Eye full at the Eiffel

Trip Start Mar 21, 2010
Trip End Mar 16, 2011

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Saturday, July 3, 2010

3 JULY 2010 - We checked out of our hotel in Tours this morning at 11am.  Our bus wasn’t going to pick us up until 4.30pm.  We were able to leave our bags in the reception area and the guy gave us the key to return as he was closed between 1-5pm (good life hey). We walked around town again to kill some hours and also went shopping.  We finally found some fat clothes for Mary (H &M and C & A) stores were great, I even bought a dress, believe it, a dress.  The last time I bought a dress was for my wedding 8 years ago.  They had so much variety of clothing and lots of different sizes so it made shopping just a bit more pleasurable and the best bit there are sales on at the moment so lots of bargains.  

We went back to our great bakery just up the road from the tourist information centre.  We bought a quiche each and after a while went back to our hotel to grab our bags.  The guy gave us some keys and we open the first door but couldn’t open the second door which wasn’t meant to be locked.  So we started to worry because the hotel was closed and we thought oh my god we aren’t going to make it to Paris tonight.  Finally a guy, a resident in the same building came along and opened the door and we dived in.  We grabbed our bags, left the key behind and left.  We walked to our pick up point and waited for our bus. 

Driving along to Paris the countryside isn’t too impressive, lots of flat dry land.  Sorry to say what we have seen on the French countryside hasn’t been too impressive.  We are NOT been biased but the best countryside is definitely in Italy by far, its just absolutely stunning especially around Cinque Terre and Tuscany region.   

We were on the outskirts of Paris and Troy was getting excited.  We got a brief glance of the Eiffel Tower and we also saw some major sights whilst on the bus.  We were stuck in traffic and turned my head and saw two African dudes sitting in the middle of road where it was also their home with cut out cardboard boxes as their beds.  One was cutting other guy’s hair. I said out loud “while we are waiting can Troy go and get a haircut?”, everyone laughed.  As the African dude cutting turned and noticed a bus load of people were checking him out he got all embarrassed and waved.  He even did some sign language to us to come and get a hair cut off him.  We all laughed.  It was better to see that than seeing the scooter rider riding up next to me and he was in between our bus and a car, just a bit scary looking.  
We got to our drop off point and were a bit worried about how to get to our hotel as we didn’t book at the drop off hotel.  We are staying at Hotel Avenir.  We got directions from our guide and along with another couple from Brisbane we all went to the Crimee metro station to do two trips to our hotel.  We had to get on the pink line to Stalingrad and then got on the blue line to Anvers.  Our hostel was across the road and it took us about 35 minutes.  We are in the Montmartre area and it seems like a sort of ‘seedy’ part of Paris but we are directly across from the Sacre Coeur church which looks beautiful and we are near the Molin Rouge.  

We check in our hotel with the other couple and we go up to our room.  Mary, silly me left my day pack downstairs and freaked out when I went down to reception and it was gone. It is so easy to do when your so tired, no sleep and travel a lot.  I was so lucky that the other couple we travelled with had it in their room.  We found them and I got back.  We checked out the view from their room, AMAZING their room was directly in front of the Sacre Coeur church, fantastic view.  Our room is very basic, its old but we have a comfortable bed and decent shower.  The bathroom is very old but its functional and clean so that is good. We were a bit concerned considering we read quite a few negative reports on this hotel.  We overlook a pub that is roaring at the moment because there are a lot of Spanish fans and its very noisy outside.  There was one girl sitting outside the pub in a wedding dress and black leather jacket.  I had no idea, did she just get married or is it a fancy dress?  No one else looked like they were dressed for a wedding, very odd! We relaxed in our room and then went for a short walk to get a drink.  We got back to our room to chill out.  We arrived late and didn’t go out to explore.

4 JULY 2010 - We had our breakfast delivered to our room at 8am.  It was a tray with croissants, bread rolls, jam, butter, tea, juice and cream cheese.  We ate breakfast and then headed out for a day of exploring.  Today is Sunday and the first Sunday of each month its free to get into the Louvre so this museum is our first stop.  The original plan was on the day Troy goes to the Louvre Mary goes shopping for clothes.  It didn’t happen, Mary bought clothes yesterday and decided well its free I will go.  We spent 4 hours at the Louvre and its a massive place and a beautiful building.  We arrive at 10am and it wasn’t packed.  We got in straightaway, fabulous.  Mary says to Troy “lets go and see the ugly Mona Lisa first”, so we did.  We seriously don’t understand what all the fuss is about, its a small portrait of an ugly woman.  It was behind glass and the room was packed with tourists taking photos.  Must admit we are so surprised that you can take photos in this museum considering you cannot do it any other museum we have seen.  Anyway even Troy says “lets go and see some better art”.  Seriously there is so much better portraits here that are so much more beautiful than Monna Lisa (yes its spelt with two n’s).  Apparently we were told to see this place thoroughly you would need 9 months, 4 hrs is more than plenty for Mary (not a huge fan of museums).  I only went along with Troy because it was free.

