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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Paris, day one

On the first day in Paris: Our Arrival, the hotel, Napoleon's Tomb, Musee D'Orsay, dinner/Orangina, Arc D'Triomphe, and time for bed...

The Eurostar

Our train out, on the Eurostar to Paris via the Chunnel, was supposed to leave at 6:34 am. So, though tired from lack of sleep, we awoke grumpily but excited at 5 am, got our shit together, got Anne (who was awake!), and hopped on the bus headed for Waterloo station.

I hate taking the bus in London, as I never know where to get off, and have never taken the bus to Waterloo before. So, I was stressing myself out, trying to see in my haze of tiredness and the darkness of early morning, where the hell we were. We got off at the right stop though, and found our way to the Eurostar Terminal with plenty of time to spare. We found our seats, and settled in, tired and hungry.

However, 6:34 came and went... There were delays, the Eurostar people announced. So, Nat went and got food. Then Anne and I did. And as we settled into our seats, again, an announcement informed us that our train was cancelled. Cancelled. We were told to get off the train, and wait for the next one, leaving just after 8.

Impatient and angry, we climbed off the train, and stood on the platform. Anne and I took off to see if we could go buy a newspaper--as Kris had informed me the night before, Hunter S Thompson had comitted suicide, and I wanted to see what was in the papers about it--but we weren't allowed to leave the terminal area, and there were no places to buy things. So back to the platform. Eventually, we decided the train parked on th eother side of the platform must be ours, so we went and sat in it, probably taking up other people's seats, but not really caring.

So, eventually the train leaves, and we're on our way to Paris! The trip itself was uneventful; the chunnel isn't very interesting, and only about 15 minutes in duration. It was interesting to try to see the differences in French countryside compared to English, but teh first building we saw in France was one advertising a wine company called "Franglais." Hmm.

Our Hotel
We arrived in Gare Du Nord (which means North Station...) and took the Metro to our hotel. The Metro is exactly like the Tube--indeed, their map is a total rip off of the London underground's--except for a few key differences. First, the trains come to a sliding stop, and the doors can be opened befoer it's fully stopped, so people get off the train while it's still moving. This would never, ever happen in London. Second, they have gaps, and they don't remind you to mind them. Last, the buskers play on the trains (or at least some do).

Anyways. Our Hotel, the Sans Sebastian, was in teh Oberkampf area, and for a two star, was pretty nice. I'd reccomend it to anyone. It was cheap, the rooms were clean, and the bathrooms were huge. And, most importantly for Nat and Daorcey, who had been sleeping on my floor, there were beds.

Napoleon's Tomb

After settling in and chilling out a bit, we headed out, and wandered around a bit. Oour first stop was the Eiffel Tower. We climbed out of the metro, walked around the corner, and there it was--I was jumping around with excitement, as giddy as I was when I first saw the Houses of Parliament. It was snowing, and the view was dreary, but it's just so amazing to see something like that for real.

Nat wanted to see Napoleon's tomb, so that was our next stop. It's located in a giant, golden-domed building, and the tomb itself is massive. He really did have size issues, I suppose.

Musee D'Orsay
After that, we wandered down to one of Daorcey's favourite museums, the Musee D'Orsay... I'm rather convinced it's because he thinks it's named after him... There was a massive line up outside, which amazed me. Londoners would never line up--and pay, too!--for the National Gallery or the Tate. It was insane.

Once inside, we all split up and went our seperate ways, as I'm convinced should usually be done at a gallery. I started on the main floor, looked at some stuff, and then just admitted that I wanted to see teh Monets, so I started up the stairs. The D'Orsay is an odd collection: paintings, sculpture, architecture and furniture. It's the paintings, and specifically the famous impressionists, that make the collection so outstanding. Rooms full of Monets, Van Goghs, Renoirs--it's really quite stunning.

Sadly, the place is packed of people, and the paintings so close together, that it's hard to get a good view, and would be impossible to stand and really look for an extended period of time. Pair that with the absolute morons taking flash photos--it ruins the paintings!--and my tiredness and low blood sugar level, and I was not in a happy mood. I left the french paintings and headed for the furniture, as I rightly figured it'd be empty, and while looking at a rocking chair reminiscent of one my parents have, I saw my face in a mirror (on another piece of furniture) and realized my face was totally flushed red.

So, I went and sat down for a bit, and ran into Nat, who was also exhausted, and drank what was left in her water bottle, while we watched the security guard who looked like a young, less-good-looking Colin Firth.

Dinner... and lots o' Orangina
After we left the museum, we needed food. Desperately. So we stopped about half a block away at some nice looking cafe/restaurant. The waiter came around and ordered our drinks. Anne had a glass of water, while Natalie ordered Orangina. Thinking when in France, drink Orangina, I ordered one too, as did Daorcey.

A few minutes later, Nat makes a shocked noise. Don't ask me to describe it. Then, she says: "This orangina cost 8 euros. Each." That's a lot for orange pop...

So that pretty well set the tone for the meal. May as well have something nice to go with the 24 Euros worth of pop we ordered. Could have had three bottles of wine for that much... Insane.

Arc D'Triomphe

After dinner, Daorcey talked us into walking to the Arc D'Triomphe. We walked along the Seine and down the Champs Elysees, stopping for a coffee along the way. I'm sure it would have been even more beautiful had it not been so bloody freezing.

The Arc was built for Naopleon, so it marks some of the more important battles (subtlely leaving off Waterloo...). We paid the entrance fee, and trudged up the couple hundred stairs to the top, where natalie was freaked, being as she is scared of heights and all. The view was well worth the euros and the sore legs. You can see everywhere in Paris. Down the streets, the Eiffel Tower, all lit up, and the major churches, off in the distance.

Looking down--something Natalie didn't enjoy--you can see the six or seven lane traffic circle that runs around the Arc. Basically, this is anarachy. Watch for only a few seconds, and you'll see several narrowly averted traffic accidents. It's insanity, and it was 10pm on a Tuesday--hardly rush hour. Particularly fun to watch were the motorcycles, who didn't seem to realize that running into the side of a bus would be bad for them, not the bus. I never, ever want to take a car in that circle. Ever.

The view of the Eiffel Tower was amazing. When we first saw it earlier in the day, it seemed so black and dull--I'd always imagined it to look golden. At night, with the lights on it, it finally did look coated in gold. At one point, it suddenly started flashing brightly--it was covered in, well, Christmas lights, it looked, and blinking and glittering. Imagine it--this grand, huge tower, glittering. It was stunning.

After the Arc, exhausted, we went back to the hotel, stopping on the way for wine... Not like we needed the help sleeping...

Pictures, with commentary:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've clearly lied to people. In your photo commentary you mention the Alamo incident and say it's in the blog. It's not. Liar. Booo.



Blogger Nicole said...

Bloody hell woman. I don't have it up yet! Give me time!



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