“Paris is always a good idea”, says Audrey Hepburn in the film Sabrina. In summer, it is a glorious idea. This city of light sparkles in the sunshine.
Stepping off the Eurostar, we grabbed a taxi to our hotel, freshened up and headed out to enjoy the beautiful sun-drenched afternoon.
From our hotel by Opera metro station, we eschewed the grand Avenue de l’Opera, opting instead for the unpretentious rue d’Antin. A smaller street, it cuts through place du marche Saint Honore, with its many chic bars and restaurants, intersects the famous rue Saint Honore before hitting the Jardin Tuileries, the pretty heart of the city.
The flower beds were a tempest of colour and fragrance, and the trees heavy with emerald leaves. The air buzzed with the chatter of families and friends strolling down the grand avenues, and rang with the delighted screams of playing children. The garden seduces you into slowing down and discarding the frenzy of daily life.
We stopped for a moment to gaze at the stunning view down the long, chestnut tree framed central avenue, filled with the bobbing heads of strolling Parisiens. The Luxor Obelisk proudly marking the summit of our view.
We resumed our walk through the gardens to the Passerelle Solferino footbridge, which crosses the Seine, to the Musee D’orsay. The bridge’s metal railings have become a place for lovers to leave a love-lock in the hope that their love will never break. Well, until the authorities have had enough and the locks are removed.
The snaking queue outside the Musee D’orsay was a stark reminder that if you want to be sure of accessing the premier jewels of this city, book in advance or come very early. For a few minutes we watched a band of pick pockets trying their ruses on wary tourists. Happily, the tourists were winning this battle.
We took a right turn and continued along the river, past the imposing Assemblee Nationale building to the Pont Alexandre III. This magnificent bridge is a 19th century engineering triumph, consisting of a single- span, six-metre high steel arch. Adorned with cherubs, winged horses and ornate lamps, it is ludicrously over the top and kitsch.
The bridge demands you stand and stare both at it and from it. At one end the horizon is occupied by the glistering dome of the Hotel National des Invalides and at the other the iconic glass dome of the Grand Palais. And if you look up, over the rooftops and across the river, you will catch a view of the Eiffel Tower.
The Grand Palais, with its stunning iron, steel and glass barrel-vaulted roof, and the bridge, were inaugurated in 1900 for the Universal Exhibition; a world fair marking the turn of the century. Today, the building is a home for modern art exhibitions along with a rather inviting restaurant.
We took a seat on the grand balcony of the Mini-Palais restaurant and ordered a glass of champagne. This was Paris after all!
Refreshed we continued our stroll along the avenue Winston Churchill, taking a minute to proudly admire the bronze statue of Churchill. Unveiled on the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice, it is a reminder of Britain’s tenacity during the Second World War with the words ‘we shall never surrender’ engraved at Churchill’s feet.
Crossing the Champs Elysees, we ventured to the Elysee Palace, residence of the President of France. Sadly, there was nothing to see but an iron railing and thick vegetation. Of course, it was only when we got back, that we realised we were looking at the back of the palace!
Time to head home, we took the allee Marcel Proust through the Champs Elysees gardens stopping to muse over the quirky art installations along the path. At the place de la Concorde, the crazy Parisien traffic threatened to disrupt our carefree afternoon, so we cut up the rue Boissy d’Anglas to rue Saint Honore. We mooched along this mecca of designer brands, to Place Vendome, home to the famous Ritz Hotel and crossed this grand square to our more modest hotel.
Paris certainly is a good idea, at any time of year. And you need do nothing more than stroll the streets to find her treasures.