Despite knowing that we had to be back for the afternoon bike trip we still almost missed it. Our guide was not French but in fact a girl from Texas. She had a great knowledge of Paris so we were happy. It’s been a while so hopefully I get my facts correct. Our first lesson was about the Eiffel tower. We learnt that it was built in 1889 for the world trade fair. A competition was held to design a structure, the Eiffel was in first place, second was a 300 metre tall guillotine, imagine if that won! It took two years to build and the building costs were recouped in just six months from people paying to use the elevator. It was the tallest building in the world for 40 years. Although it was fortunate to survive, for when it was built it only received a permit to be erect for 20 years. The builder didn't want it destroyed after 20 years so went to the government and pleaded for them to keep it. They said no, so the builder went to the military and informed them off its potential use as a transmitter. They saw the sense in this
and so it was kept. When Germany invaded the French cut the elevator cable and said they didn't know how to fix it so that Hitler had to walk all the way to the top much to his disgust. Once at the top Hitler had a German flag flying for four years until they were overturned. The day it was overturned three different Frenchmen decided they wanted to reinstate the French flag. They all wanted their flag to be the one flown so a race developed, and as it turns out the guy who arrived last reached the top first as he was a fireman and so had the fitness I guess. In 1999 a secret project was undertaken by climbers who placed sparkly lights all over the tower. When the clock struck midnight for the new millennium, the lights started sparkling much to everyone’s delight. Nowadays the sparkly lights come on at night every hour for a few minutes. People have reached the top by running, cycling and even on motorbikes. People have jumped off too, some on bungys, another who thought he had invented a flying contraption. He tried it and plummeted to his death. Apparently it's on
So we learnt quite a lot about the Eiffel tower, next up was the Park du Champs de Mars which I think is French for battle playground. It is where the military school is and has had many famous pupils including Napoleon Bonaparte who enrolled early at the age of just 15. We were told his school report was a bit scathing and said 'he could succeed if conditions are right'. Apparently conditions turned out right. We learnt that on liberation day when the French drove out the Germans, that the Germans retreated into many different famous landmarks because they thought the French wouldn't want to fire upon their beloved buildings. Wrong. You can still see the bullet holes in some of them.
We moved onto Les Invalides which is an ornate building, adorned with a gold roof; it is where many famous Parisians are buried including Napoleon and a stack of King Louis. The one I remember is King Louis the fourteenth who ruled from the age of 9 to 75 when he passed away. He was given the nickname Sun King as back in his era people didn't really live that long, hence people thinking
he was as old as the sun. Or something like that. Napoleon was the main character for a lot of our stories, we learnt how he lead his troops in many battles, beating the Austrians, and conquering Egypt. He was popular until he decided to attack Russia. Many soldiers died due to the cold because the Russians kept retreating. After this Napoleon was exiled to an island. But he was allowed to take 2000 of his friends with him. What kind of exile is that? So on the island he chilled out for a bit and just drank wine until he was bored and decided to make himself king of that island. Not content with that he returned to France, the Battle of Waterloo ended his brief reign and he was imprisoned by the British on a remote island. Five years later he died, apparently from stomach cancer but theories are still circling that he was poisoned with arsenic.
On we went to a giant obelisk that was stolen long ago from the Egyptians who basically ask for it back all the time and are told to piss off. Well what ever piss off is in French. Nearby is
a fancy hotel which costs 13,000 Euros per night. The winner of the Tour de France gets to stay for a week. No wonder they take steroids to try and win. In the nearby courtyard executions used to take place. Of course these were by guillotine. In fact half of the stories we were told ended up with someone getting guillotined. After all those beheading stories it was time for a feed. We stopped in the park opposite the Louvre. We talked to some people from Alaska and Texas whilst eating crepes. Quite civilized really.
Once we'd finished that tour we sat down for five minutes and then started the night time tour. This took a different course and alcohol had been promised which enticed us. We began by visiting an ice cream parlor and chowing down on delicious local ice creams. Nearby was Notre Dame which is a giant cathedral. It was the first building to be designed using flying buttresses, shame I can’t really remember what that means. It was going to be demolished because it was old and dirty, instead they used lasers to clean it, except for one part, you can see the huge difference.
I can’t remember the name of the next building but it was where a former French Queen was held as a prisoner. She went from complete opulence to a small cell, she was in the cell for 75 days and thought that because she was in there so long they weren’t going to execute her and would let her go. Wrong, she was guillotined.
We watched a brilliant sunset from a passenger only bridge, it was crowded with groups having picnics with fine wine and cheeses. Not a bad way to spend an evening. It was now time for our promised alcohol. Don’t worry we weren’t drinking whilst riding, we had a boat cruise. We all locked our bikes together and hopped on board. Jez and I got our share of red wine and headed for the top of the boat. Paris is a fantastic city by night and we passed many of the attractions we’d seen during the day. The Eiffel Tower was no doubt the most amazing sight. We cruised down to the Latin quarter where a whole heap of students were drinking on the river banks. A group of them even flashed us. Shmae they
were mostly guys. Once the cruise had finished we had to cycle back to the bike shop. A few were a bit tipsy, and a couple of Aussie guys were doing crazy jumps and tricks. Think they would have cycled up the Eiffel Tower given the chance.
By the time we had trained back to the hostel we were knackered, we found a local kebab shop, stuffed our faces, and went to sleep with sweet dreams of people getting guillotined.
A Kiwi that loves to travel. I, like every other traveler, would love to be a travel writer, so if you're reading this and want to pay me mega bucks then I suppose I could be persuaded. If you'd like to check out some of my other work then have a look at the satirical website that me and a few friends have created: http://www.getfact.co.nz... full info
Although ultimately a victor in World Wars I and II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire, wealth, manpower, and rank as a dominant nation-state. Nevertheless, France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader am...more info