From Paris with Love
I shuffled nervously along the Easyjet check-in line after failing to fit my bag into the carry-on restriction hold. “Don’t ask me to check it” I prayed as I approached the looming attendant. “Do you want me to put your bag in the hold? It’s free” he asked. “No it’s okay, it’s fine” I said casually, thinking for some absurd reason he was trying to trick me. “Nothing is free in Morocco” I thought. “Can you put your bag in the carry-on restriction hold” he asked. “Shit, Shit, Shit!” I thought panicking, knowing it wouldn’t fit. I approached the hold and tried again pushing slightly harder this time – it didn’t go. In a desperate attempt to make it fit I tried it on its side, and would you believe it, it fit, it bloody fit! “There! It fits!” I said to the attendant with a touch of anger in my voice, as I scanned the line for approval – it was another win for the carry-on crew.
The same guy was at the boarding gate putting many others through the same nerve wrecking routine. I stood close by, defending my fellow passengers. “Hey, look! This metal bar is making the width smaller” I protested to the surprise of the passenger. I then scurried past the boarding gate before he could ask me to re-check mine – I should be like a carry-on baggage lawyer or something, that would be cool.
I took my seat in the middle of the second row, well aware of the empty seat up front with that extra leg-room we so desperately crave. A few minutes after take-off I made my move up front and sat down like I’d arrived late from the sky or had been on the toilet for a shameless amount of time. The seat was in the middle, and I was clearly not welcome as the two guys either side dominated the arm rests leaving me in a really awkward, squashed position. Shortly after, I returned to my seat with my tail between my legs. Oh well! At least I tried.
The plane soon landed in Paris, where I continued my journey by train to the central station – Paris Nord. After a long battle with the metro ticket system I managed to make it to Belleville where I searched tirelessly for one hour to find my hostel. Armed with directions from the local binmen I passed through China town, and down a side street, arriving in slight joy at my destination – The Loft Hostel. As I opened the doors, my ears tuned to the sound of Dubstep playing in reception. “Hmm, this could be interesting” I thought. After quizzing the guy at reception on his musical taste, I quickly became informed – and invited – to a Dubstep event taking place that evening at one of the night clubs close by. “A few hours’ sleep, then it’s party time” I thought, as I shuffled to my room to re-charge my body. And party we did! After a solid night on the dance floor, a few too many vodkas, and some serious body movements, I returned to my bed satisfied to the core.
With my love for exercise, I decided to avoid the Metro, and make use of the Velib bike rental system that was in use around the city. You pay just under two euros for a day ticket, you take a bike, and you have thirty minutes to reach your next docking station where you check-in the bike, and decide whether or not you want to continue using it – pretty cool huh? So each morning I went down and took one of the bikes – with the little white basket on the front – and cycled towards a landmark feeling very French indeed – all I needed was some wine and cheese in the basket and I would have been sorted.
I’m going to type this in capitals; PARIS IS AMAZING! Seriously! My mouth hung open for the first few days – I was completely blown away by the beauty of the place – the architecture; the lighting; the people; the buzz; the language. That, mixed with the slight chill in the air, and the fallen autumn leaves that gathered in piles at the side of the road, created the most beautiful environment for me to stroll through. Gazing with eyes full of curiosity and excitement, the child within had awoken.
Without question, my favourite place was The Louvre. Being one of the largest museums in the world, you can understand when I tell you that I spent two days there and was only just getting to know my way around. The audio guide was absolutely fantastic, and gave me an insight to many pieces of art on my tour around the museum. I really enjoyed the Egyptian Antiquities, and was astounded by some of the huge statues I saw in the Near Eastern Antiquities. It’s the most incredible place I’ve ever been to, and I could easily spend my whole life exploring and enjoying the various pieces of art and history on display – I loved it. I also visited the Musee d’Orsay where I enjoyed viewing more art including a collection from Van Gogh – the only person I knew there. I clearly don’t know much about art but I think anyone can have a certain level of appreciation for it, and I feel I have progressed in some way – the audio guides helped!
When I wasn’t falling in love with The Louvre I was wandering the streets of Paris. I came across a “big boned” French guy who was using this contraption coupled with a light breeze to create huge soap bubbles which floated down the street – one humongous bubble engulfed this cyclists head as he cycled up the street, it was so funny! I just stood next to him in fits of laughter watching crowds of people dodging the bubbles – it was like a cut scene from The Matrix.
I didn’t go up the Eiffel Tower because I just didn’t feel the need to – it was marvellous to see it from a distance – especially at night – and there was a nice buzz around there the whole day which I enjoyed being a part of. I know what you’re saying, “You missed out on the best view in Paris”. Well, I did climb the million and one stairs to the top of the Arc de Triomphe where I saw the little gleams of red and yellow lights in the night as traffic navigated around the Arc, continuing down one of its twelve avenues. The panoramic look-out brought with it great views of the Eiffel Tower which dominated the skyline, beaming with pride across the city as it’s spotlight searched the sky for competition – it stood alone, unflappable, brimming with confidence – it deserved its place as the most visited paid monument in the world.
I sipped mulled wine as I traipsed through the Christmas markets of the Champ Elyess, soaking up the Christmas vibes as I meandered from stall to stall. Even though I had a stomach virus, it didn’t stop me munching my way through a giant Belgian waffle coated generously with Nutella, it made me feel worse but it was worth every bite.
As I returned to The Loft each evening I was welcomed with a nice, vibrant atmosphere, and I’m not just saying that because they had a “Best Atmosphere 2012” award on the wall. It somehow seemed to attract some of the coolest people I’ve met on my travels. I met a funny guy from Toronto who had come to the city as a trained sous chef looking to demonstrate his passion for French cuisine; I met a cute girl called Asha – an award winning soul singer from Singapore on a recording journey around Europe; and then there was Jonathan – a travel writer from England, world-renowned for his inspirational travel blog infused with laughter and emotion.
“All good things come to an end” – what a load of crap, I was on my way to London on the Eurostar for another funky city experience. Can you believe I haven’t visited London before? Only the airport – does that count? With a heavy heart, I was leaving behind the city of love, but I knew I would return to continue my adventure. À bientôt Paris! Encore nous rencontrerons x
Backpackers Tips and Advice
The Loft Hostel was a great place to stay – not the cheapest hostel in Paris but well worth the money (20-30 euro per night) considering the quality of the rooms and the atmosphere. It was also right next to China town and a few supermarkets so eating was cheap and simple.
If your under 25, consider yourself very lucky as you get in free to all museums and galleries – I was that lucky guy! Don’t forget your ID!
Hire the audio guide in The Louvre – it’s the best thing I’ve ever used, very well made with a guy you actually want to listen to , and not strangle!
The Velib bike hire system is pretty cool too, but it takes some getting used to, and finding the drop off points can be a pain at times – ask other Velib bike users if you get stuck.
Hanging around the outskirts of the city late at night can be a bit dodgy, I saw quite a few gangs around on the street corners, the city center is a lot safer to walk around at night.