Travel Notes: Paris, France [2017]

Paris, France with 1 day stopovers in Lisbon and Porto

Monday, 03 July – Day 1: 
The rush to get shit done, the sad goodbyes to the pups, and then the wait. Travelling always seem so surreal to me. My younger self would never believe that I’ve had the opportunity to travel as much as I have so far. I’m feeling damn grateful to be in this position. The sunset peeking through the small airplane windows finally spurs on that holiday feeling. If there’s one thing travelling teaches you, it’s patience. And empathy. A simple smile or a quick conversation with strangers can really feed the soul. On the plane I spoke to a lady from DRC. She’s been living in SA for 10 years already, arrived with nothing, worked as a packer at Spar and now has her own business making clothes. Humbling and Inspiring, she reminds me that your circumstances don’t define you, but you choices do.

Tuesday, 04 July – Day 2:
An 8 hour wait in Lisbon before our bus to Resurrection Fest in Spain arrives. I loved visiting Lisbon last year, a city filled with so much grace and modesty. We explored the area close to the bus station, taking advantage of the beautiful weather and parks to relax. Spotted a water fountain, just for dogs! Charging stations for electric cars around every corner. Small things that’s the norm here for Europeans which I wish we have could have back home.

Wednesday to Saturday, 05 July to 08 July – Days 3 to 6: Resurrection Fest 2017
Check my next blog post for more on this part.

Sunday, 09 July – Day 7:
Unfortunately, we only had one night in Porto to try rest and recover from the fest. It’s a city I would like to visit in the next few years though. I can feel that same old, humble charm that I experienced in Lisbon.

Monday, 10 July – Day 8: Off to Paris WEEEEEEE go! 

Yet another day spent travelling. This time from Porto to Paris and delayed flights due to floods and thunderstorms in Paris. Pfft, so much for European Summer. Luckily, we lived the Lounge Life for a few hours with free food, drinks and wi-fi, oh and clean toilets! What more can one ask for. TIP: Always have a roll of toilet paper with you when travelling. 99% of the time, any toilet at anyplace won’t have any. We’ve experienced this in most countries and places we’ve been to. No one wants to shake and bake every single time you wee!

We got to Paris late-ish, figured out the train station and headed off to our aparthotel 15min outside of the Paris CBD. The place was simple and had a fridge for all the beer we planned to drink because “Leffe is Love, Leffe is Life” hey Bryan! TIP: Get the Navigo Commuter’s Pass in Paris from the information centre at the main stations. It’s valid from Monday to Sunday, for all zones, trains and buses. And it only cost 23 Euro each. The small Italian restaurant, LA BARCARCLA, close to our accommodation served the BEST Lasagne I’ve ever had in my life. That is saying something especially when European food is infamous for being absolutely kak compared to what we have back home.

Tuesday, 11 July – Day 9: 
Wash day! Only since my lovely husband insists on both of us packing only one bag for a 2-week trip. Finally, we set off to explore Paris, the city of love and all things romantic. And tourists, and crowds, but also amazing views and even more amazing pastries. The Eiffel Tower is even more breathtaking in real life but we decided to delay our visit to later in the day due to the insanely long queue to get in.

We braved the queue to get to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Security checks is a real thing in Paris, at every entrance to every landmark/mall/attraction. The French military was set up at the top when we got there, with a clear vantage point of the whole city. We headed down the Champs-Élysées for some shopping, only to catch the military practicing their flyover for the upcoming Bastille Day festivities.

Resting our feet in one of the many beautiful parks, we had the unfortunate experience of witnessing what seemed like a pick-pocket incident. Two middle-eastern guys came sprinting past us, Bryan tried to the trip the one, followed by a poor Chinese guy who did not make enough noise for anyone to realize what the hell is going on. The warnings were everywhere around the city, I initially thought “hey, it can’t be worse than back home” but clearly, they have quite the problem in Paris.

