One night in Paris and eight things to do
The latest instalment in this series, where I retrace my travel journey throughout Europe, sees me in Paris with a checklist of eight things to do and just one day and night to tick them off. But the list soon gets longer before it gets shorter…
Sunday 1st June 2008
Woo hoo – second Contiki trip tomorrow! I’m so excited about seeing almost all the places in the world I’ve always wanted to. I’m going to list all the things I want to see, do and experience in each place we visit.
This past week has been a bit of a write-off, but very relaxing and have done some things I’ve wanted to do in London. Went to the Natural History Museum, which was pretty cool. Lots of dinosaur skeletons, spiders, insects, animals and other Earth history stuff. Went to a gorgeous (and overpriced) cafe in Notting Hill/Bayswater and experienced the decadence of the most amazing brownie in the world’s history! I will be back. Went to the hostel gym a couple of times, which made me feel loads better. However, those efforts were fruitless thanks to the blinder I had on Friday night in Soho. Went out with Kate George and met a couple of her friends, but apparently had too much wine (a night I would soon rather forget). Tim and I crashed on the floor at Kate’s place in Notting Hill. The next morning, we very seedily caught the tube home and slept the entire day – which happened to be the nicest day, weatherwise, of the entire week. Now that’s punishment. Probably a good thing it happened though; I won’t drink excessively on Contiki now. It’s a 28 day tour and I will need all my strength to make it through and do everything I want to.
First stop – Paris!
List of Must-Dos:
- Enjoy coffee and pain au chocolat in a quaint Parisian cafe overlooking the Eiffel Tower – CHECK (sort of, had a nutella crepe from a van where the Eiffel Tower was in view)
- Ascend the Eiffel Tower, preferably at night – CHECK (except it was day time)
- Drive around the Arc de Triomphe – CHECK
- Visit the Catacombs – missed out on this one as it was under reconstruction
- Have a dinner and cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge – CHECK
- Visit Notre Dame Cathedral – CHECK
- Try frogs legs and snails – couldn’t find these anywhere! (Got the chance to try snails later though)
- Visit the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa – CHECK
Monday 2nd June
Contiki European Panorama begins! Our tour manager is Ali and our driver is Aaron. Ali has given a few hints and tips about every city we’ll be visiting on the tour, so there will be a few extra “must-dos” added to my list.
- Must do: Eiffel Tower; Louvre; Ar de Triomphe; Champs Elysees; Notre Dame
- Must try: To get as many tacky Eiffel Tower key rings for 1 euro as possible; crepes – ham and cheese, nutella, lemon and sugar, escargots! To soak it all up!
- Must buy: Beret; Moulin Rouge style prints; anything from the Champs!
So far, have driven around the Arc de Triomphe and – my God – it’s absolute mayhem! No wonder there’s an accident every 12 minutes. There are no lines on the road; cars, trucks, busses, bikes and scooters race round this massive roundabout and you kind of just exit whenever you see a gap in the traffic.
Have seen the Eiffel Tower – it’s so small compared to what I’d imagined. I’m sure it’s quite big once you get to the top. It’s 324m high and you can see for 72km from the top.
So much to see and do tomorrow – I just hope I have time!
Wednesday 4th June
…Didn’t have enough time. Got most things ticked off the list but would have loved to have seen the catacombs, look at every single souvenir stand along the River Seine, strolled at a slow pace down the Champs-Elysees and looked in every shop, walk under and up the Arc de Triomphe, walked up to the Notre Dame bell tower and had a cheese and wine picnic beneath the Eiffel Tower at sunset, then climb to the top and watch over the city at night…
I climbed the Eiffel Tower and managed to avoid a massive line up, it was OK, kind of an anti-wow moment. It would have been spectacular at night.
I bought a chocolate crepe and sat in a great spot with a view of the Eiffel Tower. There were a couple of black guys who were awesome dancers and were doing breakdancing and popping and locking. The moment was temporarily imposed by a gypsy woman – “Excuse me, do you speak English?” “Yes,” I said… Big mistake! Clearly she didn’t speak English, but aha! She had found a tourist! She opened a piece of paper, which read: “I AM FROM BOSNIA, MY DAUGHTER AND I HAVE NO MONEY FOR FOOD…” Blah, blah blah… We’d been warned about these gypsies from our tour manager. I said, “Sorry…”, but she was like, “Please, oh, please,” so I think I gave her 40 Euro cents. She left, thanks God.
A few more gypsies had a go at Tim and me. They would walk towards you and bend down and pick up a “gold” ring and give it to you – like we’d dropped it or something. We were like, “It’s not ours,” but she gave it to us. So we were like, sweet, “Merci, au revoir,” and she went away. But then she turned around and asked for money! No way was I giving her anything! Sounds cruel, but they’re just everywhere!
The language barrier was quite difficult to get across and I felt so rude that I didn’t even know how to say, “Sorry, I don’t know how to speak French.” I expected more people to speak English than there were. I now have some empathy for the Asians that used to come into Gelatissimo when I worked there in Surfers Paradise and they’d just point. Wouldn’t say anything, they’d just point at the ice cream. I understand how they feel! I feel so rude that my French is so limited, that I don’t feel I have the right to speak because anything I do say is going to come out in English, so I’ll just point at what I want, show how many fingers of it I want, and say, “S’il vous plait?”.. Merci…”
I bought a couple of beautiful paintings from a French man along the river, so glad I did. They’ll remind me of my trip to Paris forever.
The Moulin Rouge last night was an unbelievable show – a once in a lifetime experience. A woman swam in a tank of water with four huge, fat pythons; there was an acrobatic duo, the woman did a handstand on the man’s head and he held her and his own body in the air with only one hand on the ground; and the costumes were amazing! Lots of feathers, sequins and colour.
Rushed to the Louvre this morning and saw the Mona Lisa. The building was unbelievable but the Mona Lisa was a bit of an anti-climax – looked exactly like it does in every art book I’ve seen.
Catch up on the series:
- Travelling through time: exploring similarities of grandmother’s travel journal and my own
- Grandmother’s travel journal: To London to visit the Queen 
- First impressions of London and ghost stories of York 
- Travelling through time: London, York and hotel bars with men 
- Contiki Great Britain: Edinburgh, Liverpool and quaint towns of Wales 
- Travelling through time: Grandmother’s trip to Ireland in 1952 
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