It seems almost an impertinence to write about what is effectively THE European city after only one fleeting but absorbing visit. But then for many people that’s how Paris is : met in an unforgettable moment, its impact remaining over the years. We were there twelve years ago. We didn’t climb the Eiffel Tower but stood by it (there were long queues for the lifts), observed it with appropriate approval, and then saw it again and many of the monumental buildings that contribute to the cohesive character of the city, when we went on a delightful trip up the River Seine.
We walked down the Champs Elysees, pretending to be fashionable shoppers, but reserving the right to buy gifts for the family from less ostentatious sources. We marvelled at the Arch de Triumphe and were moved by the small group of people who were standing in silent commemoration as they marked some anniversary that was important to them. Another more rowdy but very organised crowd were demonstrating against some worker’s injustice near to our hotel; a typical example of the city’s indigenous life.
We roamed through the small book shops, all the time feeling as if were making contact with a city we already knew.
We were hugely impressed by the two churches we visited –Notre Dame of course, which grabbed us more by its size than its mystique, whereas the Basilica of the Sacred Heart where a Mass was taking place, embraced us with its visual beauty and the splendour of its liturgy, turning us into pilgrims rather than tourists.
The Louvre deserved more than the two and a half hours we gave it, but we were selective in what we saw, otherwise it would just have been a meaningless parade. It is an astonishing place, brilliantly integrated by the then new centre at its heart. To spend time there for some days, concentrating on this or that gallery is what it really deserves.
We enjoyed our visit to the Georges Pompidou Centre, with all its maintenance tubes and shafts sticking out a like a display of the very worst sort of Victorian plumbing. Inside there were some wonderful galleries, especially a fascinating exhibition of the modern European city, though we felt that Spain had been left out, particularly Barcelona.
…and the Holiday Inn La Republique provides the most extraordinarily lavish breakfast that anyone could imagine and certainly more than they could ever need!