Published: May 17th 2012May 17th 2012
Bonjour from Paris! We have arrived safely after a looooooong flight with China Eastern Airlines. I shouldn't complain much, because they were cheap, punctual, and delivered our baggage without a hitch through three stopovers. Hooray China Eastern! We arrived in Paris early on Thursday morning, about 6.30am and managed to negotiate Immigration without a problem. After the incident we had at the French Embassy in Sydney trying to obtain our Working Holiday Visas, we had worked ourselves up into a frenzy and were prepared for a harsh interrogation. We had copies of all our documents, practiced our stories incase we were separated and questioned and were very nervous approaching the desk. In actual fact, my immigration dude was just about the friendliest Frenchman I have ever met. He had a big grin, was thrilled that I was an Australian and barely even looked at my passport. Abe's was similarly nice (although Abe was required to give fingerprints… not sure what that was about… maybe he should have shaved before we left Melbourne?)
We checked into a very quaint 'hotel' in North East Paris (e11, for all you in the know), about a 20 minute stroll to
the Seine. Our room is tiny, but has an adjoining private bathroom and a lovely view so we are very happy! We are up on the third flight of a spiral staircase, with some very strange but hilarious toilets abutting the stairs halfway between each floor. Can't imagine how many drunken incidents have occurred here, as the step directly out of the lavatory takes you straight onto the spiral staircase, and worse still, down to two steps on different levels!
We have been to most of the touristy attractions in Paris over the last week - Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and Sacre Coeur, Musee de Louvre and Musee d'Orsay to name a few. We also took the train out to Versailles for a day trip which was lovely. Versailles is where the Royals and Nobles moved out to in the last few hundred years before the Revolution. The size and grandeur of the Chateau and the Gardens was just flabbergasting, even for today's standards. Considering that during that time the price of a loaf of bread was a years salary for the poor, it's no wonder that a mob of starving peasants dragged King
Louis and Marie Antoinette back to Paris and chopped off their heads.
The Parisians have been very patient with our pathetic French. We have 'Je voudrais … s'il vous plait ' down pat, however as soon as any questions are asked, we stare blankly at our waiter and he promptly turns to English. Hopefully some time in the French countryside will improve our conversational skills beyond a one-way statement! The traffic in Paris has been something else. There are massive thoroughfares, about 3-4 lanes wide in each direction, but with no lane markings AT ALL. They just merge willy-nilly with only a honk of a horn as warning. The round-about at the Arc de Triomph was just about the scariest thing I had ever seen. About 10 streets all entered this roundabout, with no lane markings, no traffic lights, and no rules about which lane you had to be in to exit. It was INSANE.
We are spending our last few days in Paris in the Latin Quarter, which we are thoroughly enjoying. Thanks for the hot tip, Uncle David! It's a bit away from all the touristy areas and
there are heaps of cheap French bistros all over the place. On our first morning in the Latin Quarter, we were walking up our street after a cafe au lait at the local bistro, when a tiny pot plant fell from the sky and almost took out the French woman who was walking a few steps in front of us. As Abe and I looked up at the apartment block above us trying to workout which flower box it fell from, the French lady gave the pot plant a closer inspection. "Canabis!" she exclaimed (although it sounded more like "Canabeeeee!") Sure enough, someone had pushed their little stash too far out of the windowsill trying to get the morning sun!
We've taken to buying baguettes (the bread is AMAZING) and a bottle of wine and finding the nearest park for a delicious picnic. The French have no laws against drinking in public spaces, which is equal parts awesome and dangerous!! Bottles of red with screw top lids are few and far between though (perhaps France is insulated from the worldwide cork shortage??), so we have invested in a corkscrew that we try to take with
us at all times in case of a wine-opening emergency!
We're planning another day trip out to Monet's Garden in Giverny (about 70km out of Paris) tomorrow, which I am looking forward to very much! We saw some of Monet's amazing paintings in Musee d'Orsay, and the gardens should be wonderful. We're hoping for good weather (we've been caught in the rain a few times already..) so fingers crossed!
On Sunday we head out west to Bressuire, for our first Help Exchange posting with Chris & Rachael.
There are more photos below