I probably didn’t mention that we had planned a trip to Europe. Well, we did, and so begins the next chapter of my travel blogging, which happens to be my most favourite yet most unfortunately irregular type of writing.
The flight is never really the fun part. It wasn’t a very exciting 23.5 plane hours plus 4 waiting hours to commence our 4-week European getaway. I spent several plane hours in agonising pain after I fainted and smashed my lip into the floor whilst also severely hurting my wrist. I spent several waiting hours at the Dubai airport hospital being seriously tormented by the worst nurse to exist who was twisting my agonising wrist in every direction asking, “Does this hurt? Does this hurt?” while I was writhing in pain. At least we got to experience 2am Dubai heat (32°C) on our walk back to the terminal. However, we did finally make it to Europe, even though that meant the Dubai to Paris leg of the trip included me wearing an unsightly sling whilst sporting an attractive fat lip.
We arrived at Paris airport to a mess of people. I don’t think they were expecting our plane. We eventually made it through “customs” (meaning, no customs at all) and used our bad French to find the railway station. We spent our first Euros on a ticket and off we went through the scenic suburbs of Paris, experiencing our first amateur European busker enchanting us with a poorly executed karaoke hit (we later heard this hit song again in Barcelona, performed by a slightly better karaokist). The train journey was interesting. Paris is so huge a city and so crowded, but all the areas of train stops leading right up to the city seemed sparse.
We changed trains and already encountered our first scam, a man trying to help us buy a train ticket (€20 for one stop apparently).
We arrived at our destination, the grand Gare de Lyon station, located in the eastern section of Paris, north of the Seine. We found our apartment which is located on possibly the most beautiful and colourful street in Paris.
We proceeded to collapse onto the first bed we had access to in two days. Oh, to lie with our bodies flat! Just heavenly. We relaxed a little before heading out for our first exciting day in the city.
We headed west and visited the Bastille market, which is a typical market you’d expect in France, full of meats, cheese, antipasto, delicious fruit and other knick-knacks. Unfortunately for us, we had no small change yet, so the flat peaches were left unpurchased for now. The market is shadowed by the grand obelisk of the Bastille. We eventually came to realise that everything is Paris is grand.
Then was our first French meal, lunch. We noticed there were those fancy red shuttered French restaurants with outdoor café seating on every corner (we also noticed the colour scheme of the city is a constant golden yellow colour with highlights of red). Most of these restaurants were expensive and full of seafood. We continued on past all the shops, cafés, restaurants, chocolateries, boulangeries, patisseries, even sandwicheries, until we happened upon a more budget-friendly restaurant serving deliciously fat and fluffy omelettes, mine featuring bubbling emmental cheese and served straight from the saucepan.
We encountered the exquisite Place des Vosges, which is a square park enclosed by lovely repetitious buildings. It was delightful and I was enchanted by its beauty.
Our final stop for day one was the Centre Pompidou. Alex was very much into the architecture, and I learned it was designed by Renzo Piano. It is an art gallery which includes a few famous artists such as Picasso and Lempicka.
The Centre is not a typical Parisian building. It is famous for its outer escalators, which lead to a marvellous view of Paris.
Sacre Couer can be seen on its majestic hill to the right, and the iconic Eiffel Tower to the left.
Our second day was the longest day I can recall from the whole trip. We walked 17 kilometres. However, I am glad for this exhausting adventure because we saw most of Paris’ important attractions before the following day, which I will get to later.
Our first stop was for a petit-déjeuner (a little breakfast) near our apartment. Breakfast included a café crème (coffee with milk), croissant, a buttered baguette slice and orange juice, plus a jar of Bonne Maman raspberry jam. So simple yet so delicious. French butter is amazing.
We then headed to the pharmacy as we were advised by the owner of our apartment that “radiologie” could be conducted at the pharmacy. We communicated this to the pharmacist and she advised us to go to a place nearby to get my x-ray done. We’d actually spotted the place the day before and kept it in mind. All this was in French mind you. We were doing very well. The radiologist advised that I had fractured my wrist (yay!) and his P.A. gave us the addresses of nearby hospitals. We got to check into the emergency ward and I even got a hospital bracelet! How lucky. I was even more lucky that the doctor who wrapped my arm in a cast spoke Spanish so we were able to understand him telling us to get another x-ray in one week’s time.
By noon I was casted up and finally ready to start my holiday with an unattractive blue cast on my arm. But we figured it could have been worse – at least it wasn’t my leg. You could also say it was a true local experience and we learnt lots of important French words (like radiologie).
We headed towards our first attraction – Notre Dame – via the Canal St Martin, home to many homes (boat style). We followed the Seine and ate our lunch overlooking Notre Dame, beside the unfortunate bore of the first “lock bridge” ever (we saw many copies on our trip, all of which made me sigh due to the uglification and destruction of several beautiful bridges due to a trend and its followers – in fact, a part of this Parisian bridge collapsed several days after our visit due to the added weight of the locks). Our lunch involved a cheap baguette, sliced emmental cheese and likely unwashed mixed lettuce leaves which we purchased at the supermarket prior.
We then experienced our first European gothic architectural delight, the famous Notre Dame cathedral, which was built in a time long before Australia was even known to the Dutch. Another epic and grand structure of Paris. The immense interior was just as impressive as the outer façade.
Our next stop was the Louvre, but just to see the outside. We assumed there’d be more time for the inside later. It’s a very old building which has been a museum since the French Revolution. I also remember reading about it in The Count of Monte Cristo. Napoleon was even involved at one stage.
We followed the path through the Jardin des Tuileries until we arrived at the Egyptian obelisk at the start of the famed Champs-Élysées. We continued along the tree-lined avenue, stopping once for me to take a nerdy photo by the plain door of 30 Champs-Élysées (the residence of my fictional hero, The Count of Monte Cristo), and twice to purchase Monet House and Louvre tickets for the following days.
We eventually arrived at the wondrous Arc de Triomphe. Another ridiculously grand and beautiful structure. The Arc is encircled by a rather busy and frightening roundabout.
Our final stop was the beautiful Eiffel Tower, the ultimate Parisian icon. It’s lovely to take in the detail of the tower as well as the colour, which is actually a bronze tone.
We had some time to kill before our visit to the viewpoint at the top of a tower, so we scanned the streets for a cheap dinner. Upon our return we lined up to take the elevator up the tower. We went just before sunset and the lighting of the city was absolutely beautiful. The city left us in awe. What a magnificent view.
We descended the tower after some time and ended our first full day in Paris by watching the tower from the famous viewpoint across the way at the Esplanade du Trocadero, just as the sun set and the night began to envelop the romantic city.