Paris by boat, Reims by night

Trip Start Apr 02, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

We woke up the following morning to check out of our swish hotel (boo) and took the metro back in to the centre of town, this time to check out the Notre Dame. We exited Cite station and stopped for a little coffee to wake us up, before mistaking not one but two gargoyle-adorned, Gothic-esque structures for Our Lady herself (clearly not enough coffee). After crossong the Seine twice in our quest, we finally stumbled on the (enormous) cathedral.

The spectacular Notre Dame is so quintessentially Gothic that its thinning walls, popularized during the Gothic period, induced the first use of buttress supports to keep its walls from collapsing. Knowing this, it's hard to imagine how the cathedral was originally meant to look, as the supports only add to its grandeur. The cathedral's façade is wonderfully intricate, sculpted with Biblical stories and depictions of Christianity's icons. We admired all sides, particularly the famed Black Tower, framed by the Spring's pink and white blossom, but found the queues to enter or climb the towers unbearably long.

After basking in the sun in the cathedral's gardens, it dawned on us to take a tourist boat down the Seine, an activity I have done before and would thoroughly recommend. The boat passes by such sights as the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, the Montparnasse and, of course, the Tour Eiffel. It was a relaxing way to see some of the most beautiful sights of Paris, least of all its fantastic gold-plated or aging-iron bridges. The boat's tour guide speaks in French, English, Spanish and Italian, conversing fluently in any one to answers passengers' questions. The trip is well worth the 12 euros to sample the history of the city and its idiosyncratic stories that guide books ordinarily omit.

We dismounted the boat and sadly had to return to the hotel to drive away from Paris and east to Reims, the champagne region's primary city (what better way to spend Easter than sampling the region's finest?). Unfortunately, the city was entirely submerged by road works whilst we were there, but is undoubtedly typically French and home to (another) stunning cathedral. We checked into the Hotel Ibis (basic, cheap, very clean), and refreshed ourselves with a bottle of fine red wine and nibbles, before having a wander of Reim's pedestrianised main street.

We went to Le Grand Café for dinner, which had been recommended by our hotel's friendly staff. Le Grand Café is more than just 'a big café', and is a must for its atmosphere, food and service - our waiter was so friendly and attentive that we actually returned the following night (hardly exploratory, but if it ain't broke....)! We ordered snails to start to fulfil a curiosity for Ed - with very positive results :) and then gorged ourselves on moules, all five of us choosing variations on the classic dish. Ed was so keen on moules that he finished everyone's leftovers, miraculously eating about two kilos in total (we commented later it was probably more miraculous he kept them down :$). Desserts were indulgent chocolatey goo to die for (hey, it is Easter). We left the restaurant full, merry and feeling popular with the French - for once!

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