browser icon
You are using an insecure version of your web browser. Please update your browser!
Using an outdated browser makes your computer unsafe. For a safer, faster, more enjoyable user experience, please update your browser today or try a newer browser.

Au Revoir Paris, Ola Lisbon.

Posted by on April 7, 2023

TLDR = Too Long, Didn’t Read (long post follows, soz, we have been busy)

Our last couple of days in Paris were all about revisiting some of our favourite places and exploring a couple of new ones. There is so much of Europe we have yet to explore that we have no immediate plans to return… but who knows?

Near the apartment we stayed in for the first 2 trips was a boulangerie called “Du Pain et Des Idees”, which turned out to be my favourite of all, their pistachio and chocolate escargot (a delicious spiral pastry) was a much beloved memory, so we decided to cross town for breakfast and see if it was as good as we remembered.

After a complex metro trip, we arrived at Jacques Bonsargent, “our” old stop, and after a short walk were in the queue to enter this beloved shop. 

We bought a pistachio+chocolate escargot for me and a rum+raisin escargot for Jo, and a piece of Flan to share – something we had not tried before (a traditional deep dish custard tart), then headed back to the metro to make our way to the queues outside the Louvre. It was wonderful that the memory of the thing and the thing itself aligned. I would commute again for the pastries, just so good. I cannot recommend this place enough, their bread and pastries are world class, and made for a fabulous breakfast treat.

Our first visit to Paris included a rambling and disorganised visit to The Louvre. The museum is vast, it is difficult to explain in words to someone who has not been. I want to be polite and say that there is order and sequence to their endless collection of … things, but I cannot. That visit we managed to see the Egyptian display along with mad dashes to see the “highlights”, like Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo … you know, the artworks everyone rushes to see on their first visit.

This time, we thought we would be selective, I picked 4 specific exhibits I wanted to see: 

  • THE PALACE OF SARGON II – Room 229, Richelieu wing, Level 0
  • TREASURES OF THE EASTERN MED – Room 301, Richelieu wing, Level 0
  • DRAWINGS, PRINTS AND PASTELS – Rotonde Sully North
  • AN INTRODUCTION TO ISLAMIC ART – Room 185, Denon Wing, Left -1

The map you get from the information desk is figurative, and not really useful if you have specific navigation required, and because the  Louvre is a mish mash of appropriated buildings and new works, floors do not line up, stairwells skip floors and we found the navigation frustrating to be polite. We also found numbers 2 and 3 on the list were closed, as were other exhibits making navigations AROUND closed wings all the more painful. 

What I did see was fantastic, but again I did not even scratch the surface of the collection, and would need weeks to do so. Jo is not a huge fan of museums, so that exploration would probably be on my own. Maybe one day.

After a few hours in the Louvre, we headed to a crepe and cider- based restaurant “Brutus” – Gaîté, 22-40 Rue de la Gaité and had a delicious light lunch of savoury galettes and deliciously refreshing apple cider. We finished with a simple lemon and sugar crepe – yum. On our way home, we visited another specialty patisserie “Des Gâteaux et du Pain”, 63, Boulevard Pasteur, and bought delightful pastries for afternoon tea. Jo had a delicious layered mango tart and I had a rum baba. We had a simple home-cooked dinner of garlic mash and a delicious sausage coil bought from a boucherie at the markets a couple of days previous. The sausage was herby and really meaty, so different from everyday sausages.

Our last full day in Paris was a fairly relaxed affair. We had to reassemble our suitcases and backpacks for our flight the next day and generally tidy up. We went for a walk in the local suburb and discovered today was the day for their local markets. Any self-catered trip to France can gain huge inspiration from what is fresh, presented so beautifully and fairly reasonably priced. We picked up some delicious specialty cakes from the patisserie directly underneath us and filled baguettes for lunch.

In the late afternoon we headed firstly to our booked dinner restaurant to let them know we might be a little late (thought that polite) and then off to join the short queue at The Catacombs. They only sell timed entry tickets, and had not released the day we wanted to go before we flew out of Brisbane. When we were finally able to secure entry, it was for around 5:30, and we were concerned we would not make the 7pm dinner booking (lucky we changed it).

We arrived a little early for our timed entry, but they let us in, we scored audio guides also then began the descent into the dark passages that were once limestone quarries, mazes of tunnels that honeycomb under the streets of the city. I was concerned I would not be able to see (poor night vision) but I gradually grew accustomed to the dim general lighting created by a string of lamps. 131 steps down before the first set of tunnels that then lead to the ossuary (formal bone storage), and an irregular crouch to avoid cracking my head on the rough hewn ceiling (tall people beware) – surely this is where Quasimodo the hunchback did his postural training 😛

We were guided through a bewildering maze of passages, all lined both sides with an incalculable number of bones from human skeletons, stretching back as far as the eye could see. The leg bones and skulls were used to form the wall face, with smaller bones piled in behind. Bones have been deposited here for hundreds of years, an overwhelming reminder of mortality and the impermanence of beauty.

