Beautiful Paris

Trip Start Aug 27, 2007
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Trip End Sep 17, 2011


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Saturday, December 1, 2007

For those of you that know me you'll also know that I have been dreaming of Paris and all things French ever since I was small. My fascination with the country has only been fuelled by tales of abroad from my godparents and my incredible French teacher Mrs Howitt.
 
With my friend Adam arriving from New Zealand and asking to go away for a quick trip to Europe I was all too quick getting on the phone and booking those tickets on the Eurostar.
 
It was an early start with a 6.30 am train booked for Saturday morning...the early start was not helped by the late night (or should I say early arrival home) from having visited Ministry of Sound the night before. To be honest with you I was impressed we made it on time with only an hours worth of sleep under our belts.
 
The train ride went fast...I would love to say I could remember the moment we went in the tunnel that transported us across the English Channel to France but Alas I cannot as I spent the whole journey fast sleep, snoring loudly, drooling and as my mum would say fly catching with my mouth wide open.....what a pretty picture.
 
We arrived into Gare du Nord which was a bit of a mission to even find the ticket counter to buy Metro tickets to get to where we were staying. But an hour later we were on our way.
 
I cannot describe the feeling of excitement I had as I stepped out into the fresh Parisian air. I had been dreaming of that exact moment for years and although I had previously stepped on French soil a few years back there was just something magical about being in Paris.
 
Adam and  I stayed at a two star hotel in Montparnasse opposite the huge department store Galeries Lafayettes. It was clean enough and had a bit of a view so it suited us just fine....and t put it another way it certainly beat staying in a hostel where you have to wear jandal's in the shower and listen to 8 other people snore.
 
On our first day we ventured towards the Eiffel tower. I was blown away by the number of people queuing for the attraction but I should have expected it as after all it is one of the worlds most famous landmarks.
 
By the time we found ourselves at the head of the queue the sun was beginning to set....we chose to climb the stairs rather than take the lift to get the "real" feel of the monument. After huffing and puffing my way up I was greeted with the most incredible view....well worth the climb. To be up the Eiffel Tower at sunset and see the city transform from day to night is a moment that I know I will never forget in my lifetime.
 
We descended the stairs and turned back to take one last look at the tower before leaving ..it was just at that second that they lit the lights and turned on what to me looked like the most impressive sparkling Christmas lights I had ever seen.
 
Before retiring for the night we had a meal at an Italian restaurant. Now I know this seems a shame having Italian when we should have been having French cuisine but there was logic behind this choice as it had an English menu...serves me right though as I still ended up with a pizza with mince on it.
 
The following day was started with breakfast at the hotel before heading off on our big sightseeing day. I would love to say that it was the best darn croissant I had ever had in my life but I would be lying...breakfast was the one item the hotel did which was a bit of a let down...but to be completely honest I was so elated about being in Paris that one crappy breakfast didn't really matter.
 
We headed off to the Louvre which yet again had queues but hey if the Louvre isn't worth queuing for then I don't know what is. I was stunned by the share size of the museum which was just incredible...our short visit didn't d0 the museum justice but we made sure we went and saw the Mona Lisa, and Venus de Milo....along with the Museum Moat for Adam. I can remember how excited I was seeing Beky's photos of the Mona Lisa...after all it was an actual photo of the real painting so you can only imagine how excited I was seeing the real thing.
 
After being worn out from battling the hundreds of people in the Museum we made our way out to La Defence which is the new business district of Paris. It is famous for its large marble gateway into the area known as Las Grande Arche. It was huge....and when I say it was huge I mean it was so big that I had issues trying to get into one photo. Whilst there a Christmas market was happening in the square. Despite it raining we strolled the aisles looking at all the Christmas goodies whilst drinking le vin chaud...I don't think mulled wine has ever tasted so good....perhaps it was the cold or maybe the rain or maybe even just the atmosphere we were in but it was bloody good.
 
There was a Swiss stall there with aisles and aisles of raclette machines that reminded me of Dad.
 
From La Grande Arche we made our way to the Arc de Triomphe...I had studied Paris at school and remembered reading about how all the main roads of Paris branched out from this monument. But to read about it was nothing compared with seeing the view from above with my own eyes.
 
We asked a stranger to take a photo of us and ended up spending the rest of the day with her. Her name was Fanny who lived just outside of Paris in a place called Poissey.
 
 She was so lovely and basically gave us our own guided tour of Paris. Between her broken English which was actually really good and my broken French and with Adam chipping in with the odd "oui" every now and then we managed to get along just fine.
 
The three of us decided to visit Notre Dame which is just another one of those times where you have read so much about a place that to actually stand there felt very surreal. We climbed to the top of the cathedral which in itself was amazing....the stairs leading us to the top had been so worn through the years that footprints were engraved in them. I think my favourite part of Notre Dame was not the famous stained glass but the Gargoyles up the top just looking out over the world.
 
From Notre Dame we went to the Musee D'Orsay, a museum in an old railway station which houses numerous sculptures as well as collections of Van Gough and Monet. Funnily enough when we went back to the hotel we realised we had a cheap Van Gogh knock off hanging above our beds..odd seeing we had just seen the real thing.
 
Fanny was fantastic and was able to explain the meaning behind some of the statues, little bits of history that I would never have known about such as the French poet who was the first open Lesbian in France.
 
After our visit to the museum it was dark and time to head to home. I felt sorry for poor Adam who had so patiently put up with me dragging him around from place to place all day...not even stopping for lunch. We grabbed some tea and the retired for the night.
 
The following day was sad for me as I knew it would be our last day but we made the most of it none the less. We visited the Centre Pompidou with the magnificent colourful sculptures by Nikki de Saint Phalle...I had been obsessed with seeing them ever since I saw the giant Nana sculpture she did that hangs in Zurich railway station.
 
After lunch we decided we would be able to fit in a visit to Sacre Coeur and am I glad we went. Of all the activities we did in Paris this was the one I loved the most. The church itself is set in the beautiful district of Montmatre...think of tall buildings with balconies and flower pots and cobbled roads, on a hill over looking the city.
 
Standing at over 83m tall it was just dazzling. The view was to die for and now I know I said that about Parc Guel in Barcelona but it was nothing compared to this.
 
We had perfect weather and looking out at Paris with the beautiful blue sky was magic. I wish I could have taken photos inside the church to share it with you all but unfortunately cameras were not permitted inside. No matter how I try to describe the experience it will never do it justice...my only advice would be to go there and experience it for yourself.
 
We had enough time to visit the Place de la Concorde and Stroll the Champs Elysees before our meal at a French Restaurant where Adam was brave enough to try Escargot...yum yum. It was a beautiful meal to share over a bottle of wine on our last night.
 
On finishing the meal it was time to pick up our belongings and head back to the train station for the long journey home.
 
I had an incredible time in Paris and the city was everything and more than I ever hoped it would be. I don't know about Adam but I know that I would go back there in a heartbeat...
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