Friday, 13 November 2009

J's Visit Part 4: Paris sous la pluie



As I wait for my next visitors to arrive this evening, I've decided it's probably time to finish writing about what I did with the last ones.

On J's last day here, it rained. Nevertheless, we decided to go up the Tour Montparnasse and, although the view would have been better on a nicer day, it wasn't a bad decision. The tower is the tallest skyscraper in France and mainly houses office blocks, but for a pricey ten euros, you can take the lift up to the fifty-sixth floor in only 38 seconds and admire the view from both inside and on the rooftop. As well as the view, there are interactive displays with snippets of interesting information about Paris, such as quotes from writers who have lived there and clips from songs about the city. There's also a fairly mediocre café.

After Montparnasse, we went to Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur. There is continual worship inside the church, but because it was Sunday it was particularly well attended. On the one hand this was great, because there was lovely music and a real atmosphere in the church, but on the other hand, I don't think that churches should really be open to tourists while services are going on and I found it quite uncomfortable walking around while other people were praying.

We wandered around Montmartre in the rain for a little while after that. Montmartre is Amélie Poulain Paris, full of narrow streets and stairways and little shops and cafés. It can be really touristy, but in the back streets on a rainy Sunday night, it was very atmospheric. We had a drink in a little restaurant near the Place du Tertre where a pianist entertained us by playing an great variety of songs, occasionally with his elbows, before walking down the hill for dinner.

It's hard to find a good restaurant in Montmartre because a lot of them look terribly French and have typically French menus which turn out to be poor, cheap copies of the real dishes, so we went to La Pierrade, where I had been before with a French friend. (How do French people always manage to find the good ones?) Jane actually had a pierrade, which is a hot stone on which you cook a selection of meats yourself, and I had a lovely piece of salmon with garlic, which wasn't a combination I would have thought of but it tasted great. If we had both been a bit hungrier, however, we would probably have gone for the raclette. Raclette is a kind of cheese that you normally eat melted. Most of the times I've had it, it's either been melted over potatoes in a frying pan or grilled in a raclette machine, but at La Pierrade, it comes served on a special device made up of a hook on which the cheese is suspended under a grill. At the bottom, there is a plate, and as the cheese melts, you scrape it off and spread it over potatoes, ham and salami. Maybe next time I'll have worked up an appetite worthy of this wonderful idea!

The meal was not your typical French restaurant experience, however, as the people next to us, seeing us eyeing up their raclette, decided to start up a conversation. One of the guys in the group was very sociable and insisted on taking pictures of us and everybody else in our part of the restaurant, as well as buying us a drink and inviting us to their table for dessert. This was all well and good until he went downstairs for a cigarette, got into an argument with the staff and he and the rest of the group, who seemed nice and reasonably normal, had to be asked to leave.

After dinner we were thinking about going back to the piano restaurant for another drink but on the way we got side-tracked by a lively-looking bar where some Australians who had also been dragged into the conversation at the restaurant were having a drink. We were tempted in, but it turned out to be full of very drunk Kiwis (who probably thought they were experiencing the joys of Parisian nightlife) singing out of tune to a guy with a guitar, and after we had been chatted up by a gay guy and I had had my hand held by a man who was either to desperately in love with me or too drunk to find anything to say, we decided it was time to leave. We actually managed to catch the last train home that night!

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