We left the Louvre and walked through the Tuileries gardens.  We also walked up the Champs’Elysees which is a very long street with stacks of posh shops and restaurants.  We even popped into the Quiksilver shop which was huge and packed with shoppers. We couldn’t believe seeing the big line up just to get into the Louis Vuitton store. We got to the Arc de Triomphe and watched the crazy driving and witnessed a car accident.  By this time we already spent most of the day out and we went back to our hotel to relax and get out of the heat for a while.  Later we decided to catch the metro to the Moulin Rouge.  It was only two metro stops away (stop at Blanche).  We get out of the metro and there it is, the famous Moulin Rouge with loads of people hanging around.  We took the “have to” photo and saw the “Quick” restaurant next door so we thought of the Quicks at home. We wanted to find a supermarket but there aren’t easy to find especially when they are closed.  We walked down one end of the same street as Moulin Rouge and the further we got down the more dodgy it felt.  There were heaps of men trying to sell you cigarettes and heaps of groups of guys hanging around the streets and we thought mmmm we don’t like it here. We decided to turn back and head home to find somewhere to eat.  We caught the train back to our metro stop and it took us sometime to decide where to eat.  We found a place that wasn’t too expensive.  Troy had snails, yucko! they looked like they were covered with pesto and they looked disgusting. Troy didn’t like the first one but says that they were alright but he wouldn’t eat them again. He had a hard time trying to get the buggers out of the shell. He had a great steak, chips and salad after that as a fixed price menu.  Mary ordered a salad but got the wrong one.  I explained to the waiter but he was convinced mine was right but it wasn’t, asked me if I still wanted it and I said no.  I eventually got my salad and it was pretty good.

A couple next to us tried to get the waiter’s attention and when they did he wasn’t too impressed, he gave them a dirty look and asked them to wait and then the waiter looked at me and did the sign of the cross (like to say god help me).  Mmmm the couple weren’t impressed and I thought the waiter was rude. Waiters here just can’t seem to cope with anyone wanting to be served if they are just even looking like to be busy which isn’t always the case.  I must admit sometimes there isn’t enough waiters working in restaurants.

As we were having dinner we saw the Busabout bus drive past.  So yes the bus does past our hotel as we were in the same street and actually could stop up the road a bit because heaps of buses park there.... Mmmm not too impressed, if only they could of dropped us off but no they don’t do that because its not the drop off point.  

We got back to our room and opened the balcony doors.  You could see directly in front of us into someone’s dining room.  They were having dinner and they waved to us and asked us if we are glad to be in Paris.  It was funny, we said yes but we have no wine.  They showed us their wine and we said to the “cheers”. It was cool.  

We have found that most of the French even in Paris have been great, of course not everyone but that has been only a few.  We have always tried to use our very limited French all the time and it does get us by and then if they speak English they will.  Most of the French we have come across have been helpful and majority speak good English. We have found them to be very helpful especially with directions as quite a few times we have had locals come up to us and help us find which way to go. Some you just want to punch out but hey I could of done that anywhere.

Just want to mention that well must say that majority of the food in France hasn’t been fantastic.  We honestly thought the food would be great but we haven’t had that.  The pastries and sweets are beautiful.  We have both said that the food in Spain has been the best by far. 

Enough for today, we are now going to break our huge meringue and get a huge sugar fix.   

5 JULY 2010 -   After breakfast in our room we went to spoke to Tony for a while, it was great to hear from him.  Tony its all your fault, every time I see a dog I get your voice in my head saying “Does your dog bite” and I laugh, I think its funny.  

We went to Notre Dame cathedral.  There was heaps of police around here and we didn’t find out why.  We joined the long queues and it was free to get in.  A beautiful church both inside and out.  We each lit a candle for Renee in this church which of course made me quite teary.  July is not a good month, our little girl would of been a gorgeous 3 year old this month, who in the hell thinks it would get easier because it doesn’t ??? 

