Paris - The Buenos Aires of the North
Trip Start Apr 02, 2008
28Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Hotel Oceana, Port du Versailles
So on Good Friday (a Bank Holiday), all five of us arose at the ungodly hour of 2.45am (TWO FORTY-FIVE AM?!?) and piled our sleepy selves and backpacks into the car. My sister's boyfriend James drove us down to Dover to get the super-fast 'Chunnel' (Channel Tunnel train to Calais). I only really woke up once we got to France, even sleeping in the unconfortable middle of the back of the car (actually no big surprise after a whole 3 hours sleep). We got to the ring road around Paris and could just catch a glimpse of the beautiful and erect Eiffel Tower, which made me squeal inn delight (I never get bored of it). However, between my sister Sophie, my mum Michele and me, we couldn't for the life of us remember the name of our hotel, and after cruising around the area for 15 minutes gave in and resorted to stopping by an internet cafe. Even then, none of us could find the hotel confirmation in our emails, but Google saved the day, as usual - and when we left the internet cafe realised the hotel's name was written in enormous neon letters across the rearview mirror! We did a U-ey and checked in.
LUSH hotel! Swimming pool, massage parlours, glass wetrooms for bathrooms in each room. As tempted as we were to stay and lounge in the hotel, we dumped our stuff and took the Paris metro to the Sacre-Coeur, the magnificent cathedral that was built as a guilt offering and a vote of confidence to cure France's misfortunes after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian war, and which sits atop the city like a pearly guardian angel, dominating the Paris skyline.
We just missed the end of a Good Friday service and had to fight out way through hundreds of people in order to approach, who poured away from both inside the church but also those who had gathered outside to listen to the service, even though they couldn't partake. The cathedral's inners were as spectacular as I had remembered, particularly illuminated by the swarms of candles lit by Easter's worshippers. We calmly walked around and went downstairs to the crypt, which was choked up by a line of people 80 long and 4 thick who were queuing to attend confession.
We left and made our way into the Artist's Quarters, situated behind the basilica and rammed with toursist, as usual. We decided it was 'beer-o'clock' and found a seat to enjoy mugs of beer accompanied by frites to keep us going, whilst enjoying the buzz of French's famous cafe culture.
Feeling refreshed, we wandered our way down the hill and into the city's streets, vaguely heading towards the Seine to admire the glass pyramids at the Louvre. The walk took at least an hour, so by the time we got the famous art gallery, we decided (or maybe my mum did) it was time for another beer. Either way, another one was consumed and we began to feel a little tiddly. :)
Sophie, James and my mum were starting to feel the effects of the early morning and the travelling (nothing to do with the beer then?!) and returned to the hotel to rest before the evening. However, Ed and I were still raring to go and on a Parisian high, so took a very long walk along the Seine towards la Tour Eiffel. The beer was starting to run through me at this point, but luckily a green portaloo appeared on the river's banks. I was gratefully using its facilities, being carefully not to make contact with its grimy surfaces (we all know what portaloos can be like - this one was particularly bad), when Ed threw open the door and displayed my semi-naked self to the Seine (fortunately) and the bridge crossing it just yards to our left (unfortunately). I wish I could say I pissed myself but I was already doing that.... :$
We finally made it to the Eiffel Tower and joined the long queue to climb up one of its legs to the second floor. Despite the hour's wait and the light rain, the view was worth every step. Paris splayed itself in every direction before our eyes, and we could spot famous sites such as the Arc de Triomph, the Louvre and Sacre Coeur where we had been earlier, the Place de Concorde and the Park Tulieres. It was awesome - and even warranted a phone call to Madeira to boast of our location :)
We stayed up the Eiffel Tower, right at the top, until the sun set and Paris's rues were slowly illuminated by street lights below us, even appreciating the 2 million lights that make the Tower sparkle despite not being able to see it from the ground. I was exhausted and we wearily made our way back to Port du Versaille where Sophie, James and my mum met us at the metro station. It was 10pm and dark by this time and we hadn't eaten anything of substance since the frites that morning, seemingly days ago. We entered an empty and very typically French cafe, but the owner told us from behind his bar that the kitchen had closed. The disappointment on our faces was clearly apparent, and we contemplated finding somewhere else, but knowing it was late and we were likely out of luck. However, he appeared to change his mind, and though none of us could converse fluently with him, we understood that he would prepare us some cold meat sandwiches.
We gratefully sat down and tucked into a gorgeous and heavy French red wine, the weariness replaced by the drink's warmth. Shortly after, and to our absolute delight, five enormous plates of juicy steak and chips were whooshed out of the kitchen and set before our salivating mouths! Amazing! We cooed and Merci-ed for ages, before wolfing down what seemed the most gratifying meal of our lives!
Superbly satisfied, it was only minutes after we finished our meals that we made it into bed, knackered by almost 20 hours straight of Paris in the Spring.