Home' The Australian Senior Traveller : May 2010 Contents 4 THE SENIOR TRAVELLER May, 2010
The grand tour:
"THE ticket seller -- she did not wake
up this morning."
The words came with a dramatic flour-
ish from the attractive young woman who
had arrived to take us on the tour, only to
find a queue stretching almost to the door.
With dozens of others we had been
patiently queuing for almost an hour at the
unattended small window offering tickets
for the one-and-a-half hour guided tour of
Le Palais Garnier, home of Opera National
Deftly our saviour hopped behind the
ticket counter, dispensed the tickets then
appeared at the other side ready to take us
on our tour of the magnificent building
constructed from 1860 to 1875 to house the
As we climbed the multi-hued marble
grand staircase she explained that when Le
Palais Garnier opened, "being seen" was
more important than watching what was
happening on stage. Fashionable society
ladies in their crinoline gowns would stand
above the staircase where they could be
afforded a view of the new arrivals and
where they, themselves, could be seen to
It was a position my travelling compan-
ions and I took up a few nights later --
minus the crinoline -- when we were lucky
enough to score tickets to the ballet Giselle.
Attempts to buy tickets before we left
Australia proved fruitless, but a visit to Le
Palais Garnier's Box Office on arrival gen-
erated a windfall. Tickets for the princely
sum of 10 euros each.
The young man at the box office at first
shook his head when we had asked about
the possibility of ballet tickets. However
my friend was convinced that dropping the
word Australian and "all the way from
Australia" into the conversation would
have miraculous powers of persuasion.
She was right. The young man immedi-
ately found us seats, admittedly up in "The
Gods" and with an obstructed view, but we
were thrilled nonetheless.
On the night, our hearts sank when our
usher pointed to two seats at right angles to
the rest of the seats. In the dark it looked
like they were in a broom closet. It turned
out they were great seats, affording us an
almost perfect view of the stage.
Shopping, shopping, shopping:
THE department stores of Paris -- such
as Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marche --
are distinctly luscious, especially for home-
wares; but for something different head to
Les Puces de Paris, Saint-Ouen, a huge
sprawling market of antiques and oddities.
Open Saturday to Monday, it is the oldest
market in Paris, originally built to accom-
modate the rag-and-bone men and second-
hand merchants. Consequently it is a tor-
turous maze of alleyways containing more
than 300 fascinating merchants' stores.
If you relax and don't stress about get-
ting lost you will enjoy the experience.
Trust me, you will find your way out even-
tually and you can always sit down and
have a cup of coffee to refuel.
You'll find the market at 99 Rue des
Rosiers. Take the Metro to Porte de
Clignancourt and it's a short walk from
Back on the Left Bank of Paris you'll
find one of the most unique English-lan-
guage bookshops in the world --
Shakespeare and Company. Thousands of
books are crammed into three floors of an
ancient building alongside the Seine, fac-
ing the Notre Dame.
Climb the ricketty stairs to see books
piled high to the ceiling and subside for an
hour or so in one of the comfy chairs with
a book. There are battered typewriters and
noticeboards chock-a-block with notes
from backpackers offering English lessons,
seeking share accommodation or lifts to
Eccentric owner, 88-year-old George
Whitman, has penned his motto on the
wall: Be not inhospitable to strangers lest
they be angels in disguise.
Walk through Montmartre:
MOST people go to Montmartre simply
to visit the Basilica du Sacre-Coeur,
but there is a wonderful walk that takes
you gently through charming side streets
and onto Sacre-Coeur without having to
negotiate all those steps at the end.
Armed with Frommer's Memorable
Walks in Paris, we alighted at the Abbesses
Metro Station. At 35 metres below street
level, it is the deepest in the city. Walking
up the stairs you are rewarded with fres-
coes of Montmartre scenes, but it won't be
long before you're out of breath.
Tip: take the elevator. If you return to
the Metro after your walk you can always
walk down to enjoy the frescoes.
The leisurely three to four-hour walk to
Sacre-Coeur described in the book takes
you past the former homes of several great
painters such as Renoir, Georges Seurat,
Vincent van Gogh and Camille Pissarro.
Anonymity is jealously guarded by some
residents privileged to live in this beautiful
part of Paris. At the gated entrance of one
private compound, residents have chosen
to disguise their identities by listing them-
selves on the outside intercom as Cezanne,
Goya and Chagall.
The walk takes you past one of two
remaining vineyards in Paris, Vignes de
Montmartre, before arriving at the heavily-
touristed Place du Tertre. Many people
chose to bypass this village square, but it is
worth a look for the street artists at their
easels and the colourful mime artists who
foil photographers attempting to take their
picture by turning their backs. Throw a
coin in the hat first if you really want the
Stroll the parks and gardens:
IN FINE weather, Parisians desert their
cramped apartments and sit in the parks
and gardens and on the banks of the Seine.
You should too, for there is no better way to
see Paris than on foot.
There are large formal gardens such as
the Jardin du Luxembourg with its long
shaded gravel walks, central pond and
fountain; and then there are small neigh-
bourhood parks where locals cluster to
read, sunbake and people-watch. Sunday
afternoons are a special time at Jardin du
Beautiful Paris -- a
treasure and pleasure
Home after a visit to Paris, SUE PRESTON reflects on her favourite
moments in the City of Light
SPOTTED -- Don't look now, there's a
tourist trying to take your photo.
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