Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Singapore & Malaysia 2014

A day in Paris

ABOVE: Roissypole RER station emerges from the mist - all aboard for central Paris!

I woke at 7am and in due course had breakfast in the ground-floor Executive Lounge, which surprised me by not being at all busy, despite having an attractive spread on display. Having got myself organised for the day ahead, I then checked out of the Hilton, put my luggage in storage, walked the short distance through the morning mist to Roissypole station and bought an RER ticket. Within five minutes, I was aboard a lightly loaded B-line express for central Paris, due to make its first stop at Gare du Nord. A change of trains at St Michel-Notre Dame and a further one-stop hop on the RER-C line brought me to my first sightseeing objective, the Musée d'Orsay.

RIGHT and BELOW: A few external views of the Musée d'Orsay, taken from the building's front square

This fine museum, one of the most visited in France and indeed the world, had been on my hit list for years, yet somehow I had never quite got around to seeing it properly. Situated on the left bank of the Seine opposite the Tuileries Gardens, the museum is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay railway station, an imposing and attractive building dating from 1900 that almost met with the wrecking ball in 1970. It was saved by a proposal to create a new art museum that would bridge a perceived gap between the coverage of the Louvre, on the one hand, and the Pompidou Centre, on the other. The Musée d'Orsay opened its doors in 1986, specialising in French art from the period 1848 to 1914. Today, it houses the largest collection of impressionist masterpieces in the world.

There were no queues at all at this time on a winter morning, but I was disappointed at the ticket office to learn of a blanket ban on photography, a measure that I believed to be relatively new and yet out of line with modern practice in many similar institutions. A couple of hours exploring the building turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The design work to incorporate a major art museum into a former railway station was superb, with wonderful use of space and beautifully presented exhibits. In accordance with the museum's policy, I refrained from taking photos of any works of art, but possibly in contravention of it, I saw no harm in capturing a few general shots of aspects of the building itself. No-one seemed to mind.

RIGHT and BELOW: More views of the museum building, inside and out

Having had a light lunch in the museum's coffee shop before leaving, I was now ready to embark directly on a city centre walk, taking in some familiar sights in conditions that while undeniably grey, were also amazingly mild for late November. Places visited on foot during the next couple of hours included the Place du Carrousel, the Louvre, the Tuileries Gardens, Place de la Concorde, the Assemblée Nationale, Les Invalides, the École Militaire, the Champ de Mars, the Eiffel Tower and the Jardins du Trocadéro - phew, it's tiring just listing them!

RIGHT: Rubber-tyred train on the Paris metro

After all that, I treated myself to a hot dog at the Place du Trocadéro, before taking metro line 6 to Étoile and changing onto line 1 for Hôtel de Ville. Both journeys were on traditional metro lines with rubber-tyred trains. On completion of this re-positioning, I found City Hall being prepared for the festive season with the installation of an open-air ice rink and other attractions. A further spell of walking, not necessarily by the most direct route, brought me to the Île de la Cité, while I tried to absorb some of the off-season Parisian atmosphere in the increasingly gloomy, late-afternoon conditions.

I eventually found myself standing in front of the world-famous Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, a building that I had previously found to be somewhat problematic: despite its magnificent exterior and setting, I had never really warmed to its interior. Mentally setting aside this chequered history, I decided to visit, and upon entering I instantly realised that the semi-darkness of twilight was on this occasion working some kind of spell: the various side chapels and shrines were tastefully lit, atmospheric and photogenic - and photography without flash was permitted.

Emerging back into the rapidly failing daylight brought the realisation that it was now raining lightly - clearly it was time to call it a day. I made my way to the nearby St Michel-Notre Dame RER station, noting an unexpected reminder of London as I entered (see right). Clearly my luck was in, because the first train to Charles de Gaulle was again an express, so that the journey was completed as efficiently and comfortably as possible

I felt, with considerable justification, that my interest-packed day in Paris had been a great success, but now it was time to move on - and how! I picked up my suitcase from the Hilton concierge and found a quiet spot in the lobby to re-arrange both my outer clothing and my luggage. I then took the CDGVAL shuttle to Terminal 1, checked in for my Qatar Airways flight and used the very basic lounge for a while (First Class - seriously?) before heading to the gate. 

(Link to flight log in side panel)