We headed to the Eiffel Tower at about 20:30. Tickets to the top was a WEEEEE bit expensive but judging from what we saw earlier from the Arc de Triomphe, this was bound to be even more impressive. We climbed the stairs to the 2nd floor, fighting other tourists for our spot to the lift to the very top of the tower. The wait, the standing, the climbing, the sore feet. It was all worth it! Being at the top is like that very first time you realized you are in love with your significant other. Sharing this view (albeit crowded) was magnificent, overwhelming even. It truly felt like being on top of the world.

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Wednesday, 12 July – Day 10:
Today was Louvre day! We bought tickets online and made sure we got there at 08:30 before they opened at 09:00. We literally sprinted to the Mona Lisa, a pretty underwhelming discovery. The painting is much smaller in real life and made me wonder what was so special about her. Beer flavored nipples perhaps? But at least we got to see before the Chinese invasion started. And boy did it get rough. The one thing that could possibly ruin any landmark/attraction visit (anywhere in the world) is the packs of Chinese tourist with their selfie sticks taking photos of the most random things in the most inconvenient spot. The museum got packed as the morning proceeded and we ended up spending hours getting lost in the Louvre, admiring big ass paintings, perfect sculptures and photobombing tourist pictures. TIP: when visiting the Louvre, book tickets ahead online for the earliest slot when they are opening at 9am and be sure to get there by 8:30 at the entrance that is at the Palais Royale Louvre Train /Metro station.

The rest of the day we explored the CBD, stopping by at the hauntingly beautiful Notre-Dame Cathedral and popping in at a local metal pub dedicated to James Hetfield. We also explored the infamous Moulin Rouge area and hiked up the stairs to Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris.

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Thursday, 13 July – Day 11:
We took the train to the outskirts of Paris to Chateau Versailles, the palace which was once home to the French Monarchy and Marie Antoinette herself. Tickets were damn expensive and the queue even more shocking but the estate which housed the royal family for centuries was massive. The main palace had mostly rooms with sculptures, paintings and a furnished room here and there. We took a walk throw the palace gardens down to the other smaller buildings including a beautiful mill and spent most of the day admiring the beautiful gardens and exploring the 7-hectare estate. One struggles to believe that once upon a time this was someone’s home.

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Friday, 14 July – Day 12:
On booking our dates, we did not realize we will be in Paris on Bastille Day. I was nervous due to recent terror attacks but also extremely excited. Security was amped up in the city most likely due to Trump being in the vicinity and the military presence was everywhere. Including right above us, in the sky, showing off their power and skill by flying over the Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe. The fighter jets were impressive, shooting out the colors of the French flag. We also celebrated by enjoying various French pastries throughout the day including chocolate croissants and of course Crepes. We headed through the side streets to the quieter side of town and went to a metal pub, Le Black Dog. In typical Black Metal style, the barman was moody as hell and not really welcoming. Afterwards we headed off to explore some more and rested a while for the evening’s festivities. We bought two small bottles of wine and a box of Macaroons and settled in on a bridge with a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower as the sun set. Once darkness fell, the sky was lit up by the most fantastic fireworks display that we’ve seen in our lives. Fireworks were shooting from the tower itself, and some of the explosions where bigger and taller than the tower itself!

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Saturday, 15 July – Day 13:
We spent our last day walking to a breakfast spot a few km’s away from our aparthotel, and realized how much value for our money we get back home in terms of food. The Europeans are truly “simple” when it comes to most of their meals and too afraid to add more to a plate than what is specified on the menu itself! We tried to avoid the tourist crowds for the rest of the day (we managed by pure chance to catch the military parade of horses on the other side of town) and explored the alternative side of Paris, discovering where artist and cosplay fans hang out. We saw various people dressed up while having their lunch (I swear most of the time people are just sitting at cafés eating and drinking wine!). We tried to watch Super Rugby at an Australian Cafe but surprisingly they were not showing it!

In closing, Paris was as beautiful as the pictures promised but it’s no fairy tale either. If you plan to go in the middle of Summer prepare yourself for the crowds, don’t be naïve and fall for expensive tourist traps and as the signs remind you around every corner, beware of pickpockets!

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