Thursday, January 28, 2010

Paris, je t'aime (Pt. 1)

Ah oui, the charming sounds of an accordion playing in the distance. The birds flutter past ze Eiffel Tower in unison and there are artists (emphasis on the “i”) painting amongst the many parks. Ah, Paris. You can pretty much bet that any and all thoughts you may have about how spectacular Paris is will be blown away and far surpassed. While I only spent two days in Paris, it was not nearly enough time in the city to fully get all I could out of the experience. Don’t get me wrong now; I definitely was out seeing all I could practically nonstop. So buckle down and prepare for the rapid unfolding of events!

My travel partner and I began the journey by taking a Eurostar train from London’s Kind’s Cross/St. Pancras Train Station to the Gare du Nord Station in Paris, France. And no, unfortunately I did not take platform 9 ¾. I am convinced the Chunnel is the easiest way to get from London to Paris, being affordable and much less of a hassle than airlines. The trip went smoothly and I had the great pleasure of being in the car with a host of drunk Irishmen who were on the way to Paris for a big football match. To give you an idea of the crew, upon nearing the station in France, one merrily shouted in regards to the Eiffel Tower, “It’s just a big f---ing pylon!”. Charming.

First tip on visiting a foreign country: Go with a map in hand of where you will be. This seems like common sense to most people, me included, however I was talked into purchasing one at the train station when I arrived at the Gare du Nord station. Bad idea. There was so much happening upon arriving, I soon found myself distracted by patrolling French military carrying FAMAS assault rifles and trying to read signs in French. Fortunately, I had been taking French that semester and it paid off to no end. My travel partner and I soon found ourselves on the boulevard looking at public maps in an attempt to find our hostel, the Montmartre Clignancourt Hotel. We eventually found it after asking for directions in French a couple times. This place worked out fantastically. It was extremely affordable (about forty American dollars a night) and I scored a room on the third floor above a quiet Parisian street. Well quiet aside from rioting Algerians; but I’ll get to that later. It even had a view of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica lit up in the evening over the neighboring rooftops. Speaking of rooftops, one of the best things about Paris was the open feel to it. There was just so much sky! The buildings in the main circle of the old city are not allowed to be over a certain number of stories. The one building they let go beyond the limit was a complete eyesore and an obvious mistake. I personally think they should demolish Le Tour Montparnasse, but that’s not up to me.

Anyroad, the first night I arrived at the hostel, I was not about to just stay there, even if it was late into the night. I soon came to find that Paris is alive and active well into the early morning and actually on into the following day. As I walked the many streets (or “rues”), I found that every neighborhood or street appeared to have its own café in a way, at which the residents of said establishments would spend time together on into all hours of the night. I decided to check out the nearby Sacré-Coeur Basilica and ran into numerous charming streets and market squares.

I also got a chance to see the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret after walking past the Café des deux Moulins (from “Amelie”).

This was an interesting point because a group of Irish football fanatics were literally stopping traffic and jumping on everything they could find in celebration of beating the French and moving a step closer to the World Cup. I managed to leave by the time the local police finally gained the courage to begin breaking it up.

As the night wore on into the early morning, I made my way back to the hostel and made preparations for the next day. I decided I would catch the metro to L'Arc de Triomphe and head from there to the rest of the areas I wanted to hit. I knew the day ahead was going to involve a lot of walking, and could not have been more excited for the things I would soon see and experience. And with that, I bid Paris bonsoir.

1 comment:

Dad said...

This was a good one. You should write more often