Saturday, June 18, 2016

Out and about - Paris

Paris wasn't in my plans for this trip, but I thought I would able to apply from France for a UK Ancestry Visa so after a couple of days redoing my online application I booked an interview in Paris.

The UK government has outsourced all the leg work of visa processing and the application process is mostly online but the final step is front up for biometric details to be gathered. All in all, a huge palaver that I won't go into except to say that even after rebooking the appointment, changing my train reservation to be able to stay an extra day, redoing the application yet again and running around Paris getting printing done and photocopies made, I was finally told I can only apply from Australia. It was an expensive exercise but who can regret a trip to Paris? And what about when you have to take the Metro to Beaubourg to use an internet cafe - not too much to complain about actually.

This is the Metro station near the visa office.

I had booked a room through Airbnb and for the extra night I found myself staying with my host's friend upstairs in the same block of apartments, and as he was travelling for work, he just gave me the keys and I had the whole apartment to myself. The best thing about Airbnb is that you see how and where people really live. I was in the suburb of Port Orleans, with easy access to the Metro.

This view across the rooftops from the apartment really fascinated me. I loved that there were 4 grocery stores in the local block and 3 of them were organic. I also loved that the patisserie near my metro station had won significant prizes for its croissants and made good coffee too.

In between getting to know the lovely people at the visa processing centre - they were really kind and helpful even though they eventually had to turn me away - I managed to visit the Orangerie to see Monet's huge water lilies installation. It took nearly 2 hours in the queue in a freezing wind to get tickets so the the next morning I was at the Musee D'Orsay early, as the queue was just starting to form. By the way, what is it about Americans and Paris?

Here's one painting by my local Montpellier artist, Frederic Bazille; his portrait of Renoir. So tragic that Bazille died at 28.

And who can resist taking a photo of one of the best views of Paris from the cafe upstairs at the Musee d'Orsay?

I even managed to fit in a nostalgic visit to Le Printemps and Galleries Lafayette (the bottom two pics here). My excuse was I needed a sunhat after mine blew off up in the hills above Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert. The one I really loved was 160 Euros but in some cheap British chain store I found a squishy one that was a better match for my budget.

It is fifteen years since I was last in Paris, and that time I was with two fifteen year old Australian boys. We stayed in an attic just near here...
Notre Dame, which brought back memories of ducking under the barriers in the Metro and eating frozen pizzas to save a few centimes, back in pre-Euro days.
A reminder of how the threads of life interweave across time and geography - I had a postcard with a view similar to this one, it lived in my office in the library in Cairns, feeding dreams for many years.

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