Travel Tips Part 14: Paris, France

Paris is notably one of the most romantic, iconic cities in the world; so you feel rather disappointed when you’re instead greeted with a dreary, shit-hole of a city. You’ve begun this next part of your European adventure with one of your best-friends from high-school – Mik. You and Mik have always had a fondness for pulling the piss out of each other, and generally not taking things all too seriously. Many times in class you were told off for cackling too loudly at yet another fart joke, penis joke, or anything that could imply any sexual innuendo, in other words: you two were a pair of dickheads.

Unfortunately for Mik, she has met up with you during the last leg of your trip, and your lack of enthusiasm and overall tiredness was not something that you had both planned on happening. You already miss home terribly, and you feel exhausted at the prospect of having to catch more trains, stay in more hostels, and continue to have no personal space. You make an effort to be excited as she is, but it becomes more and more clear that you are no longer enjoying yourself – something to which you feel completely ungrateful and ridiculous about. You decide to talk to Mik about it, and considering that she’s not an idiot, she understands that this is how you’re feeling, and this understanding makes you all the more grateful to be traveling with a good friend. To make matters  only the more worse, you haven’t slept a wink all night: for New Years Eve you celebrated by going to a friend’s house in London for drinks and 90s pop hits, before getting on the tube to Heathrow at 4 o-clock in the morning. Your flight was at 7am which at the time seemed like a fine idea, but you and your body are now thoroughly regretting it: you’re sleep deprived, anxious, and un-showered; in other words: “Don’t, under any circumstances, fuck with me.”

Once you’re in Paris, you take the smelliest metro to your hotel, and unfortunately have to wait an hour while your room is made up. You take off your bags and walk back down the road in search of food. You find a small bakery with a queue of Parisians outside, so you assume that this is the place to be. Being overwhelmed by the amount of food on offer, and the fact that your ever-so-basic French is awful, you order 2 chocolate croissants and run. You devour the croissants, and are soon let into your lodging for the next 3 days.  After paying, you cram yourself, Mik, and both of your gigantic backpacks into the world’s-tiniest-elevator – cosy and completely comical. You’re relieved to find your hotel room is small and cute, equipped with its own en suite bathroom – plus a lovely view over the bohemian flats of Paris. Things start to look up when you sternly tell yourself that a) you’re in freaking Paris and b) stop acting like a spoilt child. Apparently the hard-but-fair talk doesn’t work on yourself, because even after a hot shower in the world’s-tiniest-shower, you still feel a dark cloud hanging over your head.

You decide to beat the tiredness and lift your spirits by going for a walk in this new city, (i)

(i)                  Okay, not entirely new: I’ve been to Paris twice before with my parents when I was younger, and I actually managed to like it back then – odd.

but are instead greeted with grey sky, wind and light rain – bein sur! Your first stop is the beautiful L’Arc De Triomphe – an overwhelming building that stands tall over the flock of tourists posing for photos. Mik wants to know if we can visit the other side – you recall once standing underneath it, but have no idea how to get over, so you decide to take a mad dash across one of the world’s most dangerous intersections, getting angrily beeped at by the cars screaming past. After taking a look around, you take another mad dash to the other side, and throw some air punches “Rocky-style” at the safer end. Only later you will find out that there is a tunnel underground connecting both sides – oops. As you begin your walk down the street, the air-vent from the Metro lifts your poncho over your head without the sophistication of Marilyn, thereby inducing stares and yells of “Sexy girl!” from an old Frenchman nearby.

You walk down some winding streets taking photos until you see the peak of the iconic Eiffel Tower; confirming that you are indeed in Paris! You both run excitedly run along until you find the icon – being everything you expected it to be seeing as you’ve seen it once before. You run along the bridge and stand under the looming structure taking cheesy photos, before you buy an overly expensive crepe from a stall nearby – how French! You begin walking back over the park and through some Christmas markets, when an overwhelming tiredness comes over both of you. After having not gone to sleep the previous night, at 3 o-clock this afternoon your bodies are shutting down. You take the Metro back to your hotel, have a shower, do some reading, and much to Mik’s protests, fall asleep at 5pm. She said that you will end up waking up at midnight and will want to get up – instead, you sleep for a surprising 17 hours straight and wake up the next morning at 10.

The next day you wake up and order a disappointing breakfast at the local café, then set off again in search for more French icons.  You take a 40 minute Metro ride until you get to Père Lachaise Cemetery, the expansive cemetery holding dozens of famous corpses, including your idol Jim Morrison. This was one of the experiences you were insistent about before your trip to Paris, as The Doors and Jim have been your favourite group of smelly musicians since you were 15 and read the autobiography by the drummer John Densmore; Riders On The Storm. For the first hour or so you walk around the beautiful cemetery in search for Oscar Wilde. You’re both creeped out as you walk past ancient family tombs, rotting with mould and creaking with unhinged gates and doors. Every photo you take looks both eerie and stunning at the same time, as the sun is shining over a blue sky – something that instantly makes you feel better. After wandering around aimlessly for a while, you eventually buy a map and visit the graves of Marcel Proust, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde (with a smooch), and The Lizard King himself. Jim’s grave is surrounded by a fence to ward off fanatic fans from stealing his tomb: a framed picture of him resides in a centre of beautiful flowers, a glass of whiskey and beer bottles.  Nearby, someone plays music on an acoustic guitar, while others write words of love onto the trees surrounding Jim’s grave. After scratching your own message on a tree, you walk away and stroll through the rest of the labyrinth.

After your visit, you walk into a local café and order lunch, forcing yourself to practise your broken French once again. Your order something that you assume if bready and cheesy, and you’re both apprehensive about the surprise to come: turns out you ordered a couple of grilled-cheese sandwiches, French style! Your sandwich has melted cheese with tomatoes between two bits of bread, with more melted cheese on top. Mik’s is much the same but ham instead of tomatoes and a fried egg to accompany the melted cheese on top. Plus a bowl of fries. Can you say, healthy? After gorging yourself on lunch, you waddle back towards the main train station which takes you a good hour of walking. You buy your tickets for the next few days and then head back to the Metro to visit the Louvre. By the time you get there, the museum would be closing in an hour, so you instead opt for the free option of wandering around outside taking photos of the beautiful building. Feeling proud that you’ve managed to see a lot of Paris on a shoestring, you continue this cheap day by taking a Metro to the Notre Dame, to simply take more photos – this way you can still say you’ve actually been there.

As it starts to get dark and yet colder, you decide to opt for a cheap dinner of a Subway sandwich back at your hotel room – you also buy a crème brullee in order to make the meal seem more French. (ii)

(ii)                In our defence – it’s extremely expensive to eat out in Paris.

You climb into bed early to read and fall asleep at a boring time, as you both have to wake up at 5.30 the next morning to catch the train to Barcelona.

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