A weekend in Paris

Trip Start Jan 09, 2004
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Trip End Jul 14, 2004


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Monday, June 7, 2004

I arrived in Paris jetlagged after, as usual, failing in my mission to get a good night's sleep on the plane prior to arriving of a morning at my given destination. I had a hostel in mind, so in my sleep-deprived state my only mission was to get there. I planned to take Le Parisienne Metropolitain, but first I had to get a handle on this newfangled currency, the Euro. When I lived in Europe some years ago it was all Francs and Lira, so this was a bit of a novelty. I got some cash out from an ATM and went to change it for some coins in a Tabac/newsagent, but the man said he wouldn't take my hundred Euro note for a pack of gum. So I gave up on the idea of using one of the ticket purchase machines to avoid the queues and lined up with the rest of civilization who has just arrived at Charles de Gaulle station in Paris. Then I helped a few people get their oversized luggage through the turnstile before finally making it onto a train.

I arrived at La Maison, a hostel somewhere near the Eiffel Tower, and due to the hour of the morning was lucky enough to score one of the last available beds. Then I was told I wouldn't be allowed in the room until four pm. Bloody European hostel lock-out policies. So I wandered around Paris bleary eyed and miserable while I waited for a comfy, quiet bed, and believe me by the time I got there I was out for the rest of the day. By nightfall I was somewhat perky again, and a bunch of people had conglomerated in a room on my floor so I joined them. Most of them turned out to be Americans on their school break, and they were as rowdy and drunk as you would expect. I met Ben and Candice from Kentucky and Shaun and Hunter from Alabama. Ben was in the US military and Shaun, prior to Paris, had never been outside the Alabama tri-state area. They were so unlike my normal travel comrades that it was a bit of a novelty.

I discovered I'd been lucky enough to land in Paris the day before the Louvre's one free day of the month. This was awesome, as my only plan in Paris this time was to go to the Louvre, as I hadn't had the chance last time I was there. Then someone recommended the Paris Jazz Festival, which was being held in a big park for a mere four Euro entrance fee. I convinced everyone I met that night to come the following day, as I think things are more fun in a group - even if they are mostly Americans.

Luckily I had spearheaded the whole plan, as I mis-set my alarm and because of jetlag didn't wake up anywhere near the time we'd planned to meet. Eventually someone came upstairs to drag me out of bed, as I had been the official organiser and they didn't feel it was right to leave without me. So we went to the Louvre and I think crammed more culture into Ben and Shaun in one day than they've had in the rest of their lives. I dragged them over the coals over US foreign policy, but the most horrifying thing was that they didn't actually know that George W Bush's decisions were having much of an impact outside of the United States, and Iraq of course. I realised that it's not that the American people are trying to fuck the world over - they're not even aware of doing it.

The Louvre was absolutely amazing; beating the Sistine Chapel as the most overwhelmingly magnificent art gallery I've ever seen. The Mona Lisa is actually really small, and I couldn't see why the Venus de Milo was so much more famous than the other beautiful statues around her, but I'm proud to say I've seen them nonetheless.

When we tired of fine art we caught the metro to the park and chilled out on the banks of a lake listening to Jazz all afternoon. After twilight we headed back to our hostel to eat, then bought a dozen bottles of red wine for some ridiculously low price. We took them with a couple of rugs to the Eiffel Tower and sat on the grass drinking and chatting, cheering as it lit up as if in stars every hour. I don't think I could have had a better weekend in Paris had I planned ahead.
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