Bonjour! May is upon us and with it, a slightly more consistent batch of good weather!

(Actually, I very nearly described the weather as more "stable", but with the words "May" and "stable" in the same sentence, you would be forgiven for thinking that I was going to start banging on about strong leadership, Lord give me strength... if you don't know what I'm talking about, just google those two words together.)

Sadly on this fine bank holiday Monday (which is when I started writing this post, because obviously it takes me at least a week to throw some words and pictures together now...), I have been stuck indoors working (mainly because Michele instructed me to after he received an invitation to go boardgaming with one of his friends all day and he didn't want to feel bad about missing one of my days off...) 

Well anyway, I got a fairly respectable 7 hours done before taking myself off on the wonder of all runs:

Anyway, I lured you here with Paris and so Paris I shall give you.

At the beginning of April, my mum and I visited my sister during the last days of her year abroad in Lille. Living in East Kent means that my parents can pretty much jump in the car and be in Lille within a couple of hours after a crossing on the Eurotunnel. We are geographically closer to France, Belgium and the Netherlands than we are to huge swathes of England. 

Lille itself is fairly well connected too and whilst we were there, we took ample advantage of the quick rail connections to other famous destinations...

Arriving at Gare du Nord, we got the metro to the famous (or should that be infamous?) Moulin Rouge. We weren't there to see the Moulin Rouge itself (which was disappointingly dowdy in the bright sunshine) but to take the little white train from there to Montmartre. Honestly, you cannot take my mother anywhere without her finding a tourist train.

We whizzed up through the winding streets at some rather alarming speeds and soon found ourselves in the heart of old Paris.

Where we played tourist by finding a pavement cafe with a perfect spot for people watching and ordering mountainous cappucinos and slightly underwhelming crepes.

We were absolutely blessed with wonderful weather for our daytrip. To make the most of it, we grabbed an assembly of carbohydrates from various boulangeries and patisseries for a picnic and, after exhausting our appetite for the pretty cobbled lanes of Montmartre, headed back to take the little white tourist train back down to the ground floor of Paris.

Our next destination was the riverside; home to some of the most famous art galleries in the world! In the shadow of the Musée d'Orsay and across the river from the Louvre, we settled down to eat our picnic... and wait for the tourist boat. 

No, we are not very cultured people.

(My sister trying and succeeding to get her foot in my scenic lunch photo whilst I tried and failed to adjust the lens zoom...)

Much better!

The excellent Batobus means you can jump on and off as much as you like (although once you're on board with a tummy full of baguette, it can be very tempting to just stay on the boat and watch the world float on by...)

Our first stop was the one and only Notre Dame.

Ok so actually, we missed the Notre Dame stop. Pretty hard to do when you're on a leisurely boat ride that moves at a max speed of about 10 miles per hour. So we just waited until we got back round to the Hotel de Ville and took a pretty walk through Paris to get to our destination.

Now, one of the most outrageous facts about Notre Dame (in my opinion) is that there aren't any steps leading up to the cathedral entrance. It doesn't seem particularly controversial until you recall that Quasimodo's mother actually died there, immortalised in the lyrics "See there the innocent blood you have spilt on the steps of Notre Dame..."

I know Disney has probably fluffed the truth for us on many other occasions, but this is one discrepancy that I just cannot stand for! (And I definitely had Disney on the brain whilst visiting France - we went to Disneyland Paris for a day and saw Beauty and the Beast in the cinema in Lille!)

We slipped inside to visit the ancient heart of the city, whilst I battled against myself to not sing Esmeralda's song...

The cathedral's origins lie in 1163 when the first stone was laid. Construction was completed in 1345 but as the centuries wore on, Notre Dame found itself being torn apart and built up again. For example, the 13th century spire was torn down and many statues beheaded during the French revolution. The cathedral was then used as a storage warehouse for food.

Cheeky boob grab.

There have of course been many restoration efforts since to patch up the damages incurred throughout history. Luckily the bells escaped the revolution and survived the war, with the largest bell (Emmanuel) dating from 1681!

After soaking up some culture, we decided to soak up some sun with a glass of wine! The ridiculously pretty Vieux Paris can be found dripping in wisteria just around the corner from Notre Dame and what luck, we arrived just in time to see this lovely old Citroen complete the Insta-perfect picture!

Sunshine, wine, sickeningly pretty streets... I ask for nothing else.

We were sadly beginning to run out of time before our train back to Lille so we jumped back on the boat and completed our circuit of the river, getting off again at the Eiffel Tower (where else?!)

(My sister looking perfectly Parisian in her striped top...)

Et voila!

By this point, we really were running out of time so we snapped a quick photo and jumped in a tuk tuk in the shadow of the tower...

...and practically risked our lives whizzing through the streets on our way back to the station!

La vie est belle.