Unexpectedly, I fell in love with Paris. Yes, Paris, home of scary snobby waiters and crap French exchange students. We only went there because the flights were cheap and it seemed that there would be lots of interesting things to do and see... and good wine to drink, of course. And whaddaya know, Paris weaved it's magic spell around me and I fell for it, hook, line and sinker.
I'm not sure any of these photos really capture the refined air of romance, the Gallic glitter, effete elegance and breath-taking beauty of Paris, but I thought I'd share them with you anway. Enjoy... I certainly did.
A tapestry at the Cluny Museum, home of the wonderful Lady and Unicorn tapestries, which unfortunately I don't have any pictures of as the room was too dark.
However, seeing the famous tapestries for real is a fantastic experience. What you don't realise when you see them endlessly reproduced on cushions, scarves, bags and other faux Medieval gifties from Past Times is how massive the tapestries, and how very different the faces of the women are too.
The awesomely beautiful mediaeval Sainte Chapelle, built in 1248 by King Louis IX to house Christ's crown of thorns.
Detail of a decorated pillor in the Sainte Chapelle.
The glorious ceiling of the undercroft at Sainte Chapelle.
The stained glass windows in the Sainte Chapelle are absolutely breath-taking, a blaze of rich colour and glowing light. Definitely one of the most amazing sights we've ever seen.
The Baroque golden Dôme Church in the Invalides area of Paris holds the tomb of Napoleon. That's that big brown thing that looks a bit like a chocolate on a plinth. Everything in the Dôme Church is very very big. As befits such a mighty hero I supposed, but it's all wee bit horrid actually.
Behind the church is the Musée de l'Armée, which houses a staggeringly huge collection of weapons, uniforms and other militaria. The exhibition about the Second World War is particularly interesting and, in places, moving.
The fantastic palace of Versailles, home to the Sun King, Louis IX, his great-grandson Louis XV (yes, the rascally old king really lived that long) and his son, the ill-fated Louis XVI, who lived there with his infamous wife, Marie Antoinette. Before they got their heads chopped off. The royal apartments are ridiculously luxurious and ornate, adorned with rich fabrics, enormous sparkling chandeliers and gleaming with gold, gold and more gold.
Louis XIV created an idyllic pastoral paradise for Marie Antoinette just outside her palace, the Petit Trianon, which is set in the grounds of Versailles.
Le Hameau de la Reine is as charming and as fake now as it was then, a veritable pastural Disneyland. No wonder the real peasants chopped off her head.
The mill at the Queen's Hamlet.
Louis XIV's own personal palatial retreat, the Grande Trianon.
Outside the Louvre. Isn't the Holy Grail supposed to be buried round here somewhere? Apparently, the pyramid, designed by the Chinese American architect IM Pei and opened in 1989, has 666 panes of glass. Spooky...
The Louvre is absolutely vast - it would take you weeks to see everything. It also gets pretty crowded, but it's worth fighting the throngs to get round.
And inside - the ultra cool tomb of Philippe Pot, a high ranking official in Burgundy, apparently. I also got to see the Mona Lisa, which I was expecting to find a bit disappointing. But whaddaya know, she's pretty damn cool - but I guess you don't become the most famous painting in the world by being a bit crap. What is she smiling about? The fact that she's supposedly a self-portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci in drag? Or the fact that for centuries afterwards, people will still be coming up with daft theories about her? You decide.
'Life doesn't get any easier, it just
dresses up in furs
Life is like a thief to ya, it steals away the years.
Fifty years later, they publish my fables, I will be long gone,
Taking a dirt nap, under a world that done me wrong.
In exile I died, for mercy I cried
But they just turned their backs on me...'
Tyla, Ballad of Fingal O'Flahertie
The tomb of the wonderful Oscar Wilde. Exiled from Britain after his infamous trial and imprisonment, he sank into an absinthe-soaked life of dissipation in Europe, finally dying in 1900. He may have ended up in the gutter, looking at the stars, but after his death this monument, designed by Jacob Epstein, was erected for him. Suitably kitsch and OTT - I think Finghal O'Flahertie would have approved. See all those coloured marks on it? They're lipstick kisses. Not my lipstick though. I decided that might be a bit unhygienic.
Oscar Wilde is buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery, in the North East of Paris. The cemetery is vast and strangely peaceful, despite the tourists, crowded with ornate tombs lain side by side with shiny new modern tombstones. Also here lie Edif Piaf, Jim Morrison (hard to get through the throngs of American teenagers to reach his grave) and the queen of gothic theatre, Sarah Bernhardt. Except that, try as we might, we couldn't find her grave. Pity, she was cool.
The beautiful Sacré-Coeur, in the Montmartre district. Work began on this wonderful basilica in 1875, but wasn't finished until 1919. You have to climb a heck of a lot of steps to get here but it's definitely worth it as inside it's simply gorgeous, the walls lined with beautiful pre-Raphaelite mosaics of the saints.
Wander down from the Sacré-Coeur and you're in the heart of the artist quarter. Want your portrait painted in a pastel '80s style? You're in the right place.
Voulez-vous couchez avec moi? Mais biensûr - c'est la Moulin Rouge! Actually it's in a very seedy part of town, at the foot of Montmartre. The Moulin Rouge strip is lined with sad looking strip joints, with faded posters of '80s lap dancers and tawdry sex toys displayed in the windows. Sadly, Crazy Horse, Paris, France, is in another part of town, so we didn't see it.
The Jardin des Plantes, Paris's botanical gardens. The King's Garden used to be at Versailles, but Marie-Antoinette dug it up to make room for her Hamlet. Royals! Whatever you do, don't step on the grass. The Lawn Police are watching you...
We stayed in the Jardin des Plantes area, in the 5eme Arondissement, just a couple of minutes away from Rue Mouffetard. With its vibrant pub and restaurant culture, charming narrow streets and lively ethnic mix, this is a great part of town to stay. For starters, it's pretty cheap, you can walk to most of the major sights (Nôtre-Dame and the Cluny are just ten minutes away) and there's a yummy food market every day along Rue Mouffetard. What more could you want?
A gargoyle. Oh no, it's just me, outside Nôtre-Dame on the last day of our holiday. This photo was taken from the Ile St Louis, which is the island just below the Ile de la Cité. With its narrow streets and seriously pricey property, this is definitely the place to be in Paris. Charming gift shops, fantastic views of the cathedral and some fabulous looking restaurants make this a great spot to spend a Sunday afternoon. We only discovered it on our final day, and wished we'd found it sooner. But hey, it's always good to have a reason to go back.
Paris, je reviendrais bientôt...