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We had pre-booked a ferry crossing via the Camping and Caravanning Club for Sunday at 12:15. We arrived at the Dover terminal in good time, and found the check-in very efficient and speedy. We were allocated to queue in lane 172 until boarding, which also happened surprisingly quickly. After driving on board, we found a table on the restaurant deck and shared a plate of roast chicken and chips and a slice of chocolate cake, washed down with our can of smuggled-in Stella, as we bade farewell to the white cliffs of Dover. They are truly white from a distance, but close-up they look quite grubby! The trip over took 90 minutes, but we had to add an hour onto our watches when we arrived.
Driving off the ferry we soon joined the autoroute; a new experience for David to be driving on the “wrong” side of the road! The signs soon indicated it was a toll road [peage], but gave no idea of how much it might cost. We went through a gate where we picked up a ticket, which we eventually had to hand in at the exit gate 250km later. We were stunned to be charged €35 [R400]! The road was good and we enjoyed the drive, stopping off for a pique-nique lunch on the side of the road at one of the frequent, excellent rest-stops [aires].

The fun and games started when we hit Paris, as firstly the traffic became insane. Thousands of cars and people, and we didn’t know why! The road to the campsite was cordoned off and the police refused to let us go past and refused to explain. Very stressful for a while. Anyway, we parked off-road and Dave hopped out to go and find out what was going on [in his best French]. Turns out there was a HUGE Grand Prix event at a stadium, which flanked the road we needed to reach the campsite. The road was eventually opened and we could go through, but arrived at the campsite in the dark, much later than anticipated. So it was hook-up, eat-up, and sleep!

We spent 2 days in the campsite in the Bois de Boulogne [which is the area famous for prostitutes!], but our site was hooker-free [but unfortunately nor hook-up free]! The toilets were so dirty compared to the UK ones [one generally has to squat and most people seem to miss!] and we paid twice the price for the site [€30], but we were camped beside the Seine after all!

The weather in Paris was wet and grey, but that didn’t stop us exploring the city with our Mobilis cards, which gave us unlimited travel. Only problem was that we were unaware of the crazy opening times for many of the tourist sites. So off we went on Monday morning to visit the Rodin Museum, only to find it is closed on a Monday! The restaurant where we enjoyed a romantic [shared] omelette and glass of wine in 1979, as a newly-engaged couple, was still there though. We were tempted to go for a deja vu repeat experience, but opted instead to head for the Champs-Élysées, la Madeleine, the Tuileries gardens and the Louvre Art Gallery.

Our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower through the mist

Our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower through the mist

Hotel des Invalides, which houses the army museum

Hotel des Invalides, which houses the army museum

We were fascinated with the statues and lamps on the nearby Pont de Alexandre III.
On the other side of the river we found this statue of the familiar and famous [but not French] statesman.
Here is the Petit Palais and across the road, the Grand Palais.
Fabulous buildings and statues, but no access indoors anywhere. We walked up the Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Concorde.
This was the site of the execution of Marie-Antoinette, and previously called Place de Louis XV, then Place de la Revolution.
The red-granite obelisk in the centre was a gift from Egypt and used to stand in front of the Temple of Luxor 3300 years ago. It weighs 250 tons and proved quite a technical challenge to transport 180 years ago.
IMG_0369.jpgIMG_0358.jpgThe description on the obelisk of how it was transported

The description on the obelisk of how it was transported

The nearby two matching fountains represent the Seas and the Rivers.
The Tuileries Gardens were very sparse in winter.
Sometimes one is the statue, sometimes one is the pigeon!

Sometimes one is the statue, sometimes one is the pigeon!

Some thoughtful authority had decided to jolly the drabness up with some modern sculptures.
We unfortunately didn't get to see inside the Louvre because we arrived there an hour before it closed, and we couldn’t justify the entry fee for only 1 hour …… and alas, they were also closed on Tuesdays!! We had no internet connection at the camp-site so had relied on the old copy of The Lonely Planet guidebook Jamie had given us, which was out of date regarding opening times etc.

Not to be daunted, we set off for Montmartre to visit the Sacre Coeur church, which was splendid, and enjoyed listening to a beautiful service of music and song, delivered by 6 nuns with heavenly voices.
We then explored the area, which was great fun, with Sandi finding a really cute little ooh-lal-la purple plaid cap, which has been great for keeping the cold off the noggin ever since!!
After that we had a Moulles et Frites supper at a sidewalk café before heading back to the camp-site to rest our aching limbs. On the way we had a spectacular view of a silvery full-moon over Paris from Sacre Coeur, but unfortunately our camera battery went flat, so we missed the photo opportunity!

We found out Versailles was open on a Tuesday [but not a Monday] so headed there for the morning. [See next posting for photos.] What an astonishing place – all gold, crystal, and historical splendour. Hell on the feet though! After spending a few hours there [including an hour queuing], among thousands of tourists, we headed back into the city to the Latin quarter near the Sorbonne. We enjoyed the magnificent fountain of St Michel
and a brief visit to Notre Dame Cathedral, before doing some window-shopping.
The quaint streets are full of brasseries, cafes and tourist shops [we didn’t even venture near all the fancy brand-name stores]. By then we were whacked, so stopped off for a beer at a side-walk café; it was fun to watch all the people going by and guessing what they were up to.
The restaurants were all offering special “menus” for supper, many displaying brochettes [kebabs] with sea-foods in their windows.
So we succumbed and each had a delicious meat brochette in a cute little Greek café after the guy enticing patrons in, offered us a reduced price of €10. After watching some street break-dancing, it was au revoir to Paris as we descended to the Metro to get back to the campsite for some sleep and prep for an early morning departure to Switzerland.

Posted by davidsandi 08:03 Archived in France

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