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Tonielle's European Adventure "It's always better on holiday, so much better on holiday. That's why we only work when... we need the money." - Franz Ferdinand

I see (too many) dead people!

FRANCE | Wednesday, 3 June 2009 | Views [792] | Comments [2]

Bonjour!

Well I’ve been a little slack – choosing to see the sights rather than sit at my computer (funny that) and now I’ve been putting this off, because I need to write about the past week. So hold onto your hats, its gunna be a long one!

The rest of London was lots of fun… mostly because I wasn’t bed-ridden, and also because I had new friends to hang out with. Monday night I got to see Billy Elliot at the theatre for 38 pound… it was amazing! The kid that played Billy had some talent! The only hard bit of the musical was that it was about a kid learning to dance, so no one could really bust out the moves, which was a little frustrating, until the finale, and then everyone went crazy, which was great. They really got to show off their stuff.

Tuesday was the 1 hour flight to Paris, which landed at 9.30pm, and then it proceeded to take me 4 hours to get to my hostel! There was a strike on the trains (typical) and although I got to ride the trains that did come for free, I had to change trains 4 times, and it was only from the help of nice locals that I made it out alive! Then I walked to my hostel – 20 mins past the street it was on! So by the time I got to my hostel, and in bed, it was 1.45am!!!

Scary hostel! I knew it wasn’t going to be top notch, because the online reviews weren’t good, but it was the only one I could book. There aren’t actually many hostels in Paris… and since the French Open was on, and it was heading into Summer, paying 26euro (almost $50 a night), for a scary hostel was something I had to do. My room was a makeshift room, as in it only had one key for the 10 people that were in it, and the door was so loud and squeaky, that you woke up every time someone opened it, and it was right beside the courtyard where everyone hung out till 2am!

But I met some cool people there, like the two Canadian guys that I met the night I arrived. I was trying to find my room, and they were pissed! One of them offered to carry my bag, and eventually (after reminding him that the bag on his back was mine), I found my room. The next morning, surprisingly, they recongised my face, and we ended up going on the free walking tour together. The tour was great… our guide, completely crazy… the city, amazing! It was a four hour walk, and covered everything (see the photos).

That afternoon I had a picnic under the Eiffel tower with some hostel buddies, Hilary (Aus) and Steve, Jordan and Bri (Usa). We each paid 5euro, and got 6 bottles of wine, some frommage and baguettes, I stole my blanket from my bed, and we had a great time getting drunk under the Eiffel Tower. Until it started getting late and we caught the attention of the local police. They said the time was over for public drinking, and we had to leave. I think it was because we were tourists and were getting rowdy, so we made out way home, very happy.

When we got back to the hostel, I started talking to a French guy. Apparently I made an impression on him, because when I went to bed, he asked Hilary where I went. She said “to bed”, and he said “I’m Hungry. I’m hungry for your friend!” Eww!!!

Thursday, I met up with Darren, an Aussie from the hostel, and we checked out the Louvre. IT IS HUGE!!! It almost defeated us, but we managed to get around most of it in 5 hours. Saw Mona Lisa in the flesh… the bedlam around her was amazing. She almost had a whole room to herself, and the crowd was at least 10 deep to get to the front. I threw a few elbows in, and managed to get to the front, where there was a barrier, 4m in front of the painting, which was protected behind bullet-proof glass! You can see it better from the books, seriously!

We saw lots of other cool things – even the building is amazing. It used to be the palace, before it was turned into a museum, so most of the ceilings are decorated in paintings and sculpture. Darren and I had lunch together, and the waiter called me madam (assuming we were married)… I’m a mademoiselle damn it! ☺

After we made it out alive, we raced off to Roland Garos to try to see some tennis. On the Metro, walking through a tunnel, there were some guys ahead that looked like they were harassing people. So I put my head down and kept walking. The man was calling out “mademoiselle”, and I put my hand out saying “No, No”. It was only after he was still calling out to me and I realized that Darren had stopped, that they were actually the police checking tickets! I thought they were trying to sell me something! So I tried really hard to get arrested in Paris.

We got to the tennis by 7pm and didn’t wait long before we could get tickets for 20euro to see Jelana Dokic play! Sweet… we were only 4 rows from the front and she played so well (we were clearly the only Aussies in the crowd, definitely the loudest) until she did something to her back and had to retire in the second set. Which sucked for us, but we managed to sneak onto another center court and see Djokovic play for a while, until it got too dark and they postponed play. Lots of fun, definitely made mum and dad jealous!

The next day I explored Paris myself. There was the first blue sky I’d seen since I’d got there, so I climbed the Eiffel Tower that afternoon. I swear I lined up for over two hours during the visit (getting up and down), but it was totally worth it. You can see so much of the city, Paris is so big! Then I had to change hostels and although I paid 30euro a night ($60 a night) for this one it was totally worth it… luxury! The shower was amazing, I was only sharing with 2 other people and we even had a little Parisian balcony! First goodnight sleep since I’d got into the city.

