Paris. The city of love, the city of scams, and the city of pickpockets. Where do I start?
I arrived in Paris and my bag had taking somewhat of a beating. In my haste to leave Tromso at an ungodly hour of the morning (as usual since I always accidentally book early flights) I had managed to pack a half full travel mug of coffee into my pack. The result: all my clean washing had been tie-dyed brown. A great jolt back into the reality of life in Paris. Not everything is perfect in my little migratory world.
However the first evening in this stunning city proved worthy. We got off the metro at sunset to see the Eiffel Tower with a burning red sun next to her in a crystal clear sky. We got very lucky since it’s winter and apparently ALWAYS hazy or wet. We could see her… but getting to her was a different story. We found ourselves in the middle of the gnarliest intersections in France. 12 roads that came together into a roundabout that appeared to be at least 10 lanes, no lights, and no road markings. I’m not sure whose crazy idea this was but we couldn’t help but spectate while trapped and helpless in the middle. It seemed as if normal rules did not apply and the most boldest and bravest Parisian to take any gap across the lanes got where he needed to go. Later in the week our tour guide mentioned that these people are crazy and wouldn’t hesitate to claw your eyes out at the intersection if you dared to mess with them.
We made it to the tower eventually in the coldest evening of our trip. Coming from the Arctic Circle this was surprising and I was wearing almost my whole pack of clothing. -7 and snow in the forecast. Being wise tourists we decided that going up the tower in these conditions would be ideal. She was beautiful. Every hour on the hour she glitters which won my heart. Turns out the glitter was an art installation (like the tower itself originally) for the new millennium but people fell in love with it and now it’s permanent – which works out for the artist who now get royalties every time it glitters and is a very very wealthy person.
Up the tower we FROZE. It was so cold that we actually stayed outside for only 5 minutes then couldn’t bare it any longer. No doubt we looked stupid with two pairs of gloves on and only our eyes showing. But the view was worth it.
Back at the hostel it was time to meet our new roommates. It had started snowing and we had two very enthusiastic Australians on our balcony throwing snowballs down into the street onto innocent passersby and shouting ‘bonjour’. These two interesting and super stoked dudes were off to Algeria on a surfing adventure. Impressive. The hostel itself was far less impressive. It was the worst hostel I’ve ever stayed in. It was filthy and the walls were paper-thin so a good nights sleep was impossible. Our room was right by the wooden stairs and we could hear people dragging their suitcases up and down them ALL night. This was combo’d by a loud crew of South American girls who were screaming and yelling into the wee hours of the morning. I admire their enthusiasm but I wanted to murder them. Seriously.
The next day was full of adventures. Paris is an amazing city fully of history and culture. We visited Notre dame, which had a stunningly beautiful cathedral inside. I was in awe of how they build these things. We also visited Montmartre cathedral, which was equally amazing. The Louvre however was the highlight. From outside it reminded me of the Di Vinci code and Jamie managed to get scammed by a lucky gypsy. The sneaky swine crossed paths with us and picked up a gold ring off the ground, which it appeared she’d found. We were amazed with her luck. She tried it on all her fingers but unfortunately for her it didn’t fit. The ring had a ‘gold stamp’ inside and she gifted it to us young lovers who could make good use of it (pawn it). “How lucky are we”!!! Of course it was too good to be true. After we had walked off she came back after us asking for food… or money. The wallet opened and luckily it only contained 5 Euros. Gypsy 1 – Jamie 0! I was trying to whisper to Jamie “just give her the bread rolls we pinched at breakfast”, but he’s just too kind. Especially since she’d been so nice to us haha.
Inside the Louvre was the most amazing roof I have ever seen. I found the roof artwork far more interesting than most of the exhibits and am again in awe of how they make these things. It was far better than Mona Lisa, who is small and boring. However there was one exhibition, which I found very interesting. It was a collection of works featuring the ‘Ghosts’ or ‘Spirits’ of the Louvre. The artist had taken photos of a collection of famous works, de-saturated the color out of the images, and then painted the faces of the spirits over them. According to him, each artwork has it’s own ghost which occupies it.
In each city we’ve been in we’ve taken advantage of the ‘New Europe’ free walking tours that are offered. The guides are self-employed and work of tips. You pay them what you think they’re worth, and let me tell you, they’re fantastic. This tour in Paris was the best so far (probably because it was the first where it didn’t rain on us) and filled us in on the history behind many of the sites we’d visited the day before. For example this building is dotted with the physical scars of war and liberation. These bullet holes are from the French resistance in WW2 aimed at the French Nazi headquarters before the Germans were defeated. I also learned that Hitler wanted to bring down Paris, the most beautiful city in Europe. He ordered his men to lace all the famous monuments, buildings and bridges with explosives and bring them down on the 12 hour (two days before Paris was liberated, whenever that was).
However on the 11 hour, Hitler’s right hand man had a drastic change of heart since he loved Paris, and called the allied troops to come and free the city. He said if you march here tomorrow and liberate Paris, the Germans will admit defeat, and we wont bring down the city. And so they did. The Germans knew they couldn’t win and backed down, and the culture and long-standing history of the city remained in tact. Pretty interesting stuff. We also learned how Napolean crowned himself at Notre Dame after deciding that the Pope – God’s own representative on earth – was not even fit to crown him. What a rude pompous Frenchman.
We saw many other classic French sites, however I wont bore you with the details. Here’s some snaps.
However I will mention how this city broke our spirits… It snowed, and snowed, and snowed. Which was novel for the first few days. Yet on the 20th EasyJet cancelled our flight to Barcelona due to the weather. Ok that’s life – deal with it. We booked another night in the terrible hostel and planned to leave the following morning (and by this time I was nearly beside myself with lack of sleep). On the 21st EasyJet cancelled our flight out of Paris AGAIN. We were not impressed. Giving up hope on this weak performing airline we decided we’d book a train to Toulouse (because we have a bus from Barcelona to Andorra which could also be changed to leave from Toulouse) and leave on that the next morning. The internet at the hostel was slower than dial up and for 3 hours we tried and tried and tried to book our train tickets to no avail. The staff at the hostel assured us that we could simply arrive at the train station and buy a ticket on our way the next morning; so on day three, exhausted and not having slept AGAIN because our Australian friend had a good deep snoring sleep, we rose at 5am and headed to the train station on the opposite side of the city. We arrived, waited in line for half an hour to buy our tickets, only to be told that they were fully booked for 3 days unless we wanted to stand for the 6-hour train ride. UTTER DEVASTATION. I wanted to cry, and Jamie looked like he was about to murder somebody. We walked the streets aimlessly until stumbling upon god’s gift to backpackers – Starbucks and therefore free wifi. Our desperation to get out of this city took hold, and we decided to book a rental car and drive our way out of here in order to meet our bus in Toulouse in 2 days. Yet after booking our rental car we were then told that the bus from Toulouse to Andorra was not running this week and we could only leave from Barcelona. I’M BROKEN!!!!!! So here I am, writing to you all, still in Paris and not exactly impressed. We are leaving to Barcelona tomorrow on a flight that was far too expensive, 4 nights later than anticipated.
Thank you EasyJet.