed into something a bit prettier, brushed my hair, and then we rushed up a very steep street towards the eponymous windmill.
This makes it look much further away than it actually was.
Even though they did not have my name down in the book despite my online reservation and the email from the management(!), the waitress still found us a table. I had snails from Burgundy with garlic butter. They came in a small dish with little hollows filled with the buttery sauce. I grew up with a mother who tried to put garlic in every main meal she cooked for us and I have never eaten anything with such intense garlic flavour. It was beyond garlic. vifetoile was persuaded to dip her bread in one of the empty holes and had to agree. I then had a slightly disappointing Beef stew “Pot au feu”. The beef was not cooked very well. I ate the vegetables before the beef, which almost never happens. At least they included the marrow bone, which was a rare treat. The Crème Brulée redeemed the restaurant, with a perfectly hard surface that concealed vanilla creaminess.
After celebrating my successful arrival in Paris, we went back to the hotel again so I could change into jeans for ease of movement and spotted a promising ice cream shop just a couple of doors down. We vowed to sample its wares on the following day. vifetoile showed me where she was staying near Madeleine (which looks like a Greek temple dropped in the middle of Paris). It was originally designed as a tribute to the glory of Napoleon's army and now serves as a (windowless!) church. By this time, I was failing fast and she sent me back to my hotel room with a promise to meet me at Madeleine early the next morning so we could get to the Louvre before the crowds.