A last Parisian stroll

16 December 2018

Our stay in Paris was far too short and, sadly, our last morning in this beautiful city was as damp and cold as the previous day had been. We began the morning with breakfast in our hotel. The meal was served in an amazing cellar room that was even quirkier than our lovely little attic room. I could have kicked myself for leaving my phone behind. Luckily I found some pictures on Tripadvisor and have shamelessly stolen them.

Traveller photo submitted by GLCASTELUCCI (Jun 2018)


Traveller photo submitted by GLCASTELUCCI (Jun 2018)


Traveller photo submitted by GLCASTELUCCI (Jun 2018)


Traveller photo submitted by GLCASTELUCCI (Jun 2018)


Many of the eighteenth and nineteenth century hotels and buildings in the 10th arrondissement have hidden cellar rooms like this, some dating from much earlier times. In fact, beneath most of Paris, there is a hidden world of cellars, tunnels, sewers and even quarries. We were lucky enough to see the catacombs on a previous visit and the hotel breakfast room reminded me of them a little, although obviously without all the bones. Having said that, there may well have been bones far closer than we thought. A few years back a hidden burial site was found beneath a local supermarket, so you never quite know what is beneath your feet here.

Today there was no time for real sightseeing and the wet, cold weather put us off going too far afield. Once we’d packed our cases and checked out of the hotel we spent a happy and warm half hour or so having one last wonderful chocolat chaud. You really never can have too many in my humble opinion.

By the time we’d finished our drinks the rain had eased off a little so we decided to go for one last stroll before we headed for the station. It was really nothing more than a walk around the block but there were still a few interesting things to see. On Boulevard de la Chapelle we had a great view of the train lines going into Gare du Nord and an interesting mural of the front of the station on a nearby building.

We also passed a delightfully dilapidated doorway. Commando couldn’t understand why I would want to take a picture of such a thing though.

On Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis the front of the Hôpital Fernand-Widal caught my eye. In the sixteenth century, Vincent de Paul built a small hospital of just forty beds on Rue Faubourg Saint Martin, the street running parallel to this one on the other side of Gare de l’Est. It was dedicated to the Daughters of Charity. Over the years the hospital grew and, by the nineteenth century it had three hundred beds and was run by Dr Antoine Dubois. In 1858 the hospital moved to its present location and was later named after Fernand Widal, visiting physician to the hospitals of Paris, prolific writer of medical essays and instrumental in devising the Widal test for typhoid fever. Today the hospital specialises in psychaiatry, addiction and elderly care and is undertaking a great deal of research about memory. The building looks rather dark and forbidding but, what really caught my eye were the words Liberte Egalite Fraternite above the door.

We carried on walking, pausing every now and then to look at an interesting shop or a piece of graffiti, until we were back on Rue de Dunkerque approaching Gare Du Nord again.

We still had a while before we needed to check into Eurostar so we had a closer look at Maison Fond in the daylight. It really is the strangest piece of artwork I’ve ever seen.

Our final stop was for a closer look at the strange red metal sculpture we’d passed several times on our travels. This rather fantastical creation by Parisian artist and sculptor Richard Texiers, is called Angel Bear. It was specially commissioned in 2015 by SNCF for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The piece was inspired by the plight of polar bears and the fragility of our planet.

We were still a little early for our check in but, by now, we were frozen so, with some regret, we said goodbye to Paris and went inside the station. Once we’d passed through the airport style security we found a place to sit and wait and got a coffee to warm our hands. There were a few, slightly half hearted decorations in the waiting area to remind us it was almost Christmas and we passed the time with the usual people watching.

After a while a call came for boarding. Commando assured me this was not for our train. The waiting area slowly emptied and we kept on waiting. When the time for our train had come and gone with no further calls I began to get a little concerned.

“Are you absolutely sure about the train time?” I asked.

This was when we discovered Commando had been looking at the outbound tickets all along and the train that had been called twenty minutes earlier and had now left was actually ours. Luckily, it was fairly simple to get onto the next train, although we had rather a longer than expected wait.

We ended up in a rather noisy carriage filled with Welsh rugby supporters. It wasn’t quite the relaxing journey we’d expected but they were a friendly bunch and even shared some of their bottles of red wine with Commando. All in all it had been an eventful trip and I, for one, had learned a few lessons. In future I will be a little more proactive in my research. That way we might actually find the parkrun. Also I will also not be leaving the travel plans in Commando’s hands, especially with his habit of not wearing his glasses.

