26.10.2008 - 31.10.2008 8 °C
Paris is hard to talk about. I got some really bad news from home when we got in to the main station about a childhood friend, so the first few days- most of Paris, actually- is a tired blur. But I tried my best to have fun, and Ruaridh was really supportive.
I'll start off by saying that right now I'm actually on a 3-coach train from Granada to Sevilla. I am a month (?!!) and several hundred miles away from all the shitty feelings an sunless days we had in Paris. The pain and homesickness is still there, but thankfully much less intense. I suppose I'll start where I left off-
Our morning trip out was a little hectic, but after leaving Geneva it was your pretty normal train day. We got in and found our hostel, which is pretty far from the action but was fantastic. The dorm beds had these little curtain things and reading lights on the walls. There was a bar/restuarant downstairs that had good food, mostly American cuisine though, and good music. I don't think we did anything for the rest of that day.
We wanted to start the next day with a little walking tour to orient ourselves. Our guide was a Canadian kid in his twenties who was hysterical, and it made some of the dreary history and less-than interesting "modern art" sights a bit more bearable. The tour actually took a large part of the day, and afterwards we tried to see the Musee D'Orsay but it was closed. After a bit of aimless wandering (something we've gotten into the habit of for every city) we saw some nasty black clouds barreling in from behind the gold-tipped obelisk and decided to hightail it back to the hostel.
Something else unique to backpacking- "laundry days." Tuesday, the next day in Paris, was a laundry day for us. It is a "day" because first off, a hostel is not a hotel, you cannot "send out" your laundry and go about your business. Secondly, although all your clothes can be done in a medium-sized load, it is all you have and would under no circumstances leave it unattended. So yes, unfortunately this took up a lot of time. Ruaridh left at some point to pick us up some breakfast- since Germany, he's been completely addicted to chocolate croissant-y pastry things, and here there is a bakery on every corner, so lucky him. After our laundry we checked into our next hostel- reluctantly, because St. Chris's was great, but unfortunately booked for the next couple nights. It was technically more central, but because of the distance and the weather we still needed to take the smelly metro everywhere so it really didn't matter. After checking in to our more typical hostel, complete with tacky paint, windy, narrow creaking steps and dangerous metal-rod bunk beds- ladderless, tricky tricky- we decided to give the Musee D'Orsay another go, and I'm glad they did. I'm no art buff, and I tried really hard to remember some of the artist names, but alas I draw a blank. The works there were really incredible, and the museum itself is an old converted train station, so the building itself was artful. After art-frying our brain, we made some dinner and chilled out at the hostel, discussing exactly how we wanted to spend the rest of our days in Paris.
The next morning we headed off for the Latin Quarter, which would've been a great wandering-about neighborhood if better weather had allowed it. We decided to do as the Parisians do and stop off in some cafe for a long, drawn out lunch. It was fantastic- if the french can do one thing, they can cook. I've gotten into the habit of drinking wine with lunch and dinner since it is so good and so inexpensive- cheaper than water, actually (at least the stuff we were drinking, heh) After lunch we headed to the Notre Dame, which, despite the many cathedrals we've seen, really struck me. It is one of those cathedrals designed to make you feel so small, amidst this huge presence that at the same time was so intricately decorated. It turns out, though, that most visitors were not as captured, so we had to shuffle along amidst the camera flashes and chattering and all that until we could finally escape. After this, we wasted some time strolling in and out of souvenir shops, then dropped by a cafe to warm up over some coffee for a loong time. We tried to think of another obligatory tourist trap to visit and decided to hop over to the Arc du Triomphe. Turns out yes, it was an arc. I took pictures for tourists aplenty, and just as we were about to take off we noticed the traffic circle from hell, and decided to stick around for a bit. Apparently it is the most dangerous traffic circle in Europe, with 12 roads converging into this traffic light-less roundabout, averaging one accident per 30 minutes. It was the most exciting thing we've seen in a long time, actually. Little motorcycles crossing over 6 lanes, buses diving into its heart with reckless abandon, not to mention a few idiots who decided to run across. Once we started to go numb from the cold, we headed back and after making dinner- baguette and pasta has become a diet staple, by the way- spent the night talking to people from the hostel, mostly the 3 Aussie girls in our dorm, who were really funny and easy to get along with.
The next day yielded similar crap weather, and I'm starting to doubt our cleverness in picking the fall for Europe. We wandered around the Bastille area, and I got a nutella crepe (mmm.) We fought the driving rain to wander through a graveyard- and right before halloween! Ravens and everything. We saw, of course, Oscar Wilde's grave, which was covered in lipstick kisses of all different shades, and then went to see Jim Morrison's grave, much smaller and blocked off, with some flowers. Afterwards, we sloshed up to the nearest cafe. It was very strange, because they had posters up in the window of Jim Morrison and his grave, but with thick, violent scribbles and X's over it in black crayon. Once inside the cafe, they had posters up of Jim Morrison all over the place, unmolested. It was all very strange. On the way back to our hostel, I picked up some sushi- apparently we crossed through Paris's asian quarter- and some meat from a butcher (for Ruaridh, naturally.) We ended up spending the night downstairs in the kitchen area again, drinking cheap wine with the Aussies and watching a group of Spanish hostelers sing and dance and stamp their feet and drink and laugh, because that is just what Spanish people do.
Our last day in Paris ended up begin a jumble of all the huge sites we didn't get to yet. Namely, the Louvre, the Chat Noir, and ze Eiffel Tower of course! We saw Montmartre in the day, so it was less glamorous and mostly just seedy. We saw the Moulin Rouge, and I imagined how pretty it must be lit up at night. I had wanted to see a show, but at a 90 euro cheap seat it just wasn't going to happen. Afterwards we wandered down to the Chat Noir for some coffee, still reminiscent of it's former seedy glory. There were sill some tobacco-stained pillars from the original building. You could imagine the room filled with smoke, the sound of someone pounding out a jazzy tune on the piano in the corner. After this we went over to the Louvre. We had perfect timing, actually, I'm quite proud of this. It was Thursday and the Louvre stayed open until 9, with discounted entrance after 6PM. We arrived around 5 from the metro stop, and as we entered the corridor containing the inverted glass pyramid, we saw the slews of people, hanging out or drinking coffee, waiting for the museum to drop it's prices. We booked past them, bought tickets at full price, and for the hour we actually had a great deal of the museum to ourselves. The day crowd was gone and the night crowd was yet to come. We decided first to go see all the big works, the Mona Lisa, the statue of Venus, etc and then take our time with the rest. The Louvre was amazing and at the same time very intimidating- just thinking about all that there was to see made you want to curl up and take a nap. We wandered down vast hallway to vast hallway, works of art in their own right with their beautifully painted ceilings. After a few hours we got to the point you get to in museums where you can no longer process any artwork and your brain starts to throb. We headed over the the Eiffel Tower just in time to see it light up in a glittery light show- it was very cool. Afterwards it settled to a pretty blue, enhanced by the fog settling high over the city. We were in the perfect spot, across the river with the bridge twinkling white in the distance.
That night we were back at St. Chris's, and it was halloween! Over dinner at the restuarant downstairs we ran into a couple guys from Canada and another from California. We ended up talking to them for a few hours, but decided to bypass the zombie party in the "club" downstairs and took an early night. The next stop was Nice, and honestly, despite the romance and the history of the city, I just wanted to get out of Paris.