The City Of Love


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July 15th 2007
Published: August 7th 2007
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The Eiffel Tower - Lit Up & SparklingThe Eiffel Tower - Lit Up & SparklingThe Eiffel Tower - Lit Up & Sparkling

Paris' most famous icon at night with the twinkling lights is a magnificent sight.
Hello everybody, from the romantic city of Venice, Italy. The last place I was in was the "City Of Love" itself, Paris.
So I've spent the last two days in the two most romantic cities in the world - which are also the two worst possible places to be if you're single.
I know that Europeans are supposed to be a little more "expressive" when it comes to love, but the PDA over here is just a tad over the top. The geriatric PDA outside Notre Dame almost made me bring up my beef bourguignon.
But I suppose that if there are two places in the world where couples have an excuse to shove their tongues down each others throats in public, it's in Paris and Venice.
And according to the couple sitting next to me on the flight over, PDA rights extend to journeys between the two cities as well.

Speaking of couples, contrary to what I said in my previous entry, I did actually meet up with Ross and Amy who came to meet me at Waterloo station in London a week ago, before I boarded the Eurostar to Paris. It was great catching up with them, and
Notre DameNotre DameNotre Dame

Site of the horrific geriatric PDA.
having just come from Paris themselves, they were able to remind me about three things; dodgy characters (true), providing exact change with purchases (not really true), and dogshit (very true). Well Ross and Amy, two out of three ain't bad.
In terms of dodgy characters, I did encounter a couple. At the bottom of Sacre Coeur (one of Paris' most famous and beautiful churches), I first had my path repeatedly blocked by some guy trying to flog off bracelets before he grabbed my wrist to stop me.
More amusingly, there was also a black guy in a Metro carriage, who after singing the praises of Africa, broke into a Louis Armstrong-inspired rendition of Akon's "Don't Matter". He didn't quite know the second part of the chorus, but he didn't let that stop him ;-)
There are also many beggars in the Metro stations, some of which look remarkably healthy.
And Parisians love their dogs and there are many of them around, but there seems to be no law against where the dogs can leave their excretia, forcing all pedestrians to exercise caution when walking the streets ;-)

Anyway, as I waved goodbye to Ross and Amy, it was on
The Seine & Eiffel Tower By NightThe Seine & Eiffel Tower By NightThe Seine & Eiffel Tower By Night

The Seine by night is breathtaking.
to Paris with my sister Fern, and her two friends, Lily and Anna.
When we arrived in Paris, we managed to get to our hostel (once again situated next to state housing) via the Metro.
Compared to London's Underground and New York's Subway, Paris' Metro is pretty efficient. However, most of the stations are old and crusty (we referred to the Gambetta station as the "Caveman Station") and more often than not, smells of urine. The curved, shiny brick walls with collection drains down the bottom however, may appear to drunken male commuters as makeshift urinals, which may go a little towards explaining the smell down there.
Also, the French and deodorant don't seem to agree which doesn't help matters, once you get on the train.
That night, Fern, Lily and I took a night cruise along The Seine when the sun finally set at 10:30pm. And I have to say, they don't call Paris the City Of Love for nothing, as the buildings, the bridges and the lighting along the river was breath-taking. The banks of The Seine also sees plenty of groups of people chilling, picnicing, dancing and boozing - and why not, as the setting is gorgeous,
The Latin QuarterThe Latin QuarterThe Latin Quarter

Where many a restaurant is located and is always alive at night.
the wine is cheap (you can pay as little as 1.50€ for a bottle of wine) and it's legal to drink in public.

The next day was an internet day for myself and was reasonably productive in terms of booking future accommodations.
That night, we went out with a girl Fern met on her last trip here with school, the very beautiful and elegant Cecile. She first took us to the famous store, Galeries Lafayette, with the huge glass dome in it's atrium, before we dined at a creperie in an area known as "The Latin Quarter", made up of a network of cobblestone alleys bustling with cheap(er) restaturants. I sampled some very nice French cider as well as some "kir", a mix of fruit flavours and cider - tres bon!

The next day we went to the magnificent Sacre Coeur, which I think it much nicer than the more popular Notre Dame. We then took a stroll through the pretty streets of Montmartre, though most of it was overrun by tourists unfortunately. We managed a visit to the Cafe 2 Moulins (which those of you familiar with the French movie "Amelie" will recognise) and of course, Moulin
Sacre CoeurSacre CoeurSacre Coeur

Perched proudly and deservedly atop a hill in Montmatre.
Rouge.
The day was capped off by a visit to the Eiffel Tower and chilling out in the park below, although I didn't go up since I already went up it last year.
Walking past all the French restaurants serving authentic French food in the Latin quarter, I started to feel the first frustrations of being on a limited budget. I would have tried it all, but couldn't afford to. I'm trying to save as much as I can early on in the trip so that I can splash out a bit later on - my budget is 55€ a day, which I am successfully managing so far.

