mardi 19 avril 2011

Paris, je t'aime

Related post you may want to read first as I refer back to those events when I went to Nice and Paris two weeks ago

My super awesome day... My fifth visit to Paris...

Well to be honest I did not want to go to Paris today but I HAD to go and I'll explain soon in an upcoming blog post. For the moment I just want to say that I had a mammoth day - 16 hours worth and despite feeling a bit tired at the start after getting up at 5am I feel great now and it's 10:30pm. For some strange reason I actually feel quite energetic despite such an early morning and long day. Why?

I HAD THE BEST TIME IN PARIS TODAY.  The Gods were certainly looking after me. It was the most perfect weather you could ever imagine and it was a shock to me because EVERY time I've been to Paris (4 times prior) the weather was either unpredictable or cloudy or rainy or windy or freezing or all of the above! This was the FIRST time I'd ever seen Paris completely sunny with no clouds and with hardly a hint of wind at all. It was 26°C.

I had to take the earliest train that left from my town because I had to get there as early as possible to finish up with "the issue" (yes I can say with a huge sigh of relief it's FINALLY done and I can reveal the whole saga soon). They said I had to wait while it was being done or I could come back in an hour , hour and a half. So I chose to get some things done during that time....

I arrived in Gare de Lyon in Paris (my old friend now I've been there so many times as it's the gateway to the south and south-east of France) and wanted/needed to change the time of my return ticket however I couldn't find the office/shop where to do that and I was getting impatient so I forgot about it for the moment and high-tailed it to where I needed to go.

So during this 1.5 hour window I went to the nearest SNCF/Grandes Lignes station which was Gare St Lazare to do this. I also had some problems collecting all of my tickets for Italy from the machines this morning (and being so early, the SNCF office in my town wasn't open) so I had 2 things to do there. I had planned to meet my friend in Paris again but it didn't feel like it would be worth just spending 1.5 hours together so I decided to take a later train 2 hours later and pay 8 euros for the privilege of changing this ticket.

Then, I had some other errand-y thing to do. My cousin asked me to buy her a Longchamp bag (that is, she'll pay me back) because she says they are so much more expensive in Australia. Since I couldn't do it on my last trip to Paris I thought this was the perfect opportunity and how coincidental that all the big department stores were right near Gare St Lazare!

So I bought it from the nearest department store Printemps (which means Spring in French, aptly) and then I needed to find a post office to send it to her. I thought I'd only go if there was one nearby otherwise I couldn't be bothered. Then again I don't want to carry more than I have to all day either. So I found one - at 56 Rue Cler, Paris, corner of Avenue La Motte Picquet (7th arrondissement). Massive RAVE for this post office! OMG. Remember before (in various posts) I said I lived in China? In China and most Asian countries the stores are overstaffed and there is always someone to help/serve you but in Australia and most Western countries it's the opposite and it's certainly the case in France. However I had quite a unique experience here. There were SO MANY STAFF and all so friendly and helpful. It's as if they had been trained by someone.... not in France. Hahaha. At first the lady that helped me (altogether there were 3-4 people that helped me!!) said there was only ONE box that I could use to send something to Australia and it was HUGE and cost a whopping 34 euros (that's with the shipping fee included). There were no bubble-lined envelopes like we have in the post office shops in Australia nor anything smaller but eventually she did find something smaller, luckily so I used that. All done. I felt it was my good deed for the day to 'chase' this thing for my cousin.

And for my reward I got a gorgeous green Longchamp paper bag to put my trench coat in! This morning it was freezing and then during the day I was sweating like crazy and had to take off my layers. It's always such a challenge figuring out what the heck to wear. Either I freeze in the morning (which I did anyway) and be comfortable later or be comfortable in the morning and have to carry round a big heavy coat. Luckily I only wore my autumn/spring trench coat and not my winter one (which some people still wear!!)

Actually I just realised my story got convoluted. After buying the handbag I went back to the office to pick up (something) and then I started walking towards the Eiffel Tower because I could see it and thought I might as well go there since I had almost 3 hours to kill before meeting my friend. That's when I stumbled across the post office by accident. Then, I happened to accidentally pass by the exact same café that my friend and I ate at too last time, only 2 weeks go.  I didn't even realise I had walked the same path - what a coincidence!

