Yes, it really was that hot. I hadn’t planned to go to Paris. I was supposed to stay with an old friend, but she cancelled a few days before. What to do? I’d finished the rough draft of ‘Intrigue in Geneva’ and was half way through ‘Intrigue in Paris.’ I relied on Google maps and old memories to recreate Paris. Some authors do all their research on the internet, but I like to visit and get the feeling of a place. If I can’t feel it, how can I expect my readers to?
In ten minutes, I’d booked a flight on Easy Jet and booked a room through Hotel.com. which had a reasonable last minute deal.
From Brighton, it’s easy to get to Gatwick airport by train, and in the space of a couple of hours, I’d arrived at Charles de Gaulle, jumped onto the RER train into Châtelet and hopped onto the Metro. Two stops later I alighted at St Paul. A five-minute walk took me to my hotel in the heart of the Marais.
My hotel was situated on the Rue de Turenne, and the surrounding area was packed with bars, cafes and restaurants. If you eat fish or meat it’s fantastic, not so great if you’re a vegetarian. I spent over an hour looking for somewhere which had a veggie main course and had no luck. Eventually I settled for a veggie burger in an American themed café.
Day one involved an early start as I had an extensive list of locations which needed to visit. But first a ticket for the Louvre. I’d read online that 2-3 hour queues are the norm if you turn up without a pre-bought ticket.
Where to buy a ticket?
With a little research, I found a store called FNAC which sells them. The nearest branch to me was in Les Halles. With my new phone set to Google maps I set out to find it. Les Halles is in the middle of a major renovation, completely unrecognisable from 25 years ago. Eventually I found FNAC in the middle of a new shopping mall. Two Americans ahead of me in the queue were buying tickets and struggling. Although I haven’t spoken French for 15 years I decided to give it a go, and when I began speaking I could remember words and verbs!! I managed to buy my ticket with the date and time I wanted. This gave me confidence, and for the rest of my stay I spoke in French which brings me to my top tip. If you can learn and speak a few sentences it’s worth it. The Parisians appreciate it, and apart from one complaint from a guy (!) that I had a terrible accent, it paid dividends.
I bought fruit, asked for directions, exchanged a top which was too small, conversed about the hot spell with a waiter and ordered food.
Back on the location trail in 33 degree heat and more walking! I walked from St Jacob’s Tower all the way to Saint Sulpice on the Left Bank. I’d forgotten how wonderful the flower market on the Quai de la Corse is, and how the streets change as you walk through the different neighbourhoods.
The next day I took the Metro to the Louvre. Exiting the Metro I found myself in a huge marble shopping mall. It took me a further 20 minutes to the entrance of the museum. Having a pre-bought ticket pays big time! I breezed past the long queues, even at 10am the sun baked down, had my bag checked and I was in!
Now to find the reason why I’d travelled to Paris. Where was the Law Code of Hammurabi exhibited? A word of caution here. I enquired at the Information desk where was it located and informed that part of the museum was closed. You can imagine my disappointment. The old me would have complained. Loudly. I decided to search for it myself and it took about 30 minutes to find it, but I did locate it. See the photos. More will be revealed in ‘Intrigue in Paris.’
A good tip for sore feet. Take a boat trip on the River Seine, which is an awesome and relaxing way to see the sights.
My last day I spent visiting locations in the Marais, which used to be the Jewish quarter of Paris. Today it’s the home of clothing stores, cafes and falafel restaurants. Then a bus ride to the Eiffel Tour which is imposing close up. A security fence has been erected around the base, and crammed full of people but I couldn’t face standing in another queue for a security check.
I spent my last night in a medieval church listening to a small orchestra playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Then a soprano sang a divine rendition of ‘Ava Maria’ by Bach. The atmosphere and the setting made it an evening I’ll never forget.
My final morning, I spent visiting the Shoah – the memorial to the French Jews who were murdered in WWII. Photographs of the deceased line the walls of a room, and a permanent exhibition tells the history of the history of the Jews in France. An eternal flame burns in the crypt.
Time for a quick cappuccino and then Au Revoir to Paris.
Would I recommend Paris for the solo traveller?
Absolutely. I had no problems getting tables for one in cafes. I had no one to please, and I could see exactly what I wanted. Did I mind going to the concert alone? No. When I glanced around, I saw several people who also came solo. For me being single, has been a change of mindset, and I have gradually become my own best friend.