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Paris, Part Two

 

Our second day in Paris, we went to the basement for our complimentary breakfast. It was cosy and cramped, but exciting to eat croissants and baguettes in a stone basement. Ham and cheese was the filling of choice, and with breakfast behind us, we headed out into the cold day. The metro was starting to make sense to us and we found ourselves on the most beautiful bridge:

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From which we could see a most astounding structure:

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Full expecting it was not going to meet expectations because how hyped up it has been in the past, there was no disappointment here. It is as majestic and stately as any description you have heard before:

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We found our way to the Arc de Triomphe and it does live up to its name! However, the roundabout is super chaotic, it’s any wonder we didn’t see a number of accidents while we were there! Mind you, it can’t help that we (and dozens of other tourists) were just milling about the median strip. It makes for good photos though:

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For a while we thought we were going to have to leg it across the hair-raising intersection to make it under the Arc itself, and then we noticed the underground stairs, so we made it safely across without crossing moving traffic.

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It was now time for a stroll down Champs Elysees, which I’m not certain, but I think roughly translates to “Avenue of Car Showrooms”. Peugeot, Mercedes, Toyota, Citroen, Renault all had Christmas spaces with a few cars and plenty of branded knick-knacks for sale.

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Partway through our stroll, I noticed a ‘creperie’ down a side street and we decided it was time for lunch. I had a truly French crepe and it was thoroughly enjoyable. We carried on towards the Christmas markets which were a welcome diversion and we followed the sights and sounds, and the distracting shops all the way to end the street. We hopped on the nearest metro and made our way to Notre Dame.

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It is a beautiful building form the outside (the line was too long to go in). We stood and marvelled at the many carvings, both Ben and I wishing we knew more about the symbolism represented in the carvings and doing our best to describe what we knew.

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As we meandered further and the evening turned to night time, we realised that Paris favours those who can spend money. The shopping looked luxurious, the bars and restaurants lively (but expensive) and the hotels nearer the city centre looked inviting. So the verdict is, Paris is a nice city, that smells like wee, and is most fun when you travel on more than a student budget.

 

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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in travel

 

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Paris, Part One

Paris wore me out too much to keep up with the blogging.

Catching the train from Rotterdam to Paris was a breeze. The train ride itself was pleasant and straightforward, despite the lack of room for suitcases. You’re allowed to take 2 large suitcases per person. Do they make provisions for two large suitcases per person? Don’t be silly. Plus it was then that my suitcase handle decided to jam, so stowing it was not easy. (The train ride did jostle it free again, so suitcase was fine going onwards). The Belgian and French countryside provided an excellent backdrop to the journey and three hours was over before we knew it. We had arrived in Paris.

After being spoiled by the beauty of the Netherlands, Paris did not make a good first impression. The other train passengers in the metro were quite protective of whatever space they had claimed and weren’t keen on travellers with suitcases. Plus it smelled like wee. Then we got off the train and the city smelled like wee and cigarettes. However it was a surprise to emerge from the underground train station and be staring at the Moulin Rouge. Turns out we were in some kind of red light district.

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The hotel we stayed at wasn’t great. I know you get what you pay for and a student budget won’t allow you to pay for much, so the tiny room and the disrepair didn’t bother me. I think the mould bothered me the most. It wasn’t a great start at all. But we pulled ourselves together and decided to see if a wander might improve our outlook on the city.

It did.

Rather than getting strait back on the metro, we took a wander down to a more direct metro station and discovered the pretty streets of Paris, narrow and cobbled. Beautiful buildings dotted our walk.

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Finally we hopped on the metro and hopped off to discover the Louvre. And the giddiness began!

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These things I had seen in pictures and read about were now before my very eyes! The other things before my eyes was the incredibly long line to get in. I had read about ‘hidden’ entrances to the Louvre, so I decided we were best off searching for them. After walking in circles/the wrong direction for a while, looking for number 99 and the underground shopping centre, we decided to call it a night and give up trying to get in the Louvre. Time to hunt for some food. Heading back towards the metro, what should I spy but number 99, the underground shopping centre! Dinner forgotten, the Louvre entry was back on the cards! We found the inverted pyramid and the ticket seller. It took about 5 minutes to purchase tickets, which allowed us priority entry at the main entrance. Heading towards the main entry, we gained our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.

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At the Louvre entry, we walked straight in, got scanned for bombs and we were in the clear! The whole process was still quicker than lining up at the main entry. We were stoked!

The Louvre is an enormous warren of more treasures than you can possibly take in. Here is Athena, in her many forms:

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And Artemis, in her many forms:

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We went inside an Egyptian tomb:

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Were astounded by the Islamic mosaics:

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There was this big statue as well:

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We wended our way to the Italian paintings:

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A Da Vinci:

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Finally arriving at the Mona Lisa:

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But the real beauty is what stands opposite the Mona Lisa, The Wedding Feast at Cana:

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This painting filled the entire wall, yet the majority of the crowd spends their time with their back to the beautiful vista, because of a small, dark portrait of an unknown woman. People like to force their way forward to take their photo next to the portrait, so here is a picture of Ben taking a picture of the painting. It’s as good as we were going to get.

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It had been hours in the Louvre, seeing many astonishing artefacts, and weariness was beginning to get the best of us, so we left and headed for some food. Procuring food was more difficult than we had anticipated. The language barrier was far more of a struggle than we thought it would be, despite most people being able to speak English. However, we did find some food and then headed back home to collapse straight into bed. The pouring rain had dampened our desire to explore much more, but Paris had improved!

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in travel

 

Tags: , , , , , ,