10 Days in Paris Sep 15, 2006 to Sep 25, 2006
Trip Start Aug 25, 2006
32Trip End Jan 07, 2007
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Where I stayed
First, you will notice that at Rajiv's recommendation, I am consolidating all future destinations under a single Travelog called worldtrip-2006 so we can see my complete travel path on the map. Blogs and pictures from my first two air destinations in the United Kingdom can still be found in Travelogs Edinburgh and London. I added map points only to this Travelog to show the entire world trip.
This will be my second trip to Paris and will be a little longer than the first, allowing me to take in many additional great sites missed during the first visit in 2001
I took an afternoon flight from London to Paris with a combination of anticipation about returning to Paris and a little apprehension since Paris begins the "CouchSurfing" portion of my journey. For those of you not familiar with CouchSurfing, check out Couchsurfing, HospitalityClub, GlobalFreeLoaders, or Stay4Free. My objective in couchsurfing is to make new friends around the globe and to better experience the local cultures of the countries I visit by staying with, and participating in the everyday lives of my host families. For those of you who know I have a tendency to be just a "little bit" frugal, lol, no, this is not really about saving money on accommodations. On some days I am sure I will spend more entertaining my host families than my typical, acceptable low budget hotel would cost. I really hope to finish this trip with a much better understanding of other cultures than what could be obtained by staying in a hotel and only visiting all the standard, typical tourist attractions. If Paris is any indication of the months to come, it's going to be a great ride!
Friday evening 9/15 - Tuesday morning 9/19 Jouy-le-Moutier:
My first host in Paris was Paul-Andre who lives about 30 to 45 minutes north of Paris in a village called Jouy-le-MoutierClick here to see Paul's profile on HospitalityClub. Paul manages the periodical subscriptions in Cergy-Pontoise University Library in Cergy Prefecture. The bus from Charles DeGaulle airport up to Cergy was a breeze, and Paul was just getting off work and met me outside a cafe above the train/bus station and we drove back to his apartment. Paul showed me around his place, we made some dinner, and then spent the rest of the evening just chatting about things to do in Paris and the areas around Cergy. Paul has great English skills having taught himself over a 2 year period using a BBC language program. He also has an amazing memory for events and dates (I suppose that comes with being a librarian?). It seemed almost no matter what we talked about, he could remember dates, places, etc where events occurred. Paul enjoys travel, languages & geography and has amassed quite a collection of books around these topics. So lots of what we discussed, he could go pull a book or map off one of his many bookshelves for reference. He spent a couple weeks in Boston attending an English class hosted through Tufts University, and said this is what originally peaked his interest in hosting me. We were able to talk about all the places he had visited in Boston and Cambridge and I think Paul enjoyed showing me all the slides of the places he visited in New England.
Saturday 9/16 we went into Cergy to go to a huge outdoor market to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables
Sunday 9/17 we drove into Cergy Village where they were having the annual Village Festival. There was a parade, lots of street vendors and we had lunch outside in the village square. Afterwards, we drove further northwest of Paris to the Chateau de La Roche-Guyon. The drive through the french countryside was beautiful (check out the picture of the tree lined road) and Roche-Guyon was an amazing castle and medieval fortress. The main Keep was constructed high above the Seine Valley in the 12th century as an outpost to protect Paris from invaders coming down the River Seine from Normandy
Monday 9/18 I departed first thing in the morning when Paul left for work and took the train down to Paris to spend the entire day at the Louvre. I arrived at 9am and stayed until they closed at 6pm. This place is incredible. You could easily spend a week in Paris inside the Louvre.
Tuesday 9/19 I got up early to leave Paul's house and travel back down to Paris to arrive at my second host's house before they left for school and work. Thanks Paul-Andre for your hospitality!
Tuesday morning 9/19 - Friday morning 9/22 Pont de Levallois:
My second hosts in Paris were Julia and TomClick here to learn more about Julia and Toma in their profile on Couchsurfing I contacted them Saturday morning from Paul's office in the library while he was running some errands in Cergy in an attempt to fill the void between my planned stay with Paul and my already confirmed stay with my 3rd host starting Friday. Julia quickly responded offering to host me Wednesday and Thursday nights, and even offered Tuesday night despite already planning to host a girl from Brooklyn, NY if I were really in a jam for Tuesday. (Ashley, you can find her on couchsurfing as KATROX or at http://www.couchsurfing.com/profile.html?id=K2AAFU if interested) Of course the girl from Brooklyn would get the fold out couch and I would need to curl up on the other sofa. I would be crowded, but we would manage, Julia said! Unbelievable show of hospitality! To top this, Monday night she was sure she would be working through the night completing the construction of a book she would be delivering with her thesis on Tuesday morning. Would I even be thinking about hosting at a busy time like this??? Julia and Toma live in a great apt in Pont de Levallois which is a very nice district on the west side of Paris. Among other things, Julia attends university, and does graphic design work. She has created a line of plush toys that she hopes to soon market via the internet. Thomas does web design for a major automobile distributor. I arrived a few minutes before 9am, only having time to say hello to Julia as we passed on the stairs in her building. She sent me right up saying that Tom was just getting up and would show me around the apt and get me settled in. Sure enough, Toma was just rolling out, but quickly made me a cup of coffee, showed me around the apt and soon left for work. Expecting to only leave my backpack and go out to the city for the day until they returned home, I was blown away by the immediate trust in Tom's offer to let me stay in the apartment while they were gone since we had only spent a half hour together
Wednesday 9/20 I spent the morning tending to business online and the afternoon walking around Paris. I strolled along the Seine just looking at the architecture and people watching. Really sort of a casual day. Wednesday evenings the Louvre is open late so I met Sophie (host 3) at 7PM and we visited several exhibit galleries until they closed at 10PM. Afterwards, we strolled along the streets of Paris, got takeaway Doners and shared a dinner in one of the parks.
