I know I’ve been a little remiss in keeping you updated on my adventures but I’ve been keeping up a cracking pace during the day and literally passing out at night and now I’m in Helsinki and awake enough to catch up!
The flight from Brisbane to Singapore was slightly lumpy but I got to catch up on a few movies. After a perfect landing there was the obligatory 4 hour layover in Singapore and that airport is really only amazing the first time round. My butt/tail bone was killing me from an 8 hour flight and I had a 13 hour flight ahead of me so I spent 3 hours walking around the airport to wear myself out so I’d sleep and to ease my tail. Not long after take off there was a really bright flash and a bang and everyone was very quiet and quite a while later the pilot decides to clue us in and told us that we got hit by lightning but the plane seemed to be working fine so we were continuing on…hmm! It was another lumpy flight but I managed about 5 hours of sleep however in moments of semi-consciousness when it was bumpy, I do remember thinking that if they were trying to rock us to sleep, it wasn’t working very well.
I eventually got out of the airport and onto the train, by which time it was peak hour and the French are viscous when it comes to train travel. It was no holds barred pushing and shoving and a bit scary at times but I made it out in-tact and with my luggage. I dumped my bag at the hotel about 9am and hit the streets. Notre Dame was the first stop as it was 3 minutes from the hotel. Huge cathedral and very impressive and being Gothic, there were distinct similarities to the Milan Duomo, internally that is. I wandered passed the Louvre, through the Jardin de Tuileries (gardens) to the Champs Elysees. The Champs Elysees is about 2.7 kms long and the top half is full of big name shops. At Christmas the half near the gardens is full of Noel Markets (Christmas Markets) with lots of gifts stalls and various food stands and of course the Vin Chaud (hot mulled wine). So it was that I found myself walking down the Champs Elysees at lunchtime drinking mulled wine, giggling to myself and thinking that it doesn’t get too much better than this.
When to markets stopped and the shops began, it started to get very boring and while I could see the Arc de Triomphe ahead it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. The Arc de Triomphe is the intersection of 12 avenues and to get to it you have go underground unless you want to try dodging the traffic…akin to running with the bulls. It’s an incredible monument, absolutely massive and the views from the top are amazing. Then it was on to the Eiffel Tower. I had read that the best way to see the Tower was from the Trocadero which is across the river and so I walked the 2+kms from the Arc to the Trocadero down a very uninteresting street. I had had views of the Eiffel at various times throughout the day and truth be told, I was a little disappointed so I was really hoping for that I hadn’t been lead astray. Approaching the Trocadero there are two very impressive buildings with gold statues lining a massive forecourt. These buildings are very soon not even a consideration when you get that first full view of the Eiffel Tower. I was not disappointed. I was however, really disappointed at the length of the queues. You firstly have to queue to buy the tickets, then queue to get your bag scanned and finally you join the queue to go up the tower. It’s not that I’m precious but I don’t queue for pretty much anything including the Eiffel Tower. Surprisingly for someone so organised I didn’t pre-book and you have to book at least one day in advance…oh well, it means if I ever come back to Paris, I’ve got something to do!! I did however learn something new, that Eiffel was person.
Then it was on to the Musee d’Orsay with it’s impressive Manet, Monet (Haystacks and Water Lillies) and Renoir collections and Whistlers Mother, painted by none of the aforementioned artists. Then it was back to the hotel to quite literally pass out….without any dinner, the intent was there but the ability to walk any further had left me.
On to Day 2 and it was Saint Chapelle and the Conciergerie near Notre Dame and the Centre Pompideu. For the love of me I couldn’t fathom Paris public transport and ended up catching a taxi to Sacre-Coure, which is another very impressive church with a beautifully painted ceiling over the altar. After a meander through Montmartre (the artists quarter) I went back to check out the queues at the Eiffel Tower and they were worse than the day before so I headed for the Louvre. I’d planned my attack on the Louvre, so I knew what I wanted to see and where it was, I wasn’t prepared for the pandemonium that is the Louvre. While I don’t expect an art gallery to be like a library, I don’t expect it to be like a football match either. My first stop was the Raphael exhibition which was great and then on to the Napoleonic Apartments which were very impressive. I finally found the Mona Lisa which was little bigger than I expected, but not much and that ended another jam packed day and again I passed out early.
Day 3 was only half a day and as it was raining, I only went for a quick walk before heading off to the train station to get to the airport. There was a lot of drama and stress – going to the station, having to find a different station, having to find a taxi in the rain to another station, having to find my away around that station and finally being advised by a traveller that the trains weren’t running to the airport then having to find another taxi. Apparently the trains were on strike, so after a lot of panic and stress and way too many Euros, I arrived at the airport on time for my flight to Helsinki.
But what can I tell you about Paris – the buildings are all very much the same style, very neat and clean lines and there are no awnings to hide under when it rains. There are patisseries everywhere and they all look devine and lots of chocolate shops. Surprisingly I found very few places that sold macaroons, I thought they’d be everywhere. There are also florist/garden shops everywhere, they obviously love their plants. And they all have dogs and fairly big ones given that they are all in apartments. They drive like madmen and park anywhere even right on corners.
Accommodation wise, I stayed at the Hotel Abbatial Saint Germain. Great location, literally 3 minutes to Notre Dame and was a nice hotel. I had a single room which was small but enough room for me and it had a double bed. The bathroom was small and the shower even smaller. It was standing room only, unfortunately shampoo and soap had to go on the floor which made picking them up interesting, not to mention trying to wash your feet. Very little thought goes into some of these designs.
I’ll finish up here and try to keep more up to date in future 🙂
Feel free to send emails as it’s nice to hear from people back home while I’m away. I am bit disappointed with photos, they are under-whelming me at the moment but I will put some up all the same.