Picking up where we left off, bus top ticket still in hand, we rejoined the tour for the final loop – this time actually making use of the hop-off, hop-on option. Our first stop was ground zero for the bus tour and anyone serious about shopping in Paris – Printemps and Galleries Lafayette. Even for non-shoppers, both are sights to see – the former from the top, the latter from the bottom.
After a cursory perusal of the ground floor of Printemps, we made our way up to Level 9 to the roof top terrace to take in the free 360 degree view over Paris. Much lower and more central than the view afforded from Sacre Coeur (and also including a view of Sacre Coeur), you can see the city in far greater detail in all it’s intricate beauty.
On our way next door to Galleries Lafayette, we were waylaid by one of my favourite European treats – roasted chestnuts! I hadn’t expected to see them this time around being so early in the year but there was the man with his metal drum in a trolley and newspaper cones. We availed ourselves of a modest portion, just in case Mum didn’t like them but I’m glad to report that she did – so nutty, so potatoey (the chestnuts, not my Mum!)
We entered Galleries Lafayette from the side (all the front doors closed for some reason) and just as I started to worry that it was all too normal to be the store I remembered, the central gallery revealed itself in all it’s splendour drawing our eyes up, up, up passed it’s grand balconies to it’s stunning stained glass dome. More like a cathedral or palace than a department store!
We had reserved this place and time for a quintessential Parisian purchase – Joy! Allow me to explain. My parents never lived the high life with six children – so many mouths to feed, bodies to clothe and minds to educate. On the rare occasions that they did go out, it was an event for the whole family. I remember vividly watching Mum getting ready, putting on her good dress (and for a while, that’s all she had – one good dress), doing her hair and makeup but most of all I remember that final touch – her perfume. She would show us all how to properly apply it on the pulse points and if we were lucky we might get a little dab ourselves.
Although there wasn’t much money to go around, Mum always had an appreciation for good skin care, great makeup and Dad always made sure she had a bottle of fine perfume (he still does every Christmas!). The most evocative of these for me was Joy by Jean Patou – once renowned for being the most expensive perfume in the world. Although it’s not anymore, it still costs a pretty penny and it still illicits that same sense of old world glamour and sophistication that as a child, held the promise of a future in which I might one day be as beautiful and elegant as my mother and have a good dress of my own! I might not be as beautiful or elegant but I do have a lovely dress and if you know me or any of my sisters, you’ll know how we all adore our beauty products!
All that is to say, that buying that bottle of perfume in Paris today was pure Joy in both name and nature. I bought myself a some black, organic cotton opaque tights too – not quite the same thrill but they’ll keep me warm if the weather turns.
Back on the bus, it was only two stops from this haven of sophistication to Paris’ most infamous den of debauchery, home of the can-can, the Moulin Rogue! We took our happy snaps and then explored the more colourful side of Montmartre which has always had a very close association with the arts from Toulouse Lautrec, Monet, Picasso, Pissaro, Van Gogh, Dali, Mondrian and so on all the way through to modern cinema in films such as Amelie and of course, Moulin Rogue. We then caught the funicular from the bottom back up to Sacre Coeur for another squiz and another crepe.
So ended our bus top tour… and with one quick taxi ride, began our boat tour on the Bateaux Mouches! We floated down the Seine and back again for an hour and a half of relaxation and an entirely different perspective of Paris. As we approached, reached and passed the Eiffel Tower, it was fascinating to see the magnetic pull it has on people as we all turned to give it our full attention for as long as it was in visual range.
By this point, we’d had a pretty big day but our night was just beginning. Regular readers may recall that Mum and I met a lovely couple at a cafe in London, Ariane and Tony, who had given us top tips for our time in France. Since that chance meeting, we have exchanged a few emails and arranged to meet tonight for dinner (as luck would have it, we’re staying very close by them).
They took us to a local bistro and we had a fantastic evening chatting away about everything from earthquakes, gardens, politics and the burgeoning underground ‘real coffee’ scene that’s gathering force in Paris led by a group of rogue Australians, New Zealanders and French sympathisers!
We said our goodbyes and walked home exhausted but happy. Mum commented that she never would have imagined that at (cough, cough) years of age, she would be roaming the streets at Paris at (cough, cough) o’clock so full of joie de vivre!
P.S. I forgot to charge my camera battery overnight so many of todays photos are proudly bought to you by Apple iPhone
I saw Paris from three new perspectives today – the rooftop at Printemps, the funicular to the top of Montmartre and the boat ride of the Seine and then almost a fourth view as I toddled up (another 500 steps) to have a pleasant dinner with Ariane and Tony.
What made me smile today: The beautiful, beautiful dome in Galleries Lafayette and the views of Paris and of course my Joy perfume! Love to all.