Thursday, 12 September 2013

The weekend of... Paris and my birthday {part 3}

DAY 3: Monday aka. My Birthday

Our 'day' started at midnight, when we woke up for a 'midnight feast' celebration involving my chocolate birthday cupcake, condensed milk, and chocolate. Despite the sugar, we were able to fall back asleep though, and wake up early on Monday to make the most of our last day in Paris.

We were headed to the Notre Dame Cathedral, and this time we were much better orientated and carefully followed the maps at bus-stops. Along the way we stopped at a bakery and bought a Palmier and Almond croissant. We saved the latter but enjoyed the palmier along our walk.



We passed the Gare de l'Est, which is quite impressive, and enjoyed seeing all sorts of other buildings along our way... so many of them are beautiful!


We eventually came to a pretty cake shop and could resist no longer. I mean, look how beautiful these are!


So we went inside and bought two chocolate macarons which we stashed away until we found somewhere to sit and appreciate them!


We came to the Square de la Tour st. Jaques, and went there to sit and enjoy them. My expectations were met - the macarons were crisp on the outside but inside they had plenty of chocolatey filling and a piece of chocolate in the centre. A great experience!


Soon, we came to the Notre Dame, where they have a sort of grand-stand set up in front of the entrance for visitors to admire the building from. We hung out there for a while, sitting with the pigeons eating the almond croissant (SO delicious) - you can tell by now that I pretty much had an all-day-birthday-party with all the tasting we did!


The weather was quite cold and it was great to walk into the warmth of the Cathedral, which really on first impression is beautiful - the darkness with the old chandeliers hanging down made it really warm and eerie.


But, the more we saw of it, the more disgusted we were. I'm of the opinion (and I'm not assuming that everybody is of the same), that Cathedrals are built to magnify God and to glorify God. When I see one, I want to go 'wow, these people were so in awe of God, so committed to Him, that they built this?!'
Sadly, the Notre Dame seems more to glorify itself.
Right in the church, they have their stalls set up selling souvenirs, they have vending machine type things that you can buy a commemorative coin from (celebrating 850 years), flashing their bright lights in various locations. They have their candles for sale. And then, behind the alter, they have a display about how they built the building. Sure, that's interesting, but in a place meant to glorify God, should they really be drawing attention and glorifying to the process of building it?


It really left me cold and we couldn't wait to get out. As we were leaving, we noticed a small box asking for money for the poor, hardly visible among the bright lights of their commercial sales.


As we left, there was a man outside holding bird-food in his hand, allowing the birds to flock to him and eat. What his intention was I'm not sure, but I saw a clearer picture of God's love and compassion in him than in the great notre dame.


We went around to the back of the cathedral, and were surprised how quiet it was - clearly the grandstand at the front had people fixed there. From behind though, it was beautiful. Far more beautiful than the cold exterior of the front. The flowers and the fountain, the quietness and the relative solitude, finally allowed us to enjoy it.



From there, we crossed over the bridge, another one full of love locks. I love the way the locks add colour to the bridge, especially on a grey day.


We wandered through some streets, buying some bread and cheese along the way, to find the Luxembourg Gardens. Just the day before I had commented how in SA my birthday is in spring and it always rains, and that I'm glad to have an autumn birthday here because the weather is SO much better... I spoke too soon.

We arrived at the gardens and, despite the weather getting progrssively worse, we wandered around a bit. We enjoyed the bright colours at the fountain, and the autumn leaves on the trees.


Not long after though, big rain drops started falling. We took cover in a garden pavilion/gazebo, along with a few others and decided to wait it out there. We had our lunch there, and then some chocolate from SA that Kristen sent me for my birthday (she clearly knows which brands and types are not available here, and the chocolates she sent were a sweet taste of home!). But, it was still raining and it didn't look like it was going to stop. And it was really cold - I saw later on a sign a temp of 14degrees! Fortunately I had packed another knit jersey in Malcolm's bag which I could put on, but stockings? Really?


We decided that we might as well just go and get wet, seeing as it would happen sooner or later. I'd Googled a cafe before-hand that I knew had crème brûlée and had my heart set on going there. 1km isn't very far when you know where you're going on a sunny day, but in the pouring rain with no umbrella and the need to check the map frequently, it seems like a long way. But, we put a smile on our faces and walked along, jumping over overflowing gutters and stopping at the Pantheon for shelter and a map-check before carrying on. We had walked about 350m by this point, and were already pretty wet, and then the rain got heavier.



It was actually fun though, and I love Malcolm even more for agreeing to walk a kilometre in the rain when there were cafes closer.

Imagine my surprise when we reach the place this cafe is meant to be, and it's not there? There was, however, another cafe that looked pretty cosy so we went inside - much to Malcolm's relief.


