I had slept awfully the first two nights due to my bedroom looking out over a busy ish intersection, in the area at the lower end of Canal St Martin, a very studenty area = lots of parties and drinking socialising and things. It's actually an awesome area to be in - very vibrant, but earplugs are a must and even with them in it's noisy, coupled with a fairly uncortable bed and it is not a recipe for a good nights zz! I can't complain though, in so many other ways the hostel is great.
I think the thing I appreciate most is feeling SAFE here. In Barcelona, ny hostel was in a scary dodgy area so I felt I had to get back before dark every night - here I have no such worries so have been happily out til past 9pm - making maximum use of all of my time here!
My first day was a day of tours! I had prebooked a bike tour with a company called Bike About Paris, which set off at 10am. Me being me, I was up from 6 and left the hostel staight after breakfast at 8am to head to Notre Dame to get in there before the crowds. The cathedral is very impressive and looked lovely on a sunny morning first thing with all the pink blossom trees aside it. This year is the 850th birthday of Notre Dame!
I had an exciting pee in one of those free standing toilets in the street that go into a "wash" cycle after each use but somehow don't seem any cleaner. I can never quite shake that childhood fear (from holidays staying in Formule1) of getting trapped in one during the wash cycle!
The bike tour was great - cycling is SUCH a great way to cover a large area of the city in a relatively short time. I was glad I did a tour too, after attempting to use a Velib (Paris' equivalent of Boris bikes) today, which was HAIRY to say the least! After a few stop starts I managed to rent the thing ok but then was unsure of where I was going, ended up going along a busy two lane road with no bike lane, no helmet and buses overtaking me with cm to spare. I swear I was shaking by the end of it and so frazzled that I am ashamed to say I headed into starbucks for a bit of "comfort coffee" - I know it's s*** coffee and it's not the real cultural experience and etc etc but I knew I was guaranteed a soy latte and free wifi so there. It revived me splendidly, actually, along with a few squares of super dark chocolate think maybe the caffeine had a part to play.
I digress! After my fabulous bike tour yesterday I wandered the streets of the Marais quarter for a while then decided my legs were so tired I might as well cash in the ticket for a boat tour I had spontaneously bought off our bike tour guide and I was so glad I did! It was cheesy and touristic and our french tour guide Fabienne's English was hilarious but I got to sit on a boat on the Seine for an hour in the sun and see a whole heap of monuments from the water. I got to see the Tour Eiffel, finally, and realised that I actually cbf going to see it close up or climb it or whatever, it is impressive in its outline on the skyline and viewed from other parts of paris but the inevitable crowds at the thing just put me off.
I got a great view of it this morning when I paid €11.50 to go up to the 59th floor of Tour Montparnasse for panoramic viezs of the city. I thought it was pricy before I did it but it was €11.50 so well spent! I love going up tall buildings, it's one of my favourite things to do in a new place, you can't beat 360 degree views for getting your bearings. It wasn't quite as clear as yesterday but I could still see quite far and the best thing was, because I was there at opening time and it's not as well visited as the Eiffel, it wasn't too crowded.
Other than Notre Dame I've managed to see a few awesome churches - yesterday I went into Sainte Chapelle (€13.50 - I tried to get the lady to let me in as an under 25 but she wasn't having any of it, the old bag..), on the same island as Notre Dame, which had the most amazing stained glass windows I have ever seen, then yesterday evening I ducked into St. Etienne du Mont, in the Latin Quarter, which was almost as beautiful and also free. In retrospect, that stained glass probably wasn't worth the entry fee, although it was worth a look.
I discovered a wonderful old bookshop yesterday: Shakespeare & Co., floor to celing shelves with old wooden ladders to run along them, an eclectic collection with an antique section - brilliant!
Still haven't got to any of the veg restaurants - I've been so shattered by the evenings and having spent so much on entrance fees that I preferred to go to Carrefour then eat on the cheap back here at the hostel, but I plan to go to Loving Hut - a vegetarian restaurant near ish my hostel this evening. I came back here early today because it started raining on me! After 25c yesterday (my face is SO BURNT - will peel for sure, it's reallt sore) and it being nice this morning I did NOT expect it to drop to 11c with rain, as it is doing outside now! I was ill prepared, without even a coat or umbrella in my bag so when I emerged from Centre Pompidou into this cold and yuck I knew it was time to come back and change.
Did I mention I went to Centre Pompidou this afternoon? I did - and it was super fantastique, a really great collection of modern art and it was busy but not unbearably so, I could easily look at what I wanted for as long as I wanted without people getting in the way, which makes such a difference.
Am back at the hostel now. Really feeling the sleep deprivation so going to go and lie down for an hour or so before going out to tea.