On Saturday I took the TGV up to Paris and happened to find myself sitting beside a published French writer who was travelling with his dog and spoke a some English. So the journey passed relatively quickly as Lawrence talked me through his recent book (and was kind enough to give me a signed copy)and gave me a few communication tips...they say there is no such thing as a coincidence.
I managed to navigate myself by bus through Paris to meet Ross, Star, Adena, Mum and Dad at our hotel for our weekend of fun in Paris to commence the celebrations of my Mum's forthcoming 60th birthday on 8 July. We were all disappointed to discover that France is indeed suffering an abnormal cold spell and Paris is no exception. My gosh it was really cold and none of us had cold weather clothes with us...why would we, France is meant to be hot in the summer time after all!
That first evening was rather entertaining. Walking along the Seine we battled against the cold wind, arms folded against the body, head down, rain clouds building over head and not one of us knowing where to go to find something to eat. We happened upon a bar and sat under the heaters and had a drink while we consulted the map and decided to head for the Latin quarter.
Not that we realised how far that was by foot, and then it started to rain, torrential rain actually so that we were all huddled against the side of a building trying to escape the now horizontal rain, none of us with any waterproofs and Mum's umbrella providing her and Star with little relief...hmm, my feet in flip flops were certainly drenched!
We came upon a train station and ended up taking the metro - much to poor Mum's disdain, she hates underground trains - and we had another funny moment when Dad couldn't get through the barrier (typically) and ended up sliding under it instead. You'd never get away with that in London!
Eventually we found a restaurant although I think I was the only one who really enjoyed my meal, and realised as we were looking for taxis that we were right beside Notre Dam. Oh my gosh this was one mind blowing experience, the sun was setting at this point and the rain clouds had passed leaving this wonderful glow to the sky. Inside Notre Dam we were all blown away by the most beautiful and uplifting music enhancing the spiritual atmosphere as people wandered around this magnificent building in awe-struck and respectful silence, candles flickering and prayers being given.
Mum, Dad and I have visited a few churches together and have this thing about feeling the energy of the place by placing our hands against the walls of the physical building. Mum's hands were literally burning with heat and Dad was impressed to feel the vibrations and I too could tell this was certainly one special place. Star was moved to tears, being Australian (and she will be the first to admit this) this was one of her first opportunities to visit a building which is so old (aside from the Taj Mahal in India of course) and full of such spiritual energy. What a wonderful way to end the evening - well that and drinking tea and watching the football in an Italian cafe near to our hotel!
On Sunday we headed out early and got passes for the hop-on-hop-off bus system around Paris. Again it was cold, well 13 degrees, but believe me, sitting on an open top bus without a winter coat was no mean feat and after a few hours and reaching the Eiffle Tower we were all cold to the bone...I had lost feeling in my toes and my fingers had gone a strange white/yellow colour. Needless to say the queues at the Eiffle Tower were quite extensive and we decided it was too cold to stand around for a few hours and Mum, Dad, Ross and I have already been up it and Star and Adena were happy to leave it to another time.
From there we headed up to Sacre Coeur for lunch. The bonus of the bus is that you are given head phones so you can learn all about the area you are passing through, the entertainment district and Moulin Rouge), Champs Elyse, Arc de triumph, Bastille,the Louvre (my gosh how impressive is that building), and so the list goes on. The architecture is stunning and I was rather awe struck by the magnitude of some of the buildings, amazing to think that they started as mere ideas and thoughts in someone's head before being turned in to reality over the years.
Sacre Coeur was the highlight for me. There was something even more special and uplifting about the energy in this place compared to Notre Dam, sitting at the front of the aisles, I could feel it vibrating through me. Mum and Dad felt the same. We paid to walk up the 300 winding steps to the top of the church (talk about getting dizzy!) and were pleased we did so as the views were stunning, we could see the Eiffle Tower in the distance and the roof tops of Paris all around. We got to go down below the church too and this was interesting as there was a calmness and peace, not so many people, and interesting displays - we came across an old map of France which included the Channel Islands within its boundary.
We wandered around the artist's area, which I really enjoyed as you can learn quite a lot just watching artists paint; Dad bought Mum a painting she liked, of a lobster, that women makes me laugh sometimes! By then we were all beginning to struggle, it had been a long day and it was time to get the bus back to the Latin quarter for dinner at a vegetarian restaurant Mum had pre-booked. It was a good choice - France is not known for its understanding of vegetarianism so it was lovely to find somewhere to eat, which literally caters for us. Well done Mum, a good experience all around.
On Monday Mum, Dad and I took the Eurostar to London for a meal with friends, while Ross, Star and Adena visited the Louvre and then took the train back to St Malo and the boat to Guernsey. It was such a fantastic weekend despite the cold, lots of fun and wonderful to spend time with the family doing something completely different. So a huge thank you to Mum and Dad for being so generous and to everyone for your lovely company xx