The sun rises late at this time of year, it was still dark at 7am making it easy to sleep in. The weather forecast said cloudy with a chance of rain, but the rain wasn’t heavy enough to stop us from venturing out and exploring the surrounding areas. After a breakfast of coffee, baguettes, croissants and cheese and wrapping ourselves up in scarves and cold weather clothing we hit the streets, our target: Notre Dame cathedral and the Deportation Memorial.
Notre Dame cathedral is a magnificent piece of gothic architecture that took a couple of hundred years to build, construction starting in 1163 and continuing until the 14th century. The coronation of Napoleon was held in the cathedral in 1804 and although we did not witness any major event during our visit, we were very lucky to see and hear a choir perform, an amazing experience that added to the overall atmosphere of the cathedral. There wasn’t a queue when we arrived and the number of people wandering through the cathedral was less than we expected, entry is free and there are signs posted throughout warning us of pickpockets, it does make one more paranoid than normal and when I wasn’t clutching my camera I was firmly holding onto my camera bag.
In order to climb the towers and get a better look at the gargoyles you have to leave the actual cathedral and walk around the corner (opposite the creperies and souvenir shops) and join the queue, only 20 people are allowed to enter at any one time. With our Paris Museum pass in hand we entered the base of the tower and climbed the hundreds of steps to the second highest level as the top level was closed to tourists. The bells rang and the weather held out, it was great to be able to get close to the gargoyles and see how they were surviving the atmosphere of the 21st century – some better than others. People on the ground looked a little like ants and we could see the the number of people visiting the cathedral had increased since we had arrived.
Lunch was a nutella crepe in the grounds of Notre Dame, we sat by the garden and admired the facade, trying not to attract the attention of nearby pigeons. Although tasty, it is not a meal I would like to repeat very often, too sweet and cloying – the savoury cheese and ham might have been a better choice.
The Concergerie, Hotel de Ville and Deportation Memorial were our other stops that day, we walked around the Ile-de-la-Cite admiring the architecture and doing a bit of people watching. We weren’t sure whether to venture further, in hindsight we could have done more walking however our feet were already getting sore and we were getting hungry.
Dinner that night was at a local pub (bistro?), they claim to make the best and most authentic frites and a delicious hamburger and we were happy to take the test. Australian wines were on the wine list which was surprising, ordered a Cotes du Rhone red instead, I’ll drink Australian when I’m at home. The burger was served medium and the frites were indeed very tasty and more-ish, after a day of walking and the most substantial meal being on the plane the previous day, the food was very much appreciated.
Not bad for our first full day in Paris, still so much to see and I went to sleep that night wondering how on earth we could see everything we wanted to without going insane.