I don't know what the man thought when this drenched girl walks in and says 'bonjour, est-ce que vous avez de la crème brûlée" He looked amused and told me it's their speciality... hooray!


So we sat down and soon I had crème brûlée in front of me and Malcolm had profiteroles au chocolat in front of him, and we had warm coffee. It was a very happy moment. And they tasted delicious.


Evidently, our plans had gone out the window, as we had hoped to spend more time in the garden and also go to the jardin des plantes, or the Bastille square. But, it would have been miserable going in the rain and in my frozen state (it's only fun for so long!). I was NOT dressed for this weather, and while Malcolm at least had a jacket, he was also pretty cold! So, we decided to call it a day and to the station early.

Fortunately, there was a metro stop right across the road and we quickly got under ground. I always thought underground stations were warm (they seem to be in Koln!), but the gusts of wind that blew down made me impatient to get on a train! We couldn't figure out which line to take, so I went to the information counter and asked the man there for help. He was SO friendly and helpful! He took out a map and circled where we were, where to go with which number line and where to change over to the next line. He even had sound effects for the trains! :D


We bought our tickets and 'composted' them, and after following the corridors, finally got to the train and were on it and warm. The change over wasn't at all scary as things are really well signed, and we made it successfully to the Gare du Nord. We were still cold though, and my jerseys were wet so they just made me colder. The corridors were icey and windy, but we made the grand discovery that the warmest place in the Gare du Nord seems to be the bathroom! Malcolm paid his 70c to go in while I waited in the warm area just before the turnstiles, and he then dried my jerseys with the hand-dryers... happy girl!

Unfortunatly, we still needed to go back out to get our bags from the hotel, but there was a little shelter close to the buildings, and the hotel was super-close, so we got our bags and got back to the station still pretty dry.

After walking around and seeing as much of the station as we could, we found a spot to plop down and wait an hour for our train. It wasn't the most exciting time, and it would have been nice to be out seeing the city still, but we were warm(ish) and together and happy :)


The train trip back felt extra-long and dreary, watching the rainy and misty countryside... made brighter only by the company.


But eventually we pulled into Koln Hauptbahnhof. We found some bretzeln for supper and then took the tram home. Our walk wasn't too bad, and Malcolm sang happy birthday to me in various lanugages, but our front door looked SO inviting, and I couldn't wait to finally be warm! I was even more excited though, when in the foyer, Ellen and Wolfgang had left me a card, some matches and a cake with a candle in it! They were upstairs already and didn't hear the knock as I wanted to say thank-you, so we came inside, Malcolm lit the candle, and we ended my all-day-birthday-party with some cake.


Despite being exhausted and Malcolm needing to be up early the next day, I got the chance to skype Mum, which finished off the day perfectly.

It was such a great birthday and so many contributions made it special - the cards I received, the chocolate from Kristen, the crème brûlée and coffee sponsored by Petra, the kindness of strangers, the thoughtfulness of Ellen and Wolfgang, and then the facebook messages. Even the German government gave me an ID number (Found it in the postbox!). I was initially sort-of dreading my birthday, anticipating a day of missing SA and my friends there - but all these little things, and of course spending the whole day with Malcolm having our all-day-party, made it so wonderful.

Our time in Paris was also better than I imagined - far more than just ticking sites off. Sure, it didn't always go to plan, but life never does, and it's not always bad. I'm also really thankful for all the Paris-advice we got, it was so helpful! It worked out perfectly, and although I do wish we could have gone to Versailles, I think with the weather being horrible on Monday, which would only have suited Versailles and not the things we did Saturday and Sunday, it was best that we did things as we did! :)

Thank you all, one last time, for the birthday wishes!

27 comments:

  1. Ahh, I love Paris and I really enjoyed reading your post as it brings back lovely memories. I have never been inside the Notre Dame though.....and think I won't bother after reading as I agree with you, it sounds pretty vulgar. It does look better from the back (as you said) or from the river anyway! The French do pastries so well. Brilliant pics!

    Louisa @ My Family & Abruzzo

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    1. Thank you! The back was soooo lovely, and there were so few people there which makes it extra special :D As for the pastries - they were soooo good. I don't know how Parisians all seem so skinny. Not fair! :D

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  2. Oh, you guys got soaked!! Man.
    Your description of the commercialization inside Notre Dame reminded me a little of the buying and selling going on in the temple that made Jesus so angry....definitely a huge distraction from what ought to be the purpose of a temple or cathedral.
    I love that you took so many pictures!

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    1. It was certainly a good shower!
      That's exactly what it reminded us of - I don't understand how the Cathedral degenerated so much to become what it is.

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  3. You guys got some beautiful pictures of Paris! What a wonderful place for a birthday - no matter the weather or activities! It's just a perfect place to be :)

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    1. Getting soaked in Paris definitely beats getting soaked after a busy day in ones hometown - it was a great place to be for sure!

