Friday, May 19, 2006

Trip to Paris, Part 1

Firstly I have to say how much I really enjoyed being in Paris, it was only 2 and a bit days, it is a wonderful city to visit and one me and Z will be going back to again.

But winding back to the trip and how it all started.

We had a very early start, we were needing to catch the first tube of the day from the local tube station, and when the tube was playing up, we feared the worst, and thankfully we got to Waterloo in time, only to find a massive queue because there was a problem with the passport reader!

But once we were able to get on the Eurostar, things seemed so much smoother and running so much better, we were both relieved that it looked like things would be good, the weather was getting sunnier and though we were both tired, very tired, we were glad to be getting away on our first trip abroad together, where we weren’t visiting one or other’s family.

It is a very smooth ride, was very surprised just how smooth, you expect I suppose it to be a more bumpy especially with all we are used to in this country, but it was a joy not to be thrown around the carriage and we could relax, take it easy.

After a few hours, we disembarked in Paris, not sure where to go, in my wisdom I hadn’t double checked the location of the hotel and the nearest metro station. Given that we had to get city passports and a metro pass for 3 days, it meant finding an information desk, and with me worrying if I was going to struggle to explain what we were needing, it was a joy when the man in the booth spoke English, though very softly spoken, but there was none of the stereotypical arrogance we are led to believe that Parisians refuse to speak English, and we found this throughout the whole time there, they were very friendly, and helpful, especially the older generation, whereas those of our own age seemed less so, what does that say?

Anyway, armed with our metro passes for 3 days which only cost £11 each, which is bloody cheap, anyone would know in comparison to the Tube. We also had the directions for the hotel, which was very useful, and though we found a quicker way to get to the nearest Metro when there, it was good to have the starting point. We were staying at hotel Auteuil near to the station Ranelagh, which is about 20 minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower so we were very happy with that, and it is also in an area that would be called a suburb in this country, plenty of residential in the area, so not in the very centre of bustling city, but not far out either.

Well once we were checked into the hotel, we got to the room and went about sorting things out, lo and behold I couldn’t figure out the lights, when I press light switches they usually turn on the lights, but in this hotel, it had a different system, it had a master switch by the door which allowed you to turn all lights off or on with a single flick of the switch, not something I have used before. After that embarrassment, we were just taking in the sights from the window when someone knocked on the door and then entered immediately without even waiting, which I personally think is rude, not what you expect, and we had it happen twice, once for the minibar and the other being the cleaner. I learnt very quickly to stick the do not disturb tag on the door, to stop them!

Given it was now gone lunchtime we decided to go for a walk and take in the local area, and see what existed. It was a very nice area, plenty of local shops, and places to get food for breakfast, lunch, etc. The hotel wanted 16 Euros each for a breakfast, we managed to spend that in two days for lunch and breakfast for that. Spending 64 Euros for two breakfasts seems excessive in my mind, especially when the locals go to the local shops and get their food, so we did the same, getting some lovely food, very nice indeed.

We made our way to the Eiffel Tower area and just took it in, as we wanted to just get an idea of the area, and that is when found out some of the less pleasant sides of Paris, one being the streets being covered in animal crap, be it dog, bird, etc, it was everywhere, not what we expected, maybe they deal with things differently, but they really had a lot on their streets.

The Eiffel Tower is an amazing structure, you do look at awe at it, and you just imagine what it will be like up there, as well as the views, and it is better than you can imagine.

Given Z was feeling very tired, we went back to the hotel so that she could have a little shut eye prior to going out to the Brasserie Balzar, which was recommended in a number of places.

When we went to the Brassiere Balzar, I have to say I wasn’t that impressed and the food itself wasn’t that great. We both didn’t find the food that good, service was pretty good, and they didn’t rely on us to speak French, they were happy to converse in English, of course making it all the better. Me, being me, order a sausage with chitterlings, and I didn’t know what chitterlings was, big mistake. The sausage made me want to retch, it was awful, seriously awful, and it was just me. Z tried it as well, and she felt sick too. Her own food was some salmon which was okay, but nothing special. It was a disappointment to be honest, I was expecting so much more, but the Balzar wasn’t all that had been promised, but I suppose that is what happens. We were only in there for such a short period of time, not much more than 30 minutes, I don’t think I have ever been so quick in a restaurant, probably never will again.

After that less than great exposure to French food, we decided to go to the Notre Dame, and see the amazing building, especially as it was still light and we were close by.

This building, if you have never seen it, is beautifully done, it is a wonderful building, for those who love architecture, and it is no surprise why it stands out, all great carvings on the building, all the statuettes on the buildings wall and roof, making it an imposing building. As it was getting darker, the building just grows with the dusk, fitting more and more in, the style of it, fighting a darker landscape, especially against a flash of a camera taking a picture.

The last thing we decided to do that night was to head to the Eiffel Tower and go up at night, we had been advised it was the best time to go, partly because it is supposed to be quieter, and the views more stunning.

It only cost us 11 Euros each, which I think is quite cheap to go all the way to the top floor of the tower, very good in my opinion. As for quieter, it would have been except for the rabble of German 15/16 year olds who seemed to be a little tipsy and didn’t seem to be with their teacher, and were determined to make as much noise as possible. Made me feel tempted to see if there was a way to throw them over the side without anyone noticing. This is the same bunch of Germans who were determined to deface the Tower with graffiti, maybe they were trying to take over again, 60+ years later, who knows.

There were lots of foreigners there of course, English, Slovak, Americans, Japanese, Germans, etc. I don’t think there were many French people, but that doesn’t surprise me.

The views were great, I have done the Empire State Building and though I believe that to be taller, the views that come from that building, aren’t not as impressive as the Eiffel, I feel in the main because of the surrounding architecture in Paris is more impressive than in New York, just an opinion. At night, the Eiffel is just so different, it has flashing lights on it at certain points and a beacon of light going out for the most part.

Whichever end we were, the views that accompanied the direction were great, one side you had the Trocadero, another was the mini statue of liberty they have there, etc, etc. For me the last section was the one I felt a little light legged, I tend to suffer from vertigo so probably not the best idea to go up to the top. But it was in the lift to the final top section I felt my legs give a little, otherwise it was ok, never happened before, I think it might just be the way the lift moves, or possibly you have more a view of outside when going up. Even so, I was transfixed on all I could see, just wanting to take it all in, like a child who has been shown the outside for the first time in life, it was just fantastic.

Of course we took plenty of pictures, all in all for 2 and bit days, Z has over 200 pictures, quite a lot. I am so glad we went up in the evening, and would recommend going at night, I can see why so many do, especially as it goes from early evening to night, when it goes from like a dusk to pitch black, changing all that you perceive when you are up there.

After staying up there for quite a while and feeling a little cold as the wind was beginning to be biting we decide to make our way back to the hotel to rest up and sleep and take it easy for the rest of the weekend.

1 comment:

ia said...

It's weird - the one place I've ever had a problem with hieghts was walking up the outside of the Eiffel tower. A mutual friend will confirm that I got 1/2 way up and had to walk back down again - it was very strange.

Empire State, World Trade Center, Seers tower (presented there in a corner room with floor-ceiling windows!) no problems at all.

I think you may be onto something with the openness of the tower..