The next day was Bastille Day, France's national day, which meant that fortunately for us, entry to The Louvre that day was free. I thought though, that it was quite amusing how they were selling "Da Vinci Code" audio tours inside. Also amusing were all the tourists clambering over each other trying to get a shot of the Mona Lisa. Compared to some of the gargantuan works in the museum, the Mona Lisa is comparatively small.
That evening, while the girls were watching the latest Harry Potter flick, I checked out
The LouvreThe LouvreThe Louvre

Home of the Mona Lisa.
the Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triomphe. The roundabout on which the arc sits is crazy and I don't how we survived going round it three times at high speed in the van last year.
The arc had a huge French flag hanging from underneath it, and all the lamp posts along the Champs Elysee were adorned with French flags for Bastille Day. Nothing else much was happening around there though, so I went to the Eiffel Tower.
About half of Paris had the same idea, as thousands upon thousands of people as far as the eye could see, packed the park below for the Bastille Day celebrations. Nelly Furtado was performing for free, though she must've been a kilometre away from where I was on the stage. But there were big screens everywhere and the sound system was excellent as people picnicked, danced and drank - the place was going off and everyone was having a great time. If we'd planned to go there, it would've been awesome.
However, we had planned to have dinner at Anna's friend Danielle's apartment. Getting off at the 8th and last floor at the apartment building, the view that greeted us was
Dinner With A ViewDinner With A ViewDinner With A View

I was very privileged indeed.
stunning, with a near perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. But it was to get better as Danielle and her mother (both Kiwis - Danielle is an au pair here and lives in the apartment part-time and her mother is here on holiday) had cooked us a feast of ratatouille and pasta, followed by chocolate mousse cake, fresh fruits and red wine, all eaten on the large balcony of this classic rooftop apartment. And just as we were finishing up, the Bastille Day fireworks started right next to the Eiffel Tower. This lasted over half an hour, and each display had it's own theme music heard clearly a few kilometres away from the park where we were, from Star Wars, to James Bond to La Marseilleaise. The Eiffel Tower was lit up and sparkling as well, making the sight absolutely beautiful.
With the food, the view and the fireworks, this was just about perfect. Some people will never experience this in their lives! If any of you guys are planning a wedding proposal, it doesn't get much better than this - the highlight of the trip so far, something truly special.
After saying a huge thanks to Danielle and her
Bastille Day FireworksBastille Day FireworksBastille Day Fireworks

An experience I won't be forgetting anytime soon.
mother for putting this on, it was back to our crusty hostel.

Could I live in Paris? Not at this stage in my life but definitely later, and only if I live in a nice area, have a decent command of French and have a girlfriend ;-)

The next day we attempted to see the Chateau de Versaille, a 580m long palace built in the 17th century and 21kms out of Paris. Unfortunately for us, we were foiled once again by massive crowds of tourists - I didn't fancy 4 hours baking in the sun to pay 25€ to get in - although it is a magnificent palace that I'll have to return to one day. So we headed back to the hostel, as my flight to Venice was at 8.30pm and couldn't miss my 5.30pm bus from the other side of town. Ryanair's airport (Aeroport Beauvais) is about 55km from Paris and has buses from Paris leaving 3 hours before every flight.
So, some time to check my emails and stuff...now, let's just double check my flight time. Shit. My flight is 6.50pm not 8.30pm...time now is 3.40pm...which means that the bus for my flight on the
Arc de Triomphe on Bastille DayArc de Triomphe on Bastille DayArc de Triomphe on Bastille Day

Worse than the Royal Oak roundabout.
other side of town leaves in...10mins. Wait. The next bus is at 5.10pm, which will get me to the airport by 6.25pm - I'll just sweet talk (beg) my way on to the plane. A taxi out there will cost me up to 150€. Guess I'm going for the 5:10pm bus then.
So my sister and friends wish me good luck, and I make a mad and nervous dash across town, arriving at the bus station at 5.05pm.

What happens next?
You'll have to read the next entry.
For now, au revoir.

Derek


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Champs Elysee on Bastille DayChamps Elysee on Bastille Day
Champs Elysee on Bastille Day

Lined with trees and adorned with French flags.


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