16 July 2009

Snails & Frogs Legs - Four Days in Paris

Grab yourself a coffee and find a comfy chair – I have a feeling this is going to be a long one!

Day 1 started off at 3:30am! We were up and out the door very quickly. Unfortunately we were up before the underground started running so we had to take two busses to get to St Pancras Station. A friendly French couple gave us a hand to find the correct bus which was really helpful. We got our tickets, through security, and boarded the train. All fairly painless really... I think I like this international travel via train deal...

The trip went quickly. I spent most of the time planning our day and Rochelle spent most of it sleeping. We departed the train about 9am (Paris time) and headed for another station on the network that was closer to where we wanted to go and had luggage storage. Little did we know, but this was to be the start of a loooong day in France.

We successfully navigated the Metro. A few observations – it’s a lot larger than the London underground. They have two-storied trains which are much wider than the tube on the routes that head out into the suburbs (RER) and even the smaller trains (Metro) were much bigger. The whole atmosphere was much dirtier though... dodgy people hanging around, a lot of graffiti etc. We also found the people to be quite rude! Very pushy and inconsiderate, which made things difficult with all our luggage. Anyway, we got to the station where we wanted to store our luggage, spent a good 45 mins trying to find the lockers, with the help of some unhelpful French people (if that makes sense). Finally we got our two bags and laptop bag into the small sized locker (with a lot of shoving and cursing) to save ourselves €3 =)

We excitedly headed outside, finally to venture into the beautiful city of Paris. We stepped out into a huge courtyard and took a second to orientate ourselves and work out where we were heading. We were greeted by a grey sky, a dodgy looking character and a couple of stoner dudes. The place reeked of urine – which as it turned out is not uncommon in this city. Our first destination was Saint-Michel Fountain for the start of our free walking tour, about 2kms walk from the station. I navigated us along what I thought would be a nice walk along the bank of the river Seine... as it turns out there were no decent walkways in that part of the city, and it was an almost industrial area with no shops at all. Being quite tired, a bit stressed and a little disillusioned by the mornings events, we were both not in the best of moods. This was amplified by the fact that all we had to eat that day was half a banana at 3:30am. We decided to try to find somewhere to eat, which was proving difficult in that part of town. We finally stumbled across a subway, where communication with the attendant was difficult, but I got almost what I wanted. He proceeded to blatantly rip me off, then turn around and ignore me. I gave up and decided it wasn’t worth my €1 to argue. Rochelle found a semi-decent pastry shop and had her first taste of French pastry – I think she was impressed.

We got to the free walking tour (after an hours walk) with about 3 minutes to spare. Keeping in mind our morning so far, and the fact that the tour went for three and a half hours, we weren’t sure weather we would make it to the end or not. But we set off with the best of intentions and agreed we would see how we go. Our tour guide was a kiwi from Rotorua, who had been in Paris for 8 months. He was quite a cool guy and very knowledgeable about the city and its history. He also gave us some tips on the scams to watch out for, which ended up being very helpful. On the tour we visited so many amazing places. Was saw so many awesome things I think I'll let the pictures do the talking (click to enlarge).

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