Friday, July 30, 2010

Paris; Days 1 and 2

What the fuck is happening forum? (Bah Tony you better read this now that I did that.)

So, here I am, in Paris. More specifically; sitting at a small table next to an open window at the Hotel Caulaincourt in Montmartre. It is currently my second day here in Paris (slash Europe in general) and I can say with confidence- I love it here! Everything is so French! On the train from the airport to Paris, I was a bit disappointed because, save for the fact that all of the buildings are cream and the graffiti is in French, I could have been on a train on the Northern line back in Sydney. But when I (after way too many stairs) emerged, sweaty and puffed, above ground on Rue Caulaincourt, Montmartre, I almost cried with how pretty it was! Like I said, it’s very French.
As I said, it is day two on land, after a whole day of travelling, so be prepared for a lengthy post. I’ll break it down and put the key points in bold, so you can skim if you wish.

The Journey: 3 planes, 28 hours and too many languages.

Will someone please invent teleportation? Seriously.
One word to sum up my experience of travelling TO Europe? ioshregjvioserjtgotheoitghiohASRARGAGGAGAHHHtrhaerhu. It was... not fun. I thought I’d be smart and try and beat jetlag by sleeping for most of the second/longest leg of the trip, Singapore to Munich. This of course, required staying awake for my first flight, which was made fairly easy by the extensive range of inflight entertainment (I watched Valentines Day and Date Night- I recommend them both- as well as two episode of HIMYM). Then I had to battle Singapore airport, which included dazzling duty free perfume shops in all direction, a trip on the sky train to get to my transfer gate, stifling humidity and a subsequent nosebleed (yay!). Amazingly, I got to my gate without too much hassle and I have a new found appreciation for the simplicity of Sydney airport. The Singapore-Munich flight did not go as planned at all. I think I got about 2 hours of broken sleep, instead of the 8+ I had hoped for. That and one particular (blonde, gay as a picknet basket and adorable) flight attendant kept talking to me in German despite the fact that I was staring at him blankly then replying in English, but that was nothing compared to Munich airport. Omg it was a nightmare! A total labrynth, I got so confused because it’s all glass corridors. And of course, everyone spoke to me in German. My shoes set of the scanner and I got frisked. Then a woman asked me to turn on my cameras for some reason (to prove they’re not hidden bombs perhaps?) and finally I was free. The flight from Munich to Paris was quite nice- it’s miraculously shorter than a flight to Queensland, and about two thirds of it is take off/landing time anyway. I got a great view of rural Europe out of the plane window (past a German businessman’s head that is). Lots of windmills, small white churches and patchwork quilt grass. Then, FINALLY, I was in Paris.
I got pretty lost in Charles du Gaulles airport. Had to ask how to get to the train station and then of course noticed all of the huge signs I’d walked past saying “Paris by train." When I finally got to Gare du Nord metro station, I discovered possibly the only thing I hate about Paris- the stairs. So many stairs! And very few elevators! No wonder French women never get fat- it’s not the three bite rule at all! It’s the stairs. Luckily for me, being female and obviously struggling to drag/carry my 15kg bag (for some reason I didn’t think to carry it as the backpack that it is. 2 HOURS SLEEP OK?) meant that at the bottom/top of every flight of steps, a man would miraculously appear and offer to help (in French of course. Everytime I was like "sorry?"). The most notable occurrence of this was on the set of stairs taking me back into the real world. There were quite a few, me and my helper had a chat- apparently he has a sister who lives in Perth. Then, I had arrived. Jetlagged as all hell and realising that I should have done a few months of intense cardio to prepare myself for the Paris metro.

Day One: The Montmartre Cemetery, foot blisters and sleep.

