Before our Paris adventure kicked off, we found ourselves waiting at Kings Cross station to connect up with our bullet train. This station is incredible with a huge hangar-like ceiling made entirely of steel and glass. At one end, a large bronze statue of a man and woman embracing stands under an even larger clock. Outside the station is even more impressive, with an old hotel connected to it. The Gilbert Scott Hotel, where a grand staircase inside, has been restored. The impressive staircase was reopened last May after a 12 year restoration.
A man from the hotel showed us the opulent staircase which, viewing to the public is restricted to the bottom floor. Then, when nobody was around gave us permission to walk up the three levels. Intricate balustrades of wood and wrought iron lead to the rich red walls and carpets. From the top we got a sense of vertigo as the double staircase winds its way down to the floor level.
On our return to the floor level Jorge told us the staircase is well-known and has starred in many productions including a Spice Girls film clip and a couple of movies including the first Harry Potter film.
Jumping on the very expensive (first class and didn’t even know it) and very fast Eurostar bullet train, we crossed the English channel and reached Paris two hours later. With nothing booked we ventured out of the station to be greeted by heavy traffic and the sounds of unfamiliar voices. Parlais Vous Anglais? will now become our catch cry.
Finding a set of golden arches (Mc Donald’s) we adopted a technique we used in the US. Suck the junk food corporation dry for its internet! A half an hour later we were in a taxi on our way to the Arc de Triomphe and a nice little hotel called the Hotel Splendid Etoile. Once settled, we took a stroll around the Arc de Triomphe and down one of the five streets which branch out from it. It was at this point I became a little nervous about hiring a car, the roundabout here is the largest and most chaotic I have ever seen! Never mind, we can worry about that later.
Following morning we were on foot and heading down the Champs Elysees (yes, a busy street) where we got down with everyone we met. On our way we attempted to get breakfast speaking only with our bad French, I ended up with a croissant and coffee. Closer toward the Louvre we found Angelina, a place mum had recommended for exquisite cakes, ice cream and coffee (thanks mum). At this point I am feeling a little more comfortable with the basics of French and we are starting to enjoy it.
Passed the Louvre which we will see tomorrow, we made our way to Notre Dame. Feeling like hunchbacks we ascended the towers through the small spiral staircase to reach breathtaking views all over Paris. We could even see how far we had walked as the Arc de Triomphe stood proudly in the distance. Back on the ground we entered the church to find unbelievable stained glass windows and high arched ceilings. We also discovered next year (2013) is the 850 year anniversary! When you realise how old this place is, then you really appreciate the workmanship that has gone in to it. They really don’t make things like they used to.
After an exhausting day of walking around the beautiful old city, we headed back to our hotel for an early one, ready for the Louvre in the morning.