Day 17: Paris/London (28 Mar) #1

Time to return to London, and last chance to cross off any Parisian attractions still left on my list!

After breakfast, I’m off to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame via Line 4, stopping at Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame. After that it’s just a short walk along the bank of the Seine and across a bridge to the Cathedral. Even though it was early in the morning, souvenir sellers and artists have begun to set up shop along this route in anticipation of the throng of tourists coming their way.

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Artwork along the Seine.

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The Seine.

The Cathedral is certainly beautiful, with its intriguing architecture and stained glass windows. I arrived pretty early, and even then there was quite a crowd outside, though the lines going in were short. A street performer (my guess?) was entertaining some of the tourists with a flock of pigeons at his command. He got them to perch on people’s heads, shoulders, arms and the like.

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It was starting to drizzle a little, but you can still see the pigeons on the right side.

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One hidden gem around Notre-Dame is the point zero of Paris, marked on the ground by a stone circle and a bronze star with the inscription “Point Zéro des Routes de France.” Rather overshadowed by the cathedral, most tourists would not have even spare this landmark a glance. But it’s pretty cool to stand at the official “center” of Paris.

Getting from Notre-Dame to Bastille Square was a rather convoluted route, due to my insistence on taking the metro rather than the bus. I had to take the RER C to Gare d’Austerlitz, then change to the Line 5 metro to Bastille.

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I’m not sure what’s going on at Bastille Square, but the column looked fenced off as if it was under restoration. Still, this is quite the historic place to be. Imagine that this bustling square, full of cars and pedestrians going in every other way was once a notorious prison, and that its fall was the the trigger for the French Revolution.

It was almost noon by then, and I had to get through passport control and security at Gare du Nord for my Eurostar train back to London. I had already cleaned up my Airbnb before I left and stashed my pack in a storage closet outside of the unit so that my hosts could prep the place for the next guest. Their place was booked to the max, I was quite lucky that I managed to snag a slot in between.

The trip from Bastille Square back to my Airbnb was via Line 1 to Châtelet, then Line 4 back to Saint-Placide. On the way back, I happened to pass by Brasserie Le Palace, a small restaurant on the street around my Airbnb. It was also a recommended restaurant of choice by my hosts, but every time I wanted to stop by for dinner, it was either closed or closing. But nevertheless it was open and welcoming today, and thus there goes my lunch.

It was lunch hour, and there was quite a crowd in there. However, the staff quickly and efficiently directed me to a table. Luckily, both of the staff members (methinks the lady is the proprietor) who served me spoke English, and there weren’t any barriers in communication. Having placed my order as one of the sets that they offered, I sat back and observed the dining environment. The decor was a mix of contemporary and classical, though still projecting a warm and welcome feeling. And even though it was rush hour, my meal was served fairly quickly. I couldn’t recall the exact name of my main course, but it was very average. Nice to see Coke is still served in glass bottles here. Though on another note, their chocolate mousse was simply excellent and left me wanting for more. I’d definitely recommend this place to anyone who passes by, just try not to order the dish with the white beans.

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This.

Anyway, it was just a matter of picking up my pack and heading for Gare du Nord via Saint-Placide’s Line 4. Thankfully, there are no changes in between, though it’s about 7 or so stations in between.

Getting from the Gare du Nord metro stop to the Eurostar platform, however, was a whole new issue. There were so many different ticket barriers and escalators going everywhere that I was a little stumped. I ended up asking the staff at an RER counter for directions.

Passport control at Gare du Nord took forever, in fact it delayed me so much that I nearly missed the train. I reckon that it was UK border controls being tightened after the Parliament attack, but there were plenty of other antsy travellers in the line as well, and Eurostar staff did try to get us through the line quicker and hold the train for a little.

And off to London I go!

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