Paris is a very white city. We’ve never noticed it before but when you look down from the roof of the 59th floor of the Montparnasse Tower, you realise it is so.
So many people queue for days in order to go up the Eiffel Tower and here’s something higher, less crowded (actually not crowded at all) with a view over Paris that actually includes the Eiffel Tower…beats me why they do it. I think it’s probably like the gondolas on the smelly canals in Venice – you HAVE to do it because everyone else has.
We actually wandered around a lot of the Montparnasse area today though we started off in our favourite park, the Luxembourg Gardens. And the day was so blue and mild, that all the white statuary positively gleamed in the light.
There were even flowers in the garden…not something you see a lot of in Paris. The gardens always look lovely but on a day like today, with tourists, locals and joggers littering the paths and soaking up the sun from the strange chairs, it is perfection.
We then had a jolly good wander around the streets, admiring more architecture as we went, courtesy of the Rough Guide. Mirinda reckons we need something with a little more detail. Not something with TOO much detail, mind, just a bit of readable history. A sort of Rough Guide of Paris Architecture.
As it was, she did remarkably well with the normal Rough Guide, pointing out some fantastic buildings. One rather lovely one was very handily located opposite a cafe so we sat with our coffees and admired it at great length. We also translated the various specials on offer at the local laundromat which was also across the road.
Again, we managed to find places off the usual tourist trail and were rewarded with reasonable prices, real welcomes and lovely coffee/food. It really makes all the difference.
Lunch, for instance, was had just down from the Monparnasse Tower at a street side brasserie very similar to the places in St Malo. We noticed there were a lot of Parisians eating there so figured it was the right place for us. And it was. My steak was perfect…especially with the Roquefort sauce.
And it occurred to me at lunch that steak with Roquefort sauce is, really, beef and cheese! When I mentioned this to Mirinda she told me to stop reminding her about the beef and cheese and that it was entirely different when served as steak and sauce rather than bits on a skewer.
The trip up to the tower was a little fraught. Mirinda is not keen on confined spaces which includes elevators. She’s also not that keen on heights. However, she decided, to hell with these stupid neuroses, she was going up Montparnasse!
The Tower was not popular when it was built (and I think it’s probably still not popular with many Parisians). It is 59 stories high – 210 metres – a monolith, towering above the normal four or five floor buildings around it. It houses offices and was the first skyscraper in Paris.
Completed in 1972, a lot of it contains asbestos which is gradually, floor by painstaking floor, being removed. The removal started in 2007 and will take ten years to complete. It would take three years but only if the building is empty for the entire time. This was, apparently, not an option.
I was very proud of Mirinda going up in the fastest elevator in Europe (it took 38 seconds from bottom to top) especially since there was another couple in there with us. We emerged at the gallery on level 56.
On the gallery level there is a small cafe, a souvenir shop and full views of Paris through very thick glass. It’s rather like the observation floor in the Sydney Tower. This is all very nice and Mirinda bravely managed to walk all the way around. But it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to venture up the last three floors to the observation deck on the very top of the building.
It looks rather tame in the photograph but the walls are just glass with nicely positioned gaps for taking pictures through. It must be very cold during the winter but was lovely today. They have thoughtfully provided a bit of shelter around the perimeter though they probably shut it when it gets too wet.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed walking right around, smiling with commiseration at the poor girl who has to sit and make sure no-one does something stupid. She looked about 20 so I’m not sure what she was going to be able to do. Still, she looked pretty miserable so I thought a smile would help. She smiled back so maybe it did.
The trip back down looked a bit worrying as we waited for the lift. The doors opened and about 137 people squeezed out of it. I looked around frantically, realised we were the only ones waiting and dashed in, dragging Mirinda in with me. I started stabbing at the down button. The doors closed and we raced down, accompanied only by my huge sigh of relief.
So, another lovely day just wandering. We still have a long list of things we’ve yet to visit in Paris and, yet again, we see we didn’t go to any of them. But, since we like to go every year (and yet we don’t) there’ll always be a next time.
The one thing we never fail to do is buy a crepe at St Germain des Pres. And today was no different. There is something very French about a takeaway crepe with sugar and banana or sugar and almond or just sugar. A lovely treat, not to be missed.
We almost had our Hope and Gratitude Dinner at Cote this year but, because of South West Trains and our unscheduled meal at Baltic, we cancelled and decided to have it in Paris instead. Well, we had it tonight at Polidor which has become our favourite restaurant in Paris.
We hoped for many things and were grateful for many others while eating and drinking the finest cuisine available at a restaurant that’s been open since 1845. (I’m fairly certain dad would have preferred my duck and sauerkraut to last nights beef and cheese.)
After dinner we had a lovely stroll around the streets, incorrectly identifying the Sorbonne as the Pantheon and that sort of jolly japery, before ending up back at our hotel.
Home tomorrow. We’ll miss Paris.