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Published: November 26th 2010
At Sacre Coeur
We made it to Paris! When we found out the Thalys ticket agents were on strike we asked the conductors on the platform if we could board the train and pay for the ticket on board. Understanding our dilemma they seemed to think it would fine. So we got on the train. When the ticket checkers came we had to explain why we didn’t have tickets; thankfully it was only 26 euros. Normally, anyone who boards the train without a ticket has to pay 88 euros! Unbelievable; we are so happy we didn’t have to pay that. Otherwise our trip was very uneventful.
We arrived at Gard du Nord which didn’t give Ashley the best first impression of the city. It’s very chaotic with lots of kiosks, people shouting and car horns blaring. However, that night we made our way to Sacre Coeur which is a cathedral on top of the only hill in Paris. On the way we stopped for dinner at Le Cepage on Rue Lemarck for Salmon and prawn skewers. It was one of the most amazing dishes we had eaten thus far. Both our dishes came with a lemony butter sauce that really topped them off.
It was pretty massive
We also enjoyed a bottle of Rosé wine, Irish coffees and desserts. Ashley really enjoyed her chocolate mousse but Dan was more adventurous and asked for Ile Flottant, which turned out to be whipped egg whites on a bed of custard. Although it was nothing like what he expected (well, he didn’t really know what to expect), Dan really enjoyed it. It was oddly delicious, being that neither of us really likes meringue. The view from Sacre Coeur was extraordinary. We played “Spot the Monument” with very little luck. Ashley found it especially difficult since this was our first night and she hadn’t been to any of the sights yet. But we just enjoyed sitting on the stairs and looking over the city as the sun went down. We looked inside the church to see what it would be like; well, it was like most cathedrals in Catholic countries: ornate and enormous. However, there were shiny tourist gimmicks inside which was weird and kind of detracted from it’s beauty. As the sun went down more we admired the lights on the Eiffel Tower. That was the moment Ashley finally felt like she was in Paris.
After some confusion the
next morning with finding a place to buy a Paris Museum Pass, we took the metro to the Grand Arch which is a huge arch in a more corporate part of Paris. Although it was big and impressive it lacked the charm that the old part of the city exudes. We also visited the Arc de Triomphe. Since we had a Paris Pass we could go up it for free. From the top we had a 360° view of Paris and all the monuments. Naturally we walked down the Champs Elysées after the Arc. The Champs Elysées is massive. I’m pretty sure the sidewalk is the same width as Banff Avenue; pretty amazing and really busy. After lunch we made our way to the Louvre where we looked through the sculpture section. A lot of what we saw had religious significance and we would have liked to see more variety. After a couple hours Ashley was beat and wanted to relax so we went back to the hostel. That night we got a bottle of wine and went to the Eiffel Tower. We drank our wine on the lawn in front of the Tower. It was typically Parisian, except perhaps
Yikes! Don't miss a step.
that most people probably drink their wine out of glasses instead of the bottle. When it got dark the Tower lit of and sparkled with flashing lights so we walked up the base and lay on the grass for a while and admired the sight.
The 28th was the last day we could use our Eurail passes so we took advantage and went to Versailles. We tried to go early but it was still impossibly busy; probably has something to do with all the tour groups who also go for opening at 9am. The Palace was so ornate we couldn’t possibly see everything. Especially since we had to go through quickly to avoid bottlenecking. Unfortunately it was hard to get a really detailed look at anything but overall it was a pretty nice place to visit. After being inside most of the morning, we walked around the palace to the public gardens and had lunch in front of the fountain. The catacombs were next on the list but the line was a little too long for our taste; instead we went to the Pantheon which houses the tombs of Madame Curie and Jean Jacques Rousseau. There was also a
massive science experiment right in the middle. A huge pendulum hanging down from the top of the Dome; when released in a straight line it changing direction 11° every hour. It helped prove (or enforce) that the world was in fact rotating and not stationary. Now it was time to visit Notre Dame.
It was of course really busy so we descended into the crypts across the square (hurray Paris Pass, one more place that we didn’t need to pay for). These ones were all parts of the old Roman fort that was on the island. Dan thought the under floor heating was really amazing for the time period. Then it was time for one of the most distressing exercises in our entire trip. When we came out from the crypt we found a massive line up out side of the church, but we weren’t sure if it was the right line up. Ashley jumped in it since we figured to plan for the worst case scenario, while Dan went to verify the linage. After discovering that the line Ashley was in, was in fact not in a line up, Dan stood on a bench and signalled for Ashley
to come forward; this wasn’t a planned signal and as a result consisted mostly of random gesticulation. This is where it went bad; Dan made the infamous ‘hiding child’ mistake; you know the one. Not being able to see Ashley during the signalling he wasn’t sure she got the message and went to fetch her instead. When he got to the end of Ashley’s not-line and he hadn’t seen her he checked, and checked again. Following a stressful 15 minutes, a glorious reunion took place; turns out Ashley could see Dan, understood the wild hand gestures, and came forward to meet him. That’s when the UHOH plan was conceived. A decent idea to have a plan in case you and travel partners (that you want to keep travelling with) get separated; with no immediate way to communicate.
