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Picnics & Cemeteries

FRANCE | Saturday, 2 April 2011 | Views [882]

Saturday was finally a sunny day! I headed out early to the Arc du Triomph where I was nerdy enough to be first in line to climb to the top, which afforded me with some great photos of a deserted lookout point before the crowds arrived. Beautiful view of the city though already a bit hazy. I then walked down the Keiber Avenue to the Trocadero, which by 11am was already packed with people, and headed down to the Eiffel Tower to join the ridiculously long queues to climb the tower. Tip of the day: if you are even remotely fit then head for the East Pillar where you have to climb the first 2 flights before catching the elevator the rest of the way to the top. Apparently you climb to the equivalent of the 42nd floor, but it’s really not that bad, and it cuts down on a lot of waiting. I know this because an American family were yelling at their teenagers who had decided to catch the elevator from the bottom and who now had an extra 45 minute wait to catch the final elevator (“Now we won’t make it to the LouvRE by TWO O CLOCK!” Thanks buddy, I didn't need my left ear.) I got a little uncomfortable as we ascended rather rapidly to a ridiculous height, but once I was out of the little metal death-box it was fine and the view was well worth the wait.

Descending was a lot quicker and I arrived at the bottom in time to join some friends for a great champagne picnic on the grass by the tower, with what seemed like half of the population of Paris. Just like in the UK, once the sun comes out everyone emerges from the woodwork. After our 3 hour lunch we caught the metro to Montemarte and walked up to the Sacre Couer church, wandering through the markets and watching the buskers entertaining all the people lounging on the steps of the church.

We decided to head back to the Latin Quarter for dinner (so named because it was where all the students used to live and all they had in common was Latin, the language of scholars) as the area is filled with little pizzerias and kebab shops. We bought kebabs and headed down to a local hangout by the river where we snagged a spot amongst the hordes of students and young people drinking and picnicking. Soon we were being treated to an impromptu concert by a few amazing buskers, who performed to quite a big crowd seated on the steps and packing the bridge; whilst tourist boats chugged their way up the river, intermittently blinding us with their spotlights. A couple of the girls went off on a mission to buy beer, returning over an hour later, and not long after that the party was unfortunately brought to a sudden end by one drunken idiot who tried to steal the microphone and subsequently pissing the buskers off enough to leave (ironically while they were singing “Heal the World”). We left as soon as the fighting broke out…ah just like street parties back home!

Another cloudy day was met with a bit of a later start (funny that), though I did get up earlier than my room-mates, who were only heading out to the clubs when I arrived home at 1am! I headed back to the Sacre Couer Basilica, where I visited the crypt (all alone which was a bit spooky) and then climbed the tower (more stairs!) for another interesting view of the city. If you want the popular tourist spots to yourself then first thing in the morning (i.e. just before they open, not when you wake up) is definitely the way to go.

I was supposed to be meeting the girls for another picnic, but as the rain set in again we decided to flag it, and I headed off to the Cimitere du Pere-Lachaise, the world's most visited cemetery. Mainly due to the fact that people like Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Chopin, amongst many others, are buried there. The drizzly, drab day was actually perfect for a wander through the graves, and some of the tombs were amazing. As were the enormous crematorium and 4 huge buildings housing several hundred (thousand?) urns. Amazing place to visit, though I wouldn’t want to be there at night!

So despite the average weather I absolutely loved Paris, mainly due to the randomness of catching up with a friend I didn’t even know was there until the last minute, and the fact that the city is incredibly easy to get around. I also recommend buying a “carnet” of 10 metro tickets, which saves you money and means you can just jump on the tube when your feet start screaming at you. I think I will be saying this a lot: if only I had more time!

Tags: cimitere du pere-lachaise, eiffel tower, latin quarter, paris, sacre couer basilica

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