We had to go back to our hotel because Mary silly Mary forgot the spare battery for the camera.  We had lunch at a nearby kebab joint which had friendly staff and not bad for 5 euro.  We jumped back on the metro and went to the Eiffel Tower.  There were millions of tourists everywhere and its a huge tower.  Mary has been here before and I suppose Paris isn’t new to me.  We walked around for a while in the hot sun and decided not to join the massive queues to go up the tower.  We saw heaps of guys selling souvenirs, millions of Eiffel towers everywhere and some selling 5 little towers for 1 euro, one guy we think was really desperate and even offered us 7 for 1.  One guy asked 10 euro for one small tower and we just laughed at him, he thinks we are so stupid to pay that price. 

We went to the restaurant and checked out the prices.  Holy smokes its incredibly expensive.  Entrees start around 66 euro, mains start around 76 euro and desserts start around 26 euro.  A cheap bottle of champagne cost 150 euro and the expensive one 250 euro. So roughly for two of us to eat dinner there would cost about 500 euro (around $750 or more).  It would wanna be really good!

We bought a few little souvenirs and then returned to our hotel.  We relaxed for a while and went out for dinner at the pub downstairs.  Some locals were sitting nearby and had a dog sitting at the table with them, mmm they take there dogs everywhere.  Troy had chicken and veges and Mary had ravioli.  It was pretty good, nothing great. 

An emotional night for Mary, July is a horrible month emotionally and tears were happening.  I just wish I was a Mum to Renee in life and that is all I ever wanted.  I hate July, I hate July as our little girl would of been a beautiful 3 year old this month.  I am sure only Troy and I would think of that. Travelling doesn’t stop the pain, it just follows us for life.

6 JULY 2010 - After breakfast we headed to Basilique du Sacre Coeur which was just across the road and up a hill from our hotel.  We caught the funicular up to the church.  Its beautiful and we walked inside for free. You had to be very quite or you would be told off.  At this church you would see great views of Paris.  

We then went to nearby Place du Tertre which was once was the main square of Montmartre but these days it has lots of cafes, restaurants, tourists and painters where tourists were getting a portrait of themselves painted or a silhouette cut out of your face.  This area is gorgeous so while Troy went to the Dali exhibition I went exploring around town.  I saw the most gorgeous restaurant here called Poulbot.  

I had a crepe of butter and sugar but it wasn’t the nicest because it was already pre-cooked and heated up.

We went back to our hotel for a quick stop and then headed out to a nearby supermarket to grab some stuff for our picnic at the Eiffel Tower. We tried to find the Liberty memorial which also has a memorial for Princess Diana but we couldn’t find it as we ended up at the Statue of Liberty instead.  Oh well it was a nice walk there and now we don’t have to go to New York (ha ha). 

We got to the Eiffel tower and laid down the picnic blanket (sarong) and the food.  It was so busy with lots of people picnicking and kids playing soccer and teachers screaming. We had olives, ham, baguettes, brie, tomato, dip, chocolate and wine.  The wine wasn’t great and we drank it out of the bottle (forgot glasses) so we probably looked like alcos but who cares!  We had a nice lie down for a while staring at the tower and it was so nice to relax and do nothing for a few hours.  

We were going to climb the Eiffel Tower but decided that you would get better views at the Montparnasse Tower as you would see the tower in the views.  So true, its better and cheaper!  So we headed off to the Montparnasse Tower which is only a big office block.  We went up to the 56th floor and had some fantastic views of Paris with the tower.  We got here about 6.30pm and about 7.30pm we decided to stay till it gets dark.  So we hung around for 4 hours or so and it was getting a bit boring after a while.  We went back on the rooftop and saw the sunset which didn’t happen till about 10.00pm.  It didn’t start getting dark till after 10.00pm.  The tower glitters once every hour on the hour for 5 minutes.  We saw it all glittery and gorgeous at 10.00pm.  It wasn’t till Mary asked a staff member how often the tower glitters that we realised its only hourly as we understood it was more often.  So we left the Montparnasse Tower at 10.30pm to try to make it to Eiffel Tower by 11.00pm.  We just made it but didn’t see the entire tower glitter but only saw a part of it through the trees.  We went to take some night photos of the entire tower.  This place is always packed with tourists and the line up to go up the tower was insane during the day and night.  We try to avoid the many gypsies here that become annoying and so tempted to tell them to get a job. Police here are walking around with guns and I would be safe to say this would be pick pocketers heaven.  We walked around for a while,  big kiss under the tower and then left.  

The amount of tourists here in Paris is insane.  There are so many long queues here its crazy and never seen so many eiffel towers for sale, there are millions of the buggers, some that even glitter and are so beautifully tacky.  We have been quite lucky as we get some of the major sights early so the queues haven’t been bad for us but unfortunately we haven’t been able to always avoid those big tour groups.  The trains get so jammed packed that sometimes it feels for me a little suffocating as its hot and stuffy and also I am always watching our backs and pockets.

