It was Sunday September 24, 2006 that Sue and I were driven to Melbourne airport for our big adventure to France and Italy. She had been to Europe in the 70s, me - I'd been to Fiji and the US also in the 70s.
We met in 1980 and with the process of buying a home and having two sons during those early years overseas travel never seemed like an option.
While sitting with friends one sunny Sunday with a glass of Chardy (Chardonnay), we decided it was time to travel. We were to go with our very good friends however our needs differed with the planning and so did the dates so we decided it would be just the two of us. We travel well together.
Our plan was to spend a few days in Paris before getting the TGV from Gare de Lyon to Avignon in Provence to pick up our leased Citroen C3 and then motor off to Arles for an overnight stop. We would then travel to our three level villa at Saint Chinian, not far from Beziers in the Languedoc region. But more about that in a later post.
Our method of travelling is to spend at least a week in one place at a time with a few overnight stays to our next “home” for a week.
Slow Travel is what we do and Sue was endlessly on the various travel sites and forums researching places to stay, travel routes and costs. She finds that the planning is half the fun.
Our hotel in Rue Gay Lussac for our first three days in Paris was comfortable and in an excellent location. You can see Sue looking out our bedroom window on the third level to the right.
We caught Paris Shuttle to our first night at Hotel Elysa Luxembourg on Rue Gay Lussac to be welcomed by Vincent at the front desk. Our room faced out to the street and we could watch the passing traffic.To us, it was the perfect spot, not too touristy, yet not far from the usual tourist spots.
Sue wrote in our diary, “The hotel is in a lovely neighborhood. Went for a walk – lots of families, students, etc. Our hotel concierge Victor says that it is not polite to speak to strangers in Paris, except in this area because people are friendly."
For three nights, this was our hotel room, small but comfortable and clean.
And just across from our room we discovered that we were staying in Picasso's neighborhood.
I ran straight down Boulevard Saint Michel to the Seine passing the fountain and onto Ille de Cite. There it is was as the morning light hit the Gothic architecture. Notre Dame.
I’d only seen it in photographs before and here I was, in “real life” gazing upon this amazing cathedral and mostly on my own before Paris was awake.
Taken later in the day on our walk but imagine this scene in the early morning light, and deserted of tourists. It had a an unexplainable aura about it.
I must have stood there for 10 minutes before running back through the laneways of the left bank before finding way back to the hotel for breakfast with Sue.
We had breakfast at the hotel but after that we decided to have breakfast in the many Cafes. One in particular was the Place de la Sorbonne where we were served by the same waiter two years later on our second visit to Paris.
Breakfast in Place de la Sorbonne in the cafe to the right.
I took Sue on a walk where I had run earlier in the morning. She wrote in the diary, “What a wonderful city to explore, Notre Dame is awesome in its majesty. There should be a God. We walked hand in hand beside the Seine (that’s French law) and people watched while sipping coffee and later beer in sidewalk cafes.”
Our first real dinner in Paris was over the road from the hotel at 3 Rue Gay Lussac. Brasserie Royal introduced us to two firsts that have now become common practice on our visits to France.
“A beautiful meal tonight, where I began what I believe will be a long term relationship with Kir Royale. I had the Confit de Canard for the first time” was the last jotting in the diary before we went to bed still feeling rather jet-lagged.
Next week Wednesday:
The hop on-hop off bus and Musee Rodin, Musee d’Orsay and some nice things to say about Parisians.