Turning Japanese

Awake just before 9 and ready to collect the breaky tray from the maid. Baguette, coffee and a small delicious cake, followed by a shower.

Ah, the shower. Actually the water pressure and the temperature are both excellent. The shower head, however, is sited at a height perfect for a five year old. It also waves around a bit. This means the floor is ALWAYS going to get saturated. Along with the towels and everything else in the room. Imagine a jet engine pointed into the room.

After a drenching, we both stepped out into the Parisian streets. We quickly oriented ourselves and headed up to the Jardin du Luxemberg for a stroll. This is a lovely big open space in front of, what is now, the seat of the French senate. A lovely spot is the Fountaine de Medicis with its magnificent statues and long suspended ivy, looping between the trees.

There is even a wilder edge to this park – Parisian parks are normally very formal and well behaved. It is in the southwest corner and resembles most ordinary parks with meandering paths and uncontrollable trees. You can also walk on the grass. To one side is a tiny orchard of very old espaliered pear trees which all look a little too perfect.

Espalier pear tree

As usual there are heaps of wonderful statues throughout the garden including the impressive Le Triomphe de Silene by Aime Dalou which summons up visions of Pompeii.

It was soon time for a morning coffee so we left the park and headed up to Boulevard St Michel and took a table in Café Richards where Mirinda ordered a hazelnut coffee which had no hazelnut in it. I ordered an incredibly expensive cappuccino. We swapped as the hazelnut coffee was too strong for Mirinda. I recommend it for lovers of strong but nut-free beverages.

From the café we headed towards the Seine. We stopped off at the Sorbonne – admiring the Place Sorbonne and it’s fountains – but they were not letting anyone in so we kept going until we reached the Hotel de Cluny, where the Abbots of Cluny lived when visiting Paris in the 16th century. It now houses the Musee National du Moyen Age and perhaps we shall visit later but today, we walked on.

Place Sorbonne

At the river we decided to check out Notre Dame, hoping the crowds wouldn’t be as bad on a Friday afternoon. As we entered the church precinct it was emptier than on previous visits so we decided to risk it and stepped in.

It strikes me that this church has little spiritual feeling remaining as the tourists wander around, taking photographs, filming people praying – in terms of worship, this would be one of the last places I’d visit! It is also quite gloomy. However, what is very impressive is the north facing rose window. It is huge and not one part of it is either horizontal or vertical and it gives the impression that it is moving.

As the crowds thickened the walls started getting closer and it was time to leave so we set off for the Latin Quarter where we found a little place for late lunch. It was lovely sitting in the window watching the Greeks trying to drum up business. After a lunch of crepe (me) and mulles et frites (Mirinda), we popped into a previously spotted Tunisian pastry shop. A very scary place where we bought some truly scary sweet things for a little hotel room dessert.

We then slowly strolled back to the hotel where we had a little afternoon snooze, after eating the scary stuff.

Eventually we woke and ventured out, just like natives, for dinner at 8pm. Obviously, since we’re in Paris, we decided to eat Japanese at that great Japanese restaurant Japorama! We assumed it was a student haunt as the prices were low and we were the oldest in there and most of the other diners looked like they’d just come from chess club. Still, the sushi was nice and cold, the skewers nice and meaty and the soup a lot like vegetable stock with mushrooms floating in it.

It really is remarkable how many Japanese restaurants there are around this area. There’s a street that’s full of them. I think they’re trying to create a Little Tokyo, like the Little Italy of New York or the Chinatowns of every major capitol city in the world.

After dinner we strolled the streets, counting the Japanese restaurants, until we reached Blvd St Germaine where we ran into the long, long queues of French people waiting to go in and watch Borat at the three cinema complexes. Very crowded. After wandering through a few bookshops, we eventually decided to return to the hotel via the quiet back streets. And bed.

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