Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bienvenue a Paris!

Just got back from my first trip to Paris and it was everything and more than I expected it to be. Alex and I decided to go there mainly because our friend Matt from Calgary is currently living and playing baseball just outside of Paris in Savigny (yes they have baseball in Paris). So it was a great chance for me to see the city, and at the same time hang out with Matt. Plus it helped that we had a 4 day long weekend from work!

Our Parisian Connection Matt and I.
Things didn't start out so well as our flight was delayed by over an hour (no clue why) and we didn't get into Paris until late Wednesday evening. We were worried that we might miss the last train into Paris from the airport but luckily we just caught it (that would have been one expensive taxi ride). The harder part was finding a taxi once we got into the center, to the point where we walked for about half an hour toward our hotel until finding one. I saw all these taxis flying by with lights on and then Alex had to patiently explain that in Paris the yellow light on top means they're taken. How about you just turn the light off like the rest of us??

Our first hotel was in the Bastille area. It wasn't anything fancy and after the first night I realized that for the price we paid, it was pretty good. My next trip to Paris though will be a couple stars up. Maybe I'm spoiled but having a nice hotel room makes the whole experience more enjoyable.
On Thursday we headed out early for our first Parisian breakfast, coffee and croissant. I really much prefer this than a big English breakfast in the morning, cuz I can still walk afterwards instead of feeling stuffed! Unfortunately, the weather was not particularly warm and it was pretty cloudy and windy outside. Poor Alex wore shorts and froze. Inside Notre Dame was quite nice, especially with all of the candles lit. There was a mass going on and I felt really bad for walking around the place being a tourist while people were sitting there in prayer. I wanted to go up to the tower but the line up was ridiculous and apart from me being an incredibly impatient person, we had the excuse not to wait because we had to meet Matt! Jeez its been 10 months since we'd seen him.

We went for a nice lunch with Matt in this little Brasserie. Thing with French restaurants, cafes etc. is that its all very cramped quarters. So you end up sitting prety close to your neihbors and every place we visited or walked by always seemed to be full. Us Canadians are used to a lot more space but I found it cozy being in a restaurant that was full and buzzing with converstation. It was also nice to listed to another language other than Czech, and French sounds so sexy. Throughout the weekend, I really wished I spoke French and thanked my lucky stars that I had Alex and Matt there as the French speakers.

On our way to the Luxenburg gardens we stopped off at a Patisserie (ha I finally figured out the difference between a Brasserie and a Patisserie) and grabbed some beutiful looking cakes. As we were ordering we beared witness as to how rude the French can be when this girl came up and asked one of the people working there if there was a toillette. Apparently she responded with "no, but you can go out there on the sidewalk," and then proceeded to laugh histerically! I guess you have to speak French to understand the full offensiveness of it but the guys understood it as pretty bad. Anywho, we enjoyed our treat in the Luxenburg gardens as I so wished for sunshine.

Yummy!The rest of the sighseeing day was spent walking from the gardens, through some nice parts of Paris, down to the Louvre, up the Chaps D'Elysees, and to the Arc du Triomphe (which was cordered off for some reason). I didn't realize how far apart everything is and what a huge city Paris was. We hopped on the Metro (packed to the brim like sardines, I'm surprised I didn't have a panic attack) and headed to a nice pub in the St. Georges district for Happy hour!! Believe me, this really counts in Paris where cocktails are 8 euros a piece. Paying half the price makes them oh so enjoyable!

The boys and I at the Louvre.

I was pretty much exhausted after happy hour, so all 3 of us retreated back to our hotel for a short rest before heading out for dinner in the Bastille area. We found this lively street packed with restaurants, clubs, etc. and stopped off in a Cuban place I think for appe's and a bottle of wine of course. Great place to catch up and discuss some future plans (haha all very uncertain). Matt headed off to catch the last train to his place but we learned the next day that there was a strike and the train didn't run so he got home at 4 am, woops, those French unions.

Friday, early day once again. Alex and I tried to go and see St. Chappelle but the line up was extremely long....pass. We met Matt by the Eiffel Tower and proceeded to take some classic pics by the enormous structure. Seriously, its huge and boggles my mind how such a thing was built. I didn't want to go up just then becuase I thought the weather would be better on Sunday and I wanted clear blue skies, didn't really happen though. Alex read up on Rick Steve's about a market close to Eiffy on Ru Cler, so we headed there and picked up some goodies for a Parisian picnic in front of Eiffy. I think that guy at the fruit stand ripped us off but the rasberry's were too damn good to complain too much. Oh and the cheese, probably the best brie I have ever had. I could quickly get used to living that lifestyle!

