Friday 25th March and we have left Paris .. we feel a bit sad yet excited about new adventures. Our time there (since October 25th, 2010) has been fabulous and we look forward to returning in late November to continue our exploration of this special city.
For the last few weeks we have been busy preparing the boat (well, painting where we could and finishing odd repair jobs) and spending time with friends and family. We had our nephew Jack (McLennan) to stay, on his way from South America to London.
It was a good time to test our boating skills having been mothballed for four months .. and so took Endellion on the short trip from our Port here at l’Arsenal to La Villette, along the Canal St Martin.
It’s only about six kilometres but along the way there are four double locks (two locks next to each other, making it eight) and a two kilometre tunnel, so it took us more than two hours but was fabulous. So much to see and do!
We’d been wanting to test the Velib bike system, a Paris institution (now) where you unhitch a bicycle from the Velib station and ride it to wherever you want and leave it at the next station. The stations are roughly every 300 meters and there are more than 20,000 bikes on call. It was a perfect time to test the system with Jack as I had my own bike and Jack could take the Velib and of course Stewart had his own wheels.
With the HTC Smartphone in hand we set off on the GPS routed journey to Sacre-Coeur at the top of Montmartre.. a fantastic experience the three of us whizzing along .. well actually after a while climbing up the biggish mountain the cyclists weren’t quite so fast. The challenge as we got higher was finding the wheelchair accessible road as many lead to steps up for walkers. We had to recalibrate the GPS to say ‘car’ (not walking) and then we took the long zig-zag route up to the top. A total tourist trap as the saying goes.. but a delight none-the-less.
Then after soaking up the huge view and a quick tour inside the church we headed off to buy lunch from the Baguette Baker of the Year, Arnaud Delmontel, at the bottom of the hill .. a lovely glide down.
A thoroughly enjoyable day out .. and we had the Velib docket to use more bikes around the city for Jack’s stay.
On his last night we had a rare big night out: tickets to The Low Anthem, a band we have been following since our Limehouse days in London and a journey down Brick Lane.
We’re not frequently out after dark (these days) but found the whole area of Rue de la Roquette and Rue de Lappe where the band was playing at the Cafe de la Danse to be a whole new adventure!
This area is crammed with small and colourful wine bars, restaurants and clubs. Just fabulous. Very much like the live performance from our band .. preceded by a quirky trio called ‘Woods’ who are described as a Folk/Jam Band/Psychédélique group .. well, yes, that would be right. Our band, The Low Anthem, stood out beautifully in contrast, a stunning performance.
Our friends Graham and Lesley from London came for our final weekend in Paris… after all our time in France (more than four months this time) they were still the ones to introduce us to Kir (Champagne or wine and Cassis).. something we will definitely continue to drink, in moderation of course.
They also formed a very important part of our unique gathering which, after much discussion and some debate, we agreed had the collective noun of ‘legend’. That is a legend of Lesleys .. hard to imagine how we could have three of us with this slightly unusual name in one room: Lesley MacLennan, Lesley (our boat neighbours on Emanuel, who are from Canberra), and Lesley Mercer from London with Lancastrian roots. We celebrated this ‘legend of Lesleys’ at the Cafe de l’Industrie, a delightfully unusual, casual cafe in easy walking distance from our mooring.
There were more lovely visitors, like Ghislaine (Daniel’s sister, see blog) and we had a special invitation to visit friends we had met on new year’s eve, Robert and Nicole, at their nearby apartment on the top floor with stunning views .. and wonderful sticky chocolate/vanilla gateaux and delicious Gewürztraminer from the Alsace region.
A highlight of our last month of Paris expeditions was a visit to the Le Salon International de l’Agriculture .. as you’d probably expect it had a vast section dedicated to wine, cheese and cold meats all produced in France in the various regions. We headed there first, of course, and focused on the regions we will be travelling through very soon, ie, Burgundy, Champagne, the Ardennes, etc.
And then toured huge halls with the real thing of our youth at the Royal Cornwall Show or the Royal Easter Show (Sydney), ie, cattle, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits .. etc, many in shapes, sizes and breeds we’d only ever seen in pictures before. A spectacular event and such a joy.
We have a list of 10 Paris Curiosities (well, they are curiosities to us but probably to any Parisian they are absolutely sensible and logical practices) which we will publish very soon .. and we are starting a list of things we wanted to do before we left but didn’t have time for.
We’re now signing off from a place called Draveil about 20 kilometres up the River Seine, at Port aux Cerises. It’s another world .. completely. We send our love to dear friends and family.
Lesley and Stewart