Thu 28 Nov - Paris, France

We're going to Paris... train, by TGV, the French fast train. How fast you will see in a moment...

This pic is from Gare de Strasbourg and the platform where we were waiting for the train to arrive. Departure time was 10.46am so we had plenty of time for the usual tea and baguette breakfast at McDonalds and to pack up our things.

The train arrived right on time.

A sigh of relief when we found our seats as they were facing forward, not backwards, which Di finds hard to take at the best of times but on high speed trains...blurk...

So happy faces all around.

For the first 30 minutes of our journey we cruised around 150km per hour but then the driver accelerated a notch, or three...our maximum speed was 316km per hour, photo evidence is below, and we continued to travel at speeds between 280 and 316 for about an hour. We watched a barometer measure of distance on the screen and it moved pretty quickly on this section.

For our 1 week stay in Paris we booked an apartment in a different arrondissement to where we have been before. This time in an apartment on 16 Rue Alibert just off Canal St Martin, within 5-10 minutes walk of Place Republique. We also chose this side as our friend Lise lives near the Bastille, about 2km away.

We met our "concierge" Victor, an American in Paris man at 1.32pm as he ran up the street to meet us at the front gate. He was worried about being late as we had arranged to meet at 1.30pm! Very sweet young guy who was very upfront about living with his boyfriend who had been to Sydney and loved it.

Victor gave us a quick tour and overview of our apartment, which did not take long as it is a small studio, less than 40 square metres, but well laid out and recently renovated. Very nice.

Here you can see the front door and the bed area. And Di...

The locks on the front door deserve a special mention. Seriously secure - when locked 5 bolts go into the door jamb and the steel pole extends into a hole in the top of the door frame and in the floor.

Nobody is getting in through the front door without a key. What a difference to our front door in Manly...

Did we say Victor was gay? He didn't have to tell us so openly as to us it was obvious as soon as we opened the welcome manual he had put together, laminated and bound with a clip. All very neatly typed of everything we could need to know, with details of favourite local restaurants and bars and with a summary of the books available in the apartment "library". We loved it. It was by far the best info guide of any apartment that we've stayed in.

16 Rue Alibert, where the apartment is located, is not terribly glamourous and neither is our apartment building but it is quiet as it is facing away from the street and looking over a garden courtyard and backs of neighboring buildings.

The nearby buildings, as seen in this photo, mostly look much older than ours, which from the outside appears to be a 1960's construction. We will take a photo later.

With a few hours of daylight left we explored our local area.

At the end of our street, maybe 100 metres, is the Canal St Martin and as followers of our blog would know we were thrilled to see it still operates locks. This tour boat came up through a much lower lock and we vowed to do this tour.

Part of the Canal St Martin seems to be underground. Cool - has to be investigated further.

Our street ends in an opening bridge over the canal, which closed after the boat passed to allow cars to cross.

We kept wandering and stopped for a late quick lunch at KFC (unhealthy but easy) at Place de Republique, which will also be our best metro station for exploring Paris as several metro lines passes through there.

A "selfie" was required with the statue in the middle of the Place de Republique.

Of course the history behind the statue and Place de Republique was a bit of a mystery to us so we found some answers in Wikipedia.

The location of Place de Republique corresponds to fortifications of the gate in the wall of Paris that led to the Temple (a medieval fortress), so the space predates the Republique. The Place de Republique was expanded and decorated in the late 1800's as part of Baron Hausmann's city renovation scheme. So no guillotines here.

But as usual with a big open public space there was a tent city protest. It stood out because we initially thought someone was sleeping up in a tent in the trees (no, the ropes were puny).

We looked up the meaning of this - 1 roof, 1 right. Not sure what it all meant...maybe a homeless protest?

Time for some basic housekeeping - a few postcards to send back home and some grocery shopping.

Hans spotted Di in the crowd coming out of La Poste.

We chose the wrong grocery store - limited options and very expensive (as per recommendation from Victor). With most of our shopping done for the next day or so we then found a better grocery store closer to where we live, and whilst it still looked expensive at least it had Weetbix. Hans was happy.

For a few hours then we planned some activities for our time here in Paris, and having been here before we are skipping many of the big tourist attractions that we've already done.

We still needed to see Musee D'Orsay (which was closed for renovations in 2006) and Versailles so we bought our tickets online for them for Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

Then we booked a city walking tour for tomorrow morning, dinner with Lise and Greg for tomorrow night, the canal boat tour for Saturday afternoon, markets for Sunday day and a Montmartre walking tour for Sunday night starting at 6pm and before we knew it the calendar was filling up fast and there is so much more we want to do. You can't be blasé about seeing all of Paris, even when like Di you've been here 4 times before! A month here would have been better...

Home cooked pasta dinner and some nice red wine finish off a pretty good and not too intense day. Good night.

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