Monday, 25 February 2013

Sadder Paris but still superb

Occasionally I still have the opportunity to do something here in France for the first time. And so it was that I took Jean-Claude to dinner, on a cruise on the Seine. We don't dine out much, hardly at all and Paris takes a lot of effort to get to but a special visit makes it all worthwhile even if the weather is rather harsh.

It can take 1 1/2-2 hours to get to Paris and the same back home from Epernon or Ymeray. We set out while there was still light, traffic was with us and we arrived at the quay early. There we were, sitting in the car with the engine running to keep warm, the Eiffel Tower barely discernable in the gloom even though we were fairly close by. Snow flakes whipped around pedestrians and settled on cars. The trees along the Seine were bare, revealing the historic architecture. It's a scene you don't see in Summer.

Paris celebrates its seasons but I'm not celebrating winter. I've had enough. It's been snowing solidly for 4 days. It seemed a trifle bizarre to be cruising the river of the most romantic of cities of an evening with snow and a very icy breeze. No one was getting very dolled up but I'd made an effort and hid it under my padded and hooded jacket, gloves and scarf.

The seating is two-tiered with all seats facing the river. It's very squashy with little individual tables very derivative of lecture seats with attached tables. A small bottle of bubbles and another of water was supplied. The first course consisted of foie gras and breadrolls. Naturally I was reduced to munching a roll. I tried the foie gras again but had to conclude I just can't tolerate what, for me, is a fatty rancid taste. JC declared it quite good. 

The second course was either chicken or salmon. Struck out again there too but I had known that when I booked. They did supply me with some rice topped with diced vegetables so that was fine. Dessert was something cube-like and chocolately with something biscuity topped by a raspberry. Not too bad. There was no cheese and no coffee.

The best part for me was sitting there in warmth and comfort watching the city slide by. The two of us declared that Paris just doesn't deliver the same experience at night for tourists as it once did. It continues to be a sad shadow of its former glory which we are putting down to austerity. The bridges are no longer lit, the buildings are no longer lit. You can't see any details. All is rather dark and invisible. The city of light is no more.

Thanks goodness for the Eiffel Tower then. In the evenings, on the hour, the lightbulbs go off and its famous sparkle plays for a few minutes and then returns to normal lighting. It's always magical.

 Our dinner cruise was shorter than we would have liked. It stopped before we got to the best part of Paris where stands the Notre Dame cathedral on Ile de la Cite. Perhaps our boat was too high for those bridges - something to keep in mind if you are booking an evening cruise - the itinerary. We used Paris en Scene company. There was car parking close to the boat as the tide was too high for the normal mooring. Consequently it was free. This is not usually the case - that you get free parking in Paris. Parking for cruises can cost as much as 55 euros - ouch!


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