Please see my copyright information before you copy or use any of the above words or pictures. If you’re worried about privacy or data protection, please see my privacy policy here.

North Stoneham, hidden trails and building work

23 February 2018

Commando has signed up for a course at the Runnung School to try to improve his technique. He’s hoping it might knock a few seconds off his parkrun PB and maybe help him avoid future injuries. Today was his first class and, as it was in Old Stoneham Lane and the day was wonderfully springlike, I went along to have a little wander while he was learning.  Continue reading North Stoneham, hidden trails and building work

St Boniface

22 February 2018

On the west of the River Itchen There are three churches dedicated to St Boniface all within a few miles of each other. One is in Chandlers Ford, another in Nursling and the third in Shirley close to where CJ and I were enjoying a well earned cup of coffee. St Boniface was the church we’d walked so far to visit, although, at this point, we weren’t sure if it was open or not. Continue reading St Boniface

West Side wanderings

18 February 2018

The River Itchen meanders through the centre of Southampton dividing it roughly into two halves, west and east of the river. Almost all my life I’ve lived on the east side, so much of the west side of town is something of a mystery to me. Today CJ and I thought we’d explore a small part of it. There was a plan, albeit a fairly vague one, centred around an unusual church we’d seen from a bus some time ago.

Continue reading West Side wanderings

A hint of spring and things to make me smile

15 February 2018

It was the most beautiful day, bright, crisp and cold with a definite promise of spring in the air. As I was in town anyway I thought I’d take a wander through the parks to see if there were any signs that this long, cold winter was drawing to a close. My tour began with a stroll through the enchanted park. With the beautiful golden light and the trees reflected in the puddles there certainly seemed to be a touch of magic in the air. Continue reading A hint of spring and things to make me smile

The metamorphosis of the forgotten walls

15 February 2018

For many years the medieval walls from Bargate to Polymond Tower have been neglected and largely forgotten. They are so well hidden behind the shops on Hanover Buildings and the old Bargate Shopping Centre many people don’t even know they are there. Those that do venture along York Walk are often met with a dark, dingy, rubbish strewn journey. With the demolition of the Bargate Centre, this is about to change. There are ambitious plans to open up York Walk and make a feature out of the walls and towers there. Demolition work began a few weeks ago and today, as I was in town on business, I thought I’d see how it was going. Continue reading The metamorphosis of the forgotten walls

Five run fifty at fifty – fifty miles and beyond

9 February 2018

It didn’t take us long to get to the final stop of the day. The forty mile point was on Test Lane, near the old Redbridge bridge. We parked in the car park of The Anchor pub and waited. An icy wind was blowing up off the River Test and the sun was beginning to set. It was getting close to four o’clock. We shivered and pulled our coats around us. My hands and face were numb and I couldn’t remember when I’d last felt properly warm. Continue reading Five run fifty at fifty – fifty miles and beyond

Five run fifty at fifty – the hard miles

9 February 2018

Shortly after half past twelve we’d watched our intrepid runners and cyclists leave Southampton General Hospital. We had an hour before their next stop, outside Eastleigh College but we had things to do before then. This was Rob’s fiftieth birthday and Kim wanted to get some balloons to decorate the View Bar at the Sports Centre where the run would finish. This meant a trip to the Swan Centre and a chance to grab another coffee while the grabbing was good.  Continue reading Five run fifty at fifty – the hard miles

Five run fifty at fifty – heading for half way

9 February 2018

We passed the runners with loud cheers and honking of the horn as they made their way through Netley Village.  Their next stop would be the Common just after eleven o’clock. We had two hours so we headed to the nearest Starbucks, on London Road. Sitting in the warm drinking coffee felt like heaven after all the standing around in the cold, even if there was a touch of guilt thinking about our runners still pounding the chilly pavements.  Continue reading Five run fifty at fifty – heading for half way

Five run fifty at fifty – the first ten

9 February 2018

Five thirty on a Friday morning and I’m trying to peel my gritty eyes open. The last couple of days have been a manic haze of preparation, mostly revolving around food and maps. This is the morning Commando and his friends, Rob, Rob, Ian and Luis run fifty miles to celebrate Rob’s fiftieth birthday. To say I can think of better ways to celebrate turning fifty would be an understatement. There is also a frisson of worry about Commando running such a long distance given the events of the past year. Continue reading Five run fifty at fifty – the first ten