You can listen to this blog here: Paris – the city of love – seriously?
It is good to be 19. That’s when you have no clue what to do with your life and you already can do a lot in fact ‘cos officially you are called “an adult”.
Living in Amsterdam had its huge advantages. No, I did not puff a thing, I simply enjoyed strolling down Vondelpark, cycling along the canals and meeting new people everyday. That’s how I met a few Polish girls with whom, one day, we decided to go for a ride to Disneyland in Paris.
I no longer recall the name of the hotel we stayed in but I recall the lady on reception who happened to have Polish origins and was extremely helpful with showing us ways.
If you don’t speak French in Paris, you’re kinda not cool. Locals love their businesses but are clearly sick of tourists. So they tend to be quite “sod off” towards people. And don’t you dare trying to speak your very broken basics of French if there are any…. they will bark you out to tears!
We didn’t have much time for all that we had planned but thankfully, from where we stayed, some things could have been reached on foot. So, after dropping our bags in the rooms, and here, unlike in London, rooms look like rooms and can be slept in without a fear of catching something nasty for 150 a night, we ran out of the building to head for the Paris by night adventure. Just the 3 of us ‘cos the rest came for 3 days to Paris…. to sleep….
It was around 9pm. We got ourselves tangled in the spider web of Paris streets, losing our heads. They look awesome…. on the map, like snowflakes or daisies, but when you have to experience them live, you can get some serious headache. Drivers in particular tend to be a proper pain in the butt, especially in the meeting spot of the streets where the bigger and stronger wins the right of way. And have you seen them parking????? I have not seen a single car in the streets of Paris that would not be bumped or scratched at best.
Walking by night in search of the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (Arch the Triumph) on Champs Champs-Élysées without GPS, using a little city map grabbed from the hotel stand, was a great fun. Smart phones were most likely still only a dream back then. But living only streets away from each other in Amsterdam, we were very close and spendig this time together was a true pleasure.
It drizzled, streets were busy and messy and much much longer than they appeared to be on the map! Crap. Impossibly annoying discovery!
And finally…. the Arc appeared in front of our eyes. I had to get a smoke out of the excitement! Used to smoke back then, rarely, only when something truly excited me. And I am telling you, Champs-Élysées by night while standing under the Arch is sick! Impressive! Insanely huge, both, the street and the monument.
We standed there puffing cigarettes and forgeting to breath the air….
Joe Dassin sings:
Aux Champs-Elysées, aux Champs-Elysées
Au soleil, sous la pluie, à midi ou à minuit
Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elysées
On the Champs-Élysées, on the Champs-Élysées! In the sun, in the rain, at noon or midnight Everything you could want is on the Champs-Élysées!
The way back to the hotel was shorter, as it usually turns out to be. But at this stage it already rained and we were knackered yet after the bus journey. The watches showed 1am already. Breakfast was to be had at 7am and then a quicky ride to Disneyland.
We woke up looking dreadfully scary. Ha! But there is no proof of that! 🙂 At breakfast we had amazing freshly made butter crossaints that melted in the mouth when pressed with the tongue to the upper plate. And nobody, but nobody eats them there with cheese or ham or toasted with both! Just crossaints…. Continental breakfast gives you choices of rolls, bread, ham, cheese, jams. It is a true sin to mess with crossaints in France!
Disneyland welcomed us with rain. Heavy rain. We got daily passes and I think the fast passes did not yet exist back then. Queues for attractions were insane. Despite of them we managed to tick off good few rides. The part with BuzzLightyear didn’t even exist back then yet. Imagine that! How old am I?!
We barely managed to cover a quarter of the current park. Most importantly though we participated in an awesome parade on midday.
Next day we went on a day bus tour around the city as the time we had was very limited. Paris is defo one of these places that are not necesarily designed for sightseeing on foot. Maybe Montmartre. That would be. Are you thinking what I am thinking? Eh, Amelie, sure but no. I am thinking: living for some time in Montmartre, even though surrounded by masses of strangers and pickpockets, would be a dream come true. All these love stories you read about that happen in Paris, have this quarter in mind rather than a block-of-flats in some remote southern estate or so.
Once we got there, we were so exhausted that the staircase of the Sacré-Cœur Basilic felt like the way up the Pyramid of the Sun. But we made it. Walked inside and around, took a pic or two, looked out at the coolest panorama in Europe and headed for a tiny passage that took us to a square, and a square that would be rather hard to find anywhere else.
Hundreds of painters seated there under an open sky, each in his or her 1-2 square meter space, like on a flee market, painting on the spot and displaying the ready for sale art. Truly cool. It surely is there only due to the vicity of the busiest of tourist attractions as well as the art is not exactly Picasso but it is really good and I am convinced that some of these deserve more than they are getting at sale.
Quick peek at the Moulin Rouge and we go back to the hotel. But the second half of the day is still ahead of us. We are just about to discover the most annoying of things in the city of love – metro…
…Trying to get to Trocadéro, which meant 4 stops for us with a change in the middle. Everything was in French. Nothing looked like anything that a regular human could potentially pronounce. So after doing a few rounds around in the Paris underworld, we found our way and ended up with a lovely view on the Place de Varsovie (Warsaw square!) And accompanying it – the Eiffel Tower itself 🙂
See the tower on my below scan? 🙂
It’s getting dark. A bunch of junk sellers are gathering around us. Tiny flashing keyrings, toys with music and colors that are quite into your face. A neverending battle of: “Thank you, I don’t need anything” and “Maybe this, maybe that, etc.”.
This gave us wings and we cought some real speed walking down towards the tower we had every intention of conquering that evening.
Got the tickets, lined up in a queue. It took a while, but fine, it’s the Eiffel Tower afterall. But then hell started. We managed to the 2nd floor and that was where 2 lifts become 1. As such after looking out at the night skyline of the city, we went into the queue again. And this lovely experience of smelling other peoples butts in the overcrowded tiny space dragged for a nice 30 minutes.
By the time we got to the top, we just dreamt of being out of this place. Although the views are obviously incredible.
Overall the trip to the tower felt like being in the middle of a mini stampede that was agonizingly prolonged by the queueing.
I may have been too young to understand the love part of the Paris love-liness. Must go back. After all Catherine Deneuve and Malcolm McLaren sing that love is in Paris Paris, so maybe it’s worth another try….
One thing I know for sure, I might take a closer look at places this time.
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