Run Moron Run...

Trip Start Apr 12, 2008
Trip End Jun 18, 2008

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Sunday, June 1, 2008

<Brian's brief chronological list of "highlights" (and of whinging)>
- Caught the train to Paris... our first train was delayed for almost 45 minutes, luckily Lang made it back in time from the ticket office as she had to change our reserved train tickets for our connecting train to Paris.
- Got picked up by my Great Uncle (shortened down to gruncle) at the Gare Du Nord train station in Paris. We had to rush to his car as he was illegally parked, but as his car pulled away from the curb, some dude came running and starting bashing on his window, saying that my gruncle had hit his car. We weren't sure what had happened, he could quite possible have been a car thief or something so my gruncle just floored the accelerator... the man held onto the car's window and started running along with the car until he could no longer run fast enough and then was dragged for a good 10-20 meters... quite clearly this guy was an idiot... was it really worth costing his life over? If so, there were plenty of buildings he could jump off. Anyhoo, he claimed victory that he had stopped the car and called the cops. The cops came, saw that there was no damage whatsoever to either car... and luckily no damage to the man (although he may have had severe brain damage) and we went on our merry way. Unfortunately we were a bit shocked by this whole incident to take a picture of the idiot... would be nice to name and shame the moron... apparently he's a dude from China who is living in Germany and drives tourist vans around... unfortunately for him, (apart from his brain damage) is that in France, its pretty standard to bump other peoples cars to get into the car parks.
- Anyhow, my gruncle drove is to his house first where we dropped off our bags. Before we could make ourselves comfortable, we were off again to the souvenir shop that he owned which happened to be in one of the buildings opposite the Louvre.
- At this point, we were told to go for a walk around and to come back later, so we did. First lesson about Paris (apart from not holding onto windows and running with cars) is that things don't appear as close as they do on the map. First we went to see the outside of the Louvre and took a few photos around the giant glass pyramid. We could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance and it didn't look too far away on the map, so we decided to walk there ... about an hour later, we finally made it there... the tower was humongous!!! It looked pretty awesome... the queue to get up the tower was too long though, so we decided to postpone it till later.
- We decided to catch the metro to do the "Free" walking tour around Montmartre. This tour turned out not to be free anymore, but since we were there, we decided to do it anyways. Highlights of this tour include the Sacre Coeur, a really white church which has a nice view of the whole city... we also saw a couple of nuns walking their german shepherd attack dog inside the fences of the church. There were also a few places used in the movie 'Amelie' (which I still have no intention of watching) and the place where Van Gogh lived (and painted the blue room).
- Went back to the shop and had dinner with gruncle and his family. After gruncle took us for a drive around Paris... points of interest include the Arc de Triompe, the Eiffel Tower with all its lights lit up at night and the hotel that Princess Dianna left and the tunnel where she died
<Lang's Extended Version>
Since we had reserved our tickets to Paris a couple nights ago, we had to leave our B&B just after 8am to catch the bus back out to the train station. We got there just as the bus arrived, so was somewhat early. Unfortunately, we had also left our bag of baby Gouda in the fridge and probably didn't have enough time to go back to get it and return.
However, in reality we had plenty of time as our train to Brussels was delayed for almost 45 minutes, causing us to miss our connecting train to Paris.. Luckily while waiting, I ran back to the ticket counter and got our tickets changed for the next train, and returned back to the platform just as the delayed train was pulling up. The rest of the journey to Paris was relatively uneventful and we soon arrived at Paris Gare Du Nord station..
After Brugge, Paris was just bustling with life - people of all ages, races and sizes were on their way to catch a train, wait for friends, drinking coffee etc.. It was interesting to watch as they were moving at a thousand miles a minute, as if the world was going to explode any moment from now..
As we were staying with Brian's Great Uncle here (yes, in the most romantic city in the world!!), we had to give him a buzz to let him know that we had arrived.. He insisted on coming to pick us up from the station, so while we waited we made a couple calls home.. It was great to talk to familiar voices again...
So after about 40 minutes, Brian's Great Uncle (Gruncle, as we've nicknamed him) appears from nowhere and tells us to hurry as he had parked in an illegal park.. So we quickly grabbed our packs and raced after him towards his car. He hastily introduced us to his daughter, Sophie, who gave us a cute smile, while we squished in the back besides her..
As Gruncle was driving off, some Asian guy started to knock angrily on his window.. First lesson in Paris - cars are allowed or it is acceptable to utilise bumper bars for their intended purpose, especially when parking or leaving a parking bay..
Anyway, the Asian guy said that Gruncle had hit his car, but none of us heard anything, so Gruncle apologized and started to drive off..
