Ash and I have been here for four days now and we’ve completely worn out our calves on a diet of Metro steps. Expect to see some extra definition there when we get back. It’s quite a reasonable city to get around and stations seem to be every 400 metres or so. Living in the Gobelins district has been a terrific choice because many of the other areas are busy, crowded and seem to have wall to wall advertising. The biggest shock of all was visting the Montmarte area this morning, because we were beseiged with either shonky bag sellers or artists offering pencil portraits – and I mean a TON of them. And as Ash pointed out, many of them were pretty average at their trade. The guidebooks talk about it being charming, but we couldn’t wait to get out of that area – admitedly, once you were a half kilometre away from Sacre Couer, things improved a lot.
Major impressions at this stage are that people on the whole dress quite stylishly, not in a glitzy showy way, but in an understated classy way. Both men and women alike are gorgeous. All the time. Everyone has been incredibly polite and civil – there’s not a shop or bar that you go into without being greeted. There’s an emphasis on sitting on the streets at small gaudy tables, with both chairs actually facing the street – they acknowledge that people watching is a major attraction and assume you want to face outwards. It takes getting used to but by now I am a convert. Which makes eating a little tricky sometimes as you have to jostle elbows. For prices, $5.50 for a coffee is about the norm, with pizzas around $18 and an entre and main around $40. Then you visit the local supermarket and find a 6-pack of Leffe for $8.
We sadly haven’t progressed a lot further than saying the standard Bonjour, Merci and Au Revoir. It’s not easy to string a sentence together when you can’t remember the bridging words. Cafe au Lait rolls off the tongue easily, but trying to add the “au Fort” and having them understand you has been a challenge, so I’ll have to remember to drop the T next time, or suffer another weak, biscuitish tasting coffee.
All in all, we’ve had a really pleasant time, and despite my prediction of not lasting very long in the Louvre, it was a little tiring, but we ended up in there for nearly 7 hours. We leave for Antwerp in a couple of days.