I passed a small Carrefour so went and popped in to buy some lunch and a drink. I was starving but I had had no time to eat or look for something cheap to eat until then.

Well Printemps pissed me off because they wanted me to pay 1 euro to use the toilets (considering I just spent a large sum of money in their shop!). I refuse to pay for public toilets unless I'm desperate. Since I wasn't I held it in. So as I was walking I came across a free toilet in the street. One of those automatic self-cleaning ones. You have to wait a while after each person for them to clean it...

While I was waiting in this queue (yes there was a queue!) This taxi driver guy (youngish) looked at me and it kind of weirded me out a bit so I looked away. Then I looked back at him and as he drove away he gave me a big huge smile. Ah it was kind of nice... ;)

It was soooooooooo sunny. OMG it was so beautiful. And also, I have never really seen the Eiffel Tower in the day time either. Only in the late afternoon or evening. I couldn't stop taking photos of it from every angle and distance possible. To me it's like Sydney's Opera House or the Pearl Tower in Shanghai. Photos will never do them justice because it's only until you see them in real life that you realise how incredibly HUGE they are and how awesome they are, wonderful pieces of architecture!!

I did it all backwards compared to my trip during Christmas. I started at the little park next to it and ended up in Trocadero. This time I also bought some Eiffel Tower keyrings just for the heck of it. Last time they offered 6 or 7 to me for 1 Euro and this time the guy offered me 3 for 1 Euro. I should've said 6 at least but I said '5' and he goes '4' and I said 'no' and he was like 'Ok, 5'. I couldn't believe how easy it was (and kicked myself for not saying 6 or 7 haha).

Unfortunately it's the WORST possible time for taking photos, in the middle of the day with the strong sun and lots of harsh shadows.

I had lunch in the park and I could not believe it had only been a little over 3 months since I was here and absolutely freezing in the snow, rain and wind!! Plus it was almost empty then and now, it was teeming with crowds, holidaymakers and tourists.

Anyway it took me so long to get to the top of Trocadero I realised I would be a little late meeting my friend at 2pm so I texted him...

After 2 line changes I eventually made it to our meeting spot, Abbesses métro station. He said it's close to where he lives so he knows it well but the reason he suggested meeting there is because it's one of the highest points of the city so it boasts spectacular views. The first thing we did was look at the "I love you wall" right next the métro exit. (Oh, by the way, luckily he advised me beforehand to take the lift/elevator and not the stairs since there are soooo many. That is one of the biggest lifts I have ever seen in that métro staiton).

It's also near where the Basilique du Sacré Coeur is. Now, a few years ago when I went to Paris for the first time I did see the Basilica (but I got off at Montmartre station instead). However it was an extremely short visit. I don't even know what possessed me to tell him this but because it was such a strong memory for me I just blurted it out. I was with my ex (my longest relationship) and I really wanted to see Moulin Rouge and the Basilica but we didn't have much time. He didn't want to come and see them with me so he went back to the hotel whereas I rushed around like crazy trying to see both in a short space of time. So I didn't have time to climb all those stairs but no such problem today!

I had a whopping 3.5 hours to spend with my friend. OMG the view was utterly breathtaking from up there. But not just of the view but just the buildings, the paths, the stairs and even the tourists themselves.. everything just made Paris even better than what you could imagine. I can't describe it. It was just so amazing and beautiful. He gave me ideas and tips about what I could take photos of (that weren't your typical touristy shots).

The funniest thing was when this old guy (trying to sell some little handicraft animals) started talking about me (something nice but I can't remember what exactly) to a customer in French, assuming I couldn't understand and I looked straight at him and said, "I speak French!" And we got talking and he asked me the typical question of where I'm from, etc etc.. then he asked my friend if I was his fiancée! OMG that was pretty embarrassing and hilarious. Then, as so often happens these days he started flattering me saying how pretty I am and then telling my friend he should get together with me... ahem... I remained silent as it was nice but really embarrassing.

