Posted by: Lee | October 3, 2005

The Paris Expedition – Day 1

Well we’re back from Paris, had an amazing time. Got up each morning and found a little Café to have a Café au lait in. I could quite easily get use to that lifestyle. I even managed to order the drinks in French J. Was getting quite use to it by the end of it J 

We landed at Charles de Gaulle around half 10 on Wednesday and got the RER (it’s the local train system) to the centre of Paris. Got off at Notre Dame around midday, so that was the first site Liz and I saw. It is quite an amazing building to look at. Almost immediately, though, we were pounced upon by a Gypsy girl who asked us if we spoke English, I stupidly said yes and promptly had a postcard shoved in my face with some waffle about being a Bosnian refugee on it. Needless to say I politely dismissed the girl with a “Non” and thankfully she wandered off. This was to be the first of many approaches by these so called “Refugees”, also the amount of street traders hanging around outside Notre Dame (and the rest of the main tourist attractions) was quite amazing. They sold all sorts of random novelty items. It would turn out later they were very opportunistic people.

As we couldn’t check into the Hotel till after 2pm we strolled (I say strolled but in reality had to leg it across the insane French roads, trying not to get run over, this was at a crossing as well. French drivers only stop driving when they really really have to…anyway, we strolled/legged it) over the road from Notre Dame, with our suit cases, to a Café with the imaginative name of “La Notre Dame”  (I wonder what their inspiration was…hmmmm). We sat down at a little table opposite the famous Cathedral and Liz ordered some Coffees (in French too, very impressive. She speaks good French. I, on the other hand, have a very limited French vocabulary). After a while, with some coaxing from Liz, I plucked up the courage to ask the waiter “Jai’ Voudrais Deux Croque Monsieur, Ce Vous plait” (yes I know I have probably spelt it wrong). I was most pleased when the waiter replied with “Perfai Francias” (again, I can’t spell in French). This means “Perfect French”, I was dead chuffed with myself, it started me on roll (with a lot of coaxing from Liz mind you, she told me what to say and I repeated it parrot fashion J). Croque Monsieur, by the way, is a cheese and ham to toasty French style, very tasty!

After our first encounter in a Café we headed off to tackle the French Metro system to get to our Hotel. Indeed we successfully traversed the enormous network of hot sweaty Metro trains and got to our Hotel, only took 20 minutes and I managed to ask for a book of 10 tickets in French…amazing! Allegedly the hotel was 3*, I beg to differ, it certainly wasn’t by English standards, more like 2* but it served ok as base and place to sleep. I’ve stayed in worse places (package holiday accommodation). The Bed was comfy and service was good, the décor was just a bit rough around the edges and facilities basic (I’m just fussy). Oh yeah, the cleaner was still sorting the room when we arrived too, at 3pm…impressive. When we finally got the room to ourselves we collapsed in a heap for an hour or so. We had been up since Half four so were rather tired by that point. I discovered BBC World on the TV, English speaking news channel, yay!!)

After summoning up enough energy to face the world again we headed back into the centre of Paris, once again tackling the packed, hot and sweaty Metro to the Champs-Elysees. Liz really love the Metro…honest! Now the Champs-Elsysees is a very big road, it’s as long as the eye can see, so what did we do? We strolled down it! The only saving grace was that we started 3 quarters of the way down it so it was quite pleasant as we strolled towards the Louvre through Place De La Concorde and the Tuilleries (Gardens heading up to the Louvre). Occasionally we were pounced upon by more street traders but by then I mastered waving them away whilst saying “Non Merci”. We reached the Louvre and took in the splendour of it (It’s huge!) before turning around to head back up the Champs-Elysees to the Arc De Triumph. It was never gonna happen!!!! We saw how far away it was and bearing in mind it was 7pm and we also wanted to eat and go to Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower) we thought BUG**R that and headed straight towards the tower.

It took about half an hour to stroll over to the Blackpool Tower’s big brother. It’s certainly big and definitely more impressive! We stood there looking at it for bit then headed off to eat before going back to it. Just as we strolled away they switched the Tower’s lights on, WOW! The lights emphasise the iron lattices that it is constructed off. It’s a breath taking piece of engineering, it really is. We ate in a little Bistro not too far from the tower. A 3 course meal and a bottle of Wine at a candle lit table, it was quite romantic….and I asked for the bill in French (told you I was on a roll, hehe J).

After eating we headed back to the tower, got some tickets (I asked in French again!) and headed up to the top of it. By then it had gone completely dark and the tower was lit up in all its splendour. The view from the top was amazing, Paris at night, very impressive and beautiful, the lights go on for miles. Liz asked a random American (they’re everywhere in Paris, along with the Japanese) to take a picture of us (with our camera of course) and then someone asked me to take a picture of them (on our camera, only kidding, on there’s of course. There was a lot of picture taking, funny that J. We briefly explored the other levels of the tower and took in the view before hiking to the nearest Metro stop and eventually finding the entrance to it. On the metro platform, when we eventually got there, we discovered a love for Orangina, we got a bottle out of the drinks machines on the platform. That drink really s gorgeous!! After quickly downing the contents of the bottle between us we got on a metro back to the hotel. It was half eleven when we got there and we were well and truly ready to collapse. It had been a long time since either of us had done that much walking in a day but believe me, it was a bloody good day!

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