25.12.2011 - 28.12.2011 2 °C
Christmas Day was clear and crisp and around mid-morning, we hired Velibs and rode along the Canal St Martin to a park named Buttes Chaumont. This has a high point from which there are good views of some famous Paris landmarks such as Sacre Cœur at Montmartre and the Eiffel Tower. I'd heard that one of the shortcomings of the bike hire scheme here is that the racks at the top of hills are often fairly empty due to people's preference for downhill riding. This proved to be the case when we went looking for bikes for the return journey and we walked a good deal of the way back to the apartment before finding the three that we needed. It was quite surprising to see that there were a fair number of boulangeries and grocery stores open on Christmas Day as we walked through the Belleville area.
For Christmas dinner, we had quail, red cabbage, and vegetables whilst working our way through a wine list that included Champagne, some Reisling from Alsace and a couple of fine offerings from Bourgogne and the Loire Valley. After all of this, we didn't venture out again on Christmas evening.
During our remaining days in Paris, we went to Pere Lachaise cemetery (again in my case ... I was able to be the tour guide); did some more shopping; visited the Georges Pompidou Centre which is an interesting "inside-out" building with very good collections of contemporary art; had some good lunches and dinners; and did some more shopping.
On the 27th, Frances took the train to London to meet up with a friend and have a quick look around. Sonia and I went up to Montmartre for another look at this area, tried to get frostbite again riding bicycles, wandered around Le Marais again and went to the Salon Rouge cinema in the afternoon. We watched a beautiful Belgian-French animation named LeTableau. Although the audio was difficult to follow exactly, we understood it and appreciated the artwork and sentiment of the film. We had really enjoyed a French animation written by Jacques Tati called The Illusionist that showed when the Traveling Sydney Film Festival spent a weekend in Toowoomba and this had a similar feel to it.
In the evening, we dined at a good Tibetan restaurant in the 3rd Arrondissement. It was good to get reacquainted with some stir-fried vegetables after having quite a lot of French dishes. The following day, we cycled down Canal St Martin to a former industrial area called La Villette that has undergone some urban renewal. Although it was very cold, we appreciated the design of the park areas which reminded us of the clever, arts-focused renewal projects that had occurred around the old harbour area in Bristol.
After lunch at a Moroccan restaurant, we did some final Paris shopping at a number of places including L'Artisan Parfumeur (a man who makes and sells perfumes ... as well as flattering you using English in the French accent you would expect and presenting himself in a perfectly matching lilac outfit), and Aesop (a Melbourne company that sells beauty and skin-care products and has opened a few shops in Paris in a "selling coals to Newcastle" exercise).
Fran returns tonight and in the morning, we take the train to Avignon.