That reminds too, that back at the park next to the Eiffel Tower I asked a random guy to take a photo of me for me. He was pretty young and reminded me of one of my students. This random (American?) lady walked past and asked if we'd like her to take a photo of us together! That is hilarious that she thought we were together?!

Since it was so hot and sunny I had an ice cream craving again. My friend said not to buy it there as it's touristy there so costs more but also he knows where the BEST ice cream in Paris is and that we should go there instead. At first I thought we wouldn't have enough time but we did.

After walking around the Basilica and seeing the funiculaire (cable car) AND all the places around there where the film Amélie was filmed (the pay phone is not there!) etc... He had a suggestion. Oh this was going to be good!

He said he'd come by scooter and he could take me to this island (Ile Saint Louis) to find this ice cream parlor. Sounds great except... I have a fear of riding motorbikes or scooters. It's rather a personal reason why but I thought I'd better get over it. I already refused an offer from another friend for a scooter ride. And these past few years I'm all for challenging myself to do 'hard' things or trying to get over my fears.

I actually said both in French and in English: Je vais mourir / I'm going to die . A tourist passing by heard me and laughed. Seriously deep down I was SHIT SCARED yet excited at the same time. Here goes nothing. At first it was very very scary. You have to sit up very straight and hold on really tight. He said NOT to lean with him when he leans and remain upright. At first I kept knocking my helmet against his. My palms were sweating like crazy and also bright red from holding onto the handlebar things so tightly. It was a billion times better than that bus ride last time. I wanted to film the whole trip but I couldn't bare to let go of the bars meaning I had no hands to hold the camera!

I think the ride went for a total of about 30 minutes and afterwards it became easier as I got more confident so I could hold on with only my left hand, and film with my right :) It was sooooo thrilling. I can't begin to describe it. Also with the sun and also the cool breeze it was just so comfortable and nice. He explained all the buildings and monuments as we drove past although I couldn't really hear much.

I actually had visions of me flying off, no kidding. I was still scared the whole time I think but I just had to pretend I was not because I was just having too much fun and couldn't keep the smile off my face. I toured Paris on scooter.

And the scariest part? When he drove into that massive huge roundabout where the Arc de Triomphe is! The one that's notorious for accidents. I think I screamed out of both fear and excitement.

So we made it to Ile Saint Louis in one piece and luckily didn't have to wait 30 minutes in the queue for the ice cream like he assumed we would. That place was filled to the brim with tourists (all eating ice creams or drinking coffee). I offered to shout him this time but he refused. The ice cream was nice but I wouldn't say it was as good as the one I had in Nice. When I told him I went to a fab ice cream place in Nice he knew EXACTLY which one I was talking about!

By then we only had a little bit of time left. We did a quick walk and crossed those little bridges... that's when I came across those padlocks on the Le Pont des Arts which I only know about because of the TV show The Amazing Race. The locks that lovers put there, 'sealing' their love. Awwww.... It was so beautiful I wanted to take so many photos of it but he reminded me we didn't have much time left.

Towards the very end and right after we had talked about a very personal subject, I asked about his girlfriend. I don't even know why I torture myself like that. The worst part of all of this is that I really like him and I'm pretty sure he knows it but he already has a girlfriend. But even if he didn't, I tell myself it's a totally dumb idea anyway since it'd be a long-distance relationship and I'm terrible at those.

Anyway, then he dropped me off at Gare de Lyon again, like déjà vu from 2 weeks ago. Except this time it was lovely and warm and not cold. I thought I'd sleep on the way home (it was nice and quiet on the train- yay!) but I was so hyped up I was not tired at all and watched the gorgeous landscape outside the window transform from dead flat to mountainous. Also all these bright fluorescent yellow rapeseed flowers had blossomed everywhere in the fields. I couldn't believe how beautiful it was and I cannot believe that it is light until 9 pm these days.

For me, you'll always remember your 'firsts' and that scooter ride was my first and to say that I did it in Paris, well that was like a dream come true. :) I just cannot believe what a lucky week this has been for me. Everything has been going so well and also having perfect weather today was also lucky and for that I will be eternally grateful to the Gods above!


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