Thursday 9/21 I rode the buses around Paris. I visited the Opera House, found myself again in the courtyard at the Louvre, walked through the Tuileries Gardens. As sunset approached, I sat at one of the fountains in Jardin des Tuileries, with the Place du Carrousel and the Louvre behind me, looking at the Obelisque, the traffic lights going up Avenue Des Champs Elysees and the Arc De Triomphe off in the distance. The Eiffel Tower was twinkling in the distance
Friday 9/22 I got up and out early so that I could be at Sophie's house to have breakfast with her at 8:30 before she had to leave for the day. Many thanks to Julia, Toma and Fubuki for a memorable and enjoyable stay in Pont de Levallois!
Friday morning 9/22 - Monday morning 9/25 Belleville:
My 3rd and final host in Paris was Sophie. She lives in the very lively, multicultural 19 district on the east side of Paris. Sophie is an actress, artist, free spirit and true lover of life. She has a wonderful, passionate personality, living up to those somewhat stereotypical perceptions we US citizens sometimes have about creative Parisans. Conversations with Sophie were always engaging, interesting and passionate, whether the subject was art, theater, socialism vs. capitalism, globalization vs. mondialisation or just everyday lifeClick here to learn more about Sophie in her profile on Couchsurfing (must be a member).
Friday 9/22 was an very interesting and exciting day in Paris. After Sophie and I had some breakfast and she went off to work, I left to wander around Paris with no particular destination in mind. Later in the afternoon I strolled along the Seine again just looking at the sights and people watching. I attended a service in Notre-Dame and toured the Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation which pays tribute to the 160,000 people who were deported by the Germans during WWII.
As the evening wore on, things got even more interesting. I needed to be back at Sophie's apt in Belleville by 8 as we had plans for the evening so around 7ish I headed for the subway. I'm sitting on the metro texting a message when all of a sudden a baking potato ricochets off the door beside me and slams into my arm! Well that was unique! Everyone around me is a bit dumbfounded...we all look around, but can't identify the potato hurling culprit. I think a bunch of us were happy to be exiting at the next Metro stop.
So then, things get even better.... I arrived back at Sophie's by 7:30 and decide to shower since she will not be back until 8PM
Sophie owns two bikes so we took them and our picnic dinner and rode along the Canal St. Martin in the 10th district. The destination was Parc La Villette to see "Groupe F" which was the most unbelievable fireworks & pyrotechnics display I have ever seen. Sophie had put together a nice picnic dinner for the park and surprised me with the news when we arrived that she, Julia and Tom had gotten up with one another during the day and they would be meeting us there to see the show and have dinner. We were all wowed by the show, and afterwards we shared a bottle of wine, cheese, sausages, bread, humus, etc, followed by Tom and I playing Frisbee while the ladies chatted.
Saturday 9/23 it rained so I worked online for a while and then went over to the Mr Bricolage store to buy the hardware to fix Sophie's shelves
Sunday 9/24 Sophie and I walked through Parc de Belleville on our way to the studio where she takes her painting lessons. There, we assisted her painting instructor Jean and one of her friends Didier in taking down the model set from the last workshop and doing the design and set up of the set for the next class. As you can probably tell from the pictures, we had a really great time helping Jean with this project. The 3 of them were up in the attic, throwing down all these different materials considering the color, texture, etc. We laughed and laughed and had a really great time completing this project. When the set was near complete, Sophie and I pretended to be the models for the next workshop and we had a little photo shoot. In the afternoon we walked all over the huge Parc des Buttes ChaumontClick here to see were we sat and what a great website they have!. We set aside the evening to complete the bricolage. I went down at 2:15 AM for a quick nap. When I got up at 3:15 AM to get ready to catch my 3:47 AM bus to the airport, Sophie was still reorganizing her shelves and took the time to make me coffee and pack a nice lunch for the trip. Much thanks to Sophie for making my final 3 days in Paris a huge success!
Monday 9/25 3:45 AM, I dashed to where I thought the bus stop was, only to be "helped" by a cabbie who sent me in the wrong direction to find the stop (that was actually right around the corner from were we were talking). The cabbie then stopped when he saw me wondering aimlessly/hopelessly in the wrong direction as the seconds were ticking to the time my bus was to arrive. I was asking someone else who directed me back to the corner where I started, so the cabbie, who I originally thought might just be trying to get a 45 Euro cab fare to the airport, insisted on driving me back to the correct bus stop, I think feeling bad that he had sent me in the wrong direction. As I was getting out of the cab, the bus whizzed right on by us since there was nobody at the stop