My train pulled into Gare de Austerlitz station at 740. And I stepped out into the frigid Parisian morning. It was fresh. I was so glad I’d put my scarf on. I walked down to the metro and 3 metro rides later I was out at Porte Dauphine, just near where my host lives, 10 mins walk from the Eiffel tower.
After a short wait outside the station my host approached me. He’s a funny looking French guy. Short, with a narrow skinny face, lots of grey hairs and a pierced Eyebrow. His gait is the funniest though, he’s probably 5foot 10 but takes tiny tiny steps at a rapid rapid rate with hunched shoulders.
Good guy though. I can tell the language barrier here is going to be great. Usually when I talk he just nods his head (and I can tell he cant understand) or I talk and he stands there with a blank look on his face (and I can tell he cant understand) so after a brief introduction we walked back to his flat with minimul conversation.
His flat is tiny. It’s smaller then my bedroom in Brunswick. A cool place though, yet I have no idea where I’m going to sleep. Haha. Oh well. There’s not even a shower in his room. Its down the hallway in another locked room. As is the toilet. Maybe it’s actually a fancy student dorm. If that was the case it’s pretty good.
While Benoit, my host, was in the shower he lent me his computer. These French keyboards make the German ones look like nothing. On these the A and the Q are swapped, the M, the L, and the comma are switched around, all the punctuation is all over the place and the numbers are above the punctuation, meaning to type a number u have to use the shift key.
After he had a quick shower I walked with him to his doctor’s appointment which was also near a metro station. He neglected to mention his doctor’s practice was right next to the Eiffel tower. I’m not exaggerating either, across the road from the doctor’s is the garden in which the central piece is the Eiffel Tower. To be honest I thought it would be bigger, never the less it was pretty amazing. Especially because I wasn’t expecting it at all.
From there I jumped on the metro and headed into town to the Louvre stop. As the main tourist info place was near here. I grabbed a map and went to find coffee. Yet at first I had little success. Some of the places around here were selling a coffee and a croissant for 5 Euros. I was determined not to pay more then 3.
I was lucky. I’m now sitting in a place right beside the Louvre, with my coffee and Crossoint both for 3Euro’s the guy was pretty funny too. Having a friendly laugh as I tried to order in French. I didn’t think I did too bad but he still replied in English, asking “which state I was from”, meaning which American state. I said “Melbourne Australia”, to which his response was a quick succession of sorries as if he’d thought he’d accidently called me the worst profanity on the planet. The coffee’s great, as is the crossiont.
-French stuff to eat in France
Frog legs - Check
Crepes - Check
Crossiont - Check
I’m absolutely wrecked. I did heaps of walking yesterday, and heaps today. Not being able to stretch out on the train didn’t help either and my quads are killing me. I’m ready to hit the sack now hard. Sleep will be good.
After the quick breakfast I still had half an hour. It wasn’t far to where the walking tour was supposed to start so I decided to walk the 10 minutes it should take. The ten minutes started to push 30minutes and I only just made it. Luckily this time the tour was on.
I signed up for the tour, which involves a quick Q&A about how you found out about the tour and if you’ve done any of the other New Europe tours. I stood around waiting. There was a myriad of English speakers around me. Britts yanks Canadians and a few Aussies. I noticed a few people, well one girl in particular who looked familiar. I was racking my brain for ages trying to work out where I knew them from. I finally realized that I’d been talking to them in the Hostel in Barcelona.
I moved over and started chatting to them. It was good to know some familiar faces. I’m glad I did because soon after I did one of the guides split the group in half and I was lumped with the people I knew. I introduced myself to them and straight away forgot the girls names. There was 3 of them 2 girls and a guy. They were a bit of a laugh. They were in the same category as Drew, the bloke, Sam, explained that one of them was his sister and the other her best friend.
The first stop of the tour of significance was Notre Damn. It’s a pretty cool church, a gothic one, dominated by two square towers at the front, a spire only being apparent at the rear of the church, a little taller then the two towers, yet not as grand.
From there we went to Pont Neuf, which translates to New bridge, the guy who named it, King George V wasn’t very forward thinking as now the bridge called ‘New bridge’ in Paris is actually the oldest bridge in Paris.
Along the way after visiting some more places we stopped for lunch, in an area with heaps of Café’s a maccas and a star bucks. The Café’s were pretty pricey so I ventured around until I found I piece of Quiche for 3 Euros. Not bad.
