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Sophie & Ollie´s Travels

City of Lights

FRANCE | Sunday, 17 February 2008 | Views [1090]

Paris, France.

From Amsterdam we travelled to Paris and had an excellent four nights being tourists and visiting the big sights.

We did not enjoy the coach trip much again. The driver made me feel car sick, took a 45 minute coffee break at 2am during which he opened all the doors and we froze, and the coach was full so we couldn’t have two seats each. Unfortunately, the hotel in France had a 3pm check in so we could not even nap when we arrived at 7am.

The hotel we stayed in was situated in the Montmartre area and looked nicer than the one in Amsterdam. We got a private bathroom, which we didn’t pay for, and free breakfast with French baguettes. The hotel receptionist behaved appropriately and stereotypically French. He pretended to not understand anyone if they spoke English, even though his English sounded perfect, he got grumpy when people bothered him to ask for their key, and yelled at an Korean girl when she did not speak loudly enough for him.

We could not check in, so instead we decided to do the Paris free walking tour despite the rain. Our Melbourne tour guide - nearly every tourist in Europe is Australian - walked us around the centre of Paris. We started off at the St Michel Fountain in the Latin Quarter, we walked past Notre Dame Cathedral and over Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge still crossing the Seine. We walked past the Louvre and the glass pyramid entrance and avoided the 17-year old looking guards with massive machine guns wandering around the building. We saw the café where the French Revolutionaries met before beginning the Revolution and walked down the second most expensive street in the world after Fifth Avenue. We walked through the Jardin des Tuileries to the Egyptian Obelisk, saw the Eiffel Tower in the distance and walked up part of the Champs Elysee.

We finished up soaked, exhausted and in desperate need of lying horizontally for the first time in over 36 hours. We had a very, early night that night and a good sleep. The next day started out sunny so we headed to the Sacre Coeur Basilica, a five minute walk from our hotel. The white stone Basilica sits on Montmartre hill, the highest point in Paris and we enjoyed it first thing in the morning with few tourists around. From the Basilica we caught the tube to the centre of Paris and had our first French Nutella crepe, mmm mmm. We had a look inside Notre Dame Cathedral, along with the rest of the tourists, and Ollie posed as the hunchback of Notre Dame with the camera case inside his jacket.

We then did a long walk across the centre city to the Champs-Élysées and along to the Arc d’Triomphe. We took the underpass to the centre, deciding not to cross the many lanes of traffic on the roundabout, which insurance companies will not insure you for if you drive on it. The Arc d’Triomphe commemorates French soldiers, including an eternal flame to the Unknown Soldier. Though, the eternal flame has been extinguished once by a drunken Englishman who peed on it.

From the Arc d’Triomphe we walked to the touristiest (that is a real word, Microsoft found it for me) of sites, the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower is the most visited and most recognised monument in the world, making a profit of €49 million annually, and giving away a car to every millionth visitor. We queued to walk up to the first and second levels, instead of joining the twice as long queue for the lift. After 668 steps we made it to the second level, and then caught the lift to the top. We found the New Zealand flag and saw that we were 18,542 kms away from Auckland. The view, as you would expect, looked amazing and you can pick out all the monuments of Paris. It helps that the centre city has few skyscrapers blocking the view. We headed back down as night fell and stood on the steps when the light show started. Every night for 10 minutes on the hour the Tower is lit up with thousands of bright, white lights that flash randomly, you feel like Britney Spears leaving home as it looks just like paparazzi camera flashes. 

The next day we visited the Père-Lachaise Cemetery, the most visited cemetery in the world. We saw Jim Morrison’s grave and Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Pissarro, Chopin and many other famous people have been buried here. Afterwards, we had another delicious crepe then visited the Musee d’Orsay, next to the Seine River. This museum had the best collection of Impressionist works we have seen. Many works by Van Gogh’s, Cezanne, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Seurat and more made it my favourite gallery we saw on the trip.

That night we did an evening tour of the Montmartre district which we enjoyed. We started in the Red Light District of Pigalle and saw the Moulin Rouge, though not the show because that costs €89 per person, saw the Brasserie from the movie Amelie, Van Gogh’s apartment where in sucked the lead paint off his paint brushes before he, naturally, went crazy. We visited Picasso’s studio and his favourite restaurant where he used to pay with paintings and the owner ended up with no tips but many original Picasso paintings. We also saw Paris’s only vineyard and last windmill.

On our last day we visited the Louvre. Visiting these sites in January was the best idea. We had sunshine three out of four days and queued for never more than 30 minutes. We got into the Louvre without queuing whatsoever. Inside we had a good look round. We did see the Mona Lisa and took a picture, just to show we visited, along with the hundreds of other camera-wielding tourists and a security guard who looked like he could not be bothered to care that photos are banned.

After a few hours we headed back because I felt terrible, which I blame on the Paris metro. The metro in Paris is ancient, with no escalators and millions of stairs, and is filthy. I think I caught a cold from the disgusting air down there. Also Paris has a homeless men problem like no other European city we visited, so it stunk of wee and alcohol in the metro.

We had a great time in Paris and a good place to finish before we flew back to England to visit our relatives again before coming home.


Ollie and Sophie

Tags: Sightseeing

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