To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.

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Paris in the Spring

So in London we do the Egyptian/Mummy thing at the British Museum and the Dino's at the natural history museum.This year at the British museum we beat the crowds to look at the Rosetta Stone and we make a point of also visiting the Nimrud exhibits. We Brit's may have relocated some of IRAQ's national treasures to Bloomsbury but at least we didn't wantonly destroy humanities' heritage.... other questionable acts perhaps.... but not that!! At the Natural History Museum we slip in the side door to catch the volcanoes exhibit, before saying hallo and goodbye to dippy.

And so on to Paris.... My Mum went there on her honeymoon in 1948... (more on that later). I was never that keen on Paris but my 6 yea rold son has done London so it's time to expose him to something new . It's all planned.... Eurostar to Paris, short walk from Gard du Nord to Montmartre, drop of the bags at the apartment (arranged through Airbnb and then negotiate the metro to the Eiffel tower. The queue for the lift reminds one of queuing at Ocean park HK (except its much colder!!!). We pack in the lifts like sardines and rise to the "sommet" . A brief walk around then we queue again to decend. Leaving the tower we cross the "Seine" and walk up to the Trocadero (this wasn't on the plan and it causes some friction until we realise it gives a fantastic photo opportunity) We find our way back to our attic apartment via the supermarche down the road.

The following morning Rebecca and Jamie watch the sun rise over Paris. Later we purchase museum and travel passes and join the queue at the Musee d'Orsay.Now I am not sure if I have been there before but it compares favourably with the best museums and art galleries in London. and IMHO it's infinitely more interesting than the Louvre. Once through the security checks (the French seem to take security and pickpockets much more seriously than London) we make a beeline for the Van Gogh Gallery, (Jamie had borrowed a book on Vincent from my mum's collection). After that we do the Gaugin's and the 5th floor,( Monet, Manet,Renoir, Degas,Cezanne,etc including a Picasso on loan ) and then the Toulouse-Lautrec downstairs. We had promised Jamie that we would try to see works from the "13 Most Famous Artist's In The World" whilst in Paris. He had taken a book out of the library before we went listing these "famous" artists. Orsay contained 6). Upon hitting cultural overload we go and sit quietly in the main hall where Jamie sketches whilst we listen to an English Lecturer talking his art college students through the statues. They all take avid notes!!!

And then back to Montmartre to the garden below Sacred Heart. Rebecca & Jamie attracted the attention of a "voleur" as they go to find a bench to sit on. This young scruffy man rudely pushes in front of me in order to sit next to Jamie (presumably intending to snatch or dip his back pack). As he turns to "innocently" look round before sitting down a young gendarme on a bike flashes past me, confronts and faces off scruffy before leading him away. I didn't hear what was said, if anything, and I was right next to them. It was surreal. I then sit down and asked Rebecaa if she had noticed anything (which she hadn't) The excitement being too much for me I retire back to the apartment to master the TV and internet, safe in the knowledge that that the local police are on the job.

That evening we went round the corner to a local brasserie for a "french" dinner. How could you come to Paris and not sample authentic french cooking ... it would be like not having a Chinese meal in Hong Kong. Unlike the crowd at the next table who tried to negotiate the make up of the set meal, we made it very straight forward for the waitress. There were 3 of us.... and the plat du jour had 3 dishes.... each with 3 options......"we'll have one of everything please !!!" The only challenge came when I ordered a beer...' alors, ve 'ave French beer or Belgium ? .... Oh I'm so sorry.... can I have Belgium !!!. It goes without saying that the food ... and beer were excellent. Afterwards we crossed the road to study the menu of the brasserie opposite. its lightly cheaper but looks boring . I try to induce 2 guys who are also studying the menu to go over the road and try the brasserie where we have just eaten

The next morning I watch the sun rise over Paris, We have breakfast in the apartment and then make our way to the Louvre. We ask where the queue is for ticket holders... by the white umbrella.... in the sea of people. It transpires that most of people in this queue haven't got tickets and when the staff call for ticket holders to step forward there is a stampede. Once past security and inside we make beeline to the Moaning Lisa. (staff bounce on me and direct me to the lifts - I was using a walking stick : we later find that the lifts in the Louvre are "problematic" and I eschew them in favour of the stair.) As an aside the walking stick proves a mixed blessing on the metro. People kindly offer their seats ... I politely decline ... they feel rejected and get aggressive ... I sit and feel a total fraud.

Jamie is disappointed in the Mona Lisa - it was smaller than he expected. On the other hand I was impressed with the gallery. Last time I went you shuffled past the picture in a small dark room. We viewed the picture from different angles to check that the eyes follow you. We did debate whether they would follow you if you went up or down as opposed to side to side - we came to no conclusion. We then went to see the Spinx in the crypt but couldn't get into the adjacent Egyptian gallery - it was closed (just as well we had done mummies in London) and then up to see the Dutch paintings (not as good as those in National Gallery in London or ...those in Holland).

I have to say I am still not enamoured with the Louvre but it was on our to do list and having ticked it off (2 items left to go) we proceeded to the Jardin des Tuileries outside and strolled down towards the Luxor Obelisk in centre of the Place de la Concorde. We sat for a while beside the Grand basin Rondon people watching .... and then we made our way over to the Musee de l'Orangerie where we dutifully looked at Monet's Nymphs. They have an enforced bag check in and when the woman asked if there was anything valuable in Jamies backpack I said with a perfectly straight face ..."yes a library book!!" .... fortunately her colleague had a sense of humour but I am sure it lost something in the retelling.

Checklist complete we went back to Montemartre and a light lunch .. in my case a Quiche Lorraine. I am a strong believer in the concept that real men eat Quiche ... although I was tempted by the Tarte Lorraine....That evening after a quiet afternoon packing for the trip home to HK we went to a "Zinc" for supper. It purported to be a Brasserie but it was a traditional local Zinc which served boeuf bourguignon and chicken curry at a reasonable "prix"

In the morning we walked back to Guard du Nord and took the train to the Airport. Rebecca had wound me up with stories of how "Roma" thieves preyed upon Chinese tourists taking the train back to the airport. She had apparently read something on the internet about bags being snatched as the doors close and had painted a picture somewhere between that of a stagecoach running the gauntlet through Indian Creek, besieged on all sides by hostile war parties seeking to kill travelers and plunder their belongings, and the train in the film "North West Frontier" harried by murderous rebels. I took no chances and kept the bags away from the doors and put on my meanest most belligerent look (it comes naturally) In the event there was no "Roma" or thieves or anything like that and the journey was uneventful. Rebecca surmised that "they" were probably waiting to hit the "Beijing" train as opposed to the HK one ....

In fact it was marginally more unnerving at the Cathay check in desk. It's next to the EL-AL check in area and there was an abundance of heavily armed soldiers loitering with intent (Really big buggers with mean looks that would qualify them for French Special Forces at least if not the "Legion")

Little aside about my mothers trip to Paris in 1948:She kept a ticket stub from a famous Montmartre night club, the BAL TABARIN that she visited with my father It closed down in 1953 after being bought out by the proprietors of the Moulin Rouge. She annotated the back of the ticket

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