Friday, 15 June 2012

Paris trip 2012 Part 2

Well goodness me, I'm at it again with another blog post!

I thought I would share some photos, experiences and travel tips of last week's trip to Paris.

I live on the South London/Surrey border, so once we'd got on the second train at East Croydon, the first being too full (why use small trains with only four coaches on a very busy route in rush hour??), it was only a matter of a few stops to St Pancras International. That too was really busy and we got stuck behind a family of eight Americans with what appeared to be at least twenty pieces of luggage and no idea of how to proceed through customs ("you want me to take my belt off?", "a cell phone, yes I have a cell phone, oh I put it in the tray?" - how did they arrive in the UK in the first place? Anyway, after all that it was time to board straight away. 
There's not a lot to say about the Eurostar - it's a train that goes from London to Paris and takes about 2 1/2 hours. One thing I would recommend though, is to buy a pack or two of Carnet if you are planning on using public transport in Paris. These are books of 10 tickets which you can use on bus, Metro or RER trains and I was given a little map too. I had worked out our itintery mostly in advance so bought 3 Carnets. This made it easy when we arrived at Gare du Nord as we just headed for the Metro. Last year we got a taxi outside, but being a bit more familiar with it and looking at the routes in advance it was really easy to get to our hotel.
I booked the hotel and train tickets together on the Eurostar website. We stayed at the Tonic Hotel Louvre Tripadvisor link which was a bit shabby but the reception staff were friendly and spoke English and we were only staying for three nights. We didn't have the hotel breakfast - I has read that it was a bit pricey (most of Paris  is!), so I had packed cereal bars to eat in the room before we went out.
view from hotel room 

 The hotel is just a couple of minutes walk from Porte Pont Neuf entrance to Les Halles Metro station (line 4) which is in an underground shopping/leisure mall. The view from the hotel window above is looking towards Pont Neuf which crosses the river over Isle de la Cité where Nortre Dame cathedral is situated.
If you stay in the area, I'll point out that there are a few "corner shop" type shops selling fruit and groceries and there is a small supermarket on the corner of Rue du Louvre and R. Berger which is cheaper! There are loads of sandwich (think huge baguette rather than M&S) stalls and cafes around the north of Les Halles area but we found a nice boulangerie in Rue Montmartre where we bought ours for just under 4 euros.
Dinner can be a bit tricky if you have a vegetarian with you and are on a budget, but we found a nice Italian restaurant (la Perla) on rue Montorgueil where we ate pizza the first evening.
On Friday we went to Shakespeare & Company book shop, sat in a pretty garden, wandered around oustide Notre Dame and along to Jardin des Tuileries back on the other side of the river to eat our baguettes. We used to eat our morning pains aux chocolates here last year in August when it was very hot! This day it was sunny and then whoosh! the rain came down very heavily and the park was full of people trying to shelter under the trees! After the shower it brightened up again and we went out onto rue de Rivoli and caught the 69 bus to Champ de Mars where the Eiffel Tower is located.
Jardin des Tuileries
Tour Eiffel

After another vegi-friendly restaurant struggle we found another nice reasonably priced little restaurant called the Royal in rue de Grenelle (just a couple of roads off the park or the bus area). My internet research has suggested that buses stop running at 8pm so I had worked out a RER route back. However, this isn't true as the pocket map and the timetables on the bus stop showed that some of the buses stop at 10pm. We got the 69 back to rue de Rivoli.
On Saturday we took the Metro (line 4 to Porte de Cliggnancourt) to Les Puces (flea markets) I had read so much about. It's a good idea to Google first to get an idea and find directions - I used this blog for directions and somewhere (can't find where!) I printed off info about all the markets - there are several in the area so it's best to have an idea if you want to look at bric a brac and vintage bits (and overpriced tat too!) in the little alleyways of Marché Vernaison or more expensive designer furniture of Marché Dauphine etc. We didn't look much further as there was a LOT of walking involved and some people aren't keen on walking and shopping! We got crepes from a stall in the slightly intimidating Malik modern clothes market for lunch and headed back to the station.
From here we went to Abbesses Metro to visit Montmarte and Sacre Coeur.
Abbesses Metro station

Basilique du Sacre-Coeur
Just a word of warning - it is VERY steep and there are about a million steps to climb to get to Sacre-Coeur! Well, it is the highest point in Paris. You will take photos of the view, but to be honest, it's not a very nice one, just some tatty rooftops and no pretty architecture from this angle!
After sitting for a while, buying souvenirs and wandering round the square and the town (we went the wrong way to the Metro, don't use their "you are here" maps - they point the wrong way!!) we went back via Line 12 to Concorde and Line 1 to Louvre-Rivoli. 
We had dinner just round the corner to the hotel in the Indiana Bar (how French!) on the  corner of rue Berger and rue Prouvoires. Enchiladas and burgers!
As it was a nice evening we crossed Pont Neuf and had a walk along the river and around the side streets. 
Pont-Neuf Metro station

Pont Neuf

Dude on a Horse (Henri IV)

In the morning we had crepes and hot chocolate/coffee in a pavement café on the corner of rue Montorgueil before we caught the Metro back to Gare du Nord and home.

I hope you've enjoyed reading and have a pleasant stay in Paris either in real life or imagination!!

Oh yes, it also inspired me to make these, available now here, more to come in a similar theme at very soon...


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Paris Part One - Pop'pea

I've just come back from a few days in Paris, so thought I would do a couple of blog posts.
Our first evening was spent at the theatre. How grand!

It was by lucky coincidence that one of our favourite musicians, Carl Barat (the Libertines, Dirty Pretty Things and now a solo artist) was starring in a modernised version of Monteverdi's opera "L'incoronazione di Poppea" retitled "Pop'pea" as it is now a pop/rock/opera combo. It happened to be school half term that week and  we were able to get tickets for the last night, 7th June. 
Theatre du Chatelet has massive glass doors and a huge foyer, but inside the auditorium it's a lovely old gold and red velvet traditional theatre.

Theatre du Chatelet
 Our seats were in the Amphitheatre - the highest you can go, but apart from the railings which were at my eye level we had a good view.

Rebecca & Jimmy

Gary & me

I really enjoyed the play. It had an eclectic mix of music played by a live band and sung by the actors (rock, opera, ballad, hip hop) telling the story of Nero's infatuation with Poppea. There is passion, betrayal, murder plots, bribery, fire, cake, love and more murder as the tale unfolds! 
The costumes were great, the sets were minimalist BUT used some interesting multimedia effects. It's quite difficult to describe the use of blue screen and on-stage props as they were at times a bit bizarre - for example Nero (Carl Barat) was amongst some giant cakes and Ottone (Benjamin Biolay) in one scene is sitting on a dinner table and either he's become tiny or the table is huge! I have a drama student daughter and I thought it was perhaps Brechtian in the way the props (eg wires to move a motorcycle and the rider's scarf) were operated on stage with  no pretence. My daughter thought the multimedia was a bit over-used like a child with a new toy!
When in one scene Carl as Nero plays guitar it did make me miss seeing him play his own music though (it's been over a year since we saw him at the 100 Club and Koko)!
It's too late for you to go and see it, but fingers crossed it may be released on dvd. Have a look at the Pop'pea blog for photos and video clips of the show.

I'll be back with a blog post featuring various Parisian lamp posts and Metro signs in the next couple of days. I'm off to drink some coffee and make some Paris inspired jewellery now...