However, that guy didn't leave it be and held onto the window for at least 20-30m down the road until Gruncle stopped, then he reached in and grabbed the keys saying that he'd call the cops.. All this while, my heart was racing because we had no idea what to do or what was going to happen.. We had just arrived in a new country and didn't know the customs or language..
So Gruncle had no choice but to follow the guy over to inspect his van while Brian & I waited with Sophie.. After a little while, Brian went to check what was going on just to make sure everything was ok.. Sophie didn't seem phased at all and I even managed to talk to her a little in my broken Mandarin, so was able to devise that she was 9 years old and an only child..
After about half an hour or more, Gruncle came back, but Brian was no where to be seen, apparently he went to the phone booth to call his mum and told them that Gruncle was arrested and he had no idea what to do... thinking back to that is quite hilarious as I'm sure his parents wouldn't have expected that!
So Brian came back after a couple of minutes and Gruncle told us that the guy was a German citizen leading a small tour group here in Paris. He wanted to lay charges but the police inspected his vehicle and didn't find even a scratch, nor any injuries on his hand from him holding onto the window. Besides, the ironic thing was that he didn't know much French at all, so couldn't even explain himself properly, so Gruncle had to translate for him.
Boy, what an exciting start to our Paris leg of the trip!! Not that I had wanted that to happen!
Anyway, Gruncle drove us back to his place, pointing out the various landmarks as we drove by.. Lesson two - people drive crazy here! There are no lanes on the road, and if there is, they don't care.. The Cars cut in and out of traffic, but at least they do give way to each other.. It's a marvel that we didn't see any major accidents here!
We dropped off our packs then went with Gruncle to his souvenir shop that is situated right across the road from the Lourve.. Yes, it was extremely convenient!!
We agreed to meet him back at the shop at around 8.30pm when he closed, then headed of course across the road. Brian was too busy trying to sms his parents back to tell them all was now ok to notice the glass pyramids of the Lourve until I pointed it out to him..
After a few obligatory photos, we headed off towards to Eiffel Tower. We would be checking out the masterpieces of the Lourve in the morning as there was free entry to most museums for the 1st Sunday of the month, which just so happened to be tomorrow..
Thinking that the Eiffel Tower was nearby, we decided to walk to it. It took us close to an hour to get there!! Paris is huge! It looked relatively close on the map, but in reality, it was quite far as we had not seen the scale on the map.
Nevertheless, as we approached the tower, we were in awe.. We hand not imagined it to be so big in size - it was enormous! It way exceeded my expectations.. So we walked closer to check out the queue to see how long it may take to get to the top and found that they were way too long for our liking, so we decided to come back later on sometime during our stay... Besides, we'd only been in Paris for about 3 hours by this time and like Rome, there were many annoying African touts trying to sell mini Eiffel Tower key rings and other useless junk.. One after another they would wave their wares in front of your face, so you have to keep moving your head from side to side until you were at least 100m away..
It was almost 6pm by this stage, so we decided to head to Monmartre for a free walking tour, only to find that it was no longer free as of yesterday.. We decided to pay up anyway since we had paid for the metro to get there and knew nothing about the area..
The tour lasted roughly 2 hours and our tour guide was very animated and seemed like she was really enjoying herself. We covered the Moulin Rouge, walked past a number of film locations for the movie 'Amelie', stood in front of Van Gogh's place where a number of the girls on the tour tried to take photos of the place across the road instead of the actual house.. hehe..
We eventually made it up to the Sacre Coeur - the church on the highest hill in Paris. Of course it came with gorgeous polluted views to boot.. The church was made of limestone, so over the years, it became whiter and whiter as the limestone oxides with oxygen.
It was getting close to 8.30pm by the time the tour finished, so we quickly raced back to Gruncles shop, only to be told to go to Maccas on the corner and wait for him to close his shop for the night. Great auntie, or Grauntie, as I will now refer to her as, shouted us a coffee while we waited..
Dinner ended up being at a Chinese restaurant at around 10pm that night, compliments of Gruncle. After wards, he took us on a whirlwind drive to see the lights of Paris, which included the sparkly lights of the Eiffel Tower, the Ritz Carlton (the hotel where Princess Di was last seen alive), the Champs Elysees and we even went around the infamous roundabout around the Arc de Triompe.. after all, Paris IS the city of lights..
Oh one last thing, there is only one bathroom and toilet in Gruncle's 2 bedroom apartment, which just so happened to be the en suite of the main bedroom... So after a quick shower, Grauntie handed us a small white bucket with lid, filled part way up with water... Yup, she just gave us a potty!!!! Great... Let's hope that we won't be needing this service - and even if we did, I will relieve you of the knowledge.. =P
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