On Saturday, I hired a bike (a city initiative, only costs 1euro for the day, and there are stations all over town) and rode my way around to the sights. Went to the Catacombes in the morning. Waited over an hour to get in, but met this NZ band behind me and I’m glad I did… it would have been way too scary going through by myself! Basically, when the great Plague hit, they put all the bodies in a pit in the city. But then everyone was getting sick from that, so they built these Catacombes around town where they dug under ground (the one I visited was an old quarry) and dumped them in there. Later on, they went back in and cleaned it up, and creepily arranged all the bones into over 1km worth of tunnels. I’m pretty sure we didn’t see all of it and we saw 1km… that was enough! I mean it was fantastic to see and I’ve never seen so many human bones before (and probably never will) - I think there is over 1 million people in there, but when you’re in there, and you really think about it… its pretty creepy!

After that experience, I then rode up towards Notre-Dame, finding this amazing park on the way. Turns out it was Jardin du Luxembourg, which are the palace gardens. This garden had everything… go-carts, fountains you could race your boat in, jungle gyms, donkey rides, statues every 10m. Lucky I had the bike, it was huge. All the Parisians were out having picnics and sunning themselves, being fabulous.

Eventually I got to Notre-Dame and got to see inside for free. It was pretty amazing, not exactly what I was expecting (damn Disney movies), but it was so detailed and so beautiful. I almost want to be converted so I can go worship in these magnificent buildings! Almost.

I then rode all the way up the Avenue Des Champs Elysees where all the big name brands are represented. And I got to the Arc de Triompe… its huge! The roundabout is crazy, at least 5 cars wide, no lanes, and 12 exits! Apparently there is an accident there every half hour (I actually saw a tow-truck with a car as soon as I got there!), and if you drive on it, no insurance will cover you for that spot. There is an underpass to see it, and the eternal flame for the unknown soldier.

All in all, I rode between 15-20km that day… by the end I was struggling a little, and I think riding without a helmet on the road with big busses up your ass, being on the wrong side of the road and crazy French roundabouts… and not crashing or getting run over was more luck than skill!

Sunday morning. I rushed over to another hostel to chance it and get a bed. The internet said full, but if you go first thing, most places will have something (a trick I’ve learnt in the backpacking world). I went through hell that morning, and only saved 1euro! But it gave me a new neighbourhood to play with. Found some amazing markets around selling fruit/veg, frommage, bagettes, deli stuff, seafood and meat, and then nick-nack stuff too. Walking around that morning, I really wanted to be with some good-looking Frenchie and getting some great food to take to Sunday lunch!

I checked out Musee d’Orsay, the next modern gallery from the Lourve. I was a little disapointed, for 5euro I should have seen Picasso instead, but it was still ok, just very busy – you had to jostle with people to get in front of each painting. Got to see lots of Cezanne, Matisse, Monet and Van Gogh. Saw “Whistlers Mother” too (remember that painting from Mr Bean Movie). Lots of great sculpture in there also.

Monday, hired another bike and checked out Montmatre – home of the Moulin Rouge. You could tell when you were in the right area, sex shops everywhere! Moulin Rouge was also a bit disappointing… but then I saw it during the day. I also checked out the cemetery there – that was amazing! The craziest graveyard I’ve ever seen, so many family crypts, some from the 1700s, and then some pretty shinny new ones too. Was very peaceful and beautiful – except for the map of “famous people’s” graves (I didn’t recognize any) and a giant car bridge built over the top of it!

That night I went to the Place de L’Opera and saw my first ballet… in Paris, for 10euro. Last minute tickets… were either 10euro or 60 or 80! So my seat was pretty crap, I stood up the whole time and could only see half the stage… but it was still great to go to. During intermission I managed to go to the next stall and there was a better standing spot there. Haha… I think it was a mixed bag night, as in there were a few different stories in the one show… because it didn’t flow at all. The men are gods (and probably gay)… their bodies are amazing! At one point this guy got naked on stage… an ass like it was sculpted from marble! Haha… and a woman did a whole dance with a few guys with her boobs out (well nipples out, ballerina's don't have boobs), this show had everything! Definitely took me by surprise, but the dancing was great. :P

That brings me to yesterday… I took the train to Reims and got a city pass which got me a tour of the cathedral here, also called Notre-Dame and my reason for coming to the town… champagne! The real deal… I went to a winery and got a tour of the caves, all the champagne is kept in caves underground where it is kept constantly at 10ºC. I went to the Pommery winery and they have 16km of caves with more than 2 million bottles of champagne aging! They also have this awesome art in there, modern and old sculptures. Some bottles are up to 21L in size and take 9 years to mature! I got to taste a glass – quite nice, and I bought a small bottle (at 13euro for a half bottle size)… for a special occasion, or when I can access a fridge! Haha.

So right now, I've paid 1euro ($2) for a 50c cone at McDonalds to use the internet. I've got a train this afternoon to Nancy… can’t remember what is there, but Deirdre recommended it, so it must be good! Then Strasburg for the weekend.

If you’re made it this far… I’m proud of you, I promise I won’t leave it this long again, but getting a decent internet connection is proving difficult.

Finally photos are up... http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2020863&id=219300161&l=2a60f96579

Tags: catacombes, champagne, eiffel tower, london, paris, reims

Comments

1

Great review, shame to hear you got such a bad hostel! :(

  Review-Hostel.com Jun 4, 2009 8:28 AM

2

sounds awesome! much better than pulling all nighters for study and assignments anyway...
how long are you travelling for before you work?
michael

  michael Jun 5, 2009 10:09 AM

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