Third Times the Charm
Cities / Towns Visited: 2
Countires Visited: 2
Steps Taken Today: 26, 782
Steps Taken Around the World: 218,361
We awoke to our first day in Paris, and because we were tired, and this is actually supposed to be some measure of a holiday, we decided not to set an alarm and attempt to sleep in. Now because our body clocks had only just started to get used to London time, but we were now 1 hour ahead in Paris and an extra hour ahead because apparently the world still believes that daylight savings is an excellent idea (it is of course absolutely not), we were already off kilter, and despite sleeping till 9:30, my FitBit felt the need to remind me that I had indeed only had 6 hours sleep. Anyway, moving on. With a functional amount of rest under our belts we ventured out to do some domestics, namely source croissants (both butter and chocolate, because its an obligation as a pastry chef to start your trip in France with pastries) and fresh baguette, then meander over to the supermarket to fill the fridge for the next 7 days of our stay. Travelling on a budget can be hard, but if there is fridge and stove top on hand the best advice is to utilise it. Eating-in is almost always cheaper, provided you know what you’re doing; not as much fun obviously, but it leaves more money for treats and adventures.
With fridge full and stomach satieted, sun shining, and it almost being noon, we headed to the train to begin our Paris adventure. First stop; the Eiffel tower of course. Once we alighted the train we wandered into the first boulangerie we passed and bought baguettes for lunch, as we figured we could eat on the run to try and maximise sight seeing time (I must note that they were delicious, and as eating out, and travelling in general, usually leaves you vegetable deprived, my poulet et crudites (chicken and salad) baguette helped fill the void). On nearing the Eiffel Tower it was hard not to be taken aback by it, with clear skies making it picturesque. However, despite all those idyllic photos you see of people having picnics on the lawn, the grass is, in fact, fenced off. That didn’t stop me getting the always cliche photo of people on bikes in front of the tower though. As we wandered round the side to find the line, we were faced with a seemingly never ending snake of people queued up just to get through security (and believe me every tourist attraction has security here, bag checks and scanners; think small scale airport security. Can’t say I blame them, it just takes some getting used to). With the end of the line nowhere to be seen we decided to give the climb a miss for the day and come back bright and early the next day to try and beat some of the chaos. Strike one.
Next stop: the Palais Garnier. Having seen Phantom of the Opera less than a week before, we were eager to see the beautiful large opera house, which was the inspiration for the book that was the basis for the show. There was an English tour running at 2:30, which gave us plenty of time to get there, or so we thought. As much as people romanticise Paris, I personally find it less than enamoring, especially when attempting to navigate it on foot. Even with map in hand, the place is like a rabbit warren, and an often poorly signed one at that, with intersections often asymmetrical or with 5+ intersecting streets, meaning you have to cross multiple roads to simply carry on straight ahead. It was like it was built around a pub by drunks. Anyway, moving right along. Side note though, we did cross the love lock bridge, which was somewhat amusing as it had locks flanking the sign that said very clearly not to put them there. I understand the romance of it, but do these people not understand that the bridge wasn’t designed to hold the weight of thousands of locks as well as our ever increasing waistlines. I would also love to know if the Seine now has heavy metal issues from all of the keys now corroding in it. We did eventually find our way to the grand old building, and having stood in line for 20 or so minutes and passing through security, we were disappointed to find that the English tour was sold out, and was just about to start anyway. The kind lady at the desk recommended we book online and come back the next day to ensure we had a place, so with that we continued, albeit somewhat disheartened. We’d made it to Paris but we were yet to see any of its sights. Strike two.
We were determined however, and steadfastly marched on toward our last stop for the day; Sacre Coeur, a giant and stunning cathedral atop a hill north of the river Seine. I must say it is easier to navigate the streets when you can literally see what you’re walking towards from a distance. After a somewhat tiresome trek up the hill, ducking and weaving the scammers and gypsies trying to dupe money off unsuspecting tourists by getting them to play their games, or putting friendship bracelets on them then demanding money, we made it to the entrance. Finally a short queue. We passed through another bag check and down to the little office to buy tickets (because we hate our legs) for the stairs up to the dome. After a few technical issues with the tickets we were on our way up, rounding centuries old spiral staircases barely wide enough for 2 people to pass and, nearing the top, barely wide enough for my shoulders to pass. Gasping for breath, and in considerable amounts of pain and disbelief of how seemingly unfit I am, any breath I retained was stolen away by the view. From the top we could see all of Paris sprawling out before us (it truly is a huge city, especially when you consider how small our home city of Melbourne is). We could see Montparnasse Tower, and the Eiffel Tower, and in mentally reeling at how far away they seemed, I consulted my FitBit once more to find that we had, in fact, walked more than 20km; including the hill to Sacre Coeur and the 500+ steps up to the dome. Maybe I’m not that unfit after all.
Upon descending from our dizzying height we entered the interior of the cathedral, which was, of its own merit, just as beautiful as the view from the top. Despite almost every other tourist in there completely ignoring the ‘no photographs’ sign, we chose to be respectful of their request and keep our cameras stowed. Even if you are not religious, have the decency to respect that these are places of quite reflection, prayer and worship. I think it would do us all some good to put the cameras away sometimes and actually be present. Make memories in your mind, that is what it’s for after all. Have you really seen and experienced things if it was all through a lens?
Our day may not have been as eventful as we had hoped, but as we bought some biscuits and meandered to the train to walk home and cook beef and vegetable stew for dinner, I cannot say I was dissatisfied with only having seen the church that towered above us. With chapels all around, stunning stained glass, and four beautifully carved stone angels watching over all, it was hard not to feel connected to your soul or general sense of self, even if you do not share the beliefs of the church. It is possible to be spiritual without being religious, and whether you believe in one God, many, or none, if you believe in science, the universe, or simply just believe in yourself, be respectful of those who do not believe the same. No one’s entire belief system has been changed by having it questioned disrespected, or berated by a stranger, or even a ‘friend’. Let’s face it, at the end of the day life has one simple rule, ‘Don’t be a dick!’.