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Published: April 22nd 2007
Well, it has been a whirlwind month since I arrived in London. I had a few restless days recovering from jetlag and getting re-accustomed to Western quality of life. It was a bit of a culture shock but one I was certainly ready for; it didn't last long. I found myself appreciating the little things such as crossing the street using traffic lights and not having the smell of sewage lingering in the background. On Rich's first day off work (he took three weeks off), we began exploring. We covered some of the typical London sites - Big Ben, Westminster Abby, Buckingham Palace, the Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, a ride on the London Eye, etc. However interesting those were, I must admit I was extremely taken by the little things - the number of big red double Decker buses, the funny hats policemen wear, the cool red phone booths and the tourist shops selling t-shirts saying "my _______ (insert mother, brother, girlfriend, etc) went to London and all I got was this lousy t-shirt". Tackiest souvenir ever....who wants one? Mom? I know that's totally your style 😉 London baby!!!
The weather since my arrival has been unusually warm for
this time of year making it absolutely beautiful. All the flowers are out in full bloom and I feel quite privileged to be enjoying spring without having endured the winter. I have not seen one day of the dreary rain and fog weather Londoner's both brag and gripe about. Can't say I'm all that disappointed.
Despite the fact that I told Rich I would be arriving in London pretty much broke and happy to just sit around, he decided that wasn't good enough for my first visit to Europe and planned all sorts of surprise trips. Unfortunately a few of the surprises leaked out when I noticed brand new Lonely Planet guides to Paris and Ireland in his room. It was then that I proceeding to jump on the bed and scream almost in disbelief..."we're going to Paris, we're going to Ireland"! Well it turns out I could have also been screaming about going to Wales and Scotland because they were also on the agenda. Four days after my arrival we set off for 2 days in Paris, followed by 4 days in Wales, 6 in Ireland, 2 in Scotland and a few more in Wales on the way
home. Obviously we have done and seen a lot in that time so I will probably divide it into a few entries.
We began in Paris which was unbelievable. It really is as romantic as people say. We did however see numerous school groups and I suspect our version was a bit more romantic than theirs. There's just something in the air of the cobbled streets, the patisseries, among the sexy French accents and even the lonely looking accordion performers in the subway tunnels. We even had one lucky subway ride where one accordionist got on our subway train and played romantic French music for the ride...inevitably passing around a cup for donations once he was finished. The people of Paris seemed friendly enough, not as unpleasant as certain Londoners seem to be. Also, unlike Quebec, not one person replied in English when I spoke French, even though it was evident they could probably speak English better than I could French. Unfortunately the only time I have seen rain in Europe so far was on our first morning in Paris. I wasn't really bothered because, well, I was in PARIS!!! However Rich, having already been to Paris and wearing
his favourite shoes which of course adorned a few holes from all the love they've received, didn't have quite the same bounce in his step until it subsided in the early afternoon. With the rain gone we managed to pick up the pace a little and without feeling like we had really pushed ourselves, we managed to visit all the major sights in one day! Here’s a few tidbits about each one: L'arc de triomphe
- Built by Napoleon this is one of the most famous sights in Paris and the centre of one of the craziest roundabouts in the world. It looked like there could have been 6 lanes however there are no painted lines so it is utter chaos. CathÃ©drale Notre-Dame
- Not as religious as one would hope due to the hordes of tourists, also not as impressive inside as the Notre-Dame in Montreal. However, climbing hundreds of winding stairs that get narrower and narrower the higher you get in the towers, the view from the top and the creepy gargoyles that greet you all make up for it. Eiffel Tower
- With three platforms we opted to climb 700 stairs to the first
two and take the elevator to the top (267m of its 324m height) which is not accessible by stairs. Each platform has plaques with interesting facts about historical events at the tower and the views from the top are mind boggling. Paris is a massive city whose boundaries I could not find. All the buildings are built with the same unique style and you can see every major site in the city. MusÃ©e du Louvre
- This place is massive and there was no way we had time to cover even one fifth of it. Like typical tourists we opted for the wing that housed the Mona Lisa. Although the crowds obviously gathered around the Da Vinci’s masterpiece, Rich and I were both more taken by the painting opposite to it. "The Marriage at Cana" (where Christ turned water into wine) by Paolo Veronese, hangs at an enormous size of 9.90m x 6.60m. We must have stared at it for a good ten minutes taking it all in. Le SacrÃ© Coeur
- We ended the day sitting on the hill where the SacrÃ© Coeur sits, overlooking the lights of Paris at midnight.
And that essentially was Paris.
We spent the rest of our time eating way too much mouth watering food, spending too much money on dinner (ok Rich spending too much money on dinner) and enjoying the atmosphere by wandering the streets and trying to soak in as much of the city as we could.
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