Ahh, le Paris!

Eiffel tower

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. How fitting that I just finished reading Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” as we made our way toward Paris. I half expected to be thrown in prison without reason or trial upon arrival, but luckily this didn’t happen. It was an altogether better experience than that.

Mmmm, waffles

After Amsterdam, we took a train that had a 5 hour stopover in Brussels on the way to Paris. It wasn’t nearly long enough to get a true feel of the city, so we tried to squeeze in as many typically Belgian things as possible. We started by eating some delicious, overpriced Belgian waffles. Next we visited the famous Manneken Pis, which is the famous pissing boy fountain. Next was a glass of Belgian beer on a patio, and then it was time to head back to the train station. On to Paris!

We arrived in Paris quite late, and without accommodation. We had decided beforehand that we would check out a campground at Bois de Bologne, which was not far from the Champs Elysees. Upon arriving, we were treated to a show at reception, where a middle aged woman was lodging a noise complaint with the night attendant. When it became obvious that the complaint was falling on deaf ears, her story changed, and it suddenly became a sexual assault complaint. Amidst the yelling that ensued, we managed to make out something about ‘touching through my tent’ and something else about ‘every night you are in here complaining about something new!’ We patiently waited out the saga, and were assigned our campsite. It turns out that our campsite was about 20 feet from a major road, and seperated only by a chainlink fence. It was the loudest tent camping I have ever done. Even with earplugs, sleeping was a challenge. It was lucky for us both that we were exhausted by the time we went to bed, or I’m sure neither of us would have slept a wink.

Brigitte, Carl, and Meg's bag

In the morning, we quickly packed our bags and checked out. We made our way by metro to the obelisk at the end of the Champs Elysee, where we met up with our friends Carl and Brigitte from Ottawa. They were at the tail end of their honeymoon, and the timing worked out perfectly for a Paris rendezvous. Carl chivalrously shouldered Meghan’s backpack, and the four of us walked along the river to just past the Hotel de Ville, where Meghan and I checked into a hostel. No more camping in major city centres for us.

After dropping our gear at the hostel, we walked all over the city with Carl and Brigitte. We checked out Notre Dame Cathedral, which was stunning, and then went for a picnic in the Jardin du Luxembourg. The two bottles of wine we consumed there cost us a whopping 2 euro each. Delicious! When people say that baguette, cheese and wine in the park is the best way to eat in Paris, it’s the truth. In fact, since arriving in France I’ve eaten more baguette than in any equivalent time period in my life. They are sold everywhere, and the stereotype of French people walking down the street with a baguette in hand is entirely true.

Notre Dame

After our lengthy picnic in the sun, we made our way to the Eiffel Tower, and managed to get through the line up in time to catch the sunset from the second deck. It was fantastic to watch the city’s lights come on slowly as the sky darkened. One of the best parts of the Eiffel Tower for us was the walk down the stairs while the Tower was lit. It was another world. It gave an even better sense if being high above the ground in an exposed structure than the viewing platform did. Highly recommended, for sure.

Eiffel tower at night, from the stairs

We finished our first day in Paris off with an evening boat tour down the Seine. The boat was outfitted with bright spotlights on both sides that lit up the banks and the buildings as we went past. It must have been really annoying from the shore, but it was quite nice from the boat.

After a very relaxing sleep and a lazy morning, Meg and I started our second day with a wander around the area our hostel was in. We saw the Centre Pompidou, and ended up sun tanning in a park nearby for most of the day. We were lucky enough to have fantastic weather for our whole time there. We met up with Carl and Brigitte in the afternoon, and after more wine in the park and a meal in a cozy restaurant, we walked through the city at night and made our way to the courtyard of the Louvre. It was time for a group photo, and as usual, we decided to make an event of it. After setting the self timer, we all climbed up onto a tiny concrete pedestal. As the shutter went, we all jumped and posed for the camera.

Group jump!

As you can see from the photo, Meg jumped left, Carl jumped right, Brigitte jumped forward, and I jumped straight up. In fact, I was supposed to jump backwards, but in my concentration on timing the jump, I forgot this. This resulted in my landing just off of the concrete pedestal while dragging both shins down it’s edges as I went. Ouch.

First aid for my shins

It turned our not to be more than some bruising and a couple of surface cuts, and after a little first aid I was fine. On that note we said goodbye to Carl and Brigitte, who were headed back to Canada in the morning. Adieu, mes amis.

On our last day in Paris, after more baguette and more wine, we visited the Louvre, which is discounted on Wednesday evenings. We had originally planned only to visit the lobby in order to save some money, since Paris was an expensive city. What a mistake that would have been! The Louvre was breathtaking. We only had three short hours to explore the huge collection, but it was well worth it. Not only were we impressed with the paintings and sculptures (every other one seemed to be a famous one that we’d recognize from art history classes) but the building itself was a work to behold. It was a palace, with soaring high ceilings and marble staircases. We could have spent another day in there without being bored for an instant.

Louvre

The thing that pulled us away from the Louvre was the overnight train we had booked to Biarritz, in the south of France. As we left, I remember thinking that I now understood in part why the city has such a reputation for romance. With beautiful landmarks everywhere you look, immaculate gardens, delicious pastries and chocolates, and the pleasant french language being spoken the way it was meant to be spoken, one can’t help but be seduced by Paris.

Comments

    Wow!
    What an awesome journal about your trip. Makes me want to travel. I hope you guys have a great time :)

    Vouz devrais allez au Fontain Blue pour voir les Boulder. Suppose d’etre incrioable dans les foret la.
    Esceque vouz parlez francais avec des local?
    Bon souaites

    that’s the best French I can remember to spell.
    Looks like life is large for you these days bro.
    I’m following you guys around the world for sure!
    Peace

    Oui, nous avons parler en francais beaucoup. J’oublie un peu, mais ca me reviens.

    Too bad we missed Fountain Blue…what is it?

    Have you left France already?
    I believe Fontain Blue is in the south of France and it’s one of the most famous bouldering spots in the world. A vast forest of perfect mossy boulders and caves for the fun of all us monkey types!
    What about Spain? Are you going there?
    I’ve got a good contact in Barcelona if you want to go climbing there. Let me know.
    Peace

  1. Dallas Husar

  2. I cannot believe I have been to the Louvre twice and never seen that toe! I have even taken the pic twice! Guess I will have to go back…..Did you see Irina while you were there?

    That toe is messed up yo!!! I had to go in for a closer look to see. From afar she looks lovely.

    Thanks for carrying my pack Carl!

    We are definitely planning to go to Barcelona, but I don’t know if I’ll be climbing anytime soon. My left toe is still really damaged, and the thought of putting climbing shoes on makes me cringe in pain. We’d love to be in touch with you friend, though, even if they’d just like to meet us for a drink and share some local knowledge. Probably best to send me an email with contact info.

    When you ordered a baguette at the bakery, did you make like you were playing a clarinet?

    Oooh, good idea!

    […] train left for London. After checking our journals, we realised that we‚Äôd actually been in Paris one year earlier, hanging out with our friends Carl and Brigitte and still breaking ourselves in to our travels. It […]

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