In my travels through Europe so far; I have heard nothing good about Paris.
When I would tell people my itinerary, they would stop me at Paris and say “oh don’t go there, Parisians are so rude” or “the city is so dirty” or “if you don’t speak french they’ll hate you” or “you’ll get swindled by a gypsy”.
When I was a kid, I developed a fairy tale image of Paris.
A city of love and fashion and food and culture and happy endings.
Thankfully, through (my torturous experience of) studying French and paying closer attention to the News over the past few years, I had adjusted my view of Paris.
It seemed to be a city full of life. Life that flourished and blossomed. Along with life that was messy and confused.
But I still had high hopes for Paris.
And it broke my heart a little every time I heard someone speaking ill of the city.
I arrived in Paris yesterday (Sunday October 28th), after a sad good bye to Yolande and a 2hr train ride.
I had an hour or so to kill between arriving at Gare Du Nord station and having to meet the woman who owned the apartment I was renting, so I spied a local cafe and made myself comfortable. The weather was warm(ish), the sky was blue and the waitress was kind and attentive.
For my first Parisian meal, I had a large glass of white wine, a fresh tomato, basil and bocconcini salad and a red berry Panacotta.
Nom level = 10,000+.
I went to the apartment and found a sweet French girl named Isabel who was waiting to show me the way and provide me with keys.
The apartment I’m staying in feels like it must be someone’s art studio. The walls are covered with a mélange of works, with artists including Mucha, Warhol & Jonas Mekas.
I feel vaguely ‘uncool’ for such an abode.
After dropping my bags, I went for a walk around my local area. I managed to find the local metro station (La Fourche, if you’re curious) and ACTUALLY spoke some French in the pursuit of a metro map! AND I was understood! (Chikka Chikka yeah, fake id, fake id). (Another 10 points to the fellow geek who knows where that reference is from.)
I found a local cafe that sold slices of Brioche, this linguistical interaction was not as smooth as my previous one. But I inevitably made myself understood and the Brioche was acquired. Brioche is like if bread and croissant had a delicious baby. (mmmmm…..brioche…..laareeegarrrggghhhh)
I returned home. Tried to get the Internet in my apartment working. Failed. And then went to bed.
Today (29th) has been a total tourist win!
I was desperate to see the Eiffel Tower, TO-DAY!! So I got up early, bothered to make myself pretty (I wanted to make a good first impression, obviously) and was out the door before 9am.
I was a ball of nerves through the entire trip on the metro. Was I going the right way? Would I be able to find it? Would it be as beautiful as I hoped? Or would it, and Paris, be a terrible disappointment?
I got off the train right next to the L’Hotel National des Invalides; a massive museum complex for collections of Frecnh Military history and Memorabilia. (btw, this complex houses the remains of Napoleon Bonaparte!!)
But fuck the military, I wanted my tower.
After about 20 minutes of wandering, I finally found the Champ de Mars.
And there it was. Strangely encircled by an art installation of painted bears.
The Eiffel Tower had been ingrained in my brain as the one thing I needed to see if ever I was lucky enough to travel to Europe. And it did not disappoint.
I was totally smitten with my first glimpse and I fell more and more in love with every glance.
I’ve had lots of people tell me that the Eiffel Tower is very disappointing in real life.
But to them I say ‘Hooey!’.
How is it possible not to see the Eiffel Tower as a monument to mans genius? This miraculous thing was built, by man, by hand, in the 1880s!!!
I love every little piece of this fabulous landmark.
(That being said, there is no money on earth that would make me climb it. Not only are the cues monstrous, but I’m actually that afraid of heights.)
So in the shadow of my Tower, I bought myself a Pain au Chocolat and wondered where to go next. (Btw, best breakfast ever)
I took a water taxi over to the Musee d’Orsay and, minutes after departing the boat, I found myself being hustled.
A man was walking briskly behind me. Suddenly he was beside me and reaching for a large gold ring on the ground. He stopped me as he exclaimed for his good fortune. He showed some symbol on the inside of the ring that, he assured me, meant the ring was made of gold. Then, out of the kindness of his heart, he insisted that I take the ring. I walked away totally bemused.
But then he was tapping on my shoulder (and here comes the rub) and he started harassing me for money “to buy sandwich”.
I took his hand and said that I was sorry. I told him that I had no change and that he should take the ring because it would be of more use to him than I.
He was not pleased with my reply.
However, I wandered away happily in the knowledge that I had not been the naive damsel that he had expected me to be.
The Musee d’Orsay is closed on Mondays. Boo.
So I struck out towards the Louvre and quickly found myself walking through a new out door sculpture exhibition in the Jardin des Tuileries. A collection of modern sculptures had been plonked in this, already sculture laden, garden so I decided to go for a wander.
Then I saw the Arc de Triomphe off in the distance!
How kind of the Parisians to have lain their most famous landmarks within such reasonable walking distance. I must thank them.
I strolled down the Promenade des Champs-Élysées towards the magnificent arch.
On the way I stopped into Zara and bought some new jeans (I cannot tell you how much I am now hating ALL of the clothes I have packed. The same 5 outfits for 41 days makes Steph go something something…).
I stopped for another glorious lunch. Rack of lamb, served with string beans and mushrooms, and enjoyed with a glass of red wine.
Then I walked through the underground entrance to get a better look at the Arc.
Did you know it was commissioned by Napoleon? And that it’s the final resting place of the unknown soldier? And that the flame of the unknown soldier has only gone out one; because of a drunk Mexican soccer fan?
I decided to end my wonderfully touristic day at the Musee d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. But, to my great fortune, this museum is also closed on Mondays.
Next door to the Musee d’art Moderne is the Palais de Tokyo.
Little did I know that, it is one of the most cutting edge art galleries around to date.
The windows to the building are covered with comic book fight noises, like “whambo” and “kaplowie”. There were installations of painting, photography, video, rotting vegetable sculpture, philosophic animation and a BRUTALLY honest depiction of the fake orgasm. A lot of the installations were interactive and I saw almost everyone taking photographs. (I don’t think I will EVER feel comfortable taking pictures of other peoples work. But I did take one from the gallery, it’s a bit of a puzzle: see below).
I lost 5hrs to the Palais de Tokyo, in what felt like a matter of minutes.
It was beautiful, confronting, confusing and overwhelming.
I loved it!
I took the metro home and managed not to die or get lost, despite having to make a change from the 9 to the 13 at Miromesnil. Woot for independence!
Now I’m sitting in bed, trying to decided what to do tomorrow.
TOO MANY CHOICES!
Love you all so.
Sorry for the blog delays, there is a serious lack of wifi in this town.
Pictured – A new sculpture for the Jardin des Tuileries, The Eiffel tower from the Tuileries, the Arc de Triomphe from the middle of the Champs-Élysées & the toilet doors at the Palais de Tokyo (try to decipher the symbols! ;D )