Friday, May 27, 2011

From Paris with Love

So.. its a week since I was in Paris! Insane how quickly that has passed. Personally I didnt experience any of the 'city of love' as they call it, but Paris is definitely a beautiful city and I did really enjoy my time there. It was a place where I could see my self living for a period of time at one stage. On Tuesday night when I had finished work, I caught the 10pm bus across to Manchester where I stayed with some friends and then flew to Paris on the 6am flight. I was a bit worried that I wasn’t going to make it in the end, but thankfully got to the airport about 10 minutes before check in closed… I seriously need to get better at paying attention to what time things start, when planes leave (or buses for that matter as well!). Thankfully so far I am yet to be caught out by my lack of pre-organisation… yet!

I got to Paris airport and caught the bus into the city to Opera Station where I met up with Bree. Mike however, was missing in action. He had left the hostel about 2 hours previously to pick up their washing and had never returned. We were at a bit of a loss as to what to do about him because we didn’t know where he was, he should have figured out he was lost by this stage and he had no money (that we knew about) or no phone to get in contact with him. Bree even called his parents (who also happened to be in Paris) just to see he hadn’t somehow got a hold of them – I think she gave his mum a bit of a fright when she asked you haven’t seen mike have you?!!
Bree and Mike outside the Louvre

Once we had Mike with us we first went and visited the Louvre, where we spent a good few hours wandering around getting lost and admiring the art work. Saw a fair few famous names and paintings, Monet, Delacroix, Renault Michelangelo, the Mona Lisa… One thing that I really noticed about the vast majority of the paintings and sculptures is that almost all of them are nude! So much nudity it is insane! I think they need a PG sign on the entrance to warn people!!! Hehe….. just kidding but I found it slightly amusing considering that most of the artwork was created in times where it was all about covering up… covering up … covering up…. Oooh I can see your ankles…. Woo hoo…… hehe J

The security guard saw me take this and cracked up

Every day in Paris I think I probably walked at least 15km!! After we had exhausted ourselves exploring medieval artworks, Egyptian, paintings, sculptures etc at the Louvre we then headed up towards the Arc de Triumph for a bit of a look, followed by a bit more walking over to the Eiffel Tower. Around the actual monuments themselves there are a lot of hawkers trying to sell you minature towers and bracelets and things. I almost felt like I was back in Asia in some situations you got harassed that much to buy their things.
My favourite sculpture

Notre Dame
On Thursday after a big breakfast at the hostel (mmmm bread…. Yum!) we walked to Notredame, had a bit of a look around there. It was quite funny actually because there was a guy on loud speakers who would occasionally shush people-the chatter would die down for a couple of minutes and then graduatlly rise again. We also climbed up the top of Notredame after waiting in a queue for about an hour and a half. Awesome view from the top.  There are some pretty cool looking chimera. I actually thought they were gargoyles but I was wrong. Gargoyles are the ones that stick out from the wall of the building and are used for drains of water off the roof. Chimera are the monstery type creatures that sit on the side. Why? I have no idea! But they look pretty cool. Oh ther are a lot of police in Paris too, all the time there are police cars undercover and in uniform going around. And the most impressive are the army dudes with their massive guns wandering around town. That reminded me of living in Zambia with the police and their AK-47s.
I think the monkey like one is a bit bored of being stuck on the top of the tower

View from Notre dame
Hello Eiffel Tower

Next we wandered up the river along to the Eiffel tower to climb that. Before you are allowed up you have to go through screening to make sure you don’t have anything dangerous that could be thrown off the edge. There was a big box full of swiss army knives that was labelled for destruction that had been confiscated off people. The Eiffel tower is split into 3 different levels, you can climb the first two (or for lazy people catch a lift) and then everyone has to take a lift (and pay again) from the second level to the summit, as it’s called. I would have liked to have climbed that section but unfortunately they don’t let you. Well I think they have events on occasionally where people run up it for charity or races and stuff, and apparently there was an elephant that they took up there once. Why I don’t know but its amusing random useless information for you to know! Riding up the elevator you really start to appreciate how tall it is, you just keep going up and up and up and up and up and up and then finally you are there. Pretty cool stuff. I actually didn’t get to see the entire tower at night time all lit up in its glory, just parts of it from a distance. It doesn’t get dark there till like 10.30 at this time of year. 

View from the top of the Eiffel Tower
I pretty much ran down the two flights of stairs on my way down, as I had an hour to get all the way across the other side of the city to meet up with a friend Mailys who I met backpacking 2 years ago at airlie beach in QLD. We met at a little restaurant in Montmartre where the resident drunk caused much amusement to everyone with his bizarre discussions and antics. He managed to sneak a couple of drinks off people while we were there. The owner of the restaurant was so French, he was cool with crazy wild hair and a beret. For a bit of a laugh at one stage for some reason he decided to put a new mop on his head and a red nose so that he looked like a clown. Good free entertainment! He told me how his daughter lives in Australia now, she went backpacking and then met someone so is getting married over there now. Everyone knows someone in Australia! 

Blurry picture by night of the oldest wooden buildings in paris
After our meal, some Roquefort cheese and a few glasses of wine, we began wandering the streets of paris by night. Mailys is very passionate about her city and was explaining places that I should go, could go and then she showed me around some of the oldest areas of the city. I saw some buildings that were built in the 1400s!! Insane how old the place is. Australia is such a baby of a country! Such a different level of history.  I like seeing history in action, exploring it and wandering around it seeing wat you can find. We watched all the lights go off in the city at midnight on the way home – all the cathedrals and monuments and big buildings have the lights that show them up turn of at midnight. Which I think is a good idea, saves wasting electricity when people aren’t looking at them. 

Blurry picture of the Eiffel tower at night, as I saw it
Our last day in Paris was another day full of exploration and walking. First we walked to the Arc de triumph so we could climb it (200 steps). I noticed on the wall that EEU citizens under 25 could get in for free. I didn’t have my British passport on me at the time, but I had my European Health Care Card and that apparently is sufficient evidence because I got in without having to pay $8. Happy days! More money for food!
Above the Arc de Triumph

We then walked back to the other end of town where we said our goodbyes and I continued wandering around the older sections of the city by day. I went to the Jewish Quarter, walked all along the high streets of Paris (wasn’t really tempted to buy anything though), ate Berthillon, a famous Parisian sorbet and eventually made my way back the hostel to get my bags and head back to the airport. Again I had the wrong times. I was thinking my flight was at 10pm so I had a few hours to spare and was going to sit at a café for a couple hours have some food/drinks, but I wasn’t acknowledged by the owner of the café that I was going to sit at so I decided just to go to the airport. Luckily I did because my flight was about 1.5 hours earlier than I had thought so I got there with about 30 minutes to spare!  One day I will eventually learn to read my tickets better….

Yummy icecream
I know so many people who have this (in my opinion) completely WRONG idea about what French people are like. I have not met one French person who was not lovely, helpful, accommodating, friendly.  Maybe it helps that I try to speak at least a little bit of broken French when I first meet them. I’ve got a few French friends in Liverpool . Actually one of my mates here, Philippe has a didgeridoo which he taught himself to play. I can’t play to save my life (which technically I shouldn’t be attempting to play a didgeridoo anyway being female…) but he is brilliant. We’re going to jam guitar and didgeridoo, maybe hit some of the open mics with it as well!