By some cruel twist of fate, I arrived at my hostel at around 10am- 6 hours before check in time. I dumped my suitcase (thank god) grabbed my cameras and set off to explore my home for the next week. It wasn’t long until I discovered that there is a Maccas, KFC and Subway on my street. As well as some more iconic Parisian sites of course, such as le Moulin Rouge (total let down p.s. Thanks Bas Luhrmann) and about a million bakeries. I stopped at Subway- perhaps in search of something familiar, perhaps in search of wifi- who knows?- and got a donut. Yes. A donut. They have donuts in Subway! It actually tasted pretty bizarre, kind of salty. I later stepped into maccas in search the comfort of salty things that are meant to be salty. They give you mayo AND ketchup with chips, which is awesome, but a large chips (Grande Frites) cost me 2€ 50.
Now, 6 hours is a long time to kill, especially when you have no idea where anything is. But I stumbled across the Cemetiere Montmartre without even knowing it existed previously. It’s pretty incredible. Big, quite big, but seems even bigger as they shove so much into the space. Tombs pretty much on top of each other and the like. As weird as it sounds, I really love cemeteries. The older, the better. I especially love reading tomb stones and seeing how old people were when they died, or how they died (I swear I’m not a freak). Some really go into detail! Unfortunately, most of the inscriptions in CM are of course, in French, but the tombs are really beautiful. A handful of famous names can be found there if you’ve got the time- such as artist Degas. But whether you can find them or not, there’s plenty to see. Unusually, the place is full of cats. They’re pretty raggedy and shy but I like the idea that something chooses to live in a cemetery. The cemetery ate up a fair chunk of the day, and left me with aching legs, stiff knees and forming blisters- but it’s a must see if you come to Montmartre. Words nor photos can describe it, you really have to be there.

Somehow, I made it till 3:30pm without collapsing, and traipsed back to my hotel. When I finally got to check in, I climbed straight into bed. Now I had the plan to nap for a few hours then shower and head out in search of dinner. That didn’t exactly work out.

Day Two: The best breakfast of my life, an exploration of the hills of Montmartre and the case of mistaken bed-dentity

I ended up sleeping, albeit on and off, for about 12 hours. I woke up absolutely starving, with no idea what the time was, or where my socks had disappeared to (half awake I took them off and left them on my bed, but of course they weren’t still there when I woke up- I later found one on the floor, and the other on someone else bed). I was relieved to find out it wasn’t the middle of the night but in fact 5:30am and I had somehow slept till morning. I was outside the breakfast room when it opened, at 7:30am, shaking from low blood sugar and unable to spread jam on my croissant without making a total mess. It was the most delicious meal of my life.
After a surprisingly excellent shower and a brief facebook visit (Hello baby. Mummy missed you!) I made the decision to stay in Montmartre today, and follow the advice of the Paris day by day book mother gave me. I headed up into the steeper streets of Montmartre, where Place du Tertre is situated. It’s a bit touristy, and there are a lot of artists asking to draw you for “cheap price” but I rounded a corner and stumbled upon a Salvadore Dali exhibition. The exhibition was good, at first I decided that 10€ was a bit steep but then I discovered later in the day that with my train pass I get entry for 6€ and headed back. The gift shop was probably the most exciting bit- I spent 31€ there. I got this pefume that comes in a lip-shaped bottle, a Dali pocket mirror and this fantastic book called “Dali’s Moustache”. It’s a photographic interview, in which Dali himself and photographer/friend Philippe Halsman came up with questions and answers, as well as the moustache-centred photos that go with them. “Whenever Dali imagined a photograph so strange that it’s production seemed impossible, Halsman tried to find the solution, and invariably succeeded.” The back reads “warning, this book is preposterous” which doesn’t even begin to describe it. Dali’s preface is a tribute to moustaches- “This very morning... I discovered that my moustache can serve as an ultra-personal brush. With the points of its hair, I can paint a fly with all the details of his hair.” This book is excellent, I am quite taken with it.

Also in the higher parts of Montmartre, I paid a visit to Sacre Coeur. It’s incredible. They don’t allow photos inside but it’s enough to bring you to tears. It’s pretty damn amazing. There’s also a really great view over Paris from the steps (if you can get a glimpse past the head of all the other tourists that is).

When I got back around 4 or so, I walked into my room to find someone sleeping in my bed. Obviously I was pretty confused as to why she would pick one of the beds that clearly had been slept in- I’d left my camera bag on it. She woke up and after identifying the bag as mine showed me how her check in sheet said 34B. It was then that I realised that the D in my room details wasn’t referring to a corridor or something, but a bed. The beds were lettered! I didn’t even realise. Here i was, thinking “who the fuck is this in my bed?” and it was her bed. Bahahaha I’m so smart.
Anyway, I’m glad I decided to explore Montmartre a bit more, there’s a lot more to see here than I realised by my brief glimpse yesterday. Tomorrow my plan is to head into Paris and got on a free walking tour (3.5 hours. Gah more walking! My poor feet.) and take in essential sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomph and of course, Chanel.

See you guys Sunday!

p.s. I had photos for you guys, but the internet here only allows one web browser/tab open at a time, and the photo uploads a separate one so it disconnects. When I have the time they'll be up on fb.

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