We caught the first train possible into the city and got off at St. Michel station. Our first stop was Notre Dame: the Church of Our Lady. Surprisingly small, it was nevertheless a wonderful example of Gothic architecture with some beautiful stained glass windows.
We walked along the Seine river – a vile smelling cesspool – and crossed Pont Neuf to the Louvre where we spent a couple of hours. The important thing we saw there was, of course, the Mona Lisa, but there wasn’t much else of interest apart from some early Monet and Renoir paintings. The majority of the works were the familiar biblical scenes of martyred saints and hovering cherubs. The Egyptian wing, however, was very interesting.
Movin on, we walked along the Quai d’Orsay then through the streets of the 7th Arrondissement to the Eiffel Tower. We paid 18F (francs) to climb up to the 2nd level with its impressive view, then another 40 francs to go to the top in the lift. Incredible [pronounced as the French would: “en-cray-arr-ble”]. At nearly 1000 ft the view of the sprawl of Paris stretched off as far as the eye could see in all directions. A sign a fixed to a wall stated that Wellington was 18,392 km away. At that height however, many of the city’s landmarks – Notre Dame, the Arc du Triomphe, etcetera, blended into the uniform grey of the city. Grey squalls coming across the city from the north combined to camouflage them completely.
Back on terra firma, we walked back towards St Michele and went to the Musee d’Orsay. Oh those fabulous impressionist works! Monet, Cezanne and Renior… exquisite colours and moods on canvas. But what grabbed our attention most were the Van Gogh’s. The vibrant colours. The thick, almost violent brush strokes, conveyed the madness of the painter in an almost palpable way. They were mesmerising.
By 5:30 we were sick of trudging around Paris so we caught the train back out to Arpajon and bought some food to cook for dinner. We spent the evening talking to a couple of New Zealanders who were also staying in the hostel.