Paris street name sign

14 February 2020 finally arrived and we were ready to travel once more.

We were very excited as this 6-week trip would include visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Panama before a 2 week cruise around South America. Getting to Panama from Durban in South Africa involved 2 very long flights. To make it more pleasant for us we decided to spend a night in Paris each way. We didn’t get photos of our hotel as we believed that we would be back. That is not quite how it worked out as you will learn in a later blog.

We flew from Durban to Johannesburg and then on to Paris on a flight that left at 7pm and arrived in a freezing cold Paris at 05:45! We hopped into a taxi and showed the lady driver the details of our hotel which she hardly acknowledged. We would have been much happier if she had looked more carefully as she might then have taken us to the correct destination. She dropped us off at the hotel next door which also has the name Ibis in its title.She really did drop our luggage on to the pavement. The hotel we wanted was across the road and the receptionist said, “Just go through that door and cross the road.” We did that but all we saw was a small door so we ended up walking all the way around the hotel until we found the entrance.

Paris street name signA street name sign in Paris

As it was still so early we were first told that there was no room available but we could leave our luggage and take the train downtown for the day. While we were looking at a map one receptionist, Mary-Anne, came and told us that there was 1 room available. We were grateful to have been able to shower and change before going sight-seeing and enquired where the station was. Another annoyance – it was a 5min walk away and when we got there we discovered that there was a free train shuttle from the airport and we had just paid 8 Euros for a taxi from the airport!

Having purchased a Day Pass for the Public Transport system we took the train to the Notre Dame Cathedral first. We had been there in 2006 and found it really beautiful so we wanted to see what the fire had done. It was almost heart-breaking to see. There were no spires which are usually visible from a fair distance, building materials all over the area and blackened stained-glass windows. A building which had stood for 8 centuries now a shell of its former beauty.

Notre Dame without spiresNotre Dame Cathedral without the spires

Stained glass windows to be cleanedBlackened stained glass windows

To one side there was an art exhibition put together by a local artist depicting the progress from the date of the fire, 15 April 2019, until today, adding updated pictures on a regular basis. It was both sad but also exciting as there have been many archeological findings making it possible to better date the building materials and the Cathedral’s contents.

Part of the Art ExhibitionPart of the exhibition

After walking around the site and taking a close look at the photos and the write-ups we took a train to visit The Louvre which we had not seen previously. To get there turned out to be a bit more difficult than the map or locals showed. The map did not clearly indicate one-way streets and local people’s ideas of how long it would take older people to walk a certain distance was quite interesting. We were told anything from 7 to 30 mins to walk the same length of road. We eventually found a train station and it was there that we were given much clearer instructions. We took a train which dropped us off right at the Louvre.

Entrance to the LourveEntrance to the Louvre

Louvre SquareThe Square of the Louvre

The old, grand buildings in which it is to be found were beautiful, covered in statues and beautiful carvings and then in the middle of the square is this huge glass pyramid which is positively not in the right place. There is nothing wrong with the structure itself, it is just incorrectly situated is how I feel. We didn’t go into the Louvre itself as we had such limited time to give a place of this stature its due and there were long queues.

Cube at the LourveThe Cube in the square

We walked across the square to a large arch at one end with 2 statues, one on either side. This is known as the smaller Arc de Triomf and leads to some beautiful gardens. It was built for Napoleon between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories of the previous year. On the top of the arch are soldiers leading horses in a symbolism of peace.

Arch at the LouvreThe small Arc de Triomf

We walked back to the station and took the train back to our hotel. By then a bitter wind had come up and we were pleased to be able to go straight to a warm room.