24th July 2009 – Day 2
– We arrived in Paris after 5 hours of driving , passing Dijon, Lyon and heading North from Geneva. The drive was pleasant enough, roads were good and amazingly many tolls we had to drive through!
Our hotel for Paris was the Radisson SAS at Boulogne (close by the tennis stadium of Roland Garros). It rained when we arrived – cats and dogs! It was cold and miserable. Took a walk when the rain was reduced to a drizzle around the neighbourhood. Spotted a cheese shop, passed several cafes and stopped at one to have our Kir Royals while figuring out the plan for the next couple of days in Paris.
25th July 2009 – Day 3
– Started our day first by dropping for a visit to the Roland Garros stadium before heading towards the city for more sights. My impression is Paris is very positive, one of the loveliest cities in Europe, buildings are impressive but the roundabouts though are a nightmare! Anyone driving in Paris I am sure can attest to that! It was almost a whirlwind tour – and it hit me too that Paris is fairly large and distances are farther than I expected. Besides there were so many charming parts of the city , with only 2 full days there, there was not enough time to see more of it. You have the museums and hundreds of galleries , shopping – oh dear, where to start?
Saw the Eiffel (long queues – so be there EARLY), the Concorde (they were getting ready for the Tour de France the next day, setting up VIP seats/canopies, barricades, etc), Arc du Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Pantheon and ended in Jardin du Luxembourg for lunch.
Beautiful day thank god , that Saturday was! So lunch in the gardens was perfect. I had my tartine while Henrik had a simple sandwich. Everyone around was also relaxing and enjoying the day. You do , though have to watch out for the sparrows – there were rather persistent in getting the crumbs off your plate!
Went back to the hotel (was already 3.30pm by then) to rest before heading out for dinner later that night.
Places for dinner , based on recommendations were :
1) Chez Paul
13 Rue De Charonne, 75011 Paris, +33 (0) 1 47 00 34 57
2) Le Bistrot Paul Bert
18 Rue Paul Bert, Paris 75011 +33(0)1 43 72 24 01
Regretfully, although we booked a table at Chez Paul – we were directed in circles by our GPS to the restaurant, after which we realised too parking would be a challenge – we gave up. We just stopped by a local cafe for a quick dinner. Well next time – all the more reason to return to Paris. I was already slowly falling in love with the city.
We saw Eiffel at night – 120 years ago, it must have been an impressive structure , but that night I thought it even more beautiful at night – appearing like a crystal glass shining in the dark. We walked a little along the river Seine across from the tower – there were plenty of people still out in the streets and queueing up for the Eiffel Tower.
26th July 2009 – Day 4
– Tour de France : the route laid out according to the newspapers was around Louvre, and up/down Champs Elysees.. so guess where we are heading at 11am in the morning? Champs Elysees! There were heaps of people there already. Oh me god, staking out along the barricades – equipped with foldable chairs, steps and a picnic basket! The riders are expected to only come into Paris at 1630hr or so! Realising we have a long wait ahead of us, we gave ourselves a treat and went into a restaurant (Chez Clement on Marbeuf Paris 8’eme) for a proper lunch. One has to have a proper meal, otherwise I would faint out of hunger ! YES!
After which we still had 3-4 hours to kill, so we dropped into the Renault showroom on Champs Elysees conveniently to catch a little bit of AC and the F1 race that day – the fated one with Masa involved in a bad accident. Temperature climbed to about 28degrees that day .
Around 1530hr, we moved on and made our way to the viewing spots. As the crowd has grown thicker, we finally found a spot to wait for the riders. It was about 3 layers of people thick -although a decent enough watching spot but not so to take photographs!
Approximately 1645hr the first riders came by . At the speed they were at, it was almost impossible to catch them in action on the camera. I think I took like 200 shots of the race hoping I managed to get the likes of Lance Armstrong, Contador, Cavendish, Hushovd, etc in our camera.
On Champs Elysees, the riders went about 7 rounds before finishing off closer to the Concorde. After the race, the cyclists came around and rode , some stopping to sign autograph. Here I caught Contador (photo below), escorted by security and swarmed by the media .
Contador on his victory lap on Champs Elysees
A rider signing an autograph for a fan
What a day! Tired but happy. Before heading back to the hotel, we decided to just grab a dinner close by. Ended up on the quiet Marbeuf Street again to Le Bistrot Marbeuf – run by charming ladies, great service and good food. Perfect ending to a perfect day!
Whilst driving back to Boulogne – we stumbled upon Astana’s gala dinner venue. It was at Pavillion Davphine ! Too bad we couldn’t get in – or no one we knew were coming out so we can get more photos of the yellow jersey team! Yawn.. oh well, too tired to wait for anyone, we headed back to the hotel for a good night’s rest as tomorrow we were off to Normandie.
27th July 2009 – Day 5
We had only 4 hours to spare that morning, we headed to Louvre going on the Metro for the first time (I thought the ticket prices to be rather reasonable compare to the tube in London), checked out the Notre Dame church at a closer range but alas! time just flew. We had to get back to the hotel to check out and drive out before the rush hour towards Normandie (another 3 hours).
Yes, yes we have decided we must come back to Paris, to do some of these sites properly and yes shopping – at Montparnasse, St Germain des Pres, Marais, ViaDuc Des Arts, etc!
At 2pm we left Paris for Caen in Basse Normandie for our next adventure… Au Revoir Paris!