As night fell we found ourselves once again on track to the Eiffel tower, since the night was clear and we had not yet gone up. Unfortunately there were no more tickets being sold to the top so we bought a pair of tickets to walk up the stairs to the first and second landings. As with most sights there was security
Hall of Mirrors
to get through and Dan hadn’t properly cased the joint to know what could or couldn’t go up the tower. So as he went through the metal detector it goes off. Not sure why it’s beeping after emptying pockets minus the knife of said pockets name sake (it’d never set off a detector before). The guard told Dan that he’d have to leave the knife down at the bottom, or he couldn’t go up. Strangely enough there are no lockers or anything to put the band items in while you go up; either toss it in the bin or hide it. After getting unbelievably frustrated and angry about the whole situation Dan hides the pocket knife in some bushes; still he sets off the alarm. His camera was still on his belt, how embarrassing; but he’s still upset about having to leave the knife he bought during this trip, and it’ll likely be stolen. Anyways, we made it up the Eiffel Tower, to the second deck at least; all the domes and towers we had previously walked up were good practice. From the second deck we could see the lights of the city and all the monuments. Time to play
Fountain show in the gardens
“Spot the Monument”; yes, we did play this game a lot in Paris. We learned that they were selling tickets to the top on the second level but the line was so long we wouldn’t make it up there until midnight; plus Dan was pretty sure he couldn't enjoy it after getting so frusterated. We decided to appreciate the view from where we were and forego the massive line up. From the top we could hear music, basically singing and a guitar but we couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Eventually we discovered the large group of people down in the park that the music had attracted. When we got to the bottom we discover two things: first that Dan’s knife was not stolen and second the music. We decided to stick around and have a listen. I mean, this guy couldn’t be too bad considering the crowd he’d already attracted. The one man show played everything from Britney Spears to Grease songs and got his audience dancing. It was such a phenomenon to watch and a great experience to happen upon accidentally. It was a fantastic way to end the night. The only thing that could’ve made
it better would’ve been a bottle of wine and some brie.
The next day we wanted to get to the Catacombes early to avoid a huge line. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there as early as we’d hoped and a massive line awaited us. Fortunately, the line went really quickly and we were in within 20 minutes. While we were waiting we chatted with a woman from New York City who went to Germany for a friend’s wedding and decided to travel around afterward. After descending the 19 metres we walked for a long time before we came across human remains. Millions of Parisians were buried here which seems hard to believe until you see it for yourself. We were in awe of this eerie, intense place. Bones were piled high, and rather artistically, all around us. Ashley found it hard to deal with while Dan was fascinated with the site and couldn’t stop taking pictures. This place is not for the faint of heart. In fact the New Yorker, who we’d been going through with, had to hurry through. Ashley was happy to get fresh air once we finally got back to ground level. After the Catacombes we went
to the Musée d’Orsay, which features a lot of impressionist art. This museum is so much more manageable than the Louvre. It has a lot of great art but is smaller so you don’t feel like you have to rush to get through and see everything. Ashley’s favourite part was the Monet exhibit and his winter pieces which depicted snowy life in Edmonton and Banff to a tee. Ashley could visit the Musée d’Orsay and sit in there for ages and just enjoy the art. Even though we didn’t like the Louvre as much we did return later that day because we missed a couple of key pieces our first time around: the Venus di Milo and the Mona Lisa. It turns out people pay the outrageous admission fee just to see the Mona Lisa so there is a swarm of people in front of it and they don’t move. They just stand there taking pictures. But of course, Ashley had to see it too; how could she not? Later that night we went to the Place de Vosges which is the oldest square in Paris and quite majestic and the Place de République.
Suddenly it was our last
At Notre Dame
Either before or after Dan lost Ashley. We don't remember.
day in Paris. That morning we did some laundry and then checked into a hotel which was closer to Gare du Nord so we wouldn’t have to rush to catch our Eurostar train the next day. We spent a lot of the day wandering around Paris looking for art supply stores so Dan could find calligraphy supplies fir his budding hobby. During our wander around we ran into what looked like a university orientation: a bunch of kids dancing in a fountain singing. It reminded Ashley of U of A’s orientation. Eventually we found what we were looking for at the last shop on the list which ended up being across the river from the Louvre; in other words we probably walked past it several times already. After Dan’s shopping success we went back to Sacre Coeur to climb the stairs of the Dome. Unfortunately it was Monday so the crypt was closed but the view from the Dome was stunning. When we got down to ground level we were hungry so we thought we’d try to find the restaurant we ate at on our first night. We found it no problem but apparently they close at 6pm on Mondays
Urn made of bones. Creepy!
and Tuesdays so they weren’t serving hot food. That was rather disappointing since we were both really looking forward to the salmon and prawn skewers again. We resigned ourselves to Quick Burger for dinner and had a bottle of wine that night to celebrate the end of two month tour of Europe. After all this time, it was over and we could barely believe that we’d have to start looking for work soon.
Aurevoir Schrengen territories; bonjour ruthless, conlinising Island Empire to the north.
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