-French stuff to eat in France
Frog legs - Check
Crepes - Check
Crossiont - Check
Quiche - Check
After lunch we covered the louvre, where we were shown the back entrance, and walked down ‘the spine’ of Paris. A geographically tour guide friendly walk as you can pretty much see everything of importance fairly well with out needing to actually go to them from the path.
I went back to Benoit’s place. I got there a bit before 4. I rang him a couple of times and he didn’t pick up. I messaged him too but got no reply. I figured he was sleeping, he said he’d had a bit of a party the night before. That was cool though so I took off to do some more exploring.
I went to the Arc Di Triumph. It’s massive and on the worlds biggest round about. It’s 8 lanes wide and has a car crash on average once every hour. It was really convenient too. It was right on a metro stop so I simply got out. Ran to the top, took a few shots and went back down to the tube to catch another metro ride to Sacre Couer.
On the way upto the church it did start raining though and a grabbed out my brollie and tried to open it by just holding the handle and shooting the telescopic stem open. This resulted in it breaking. I was able to manage sliding the two parts back together but it was unable to hold itself up. that’s what you get for a 3 Euro umbrella.
Sacre couer is situated on the highest point in France and affords a great view of the city. Some say it’s better then from the Eiffel tower, for the un obvious but practical reason that from the Eiffel tower you cant see the Eiffel tower. And apart from all the beggers it was great. Giving my legs a good G up half running up all the stairs from the metro stop.
The inside was beautiful too, but nothing exceptional for a church. On the way out there were guys selling Brollies. I asked how much the guy said 5Euros. I said 2 and the bargaining went on for a bit and he eventually agreed. I threw my half broken brolley in the bin and gave him 2 Euros. “No no, trois, three” he said. After refusing I reached into the bin and took my brolley and went to walk off before realizing the guy was still pocketing my 2 Euros. I took that back too and was walking off when his mate went for the 2 Euros and I got a new umbrella.
Next I was on the hunt for the lonely planet I’m after. I went into a famous book shop called ‘shakespear company’ and English bookshop that’s famous for inspiring the likes of Earnest hemmingway and a bunch of other authors I’d never heard of. The funny thing about this place too is you can stay there for free in exchange for voluteer hours in the shop. Might think about taking that up. I had no luck with the lonely planet and certainly no luck with the type of books I like in the airy fairy literature oriented shop.
Next I caught the metro back to Benoits and got there at 630. It was really confusing talking to him, the language barrier is hard, we were talking about traveling for a while and would quite often have to write down on a piece of paper what we were trying to say.
My next plan was to go to the Louvre. It’s open late on Wednesday and only 6 Euros after 6. So I left Benoit to do god knows what and jumped back on the metro.
I took the back entrance into the Louvre that we’d been told about, going a round about way to avoid the line, which on later inspection I realized that at 1930 on a December Wednesday night there was none anyway.. It was payment by a machine, the smallest note I had was a 20 so I put that in and for my efforts was rewarded with a ticket and 14 X 1 euro coins. I just looked at them for a while before pocketing them and going to grab a coffee.
At the coffee shop I asked if I could swap ten of the coins for a note. There was a big black guy next to me. “I’ll take them” he said “Can always use these”. I have no idea what you can always need 1 Euros coins for but I wasn’t complaining.
I went into the louvre and got lost straight away. I’d forgotton that I’d gone underground to get in and had no idea what level I was on, and I couldn’t tell what era the paintings were from and weather they were French german or aboriginal. Despite this I was actually really enjoying it. Much more so then the Vatican Museum. Maybe because it was pretty much empty and much bigger rooms. As opposed to the Vatican which was just packed and you had to move pretty much with the flow.
I eventually found the Mona Lisa. Most over rated painting every. What the hell is that smug b**** so happy about. Who the f*** does she think she is. It’s not even that big either. It’s only like A3 size.
I was more interested by a painting I found less then 20 m from the mona lisa. It was of a lady holding a snake, naked naturally. The snake was curled up her arm and from her hand had reached down for a firm hold right on her nipple, god knows what inspired that one.
I walked around for as long as I could afford. I was there for about an hour and probably covered a quarter of it. The big rooms made it easy to just ‘glance’ at 50 paintings in a matter of seconds. There were some really cool ones though that I stopped to look at. At first I thought they were carvings on stone. But they were actually pencil drawings you couldn’t tell untill you were less then a foot away that theey were 2 dimensional.
I got back to Benoit’s at about 930. I wanted t oget to the supermarket which shut at 10. Sorting out stuff was really an issue. I’d think that We’d agreed on something only to have Benoit ask a question two seconds later which meant that he clearly didn’t understand what I was talking about.
