10th February 2013/Paris

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Day 4/Paris

The past three days had zoomed by in the blink of an eye and unfortunately, my time in this enchanting city was coming to an end. I had seen so much yet the city still had so much more to offer! On my final morning in Paris, I received a blessing from the skies(or so I thought). White cotton began to descend in a lazy downward spiral. It was SNOW! Whatever initial excitement I had was crushed the moment I reached out my hand and all I felt was moisture. What I thought was snow turned out to be sleet instead. Close enough I guess…. it’s still half snow right?! There’s just something different about Sundays in Paris. The whole city seems to just stop and take a break.

Sunday @ Notre Dame

Since it was a Sunday, I began my day at one of the most iconic churches in the world- Cathedral Notre Dame. Despite passing it on numerous occasions since I arrived in Paris, I had put off visiting it to Sunday just so I could attend mass. Notre Dame is located on the ile-de-cite which is one of the little islets on the River Seine. As if it’s location wasn’t stunning on its own, the church’s gothic architecture elevates it to a whole new level of magnificence. It’s gothic architecture, tower and location certainly makes Notre Dame an imposing Parisian structure. Now for some architecture up close!

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If possible, try to visit Notre Dame on a Sunday. It’ll be a more fulfilling visit since you get to see Notre Dame for what it really is, a church. The church’s schedule on a Sunday is pretty packed so you’ll most likely be able to walk in on a mass. I planned to attend the 11.30 international service since it was the only one with an English segment. I arrived early and the previous mass was still ongoing so i explored the church for a bit. It really is stunning on the inside as well with it’s stained glass murals and high archways.

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Attending mass at Notre Dame was a magical experience. Everything from the order of mass to the choir was a whole new level. From a musical standpoint, it was a eargasm. The hollow structure of the church together with the choir of angels and humongous organ combined flawlessly to create music fit for God himself. As for the mass itself i didn’t understand most of what was going on since it was never in English for most parts. I just said my amen’s & alleluias at the appropriate segments. What struck me the most was the entrance and exit sequence. It was epic but seemed more suited for Dracula’s entrance! Oh and not forgetting the bells! Deafening….. What a way to to end a mass with a bang or should i say gong? Here’s a snippet to give you an idea!

After mass, i was feeling hungry and helped myself to a cup of soup from one of those pop up street stalls on the pavement right outside the church. I was hesitant at first to buy it since it was vegetable soup but it turned out to be one of the most delish soups i’ve ever tasted and at 1 euro it was a steal. Nothing like hot soup on a chilly day!

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Next up, i followed in the footsteps of the fabled Quasimodo up to the tower of Notre Dame. Admission is free if you’re a Paris Pass holder. Unfortunately my Paris Pass was valid for 3 days only so i had to fork out 5 euro ( I got the student price) Benefits of looking like a kid 🙂 If you happen to be familiar with the tale of Quasimodo, a visit to the tower will certainly bring the story to life. The tower is exactly how the story describes it to be with its winding staircases, gated windows and bolted wooden doors. The staircases are narrow and ceilings low rise at certain levels – it’s a wonder how Quasimodo even managed to fit through…or maybe i’m just fat

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o

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Once you reach the top, you’ll be greeted by a nest of gargoyles which overlook the city in all directions.

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He looks bored!
He looks bored!
Spiral turrets
Spiral turrets

You get a pretty decent view of Paris too!

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and there’s even a tribute to Victor Hugo’s masterpiece which is one of the main reasons behind Notre Dame’s global fame today

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“But, after all, he turned his face unwillingly towards mankind. His Cathedral was sufficient for him. Was it not peopled with kings, saints, and bishops of marble who never mocked him, but ever gazed at him with calm and benevolent eyes? And the other stone figures, the demons and monsters, they showed no hatred of Quasimodo. He looked too much akin to them for that. Rather they scoffed at other men. The saints were his friends and blessed him, the monsters were his friends and protected him…So he would commune long and earnestly with them, passing whole hours crouched in front of a statue, holding solitary converse with it. If any one happened upon him, he would fly like a lover surprised in a serenade” – Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris

Nearest Metro- Saint-Michel

Latin Quarter & Le Marais

I did not plan anything for the rest of the day and i still had a few hours before my train so in the spirit of adventure, i decided to wander aimlessly around the city. After a bit of walking, i found myself in the Latin Quarter which turned out to be foodie paradise. Bistro&Patisserie-lined streets serving a whole variety of cuisines from around the globe. FOOD HEAVEN! Being a Sunday, the district was teeming with people and full of life. I spent the next hour ogling at food through the glass windows of the various shops. There’s a real sensual approach to the patisseries in Paris or food for that matter. From the way the food is arranged for sale to the the window displays- it entices you to buy EVERYTHING! After ogling my way past countless patisseries and extravagant window displays, i couldn’t resist the temptation when i came across a window display featuring a rainbow of neatly stacked macaroons. They had just taken out a fresh batch too! How could i resist?

5 macaroons @ 1 euro each. P.S i ate 2 already hehe
5 macaroons @ 1 euro each. P.S i ate 2 already hehe

With my bag of macaroons, i munched my way across the Seine and into the Marais District. I temporarily escaped the hustle and bustle of Paris into a network of beautiful alleys. I walked past numerous haute couture shops, each tucked distinctively into their own personal nook/cranny. The Marais District exudes a whole different ambience from the rest of Paris. It possesses an air of exclusivity and refinement i must say.

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I still had two things left on my Parisian checklist: Shakespeare Book Company- a favourite haunt of the century’s literary geniuses & Saint Chapelle- famous for its stained glass facade. Unfortunately, time was ticking away fast. I got lost in search of the book store and gave up after an hour of aimless walking. I gave Saint Chapelle a miss after i saw the queue. I wasn’t going to wait an hour and fork out 8 euros to see more stained glass murals. Well maybe next time!

I hurried back to the hostel, picked up my luggage and made my way to Gare de Lyon for my overnight train to Rome. Gare de Lyon is probably one of the most famous stations in Paris. It has featured in countless films and is also home to one of the most renowned restaurants- Le Train Bleu.

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If any of you caught Mr Bean’s Holiday, this was the train station where it was filmed! The restaurant which he dined in is located on the 2nd floor- the one with the neon blue signboard.

All Roads Lead to Rome

My overnight train to Rome was already berthed by the time i found the platform.

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The conductor led me to my “room” for the night. I had booked the cheapest sleeper option available- the six berth couchette compartment.

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A group of Italian men strolled into the compartment just before the train was about to depart. One of them bore an uncanny resemblance to Fabio Cannavaro… Though i doubt Cannavaro would wear a turtleneck.

As the train chugged away from Gare de Lyon, a part of me didn’t want to leave this magical, mystical city which had captured my imagination over the past four days. Au Revoir Paris…

Halfway between Paris and the French Alps, somewhere after the town of Dijon, my hunger got the better of me so i went to check out the restaurant car.

Restaurant Car
Restaurant Car

I settled on a Veal Milanese and a Kronenbourg. Similar to airplane food, it was probably microwaved and overpriced. The meal set me back by 25 euros. I was too hungry to care at that point in time anyway.

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With my hunger satisfied, i headed back to the couchette to get some rest. The historic, eternal city of Rome awaited me in the morning.

-Solo Traveller

Click to read from the beginning of the travelogue

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