Just a few more pics around the streets of Arras.
19th July 2013
I definitely like Arras, I had another leisurely day taking in the Grand’Place, the Cathedral and the Museum of Fine Arts. The Grand’Place was full of sand, palm trees and blow up plastic toys – a pretend beach in the French countryside. Personally, I liked it better without the beach and the Cathedral and Fine Arts Museum held much more interest for me.
I arrived at the Museum before it even opened so cooled my heels sitting on the steps in the courtyard drawing windows – I love being able to fill in time like that, and I know if I wasn’t sketching I’d have my nose in my phone trying to look busy! There was a special exhibition called Coaches for Courts with carriages and other exhibits mostly from the Palace of Versailles that I was pretty excited to see. There was a carriage from Napoleon’s wedding day, a carriage from one of the King Louis’s funeral and gorgeous little coaches built especially for royal children
The normal exhibits are also worth a visit, there’s a huge variety; pottery, coins, costumes, tapestries and goodness know how many 17th & 18th century paintings. The building is amazing, with some really gorgeous rooms and corridors. It was originally the Abbey of St. Vaast, dating back to the 7th century, has a lovely courtyard in the middle of the building and is set behind massive ornate walls. Another few hours spent craning my neck and hurting my brain trying to remember all I read, but what a feast for the eyes, totally absorbing.
The Cathedral was my next stop, although I didn’t take anywhere near enough photos for some reason. Arras was badly affected in both world wars, the Cathedral was shelled and almost destroyed in 1917 but was rebuilt again after the war. The photos of the damaged cathedral are intriguing, and I can’t imagine how many thousands of hours it took to repair the massive amounts of damage. It still feels slightly wrong to be visiting a church for historical and architectural interest rather than religion, but I’m getting more blasé and figure it’s just the strict catholic upbringing nagging me again. Weird isn’t it, how long and how much some things influence us? I found a nice quiet shady spot around the back and sketched a very different part of the building for a while before I wandered back to the place des Heros for my afternoon stint of people watching/drinking/eating.
Isn’t it funny how you tell yourself you’re only doing something for your own benefit but then stress yourself silly trying to make sure it’s wonderful? Well, I really was writing about my travels for my own benefit, but seeing as I made it public, so family and friends could have a look if they wanted to, well, of course, then I have to try and make it interesting and give everyone a chuckle or two, and that’s often easier said than done for me. Soooo, because one of my daughters keeps telling me I seem to be having trouble with my memory (could I be just not taking enough notice of things?), and because it’s getting close to a year ago – I’ve decided to try to add a new post more often, even if it’s mostly photos. Doesn’t sound like much of a commitment, but I really do want to try to commit as much as I can to
paper computer before I do forget it all. So here goes, travel back in time with me to France last July.
18th July 2013
When I was thinking of doing this trip, one of the things I was most keen to do was living in Paris for a month – I lasted just short of 3 weeks. I’m not sure why, I really tried hard to love it, but I just didn’t. I’m sure my home stay situation and associated tummy troubles had quite a bit to do with it; and maybe the fact I’d been away from home for 3 months didn’t help either. I’d like to come back again though and give it another go because I know there’s heaps more to see and do. I was a tad sad to say goodbye to my little apartment and the tower but Arras and the WW1 battlefields were calling me.
I often say to myself, “today I am not going to get lost, I will find my way with no problems” – and guess what???? I found my way from the train station to my hotel with only one tiny weeny itsy bitsy unintentional detour – woot, woot!! I also stood at an intersection looking from my phone to every conceivable spot a street name could be hiding for a while, before a helpful guy at a café took pity on me and called out the street names. So funny, how sometimes you don’t even need to ask, if you look lost enough, someone will help – AND this was France, where they’re supposedly the most arrogant people on earth.
The Hotel Diamant was tucked away in the corner of a wonderful big square, the place des Héros, almost next door to the Town Hall. Even though it was only just after lunch, I collapsed on the bed and slept for an hour or so – I almost felt like I relaxed for the first time since arriving in France. Although I love to see the big cities and all they have to offer, it is nice to be out of the rush and crush of Paris, in a small place again where the pace of living is more like home and also where personal security is not such an issue. Feeling quite refreshed after my nanna nap I had a wonderful wander around and found the Grand’Place, another huge square bounded by buildings with the same unusual facades, followed by a mellow couple of hours at a cafe near the hotel having a few wines, some great fresh food and some sketching time.
17th July 2013
With so many possibilities in a city like Paris, sometimes you get spoilt for choice. I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed most of my time in France – it’s all so……. well…….French. I’ve really immersed myself, heart and soul, in Paris and everything french and it’s hard work on my own.
I think I made a good choice today to go to the Canal St Martin, so very peaceful, relaxed, down to earth and not so hectic. I even stumbled across the very un-French backpacker place, St Christopher’s Inn, where everyone spoke English, the food was very American and they had rugby on the big screen tv’s – made me feel quite at home. Almost right outside the inn was one of the unique bridges, pont de Crimée, across the canal; it’s hydraulic and lifts to let boats pass under – pretty cool to watch, as it’s so tiny.
After a long walk along the canal, (where I was totally intrigued by the urinals), and back to my starting place, I caught a boat cruise lasting a few hours. We navigated, I think, 9 locks, passed through a couple of bridges that opened to let us pass and under some really pretty footbridges. There’s even a long stretch of the canal between Bastille and Republique that’s been covered, it was quite eerie gliding almost noiselessly along in near darkness.
It gave me a nice insight into different parts of Paris. In one direction we passed massive new cultural areas with science and music museums and futuristic building. Then the other way was more like the Paris I know, slightly shabby (okay, sometimes more than slightly), sometimes chic, sometimes just everyday ordinary, but always interesting. I enjoyed the commentary, and yet again, I wish I could remember all I heard!
It’s strange to think the canals were the brainchild of Napoleon built back in the early nineteenth century to bring fresh water to the people of Paris – I usually associate him with war! They were also used industrially but now it’s mostly tourist boats using them.
I wasn’t prepared for the fact I’d finish the cruise at a different place to where I started, but I think I’m becoming quite used to the unexpected. I just followed the crowd for a while, did some window shopping, had a coffee and cake, then found a metro station to take me home – if all else fails, take the metro!!
So ends another day in Paris – actually my next to last day in Paris! Tomorrow I’m off to the French countryside.