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  4. What an amazing birthday! Such a jam packed day of food, fun, and walking/travelling! If I was so lucky to have spent mine in paris, I would be walking over the moon! Happy Belated Birthday, glad it was special!

    .:Marta:.

    petiteraisin.ca

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    1. We were definitely very fortunate to be able to go over my birthday weekend, I felt like one very blessed birthday girl :D

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  5. so lovely! I wish that I could have visited Notre Dame!

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    1. I guess it's worth it to cross off the list, and the back of it is really pretty, but it really did nothing more for me - I was so disappointed by it.

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  6. The desserts look fabulous. I'm jealous! :) Happy birthday again.
    http://liveitinerantly.com

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    1. Oh those desserts...
      but their prices made me sad.

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  7. Ok, a few thing...

    1. Happy birthday again!!! How exciting to be able to spend your special day in Paris!!!

    2. Reading about Notre Dame was heartbreaking. I'm with you that Cathedrals were built to glorify God and so many are turned into market places. That is far too reflective of the marketplace that was built in the temple that Jesus spoke against and even distroyed!

    3. Are you South African?!?!? I never realized that before if you are. :-)

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    1. I love numbered comments! :D
      1. Thank you! It was a very special time, and being in the 'city of love' definitely added to that!
      2. That's what we thought as we walked through! I understand that they need money for the upkeep of the building, but there are other ways, or they could move that all outside. The seats were reserved for those wanting to pray and no photos were allowed there - but still there were entire tour groups sitting there with their guide snapping away.
      3. Yes we're South African! Just moved to Germany a few months ago :)

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  8. the love locks are so sweet and inspiring - i wish we had something similar in minneapolis. maybe i should start something??

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    1. They are really sweet! And they're popping up on bridges all over - even here in Cologne the one bridge is covered in them... I love walking along reading them, every now and then there's an interesting one :) Go ahead and start!

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  9. happy birthday! what a lovely day!!! i love that you woke up at midnight to eat cake...i want to make that my own tradition!!

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    1. I think it's an awesome tradition to begin! :D

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  10. Happy Birthday to you. What a lovely post! The pictures are so beautiful- Paris must have been absolutely amazing. It's a city on the top of my travel list. I'm so disappointed the Notre Dame was portrayed like that. I had high hopes for that one- oh well! I'm sure the many other sites in Paris will make up for it. Lovely reading your blog!

    Cheers!
    Akshara
    Simply Akshara

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    1. Thank you! Paris was wonderful, it might be slightly over-rated or 'unoriginal' but it was great being there and seeing the landmarks for ourselves. The Opera Garnier was my favourite place there - much better than the notre dame!
      Thanks for reading and the sweet comment!

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  11. Yay! Looks like you had an excellent birthday despite the rain. How sweet of Malcolm to dry your sweater for you. Happy belated birthday!

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    1. Oh yes! And a warm jersey, freshly dried, definitely was appreciated!!!
      Thank you :D

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  12. Oh how I love crème brûlée! Sorry to hear you were disappointed in Notre Dame, we love approaching and walking by this church (8am massses are a great way to see it without too many tourists and in a more solemn manner). I think part of the problem is the grandstand and commemorative coins are there this year for the 850th anniversary and there are special night shows and demonstrations that bring larger crowds and the grandstand (which only appeared this year) really makes that area crowded. Overall, though, sounds like you had a wonderful end to your birthday trip.

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  13. Oh how I love crème brûlée! Sorry to hear you were disappointed in Notre Dame, we love approaching and walking by this church (8am massses are a great way to see it without too many tourists and in a more solemn manner). I think part of the problem is the grandstand and commemorative coins are there this year for the 850th anniversary and there are special night shows and demonstrations that bring larger crowds and the grandstand (which only appeared this year) really makes that area crowded. Overall, though, sounds like you had a wonderful end to your birthday trip.

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    1. Yeah I'm sure the Mass would make it feel a bit more solemn... though it's not necessarily solemn-ness I'm after, just not exploiting it as much. Hopefull after the 850yr commemoration is over it will be a little better :)
      I still had a wonderful day though!

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  14. Sounds like you had a lovely birthday!! And I'm like you, I much preferred Notre Dame from the back!! And I love how you made an adventure and a memorable moment out of finding a cafe in the rain, that ended up not being there! At least you found some creme brulee! I LOVE creme brulee! One of my favorites!!

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    1. Ah the Notre dame from the back is so beautiful. I was SO bleak when the cafe wasn't there after I'd asked Malcolm to come all the way to it, but the fact that they have creme brulee made it up - I've had it once before but really wanted FRENCH creme brulee :D

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