After such a long time waiting for this trip to happen, it is hard to believe that we are finally here!
The journey began with a very uneventful flight from Auckland to Shanghai Pudong, a quick stopover (30 mins outside of customs), then another uneventful flight to Paris. Thanks to Helen, we knew to catch the Roissy Bus from the airport to the Opera de Paris. So easy and right down the road from where we were staying.
Although we had been forewarned that crossing the road anywhere in Paris would put your life at stake, we were not able to fully appreciate the truth of this until we tried to cross and realised that even though there is a green man, it does not mean the cars, buses and cyclists will stop. We have now got it down to a fine art by just following a Parisian looking person across the road when they go as it seems to work out better for them.
Our hotel is in the 2nd arrondissement down a cute little side street which looks exactly as you would expect a Parisian street to look, with white stone walls, wrought iron balconies and potted geraniums. We thought we had hit the jackpot as far as locations went, getting a hotel in such a quintessentially Parisian street, but discovered on our walks around the next day that every single street looks this way. It is just beyond beautiful.
That night, we went and wandered the streets and took some photos of all the beautiful lit up buildings, including the Opera de Paris. We were walking down one street and saw an incredible church at the end. Thinking that we had discovered some amazing hidden gem, we jumped at the chance to have a look and take some photos. Again, after walking around Paris the next day, we saw that the church from the night before was probably what they would class as unremarkable even though it was well beyond anything we had ever seen in New Zealand before.
Day two was the day we decided to get up early and ‘watch the city wake’ so at 7.30 am we left the hotel in search of some coffee and croissants. We popped into a patisserie down a side street where we spotted some chic locals heading. Alison, you will be pleased to hear (despite your scepticism) that both of us were able to order our breakfast without a word of English. Our first experience of the french patisserie did not disappoint as what we ordered was every bit as delicious as we had been promised. We were heading in the vague direction of Notre Dame so that we could skip the queues and have a look around. On our way we spotted this large, ornately decorated building so we veered off track to have a look. We both posed for pictures in front, then we saw a beautiful court yard which was completely empty so we went to have a look. It was so beautiful and quiet. Then, through the far gates of the courtyard we spotted a familiar monument, the glass pyramid of the Louvre! We had been standing at the Louvre taking photos and didn’t even realise! This kickstarted our day of chucking all plans out the window and just wandering around to see what else we could find.
At 8am in the morning, the Louvre was completely deserted apart from a small queue of 20 or so keen people lining up to get in first when it opened. We decided that the day was far too beautiful to warrant spending a portion of it stuck inside so continued on with our journey. The further we walked, the more famous landmarks that came into view, first the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe, them while we were not even paying attention, the Eiffel Tower. Once we had seen the Eiffel Tower, we just had to go there, it was far too exciting to miss. We strolled down the Seine in the sunshine, enjoying the peace and quiet of a very sleepy city.
Once we reached the Eiffel Tower, things started to get a little busier. We decided to walk up instead of take the lift as the queue for the stairs took about 2 minutes, whereas the lift queue was snaking all over the place. It did not talk long to get to the second floor and we did not die of lack of fitness despite the fact that we had not trained for this (much to the horror of Matt – thanks). The day was incredible with views to match. We decided not to get the lift to the top since the queues were crazy for that too and we had heard that the views from the Arc de Triomphe were better. Once we got down, we stopped to be super tourists and take even more photos with the Tower. We had a few people approach us to try and get us to buy souvenirs, but nothing too scary. After this we decided that we would head back towards Notre Dame, so just meandered through all of the side streets in that general direction. The amount of amazing things there are to see in this city just tucked away is incredible. Everywhere you look, there is something beautiful.
Before we got to Notre Dame, we got too hungry so stopped to pick up a Baguette for lunch. Delish. Instead of continuing to Notre Dame, we decided to head to the largest outdoor food market in Paris which was only open on Thursdays and Sundays. It was quite a hike down there which was near the Palace de la Bastille. Once we got there, we were surprised with the amount of Gypsies and homeless people so didn’t really want to hang around too long. The market was not that great, Alex even described it as a larger Frankton Markets. One thing we did see while there was a gypsy trying to steal some fruit, the shop keeper catching them and then spitting on them!! Safe to say we got out of there after that.
Some of the other places we passed by on our whirlwind tour of Paris today were the Maisons de Victor Hugo, the Musee d’Orsay, the Centre Georges Pompidou (which is horribly ugly) and the Musee de l’Armee which holds Napoleon’s Tomb. Too much to see!!