Viva La France!

Trip Start Apr 01, 2009
1
4
70
Trip End Jul 13, 2009


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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Sunday, April 5, 2009

On Sunday, morning I made an early start to my day by taking a quick cab ride from my hostel to St. Pancras International train station to catch the Eurostar high speed train from London to Paris, France. On my cab ride I came across my first "European tourist scam." The cab driver tried to over charge me for my ride, but thankfully the hostel concierge informed me of the flat 10 pound cab fee before I left and was able to simply hand the cab driver the 10 pounds I owed him and walk away. Needless to say, the cab driver did not argue and quickly drove off.
I was very impressed with the Eurostar! My seat was in first class (the only seat available), so I was riding in style! The seats were huge and came with a power plug for electronics and could recline to roughly a 45 degree angle. A wonderful breakfast was served, which included a croissant, fruit, omelet and sausage along with coffee and tea the entire 2 hour ride. The train travels between 183-186 mph, so when the train enters a turn, the track banks to compensate for the speed of the train. It was really cool!
I arrived at Paris Gare du Nord International train station at roughly noon to beautiful 70 degree weather. The station was filled with machine gun laden French solders and Gypsies. I couldn't help but think of Borat asking, "is this one of your spells, gypsy" after the first of about 50 came up to me to ask if I spoke English and then for money. I think it actually might have been the same few gypsies asking me over and over again. After finding my way through the station, the first stop I made was the tourist booth, where I purchased a 3 day Metro pass, a ticket to the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, and Versailles. I then went to the TGV train booth to reserve my ticket from Paris to Madrid, but ran into my first change in schedule. I had planned to visit Normandy from April 8 - 9, but unbeknownst to me, the week before good Friday is considered one of Frances busiest travel holidays, so EVERY direct train to Spain was booked for the entire week. Being the flexible traveller that I am, I decided to head south to Bordeaux and sample the fine local vino for a day and then take my first "vacation from my vacation" in San Sebastian on the coast of northern Spain and then cruise down to Madrid on April 11. I know, I know, its soooo rough! :)

After finding my hostel (http://www.st-christophers.co.uk/paris-hostels), I hit the pavement to check out the City of Lights. Paris is beautiful! My first stop was a crepe stand just out side of the metro station. With crepe in hand, I walked to Notre Dame, where I gazed at the facade of the cathedral before entering. My timing could not have been more perfect. When I entered, the Cardinal was justing beginning to give the Sunday evening mass. It was quite an experience to tour one of the most famous cathedrals in the world with a Cardinal reading scripture in the background. For any of you who want to know, the hunchback was no where to be seen.
After Notre Dame, I made my way over the River Seine to the Latin Quarter, which is packed with cafes, crepe stands, tourist shops and slippery pick pockets. After strolling the streets of the Quarter, I made my way to the Pantheon, which is huge! I toured the crypt where many famous Frenchmen are burried, including Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Voltaire.
After the Pantheon, I strolled down a random street and came across the most beautiful park I have ever been in, Jarin du Luxemburg. I found a chair to rest for a little while before heading back towards the Latin Quarter for a quick bite to eat. On my way back, I passed a pedestrian bridge that was packed with people watching the sunset over Paris, so I thought I would join them! The stop was well worth it. See the video. After grabbing a bite to eat in the Latin Quarter, I went back to the hostel and had a beer with two guys staying in my room and then hit the sack for good nights sleep.
The next day, I woke up feeling wonderfully rested and ready for a big day. After a quick breakfast, I headed to the Louvre museum area. The weather could not have been better, so rather than entering the Louvre, I decided to enjoy the sunny day and stroll through the Jardin de Tourleries toward the Palace de la Concorde and down Champs Elysees! I took the metro back to the Louvre, where I saw my first pick pocket in action. Fortunately for the British tourist, someone saw the pick pocket take the man's wallet. The pick pocket immediately dropped the mans wallet and bolted off the metro car and out of the station. It happened so fast that all I saw was the commotion after the man realized what happened. I'm glad I have zippers on my pockets!
When I got off at the Louvre, I rested by the fountain for about 30 minutes before entering. Not to my surprise, the Louvre was PACKED!! The museum was SO packed that it was almost uncomfortable. After about and hour of touring around, I found the famous Mona Lisa. I tried to find out how to get up the the upper floors, but instead got lost for 45 minutes, before calling it a day for the museum. Its unfortunate that the museum was so crowded because the museum really is so beautiful!
After the Louvre, I wandered past the striking Hotel National de Invalides. I then found a neat little area around the Eiffel Tower where I picked up dinner (see picture). I then headed to the Eiffel Tower lawn to enjoy some vino and watch the sunset. After a bottle of wine and a spectacular view, I headed for the top to the Eiffel Tower. I honestly cannot describe the beauty of Paris at night, so I think the pictures will speak for themselves. After admiring the City of Lights from 1,063 feet, I headed back to the hostel.
Just to put this in perspective, I am writing this entry while sipping a cappuccino by the river that passes by my hostel. I hope everyone is doing well! I am off to tour the Palace of Versailles for the day and catch the Eiffel Tower light show tonight!
More to come!
More to come!
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Comments

fredharwell
fredharwell on

Tuesday
Great to hear from you, Big Boy. What a visit to the City of Lights. Flexibility is key to your travels, I guess. I like the adjustment you made, but wonder if you'll ever make it to Normandy? Everyone here is fine--and hanging on the edge waiting for your reports. Sadie continues to improve and walks a little better every day. We all miss you, but realize and revel in the fact you are having the time of your life. Love you. Dad

joslinmom
joslinmom on

Grand Paris
Josh, YOu are truly an amazing writer. With your descriptions, I am able to visualize what you are experiencing. Thank you for expressing them in such a magificent way. I have to laugh about taking a vacation from your vacation. Keep this coming. WE love you and miss you already. Love, Mom

fredharwell
fredharwell on

Tuesday Mid-Day
Vive la France! Great to hear from you. Never expected a telephone call from Versailles! Hope your evening is spectacular. Love you. Dad

cdavis
cdavis on

Joy!
JOSH, You are so smart

Your story is outstanding and the way you express yourself is magical!

This trip will be life altering in a splendid manner.

I am So proud of you.

Keep sending your story.
Much love, Rere

chdavis
chdavis on

Joy!!
Your adventure and its narration are superb.
Thank you for sharing the joy!
Love, Poppi and ReRe

truittalday
truittalday on

Montmarte
Josh,
Good entries so far. Beats the hell out of sitting at my desk. Hit up the Sacre Couer and Montmarte (up near the Gare du Nord) about 2 hours before dusk. Really gorgeous views from up there and really cool village area. You won't be let down.

Keep 'em comin.

-TA

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