Our picnic by Eiffy!

Then we were off to Montmartre where the famous Sacre Coeur is located. I have to say I liked the church a lot better from the outside and the views of Paris were great. After Matt left, Alex and I walked around to the bottom steps and I witnessed one of the biggest scams that takes place in Paris. Right at the entrance to the steps to go up to Sacre Coeur, there is a bunch of black guys standing around. As you come up, they grab your wrist, or a couple fingers, and proceed to make a bracelet out of some string while you're stuck in this position. After they finish, they ask for some money for the "nice" bracelet they made you. Alex had told me about this but watching it in action is something else. I felt so bad for the people that they got a hold of cuz they seemed kind of helpless. And the ones that pulled their arm away seemed to really piss off these guys, and lets just say with 5 of them and one of you, its not exactly a toss up who would win the battle.

That night, we visited the Louvre for free (every Friday from 6 pm for people under 26). Saw the Mona Lisa, yes its an impressive painting but a bit smaller than I thought it would be and the huge glass pane in front kind of takes away from the beauty of it. We barely saw one wing of the huge museum and I was getting really frusterated because all of the paintings only had descriptions in French beside them! Even museums in flippin Slovakia have English translations (not grammatically correct I might add but you get the jist of it). I'm assuming this is done on purpose but it really took away from the whole experience from me becuase I'd like to know what I'm looking at, and what the significance of it is. We also saw the Venus de Milo statue, and the Egyptian exhibit which was pretty cool. The building itself though is a work of art and so ornate.

Three hours in any museum is enough for me especially after a day of heavy sighseeing. We took a walk across the bridge and went for a nice dinner. I wish I got to see more of Paris by night because it is so pretty but there just wasn't enough time and by night fall I was so tired.

On Saturday we took a day trip with Matt to the Champagne region which deserves a post on its own....
So I'd left Sunday for the Eiffel tower and to go shopping! I accomplished the first but again line ups. We made our way to the second platform by climbing the some 700 stairs. I'd definately recommend this option as it is cheaper, and most importantly, the line is shorter. Plus the stairs are manageable. I had to steady my nerves a little becuase of the height but I managed. Once you get to the second platform though its another line up for the elevator to the top. Did I mention how much I love waiting?? In all honesty it wasn't too bad and you have something to look at while you wait. It was definately worth it getting to the top and the views are even more spectacular from there. All in all it took us about 3 hours for everything.

On our way to Ru Cler again, I had what could possibly qualify as one of the most embarrasing moments of my life as I bailed face first right in front of a busy cafe. I don't get it; after what should be a simple little slip, my body reacts automatically by lurching me forward onto my hands and knees. Oh and this time I even had some side impact with a parked car. Alex was behind me and had a look of utter shock when I turned and asked for help in getting up. It wasn't so much my knees as it was my ego that was bruised. I walked so fast away from the cafe only to have Alex poke fun at me and comment on how impressed he was that I didn't cry! I should have charged for the show as I'm sure many people got a good chuckle out of it. Actually sitting here writing about it right now, I'm laughing as well but at the time; not so funny (simultaneously I am looking up lessons on falling gracefully as walking seems to be beyond me.)

We ended up spending a lot of Sunday on the Metro as everything is so darn far apart. Tried to go shopping at a big mall and apparently all the stores are closed on Sundays....darn, I was really looking forward to doing some shopping. I was determined though and made us trek back to Chaps D'Elysees where I proceeded to purchase a pair of sneakers at the Nike store. I've been looking for sneakers for a while so I was satisfied and ready to head back to Prague after that. We came back to Prague late Sunday night, and I'd never been so happy to see my bed!

Busy week again this week as we have Kent visiting us from Cairo and then head out for Croatia on Saturday morning. I can't wait to lay on a beach!


At 7:05 AM, Blogger aibek said...

I still don't understand why girls care that much about having a nice hotel room when traveling. Isn't it all about spending a night in a more or less comfortable bed in a clean room with shower or is it more than that?!! I always had difficulties in understanding them.:)
Sounds like trip was fun, it is on my list as well. But I decided to wait till Czechs get into Schengen.
So how is Croatia?


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