The Hotel de Ville of Paris (City Hall)

We took off via the TGV to Paris for five days over the Christmas period. What a pleasure the TGV is! A short drive to Avignon TGV; safe, secure parking next to the station, pick up some refreshement and 2 hours 20 min later you cruise into Gare de Lyon in the centre of Paris. Who wants to fly?

Our hotel is an old favourite – Place du Louvre, next to the Louvre. 20 rooms, small, no other facilties but a 24 hour reception and wi-fi etc. Rooms are spacious – for Paris- clean and, yay! you can open the windows. The hotel is 5 stops on the M1 Metro line from the Gare de Lyon and at 1,90€ for the trip, who wants to take a cab?

After settling in, we had a stiff walk to our dinner venue. Along the river Seine and popping into squares and several side streets to admire the Christmas lights.

Brasseries have always been one of the main arteries into the soul of Paris and we booked the capital’s oldest Brasserie Bofinger, for Christmas Eve. Bofinger is a stone’s throw from the Place de Bastille, an area buzzing with a Christmas market and a traditional fun fair.

The origin of brasseries was the 1800s when the Alsatians came down from the Alsace region and opened breweries (brasseries). These attracted their clansfolk who were beig employed in the building and stone industries. The brasseries started to serve food as a differntiator and so they have remained a part of the fabric of Paris life.

Bofinger was founded in 1864 and the logo tells the story…. a young man running to the brasserie with his mug (you always brought your own!) and a pretzel. His ‘lady’ followed carrying a tart, a pudding or some other wholesome mountain food. So the commuity thrived.

Bofinger today is a more gentrified version with a large ornate cupola. Unfortunately, it has been discovered by the tourists and even on Christmas Eve it was chock-a-block with non-Parisians. French was difficult to hear.

The famous cupola

Although the service was good, and Madame’s Baeckeoffe de poissons was pronounced ‘tasty’. I ordered an Entrecôte a point (medium-rare). Imagine a French brasserie which cannot supply a good Steak/Frites? We found it! A dish to be avoided, the meat was cinders, gristly and the sauce bernaise had a thick film of skin over it.

After finishing up, we taxied to the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Opposite the Notre Dame, the Prefecture de Police was illuminated with the Tricolour.

What a spectacle! Over 100,000 troops had saturated Paris and we felt very safe. Very pleasant each one was too.

The Notre Dame in all her splendour.

The Notre Dame was decorated spectacularly and after watching the end of a mass, we took a seat and struck it lucky…. as an interlude before midnight Mass, there was a free organ soiree accompanied by a 200 strong choir. This lasted an hour of unadulterated pleasure. The organ was played at full volume causing a slight trembling in the chest but the acoustics and beautiful voices ensured a once in a lifetime experience.

 

Interior of the Notre Dame.

After that, another stroll down a fully lit Seine to our hotel.

Napoleon’s bridge, one of 14 all lit up along the Seine.

What a night!

 

 

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