Oui oui Parais

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

By the time we concluded our 10 hour bus trip, Tom's eyes were becoming more and more bloodshot, a result of almost 40 hrs without a proper sleep. This was much to the amusement of the busabout guide who made it aware to the entire bus and was still amused by our adventures preceding Paris. Thus our first night in Paris involved checking into our hostel and collapsing in our beds, we had a big couple of days ahead.

We thought we would try beat the crowds and head to the the 2nd biggest museum in the world nice and early the next morning, but our efforts were in vain as it seemed everyone had the same idea and the line up for the main entrance of the Louvre, the controversial glass pyramid (I am a fan), was massive. Luckily we had got the tip off beforehand and headed underground to the much less crowded and relatively new entrance.

The Louvre is absolutely huge and a few things made it even more mind boggling.
1. It used to be a palace for the royal family before the French Revolution. Not sure how they would
of found each other without mobile phones. Probably more astonishing is the royal family moved to Versailles, because they thought the Louvre wasn't quite large enough to meet their needs!
2. It used to be even bigger before they demolished a section 
3. There are over 1million pieces of art work stored at the Louvre and less than 5% are
displayed at any one time! If you were to look at displayed work for 30 seconds it would take you 9 months to view everything....FACT!

Therefore Tom and I decided to do a whirl wind tour. We visited each wing very briefly and yes,of course we visited the very small, plain and very heavily protected Mona Lisa. I'm sure it would be impressive if you knew what you were looking at, and that went with the entire experience. I'm afraid my ignorance meant the paintings could only be appreciated at a very superficial level, but my word there were some big ones.

From the Louvre we headed to Notre Dame, the original Gothic cathedral which was also unprecedentedly large in it's time and that is why it probably took so long to build (in the way of 167 years). The stained glass windows were also very impressive. Unfortunately the
line for the bell towers were too long so we missed out there.

Next stop was the Catacombs. Originally a mine, the underground network become a dumping ground of the deceased who were infecting the suburbs neighboring their original burial location and thus they were exhumed! The underground network was extensive and very intriguing to begin
with. After thousands of femurs, tibias and skulls, packed in with eerie precision, the experience became quite morbid.

First night out and what better way to explore this grand city than on a bike tour? The city of Paris at night, lit up, really does take your breath away, it truly was beautiful. We spent the next 4 hours cruising around the gorgeous sights which concluded with a lovely, but very chilly, cruise down the Seine. We just made it in time for the last underground train home just past midnight. It was a 40 minute journey I was glad I wasn't doing alone!

Day 2 and we still had so much to do! We had hoped to start the day scaling the Eiffel tower but didn't get there in time as we had another bike tour, this time the day variety. It proved to be quite separate and much more informative than the night time variety, which emphasized the
city's beauty rather than it's history. They were both great but I particularly liked learning about the very interesting French history, a truly an amazing place.

The Eiffel Tower was next. We were told we could ascend the entire thing on stairs but
unfortunately this was not the case and 669 stairs later we had to high tail it in the lift to the peak. The crowds and lines were very trying to say the least for 2 very tired travelers but the view was
impressive, and let's face it, when in Paris you have to do the Eiffel Tower. The crowds at the Eiffel tower were pleasant compared to peak hour on the Paris Metro as we again had to endure 40 minutes of sweat, body odor and nil personal space. I had seen nothing like it.....Tom felt violated!

That night we got some great picks at the Palais du Trocadéro, which provides the best views of the Eiffel tower, before attempting the famous 4km walk from the Arc De Triumph up the Champs Elysee's, past the Concorde, through the Tuileries gardens and concluding at the Louvre

Stop 1. Arc De Triomphe. It is located at the Place Charles de Gaulle, the world's craziest round-a-bout. It is the meeting point of 12 adjoining roads, which forms a monstrosity of a round-a-bout with no lanes, no traffic lights and no order what so ever. As you can imagine, it's absolute mayhem, even at 10pm. But there was sufficient breaks in the traffic for us to dart across the chaos (known as frogger in the industry).
We went up the Arc de Triumph, got some great pics and watched the chaos unfold below! Some
fun facts: on average an accident occurs every 6 minutes and insurance will not cover damages incurred if the accident happens at the Place Charles de Gaulle

Stop 2. We made our way down the Champs Elysees which was buzzing street with activity! A little to expensive for our modest budgets!

Stop 3. We made our way to the Concorde but that is as far as our walking tour went, because the Tuileries Gardens were closed. This was unfortunate on one hand, but also a relief, as we were both exhausted! Our Paris experience had come to an end

Lots of people are disappointed with Paris! Personally I felt the opposite and can't wait to come back. There is so much history and culture jammed packed into one truly beautiful spot, Paris for me was brilliant and despite popular belief, I found the Parisians to be quite delightful!
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