We set off to the supermarket, I grabbed some stuff for lunch and left for the Eiffel tower. Benoit was acting kinda weird I was feeling really uncomfortable, I wasn’t sure if he was really really creepy or just French.
We got to the Eiffel tower at 10, just in time for the sparkling light show. It looked fantastic. Next was a special, It’s some anniversary for tower and there’s a show on which light up different sections so you can see the order in which it was built.
It also has heaps of colorful lights in it. And for about 15 minutes it rolled through different stunning displays of variations in colour. Benoit was like a kid in a candy shop. I could see the pride he had in his symbol of France. He even asked a brittish guy there if he could take a photo. The Brit had a pretty expensive camera and being a photography student I guess he liked the look of it. The skeptical Britt however declined.
The weirdness of Benoit was really off putting, if I’d have cared or been a girl I would have been really worried. Then we went to leave and suddenly it clicked. The strange faces, the doubling up on questions etc. He was drunk, absolutely off his face. He must have got stuck into the vodka hard while I’d been at the Louvre.
I got up yesterday morning with the intent on going for a run. My hamstrings were killing me so I opted for the skipping rope instead. This prooved to be really hard. It was quite windy and the skipping rope is by no means occupies a single dimension of space. This meant I was constantly hitting my feet. I was aiming for 3000 skips and new if I stopped early I’d be super peeved at myself so I soldiered on. And after throwing my rope at the ground a few times, and busting the end of one of the handles I eventually got there.
Next I was off to the Eiffel tower the plan being to climb it, when I got there the day appeared to be clearing so I decided to take a gamble and come back later so I went into town and stopped off at a larger station. These places are the best ones to get cheap coffee and food. So I sat there with a coffee and a croissant for an hour. Half writing in my diary half listening to the load Africans beside me. I wasn’t sure if they were having a massive fight or telling a series of hilarious jokes.
Next I set off through town. I new a shopping area and wanted to find a replacement for my recently deceased LP. I was sort of walking around aimlessly and I’d left home shortly after I’d showered so I didn’t have much of my cold weather gear on. I’d left my gloves and scarf on the back of the door handle. As a result I was really cold and got jack of it pretty quickly. I needed to do some stuff on the internet anyway.
Just as I was thinking about this I noticed a sign thata said something but I could make out Gratis Wifi and the ‘Orange’ symbol. So I pulled out my laptop, and although weak sure enough there wa free wifi. There was a café across the road with a heated outdoor area so I planted myself there and got stuck into it.
While I was hear it started raining. Apparently my Eiffel tower gamble wasn’t going to pay off. I sat inside the café for a good hour before leaving at 1230 and heading for the metro. The next plan was to head out to La Defence, here there was a massive supermarket and a big set of stalls. All Christmas oriented. It smelt awesome. But it also smelt massively overpriced so I avoided paying for it. There’s also one of the most impressive structures in Paris, its called the Grand arc. And that’s exactly what it is. An arc which is very very grand.
The good thing about the shopping centre was a found and LP replacement. It doesn’t quite feel the same but its already prooving itself which is good.
I spent the afternoon printing off my ryan air boarding pass. Finding where the buses go from checking the schedule and eventually ended up back the maccas under the louvre. I went throught the servery and up to the top to exploit the Wifi, I was here for a couple of hours.
I’m sitting in Trinity college, Dublin, waiting for my host to arrive. In the last 125 days I’ve spent 3 of them in an English speaking country. And to be perfectly honest it’s really strange hearing people around me speaking English. And having waiters and check out chicks speak English. I keep automatically racking my brain trying to remember how to say thanks you in the local language. Before remembering it too is English.
Back home I was a little early. There was a café near where I’m staying and I’d seen coffee advertised for 1.3 Euros, pretty cheap by Parisian standards. So I sat in there with my book and was quite surprised when the coffee arrived with a 2.3 Euro bill. Must be a breakfast deal.
Pretty soon Benoit walked past. Tapped on the window and we walked home. The next hour was kinda strange. Benoit’s the first couch surfing experience which hasn’t been positive. It’s definitely not negative he’s just strange. We had some wine too and he got worse. He was asking all the same questions he’d already asked me. I just went with the flow.
Turns out he’s actually 27! I thought he was like 19. I asked how loong he’d been smoking. He said 3 years ago and then went on to tell me that he started smoking after his wife left him. He has some serious issues this guy.