Oh yeah as of today we have decided that when we get asked where we are from we are going to say Sydney.  We are so sick of the negative snarls and remarks we have been getting from other tourists that its become annoying and we still have many more months to go. 

7 JULY 2010 - After a late start and breakfast we went to Pigalle which is only a block away and its the red light district.  This area has heaps of sex shops and some shop windows had mannequins doing some “interesting” actions.  A short stop here and then headed to the Liberty monument which also is a memorial site for Princess Diana. We finally found it after some searching.  It has a large yellow flame and is located directly above the tunnel where Princess Diana was killed.  We looked through the tunnel from a distance and couldn’t believe just how short this tunnel was and just how unlucky they were to hit a pole in such a short tunnel.  We had visions of this tunnel been very long but its not as you can bend down and see the other end.  A quick photo stop here and then we walked along the Seine River.  

As we were walking along just chatting a guy was walking up in our direction.  As we got closer to each other he bent over and picked up a gold ring.  It happened directly in front of us and he picked it up and gave it to Troy. I only got a glimpse of the ring so didn't see it very well and thought did it fall off Troy's finger? We continued to walk and then the guy asked Troy for some money so Troy gave him some (silly).  Me not realising exactly what was going on Troy shows me the ring.  Oh my its a male wedding ring, looks like gold but bet its not. (This paragraph has been edited, we did not realise that this is a scam and happens a lot)! We know next time! 

We walked on the beautiful bridge called Pont Alexandre III.  Here we saw the Palace Grande and Palace Petit and walked up to the Hotel des Invalides. We decided not to go in and so after a quick photo stop we went to Jardin du Luxembourg.  These gardens were so beautiful.  We sat on some chairs for a while in the shade and chilled.  We had a few laughs talking silly talk as we do and it was fun. We walked around for a while checking out the little sail boats in the pond, people sunbaking on chairs and checked some great photos on exhibition. 

We walked out of the gardens and headed over to the Pantheon.  Again we decided not to go in.  
We went to the Bastille monument and by this stage we were hot and tired.  We ducked into a bar to grab a drink as supermarkets are surprisingly hard to find here. The trains are so jammed packed and its so hot. We were squashed like sardines and it was just insane.  While we were on the trains we couldn’t move but still heaps of people would just push their way in and it was just ridiculous.  Just CRAZY as I was worried we were just going to get trampled on. It was so hot and we were sweating from head to toe and no cool air we were boiling. It felt somewhat suffocating and we were so glad to get off by pushing your way out which was fun NOT!  
Mary is now over Paris but we are only up to our 4th night. It is just so exhausting been a tourist in peak season, its crazy.  A few things we will definitely NOT miss in Paris is ducking all those annoying low flying pigeons and the horrible urine smell of the metro stations, its disgusting.  I know that all the train stations in Europe are like this but Paris has been the worst. Paris is a nice city and its huge but we are looking forward to a change, a small quite city.

8TH JULY 2010 - Another very hot day in Paris.  After breakfast we headed out to catch a train to Chateau de Versailles, a palace built in mid 17th century by Louis XIV which is 580m long which is just outside Paris.  We arrived to this massive palace where the tourists were everywhere.  We decided to go to the gardens as it was free.  We spent a few hours walking around in the heat trying to find shade wherever possible.  We sat down near the lake for a while and then Troy decided not to go inside the palace.  I didn’t want to go in either as I have seen enough palaces, churches etc so we grabbed a quiche each for late lunch and then headed back home on the train.  We chilled out in our room which was a relief from the heat.

Today is our last day in Paris and the end of our visit to France.  Well must say in general we haven’t found France as great as we thought it would be. Sure its a nice country and we have found majority of the French to be great, friendly and helpful which was nice to experience as they don’t have that reputation for been friendly.  The food hasn’t been as great as we hoped but we hope to see more of France one day. 

Paris is huge and we agree its beautiful but for Mary I don’t think I can agree its the most beautiful city I have ever seen.  It wasn’t so pleasant to be amongst the disgusting smells in the metro stations which have been the worst ever here than anywhere else in Europe so far. We were surprised to see a LOT of Paris has broken glass around the place especially in parks.  One thing we have really liked is the people in France. One thing Mary really wants to know seriously "why don't French women have wrinkles?" I wish I knew the secret! 
We now prepare our bags because we have to leave our hotel at about 6.45 am to get our bus at the pick up point and its will take us about 35 minutes on the metro.  Next stop is Brugge in Belgium.  

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