Pre-Midnight in Paris

Day 43: Tuesday November 22nd, 2011

I was on the way to Paris. To be honest, I wasn’t very excited. The last monstrous city I had tackled was London, and it would’ve been more apt to say that that city tackled me. I was also warned about pickpockets, so I was on my shit at every second. I also had heard the reputation of the French, and figured they would eat me alive since I didn’t know any words besides Bonjour and Merci. Plus, I wasn’t exactly on a romantic honeymoon or something. I was backpacking. On the other hand, Miel loves it, so it can’t be all bad. I won’t go in detail now, but I’ll say that almost all of my concerns were ill founded and silly.

To get to Paris, I had to get a train back to Brussels (I should’ve bought a return ticket originally. Whoops) and then a bus to Paris. I screwed up again when I bought an adult and not a young adult ticket (being under 25 has advantages), but I was in a hurry and worried I’d miss the bus.

My Aunt Catherine had given me three separate contacts in France before I left and I had been e-mailing them intermittently throughout my travels. Two of them were friends from grad school of hers (Bernadette, who lives in Bordeaux and Sylvie, who lives in Toulouse), and the third is Bernadette’s daughter Pauline, who was around my age and had a flat in Paris. Originally I thought I would merely have someone to get a glass of wine with, but she said I could stay with her for a few days in her flat (with a couple other french girls!), and that was good enough for me. I couldn’t finalize this before I was on the way to Paris, so I had one day booked at a hostel, the St. Christopher’s.

And while it didn’t show in Bruges, I think I am getting better at not getting lost, since I was able to navigate the Paris metro system and get to St. Christopher’s without a hitch. St. Christopher’s are one of the biggest hostel chains in Europe, and usually have the craziest parties and guests. It’s also one of the cheapest, which is why I chose it for Paris, because Paris ain’t cheap. This was a good one though, had a reading light and a screen for each bed, good internet, and good breakfast.

The first thing I did in Paris was buy a nice, hot, fresh baguette from a patisserie right nearby, and that was dinner. It was wonderful and didn’t need anything to go with it, even if I’m so tired of bread. Almost every shop in France is either a patisserie or boulangerie. A patisserie is a bakery that serves pastries and sweets (and also bread) in case you couldn’t figure it out. But a boulangerie is also a bakery more known for its bread. I pronounce it blue lingerie. And that’s your lame(st) joke of this post.

Then, it was night time in Paris, and inspired by Midnight in Paris, one of Woody Allen’s finest films in awhile (and one that doesn’t make me feel dirty, like Manhattan), I took a long walk to see the city by night. St. Christopher’s was barely on the map I was given in the NW corner, and I walked all the way down past Notre Dame, the Louvre and through the ridiculously swanky Champs-Elysses to get to the River Seine to take a boat cruise. Woody Allen (and many others) are right: Paris is the best by night.

I was almost late for the boat, since I underestimated the walk, but made it to enjoy a freezing cold night on the water. That water, like I said, was the Seine river, its murky depths the main waterway of Paris. It flows into the English channel and goes down to Burgandy, and is apparently a popular site for suicide and for Dexter dropping murder victims. Probably because of this, its’ banks, the Gauche and Droite, are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

If you ignored the annoying/awful five language narration of the cruise, which was easy to do, since the sights speak for themselves, the boat trip was perfect (well aside from me shivering throughout and that I was by myself, but whatever). It gave me a great overview of the city and the innumerable sights of Paris, as I floated along a river that Joan of Arc’s ashes were dumped in (supposedly). And then when you reach the Eiffel Tower money shot, you can’t help but join the horde of Asians snapping shot after shot of the tall damn sparkly thing. It was the best view of the tower that you can hope for, and because of how content I was afterward, I decided against ever visiting it. I didn’t need to wait in long lines and pay egregious amounts to enjoy the Eiffel Tower. I just did. Welcome to Paris, Andy.

Once back at the hostel, I met Matt, a nice and quiet Australian who was just starting his adventure in Paris. We shared a beer at Belushi’s (we each had one; we didn’t physically share one), the St. Christopher’s bar and planned to meet up at the Louvre the next day.

Next: Super-Tourist, and Pauline.

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