Paris: City of Love (cue Barry White music)
Trip Start May 27, 2010
97Trip End Aug 31, 2011
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On Tuesday it was back to work for a couple of days before packing the bags and passports and heading to France on Thursday
We were lucky enough to get a ride to the train station with a neighbour of Phil's parents, and we made it to New Street in time to get our train to London. Once there, we jumped on the tube to get to St Pancras. I don't think I will ever lose that feeling I get when I get on a tube in London. The tube always reminds me of where I am, and how lucky I am to have experienced living in such a cool place. I was all hot and sweaty, being rugged up in scarf, beanie and big coat, and by the time we picked up our tickets and made a quick stop at the toilets, we were ready to board the Eurostar, destination: Paris.
It was only a matter of minutes before I registered that there were a lot of Australians on that train, travellers and honeymooners alike, and I fitted all three of those categories. I put my iPod in and tried not to be noticed, but it was hard to ignore the twang and slang coming from their mouths, talking of Broome and Queensland and all the travels they've been doing and would like to do into the future. I'm not a snob about it, but, when it comes to Europe, more often than not I can say "I've been there, been there, yep, been there too". I don't though, because I don't want to make people feel bad haha!
Two hours and a pretty ordinary cup of tea later we arrived at Gare du Nord in Paris. Phil and I had our usual spat when trying to find our way to the hotel, but finally found it and tried to work out the train system so we could go and get ourselves a drink. We took a train in the wrong direction (my fault) but ended up at Cite, a short walk from Notre Dame. So we had a look around there so I could take some pictures at night, and then found the Latin Quarter and had a kebab, followed by some happy hour drinks at a Latin bar. So Latin that it had a smoke machine and overweight youth dancers. It was pretty special. We moved on after a little while and found ourselves at home at another bar where we had a few pints of Hoegaarden and then got a crepe and went back to the hotel.
On Friday the sun was out but it was still cold, and we'd decided that today would be the day to get our sightseeing done, and that the best and most efficient way of doing this was by getting on board the open top bus. Alright, alright, they are a bit shit, but the fact is they take you to all the main sights you want to see. So we made our way back to Notre Dame, knowing how to get there after having done a trial run the night before - we wouldn't make the same mistake twice and go in the wrong direction on the train! Arriving in the vicinity by midday we had an omelette at Cafe du Panis (I kept thinking it said penis on the sign!) and then walked through one of my top 10 favourite churches in the world.
The tourist bus would pick us up not far from here, so we made our way there and bought the pink ticket that was too expensive to misplace, and got our seats on the top deck
We queued for a while to get our tickets to go up to the top of the tower, and jumped in the lift that would take us to the first floor. I absolutely packed myself. It's not a normal lift, it sort of goes up on an angle, and while I've been on scarier rides before (think the gondolas in the Swiss alps) there was just something about this experience that made me feel uncomfortable. We got to the first floor and I outright refused to take the stairs up to the top floor. I don't like stairs at the best of times. So after spending a little while on that level, we got another ticket to head up to the very top, and squeezed into the elevator that would take us (vertically) to the top. It was well worth exposing the whites of my knuckles for, clutching onto the handrail, because it was such an amazing view from the top. Bloody freezing up there, but so amazing to be able to say I've been to the top of the Eiffel Tower
We made our way back down again which, for me, was equally as hairy as it was going up. Once down, there was no going back up, and so we wandered to the green and spotted a professional looking photographer and asked him to take our picture with the tower in the background. He took a great shot too, once he fixed the settings on my camera! I think I still have a lot to learn! Then we had to dodge the street guys (I'm not sure whether to call them vendors or performers - probably a bit of both) who were walking around with handfuls of string. I'd fallen for that trick before, and when they said "excuse me ma'am" I instantly refused their advances, having fallen for that trick before. Give them your attention, they'll tie string around your arm and tell you a lovely story before asking for €5, thereby ruining your day. I'd been accosted in Rome a few years back by the same trick, and have been wary of these losers ever since.
It quickly rolled around to beer o'clock so we headed straight for the pub and got some happy hour beers in, and then got a table for two at a traditional French restaurant. The prospect of dining on frog legs or escargot was fleeting, and I settled on a French onion soup, Coq au Vin and profiteroles which I scoffed down, thanks to the half bottle of wine going to my head.
Leaving the restaurant sufficiently full, we made our way to another bar that Phil had Googled and were pretty happy with what we found... until the bar man sent us up the garden path. Or, rather, to the basement. When we ordered our drinks he stopped us and suggested that we might like to go and see the band downstairs, and buy our drinks down there
Ahhhh a sleep in. Seriously, the curtains were so thick in that hotel room that you'd think it was midnight at 3pm it was so dark. But the cleaner woke us at 10am by suggesting a room clean, and Phil did his usual "no thanks!" call. We'd decided that we'd head to Sacre Couer to check out the church on the hill and have a look at the strip famous for the Moulin Rouge. Phil researched the way to get there while I prettied myself in the bathroom, and then we went back underground to get there. I started noticing a particular change in the sort of people on the train, and when we had reached our destination, we got off the train only to see makeshift stalls at the top of the stairs, people selling all manner of objects and generally getting in the way. When we walked up the stairs and emerged out of the station, we realised that we were in a dodgy area - a ghetto, if you like. Phil whipped out his phone and tried to look up Google maps so we could find Sacre Couer, and within seconds a police car beeped at us and motioned for Phil to go over. He said, in French, that we were in a dodgy area and that he should put his phone away or it will be snatched. That put the fear of god in me and I clutched my handbag tighter than I had all weekend. He was nice enough to give us directions to where we needed to go, and we swiftly made our way in that direction
I forced myself up the 200-odd steps to the top of the hill, stopping every couple of flights for a breather, but eventually made it to the top to look out on the most amazing view of the city. I'd been here before, in 2007, and remember it being a pretty cool view. We had a quick look through the church, and walked through Montmartre before stopping for a crepe and a drink, fending off budding artists incessantly asking to make our portrait.
We walked down through the countless souvenir shops and past Moulin Rouge, and wished we'd had the foresight to have booked tickets to a show, but retreated to the hotel to have a rest before heading out for dinner to a lovely local restaurant where the food and wine was amazing.
Sunday was going to be another travel day, so we packed our bags, checked out, and got back to Gare du Nord to board the Eurostar back to London, and then the local train to Birmingham, and then a black cab to home - what a long journey! But it was worth it. I really loved Paris this time around, and would definitely go back for a third time. First wedding anniversary?