Thursday, March 09, 2006

Bonus Paris photos

Notre Dame Cathedral is staggering in scale. The outside facade looms over you, in an extravagantly carved H-shape covered with life-sized statues of people ascending to heaven or being cast into hell. When you step through the creaking heavy doors everything goes black. Once your eyes adjust to the gloomy interior, this is what you see - arches stretching upwards out of sight, glowing candles, and in the distance a dazzling golden crucifix.

The Paris Metro is great - you can rattle around anywhere under the city for next to nothing. It's everything a city Metro should be - frequent, busy, dirty, cheerful. Many stations have buskers playing accordions or pianos. After the smooth, sanitised Tokyo Metro, it was good to travel about in Paris as you really feel you're underneath a massive city. This is Lamarck-Caulancourt Station, in Montmartre. Grant and Lan are there, looking at the map.

Greyness from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. There's a fantastic view from the top - identical-looking grey wedges of buildings stretching off in every direction, almost as far as the eye can see. Large wide boulevards run out like spokes on a wheel, clogged with traffic. We just dodged a rainstorm, and here the sun had started to weakly pierce the clouds and shine over the city again.

The other fun thing to do atop the Arc de Triomphe is to watch the traffic swooping round the Place Charles de Gaulle Etoile in un-coordinated mayhem. Somehow they seem to avoid eachother, although on many occasions it was a close-run thing. With no traffic markings, the cars, vans and bikes pile around until something blocks their path, then toot their horn until a space opens up and they can make a dart for it. It's almost mesmerising.

This is your author at the Musee de l'Armee at Les Invalides, essentially the French War Museum. Unfortunately, half of it was closed for renovation - but they did have a lot of cannons outdoors. If you're wondering why I'm wrapped up, it was below zero. I've been to Paris four or five times now - and always in winter when it's freezing. Next time, I'm going in summer...