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Published: December 26th 2006
Zooming right into France!
I took this photo as the bus passed the France sign as we entered France. I'm finally here!
On the Road to Paris
I took the metro/subway to the Amstelstation to get aboard a Eurolines bus for a 7 hour journey to my dream destination: Paris, France. Before getting into the trip details, let me give you some background information so you readers know why I place Paris on such a high pedestal. I took French in middle + high school (so from about age 10-17) and really fell in love with the language by age 14. I had a few different teachers over the years, but one teacher who I really disliked made the class read Le Petit Prince (The little prince). Although I hated his class and the way he taught, I loved the book and the adult messages the author hid within a book that sits in the children section in most bookstores. Anyway, my final year of French was taught by the loveliest teacher of all and once again we read Le Petit Prince. I fell in love with the book, and the language. Finally, this trip to Paris was what I've been waiting for for so many years. I think I smiled the whole time I was there.
I got on the
Nothing too special around the hostel, but it was literally 2 crosswalks from the metro. Parfait!
greyhound bus and as I sat down, I realized I was close to a French family with 3 kids under the age of 10. Change seats! I moved towards the back of the bus and enjoyed the silence around me. There was not much to see as far as beautiful scenery along the way; it's December afterall. We took a few pit stops and one stop I got out to stretch out my legs. A weird looking fellow came up to me and asked me if I spoke French. I decided it wouldn't hurt to chat with him for a few minutes and warm up my language skills (if I still had any). He seemed nice and we talked about whatever. I got back on the bus as he continued to smoke his cigarette. The bus pulled out of the stop and as I put my ipod earphones in, I looked up and saw this guy holding his belongings and coming towards me. He asked me if he could sit next to me and talk some more and I outright said "No thanks, I want to keep my bags here." I don't need to be friendly to everybody.
I knew this was good when I saw a canadian flag above the place.
through Belgium felt like forever and after making stops in Antwerp and Brussels, I saw a small sign on the side of the road that read France
, surrounded by the stars from the European Union flag. I made it!!!! I bounced up and down in my seat and looked around at the others on the bus. I guess being in France wasn't so exciting for everyone else. I decided to keep the good vibes going and put on music from the Amelie soundtrack - whenever I hear that music I think of Paris.
We arrived at the Eurolines station in Paris, I got my backpack and headed towards the metro that was conveniently connected to the bus station. I bought a Carte Orange for one week - 16 euros gave me unlimited metro/subway travel Monday-Friday. Normally each metro ticket costs 1.60 euros so this was clearly a great deal. A nice lady who was on my bus saw my overwhelmed look as I tried to figure out the metro system by looking at the giant wall map. The creepy Frenchman that tried to talk to me earlier also tried to help me out but he too didn't know what
Le Moulin Rouge!!
Oh my gosh, there it IS!! Beautiful and breathtaking. I'll have to watch the movie again when I return.
he was doing and thankfully when the girl started to help me, he walked off. Au revoir!
I figured out my route, now I just had to figure out how to use the Carte Orange. I watched how people put their little card inside the machine, picked it up from another slot and walked through the guardrail thing. Others though just held their purse next to a sensor and the rail opened for them. I didn't know which one I had so I decided to make use of my French. I tapped on the shoulder of a large man and politely asked him how to use my card, making sure to use the "vous" form of the verb which is used for people you don't know. He helped me out and asked me if I was Polish. I thought this was funny since my grandpa was from Poland.
Peace & Love & Paris
I got off at the Jaurès stop and looked around. I'm in Paris!
, I thought to myself. I found my hostel, the Peace & Love hostel and checked in at the bar around 4:30pm. The place was so small that instead of having a
Le Moulin Rouge!!
I had to stand on a big windy vent to be tall enough, haha
lounge and a front desk, the front desk was the bar. The lady just cleared away from empty beer steins and layed out a scruffy binder with all their paperwork. She gave me the key for room 14 and told me I'd be staying with 2 nice American girls. She also told me that in 15 minutes there was going to be a tour through Monmartre area for only 5 euros. Cool - I had heard from my sis who also stayed here that the tour was worth it.
I started to climb up the narrow spiral staircase. Each floor had only 3 rooms which meant that I was on the 5th floor. 103
stairs later, I was huffing and puffing at the top, and opened my door to a cramped dorm-sized room with three bunks. I threw my backpack on my bed (luckily I had the bottom bunk), went to the bathroom, and went back downstairs for the tour. I put my ipod that ran out of batteries and my passport in the safe behind the bar so I wouldn't have to worry about them until I left. Before we left, I ran across the street to a
Near Le Moulin Rouge
I was focusing on the buildings where there's graffiti saying "chloe". The building to the right of that, you can faintly see a white man jumping from a trapeze. This was done by a famous underground French artist.
little market store to buy batteries. I once again used my French and bought some AA batteries.