Most of the skulls had their backs to the outside (not sure why) but every now and then you got a cluster (sometimes arranged eerily in patterns) of empty eye sockets looking out at you, very eerie. No flash photography was allowed so I had a chance to play a little with available light hand-held photography, and some of the images are both startling and clear, to many were murky and blurred, but I was happy with those that worked. They disallow tripods, flash and other equipment, and the walk though the various tunnels is arduous, claustrophobic, and you are literally surrounded by the remains of people.

We had, naively, assumed the entrance and exit were in the same place. 112 steps back up to street level and we discovered we were a further 700m away from the entrance, leading to a mad dash to locate where we were and how we get to our restaurant for dinner.

Fortunately Google maps came to the rescue and we ended up being only 10 minutes late. Jo had a lovely fish meal (Bass on ratatouille) and I had a hearty plate of beef bourguignon, with baguette to mop up the juices – a lovely end to a varied day. On return home we completed the pre-packing and organisation for the next days transit, and then set alarms and fell asleep immediately, having once again exceeded our target step counts by lots.

Our transit day began with fresh pear pastries from a local boulangerie, final packing and then lugging of luggage down the 58 spiral stairs to ground level. A quick rattle to the Orly Bus stop, purchase of tickets and a game of sardines for 30 minutes as they squeezed as many on the bus as possible before setting off. We both imagined sitting for the journey. By the time I had stowed the bags, Jo had the last remaining seat.

Airport was funny in retrospect. We has “Max” tickets, Transavia’s equivalent of priority passengers, but our downloaded boarding passes did not say this, so we joined a queue to be bounced and bounced and finally found the near empty queue for us posh bastards who bought Max only for extra leg room and suitcase allowance (which we are a long way from needing this trip). We also had tea and bought filled baguettes from Paul (a French refreshment franchise) for the flight, as Transavia has no inflight catering supplied (you can pay for things off the trolley, but yeah, naa) then eventually boarded the flight to Lisbon, Portugal.

On board, a few rows ahead of us, a non-English/French speaking mother and small son had been allocated an exit row, and the steward asked us to swap with them because, apparently, we looked like people who could open an emergency exit after a plane crash. The net gain was more leg room than we have ever had on any flight ever.

2ish hours in the air and we descended int Lisbon, all good. Bus to the terminal (and another game of uncomfortable sardines), ok. Through passport control (without any checking), locate our baggage collection, ok, and wait… and wait … and panic … and seek help, without finding anyone who could say something other than “not my job/concern”. Nearly 2 hours later our baggage began to appear (after 2 other later flights had gotten their baggage from our carousel). Luggage that gets a round of applause is funny in retrospect, but no fun during.

Greatly relieved nothing had been sent by error to Guatemala, we located the Metro station below ground, bought tickets and loaded credit on to them, then located a pair of connecting lines, navigated 2 separate trains to arrive at Cais do Sodré, a stones throw from the base of the hill our Lisbon apartment is perched on. Lugging the suitcases up cliffs of stairs nearly broke me. It was hot, we were tired, but the welcome from our host was warm and the apartment breezy, light and very comfortable. We settled in, did a reccy of the facilities and then walked down to a nearby supermarket for essentials, returned and made tea and collapsed exhausted. 

Based on the recommendations from our host, we decided to eat at a little family restaurant a few streets above us. What a terrific choice that was. Grilled prawns with garlic and white pepper sauce for starters was voluminous and so fresh and delicious. We decided on grilled bass for main, and a whole fish arrived, split and grilled, served with chunks of lemon and a platter of simple boiled vegetables. It was all so delicious. I am usually a fish wimp, but tackled this, bones and all with ease. So fresh, so simply prepared, totally delicious. I also had a small bottle of Mateus rose, I had forgotten how delicious that is as well, the perfect accompaniment to the meal.

Shattered, we returned to the flat, frustrated that our “My European Sim” had negotiated calls with the local Vodaphone network, but no internet (it took 24 hrs to enable internet, all good now – hopefully not the same inconvenience in Spain in a little over a week). Wifi in the apartment is fast and reliable, we can cope, to bed to recover from a huge day, looking forward to exploring Lisbon further on the morrow, hoping our legs and backs will hate us less tomorrow also.

Good work for making it to the bottom of what should have been, in retrospect, 2 or more posts. Soz.

2 Responses to Au Revoir Paris, Ola Lisbon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.