27 August 2009

An Australian Writer in Paris

When I left Madrid my stated intention was, at the very least, to see the rest Spain, along with Rome and Paris. Having checked Spain and Rome off the list (along with Morocco, Portugal and Switzerland as bonus prizes) there was nothing left but to hop one more train bound for the city of love.

I arrived in the early afternoon and checked into my hostel. Hostels in Paris have a strange convention where guest are locked out of their room from 11 or so in the morning until 4 or so in the afternoon for cleaning. I had to leave my baggage in a storage room downstairs and spend the afternoon walking around Paris which was basically what I planned on doing anyway, so it wasn’t a problem.

In the end, I got a bit carried away on my walk and ended up staying out until nearly midnight. I walked down to the Seine and then west along the Right Bank. The first thing I came across was a great big Notre Dame which someone had carelessly left on an island in the middle of the river. I decided not to go inside since the queue was very long, but instead I kept on walking downstream towards the Champs Elysees. It was at about this time that my watch told me I should head back to the hostel. However it was also at about this time that I spotted the Eiffel Tower sticking up over the buildings, so I decided to push on until I got there.

The Eiffel Tower, as it turns out, is quite large. Consequently when viewed over the tops of other buildings, it appears closer than it actually is. I did eventually get there, but not until seven o’clock that night. It was totally worth the trek though. It was getting towards dusk, and most of the tourists had cleared out to go and find some frogs’ legs, or champagne or something, so the queue at the base of the tower was relatively short. I managed to time it perfectly so that I got up to the top of the tower as the sun was going down. Watching the lights come on all over Paris from 300 metres up was absolutely beautiful, and surprisingly peaceful, given the crowds of people at the top. I stayed up there for a couple of hours at least.

I didn’t fancy trying to walk all the way back in the dark, so I decided catching the metro instead would be easier. Unfortunately the Paris metro system is not quite as logical and user friendly as the Madrid metro and I soon had the ironic pleasure of being quite literally lost alone in the Paris underground. I was expecting to be beset by Merovingians, or masked vigilantes, or the lost spirits of a thousand unanswered phone calls, or something equally poetic and alternative. As it was, I just found a map and made my way back without meeting a single other soul. So much for Bohemia.

The next day I set out to cross of a couple more must-sees off the Paris list. First stop was the Louvre. I’m not much of an art aficionado, but I made sure I saw all the important bits. There was some sort of security scare while I was there, and a whole wing got shut down just after I left. I never did find out what it was all about. In the afternoon I caught the metro out to the Arc de Triomphe. I hung around for the changing of the guard and then started to walk back down the Champs Elysees towards the river. Unfortunately I got about half way and it started to rain, so I got back on the metro and scuttled back to the hostel.

My third day in France I headed just outside the city to Versailles. I wasn’t quite ready for how amazing that place was. I allowed myself half a day there, but really it needed a full day at least. As someone who likes to spend time wandering aimlessly through acres and acres of sculptured vegetation, I could have stayed in Marie Antoinette’s backyard all day. The palaces themselves were opulently magnificent too, particularly the now infamous hall of mirrors.

After so much hedge viewing, I finally got back to central Paris thoroughly exhausted, and ready for the final phase of my trip: Mother England.

Far from home




Garry with 2 Rs
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