The tour was about 15 of us and as we walked towards the metro station I noticed that most of them were paired off. Damn, not many lone travelers. I met one guy on the tour named Jeff who was actually studying in Utrecht! It was cool to chat about The Netherlands as he was from St. Louis, Missouri and also not used to some of the Dutch customs/quirks. The tour guide's name was Karen and she was an annoying individual from "Philly" (said with a loud nasal voice). Short and round, she herded us like little Kindergarteners through the metro and around Monmartre. She had a way of describing everything really harsh, commenting on how bad the teeth of the French are, how all Aussies and Kiwis are adrenaline junkies, and how stupid Americans are at geography. I disliked her for this as I really dislike stereotypes as most of them are negative and usually represent only a small percent of the population.
I did learn some interesting information though and just tried to block the negative and sarcastic comments
Le Moulin Rouge entrance
The cheapest available show these days is 85 euros...Thus, I enjoyed just looking at the outside
Karen spattered out.
- Monmartre is in the 18th district which is also the red light and artist district.
- Apparently 2300 prostitues walk the streets each night
- There are lots of underground artists. One of them created little space creatures out of glossy tiles that are placed randomly on building facades. They call his creatures "space invaders"and you can find his work on the internet.
- 200 pounds of dog poo are deposited on Parisian streets each day. There's poo everywhere. Bleh. Supposedly if you step in poo with your left foot, it's good luck and if you step in it with your left food it's shitty luck. haha, funny pun.
The tour was nice though and I got a feeling of the area. As we were walking uphill, Karen stopped and I looked straight ahead: Les Deux Moulins Café (Two Windmills Cafe)!! It's the cafe that Amélie worked at and many scenes in the movie were filmed there. So neat! I was beyond words and after taking many photos, I realized my batteries had died. Luckily I had just bought a new set, but as I put them in my camera, it went haywire and didn't work at all!
Cafe des 2 Moulins!!
Being a HUGE Amelie movie fan, It was so great to see the cafe in person in the Monmartre district. This is where Amelie worked.
The rest of the tour, I was cameraless and upset that my camera broke at the unluckiest of times.
Along with Les Deux Moulins Café, we also saw Le Moulin Rouge, which was so cool to see in person as well. By then it was dark outside and the red flashing lights danced on the buildings across the street. We got to the top of the hill and there was Sacré Coeur (Sacred Heart), the famous which church. It can be seen from the Eiffel Tower and has quite a presence. We walked inside and I enjoyed the warmth of the church. It was absolutely beautiful inside and the ceiling was completely covered in colorful religious paintings. While I was walking through, there must have been something going on because there was a group of nuns who were singing and everyone sitting at the pews were singing along.
Closing up day 1
The group returned to the hostel and by then I was starving. Jeff also wanted food and he told be about a great place just down the street that had a sandwich special for 4 euros. We walked to the cute little shop on the
corner and I ordered my meal completely in French (I was so proud!). One baguette with cheese, lettuce, and tomato panini-style, an orangina drink, and a pear tart all for 4 euros was an unbeatable price for Paris. We returned to the hostel and sat at the bar tables, meeting a girl named Lee from Cape Town, South Africa. The food was great and I immediately noticed the great difference between a French baguette and a non-French baguette.
The bar area was so smokey, and my eyes were quite sensitive to all the smoke. Lee smoked like a chimney and the minute she finished one cigarette, another one was ready in her fingers. After getting a great douse of smoke, I needed a breather and decided to walk around the area to scout out what was around me. I got some more cash while I was adventuring and decided to get a baguette for tomorrow and also some apples for breakfast. As for my camera, Jeff told me that I bought the low-power AA batteries for small radios and lights and I needed to get higher powered batteries like Duracell for my camera. I went back across the street
Van Gogh's house
This was where he painted his famous painting titled "Bedroom in Arles" - I actually saw one of the original versions at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam!
and chatted with the owner for a while, explaining my problem. I was surprised (and excited) how fast my French came back to me - I could understand everything he said and could pretty much give an answer back just as fast.
Another 103 stairs later (it never got easier to climb them) I walked into my room and unfortunately my two roommates were already asleep. I had to feel around for my stuff and finally collapsed in bed, very excited for my first full day in Paris! Bon nuit!
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