Sat Oct 22 05:42:37 CAT 2016

C'est la vie in Paris but food cost, ooh la la!

By unknown | Jul 29, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

I have no idea whether the French introduced to the world of dining the concept of sidewalk cafes, but what they certainly have done is perfect this wonderful way of eating outside.

I have no idea whether the French introduced to the world of dining the concept of sidewalk cafes, but what they certainly have done is perfect this wonderful way of eating outside.

Arriving in Paris recently after a four-hour train ride from the seaside town of Marseilles, I was stuck with the problem of what to do for six hours before heading off to Charles de Gaulle Airport for my 11.15pm Air France flight back to Joburg.

It was my first time in this city I'd heard so much about, so I was desperate to cram as much into the afternoon as possible.

Too much luggage is always a problem, so a good alternative to carting bags around is to use the lockers at the Gare de Lyon railway station in central Paris. It costs 9.50 euros (R114) for 12 hours but is well worth the expense.

With my suitcase safely locked away, it was time to explore. The first thing my three companions and I needed to decide on was how to get around this historic city.

The Paris City Hop-on Hop-off tour bus appeared to be very popular with travellers. There are nine designated stops and as you travel along, you get a recorded commentary in English on the historical sites you are passing.

Next up, and they are positioned just outside the railway station, are bicycles you can hire. You have to pay using your credit card, but repeated attempts by our group proved unsuccessful. It looks a fun way of getting around and Paris is particularly flat so the riding should be a breeze.

There are drop-off points throughout the city for when you've had enough of cycling, which is convenient.

We opted instead to do a combination of public buses - which are cheap and frequent - and walking.

Starting off, we decided to follow the River Seine which flows through the centre of town.

Along its banks are a variety of artists selling anything from original paintings to copies to a wide selection of books and comics.

But it's off the main streets where I found a Paris I had imagined it would be like.

Single-lane cobblestone streets, old apartments with colourful flower boxes and washing hanging from the upper level, quaint little antique shops and the ever-present bar/coffee shop/deli.

After a couple of hours of walking, bartering and buying, we decided it was time for a bite to eat and settled on a pizza restaurant with a couple of tables under umbrellas outside. I had heard previously about the cost of dining out in Paris, but never figured four pizzas and four cold drinks would come to the equivalent of R900!

Dining out is definitely an expensive exercise and the closer you dine to the magnificent Avenue des Champs-Elysees the costlier it gets.

A little fuller in the stomach and lighter in the wallet, it was time to hit the road again.

To work off our lunch we took a short walk through the Jardin des Plantes, which is the main botanical garden in Paris. Established in 1626 as a medicinal-herb garden, today it is immaculately kept and contains close on 4500 different varieties of plants.

Next up was the Notre Dame (or Our Lady) Cathedral. Construction began way back in 1163 and today it is still used by the Catholic Church for regular services.

With it being summer in France, the queues of tourists to gain entry were hundreds deep, but to simply absorb the history and architecture of this famous building was good enough.

And that's the thing about France. Its history is very rich and the buildings have been immaculately maintained or restored.

Notre Dame for example, along with so many other buildings in Paris, has survived the French Revolution, two World Wars, seen the coronation of Napoleon and his wife Josephine and is still a work of art.

A Seine River cruise is another way of getting a different perspective on the city. Tours range from a couple of hours to a few days. Again you can hop on and off at various designated spots along the river.

With our feet aching, wallets looking the worse for wear and enough souvenirs to fill a small shop, it was time to retrieve our bags and head for the airport.

One word of advice though . if you are planning on spending any remaining euros at Charles de Gaulle Airport, forget it. The number of shops and variety was most disappointing. Rather finish your shopping in town.

Another tip ... have a bite to eat before leaving for the airport. A plain ham and cheese sandwich on brown bread plus a coke was just over 10 euros (R120) at a scruffy airport cafe.

Acsa (Airports Company of South Africa) often comes in for a lot of flak, but should be given credit where credit is due and the friendliness and efficiency of the immigration officials at OR Tambo International was like a breath of fresh air. Also luggage from the flight was out in no time - untampered with as well.

I was standing outside the airport waiting for my lift home and a disabled woman on crutches - her hair beautifully braided - turned to me, smiled and said "Good morning".

It felt good to be home!


Login OR Join up TO COMMENT