Paris, often known as the city of love and romance, is an incredible city. Since we first visited Paris during our whirlwind trip through Europe in January, 2010, my love for Pairs has grown. But, people tell me that with each great love there are some ups and there are some downs.
Did you read the moral of the story? The one about us not having travel insurance?
Being second-time visitors to Paris, we decided to relax a little and see the sights at a more leisurely pace. We were unprepared for just how ‘leisurely’ our pace would be. Our hotel room was a little more cramped than we had expected, and the facilities were below par, but we did not expect to spend much time inside so this was not a problem on our fist night.
Conveniently, our hotel was located only a few hundred metres from the Bastille Metro, where lines 1, 5 and 8 all stop. It did not seem like a very touristy part of Paris and we had much difficulty finding a restaurant or café nearby that had a menu in English. Our limited French meant that we were tended to order foods that sounded familiar, like ravioli, lasagne and poulet (chicken).
Traveller note: tartare de boeuf is raw mince served with a raw egg.
The many café’s in our area generally turned into bars and nightclubs after sundown, and some would not open until about 8pm. The sun goes down at about 10pm at this time of year, and after midnight our hotel locked its doors and had a special after hours entry. We found out the reason behind this after our first few nights of disrupted sleep from the voices of wild youth milling around in the streets. It sounded like we were staying in an area that attracted a crowd of people we would not normally hang out with. Even the locals seemed to be afraid to venture out after midnight.
Picnics and touristy things in Paris
Our first day in Paris was lovely. The sun was out and the temperature was somewhere in the mid-twenties, perfect for a picnic!
We caught the Metro to the Eiffel Tower and enjoyed a small picnic of cheese, olives and a baguette in the park under the enormous archway. Unfortunately only one lift was functioning that day so we elected not to join the few-hour-wait line and come back another day instead (a decision that we might come to regret later).
We packed up our lunch and spent the afternoon exploring the gothic features of the Notre-Dame. The view from the top of the two towers was particularly amazing. We could easily see the CBD, the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur on top of the hill in Montmarte.
We quickly went home and changed, before catching the Metro to Montmarte where we dined at a lovely café with the most exquisite fish and boeuf fillet (beef). Over dinner we planned our next few days of touristy things, hopeful that the weather would not destroy our plans. Little did we know it was not the weather we needed to worry about.
After a lovely meal in Montmarte, we followed the cobblestone, windy roads back down the hill to the Boulevard De Clinchy (near the Moulin Rouge) and joined a pub crawl through the area.
We met a lovely bunch of people, from all over the world, and enjoyed many drinks at the local Aussie bar and some Irish pubs. I am not sure where the night went wrong, but I think it was somewhere between my clutch being stolen and me falling over the gutter and rolling my ankle.
Either way, the night was a disaster.
The stolen clutch contained my credit cards, drivers licence, cash passport card, 44 Euros, and the real kicker, both our Passports which also contained our UK working visas…
After the events of the disastrous evening, the plans we had discussed over dinner were all but a distant memory. We didn’t walk down the 19m stone staircase and 1.5km caves of the Catacombs of Paris, or enjoy strolling the palace gardens of Chateau De Versailles, or climb the Eiffel Tower.
Instead, we visited the Australian Embassy, purchased crutches at the local pharmacy and got to see the inside of a police interview room.
The next day, after cancelling all of my cards and collecting a lovely pair of blue crutches to help me walk/hobble with my black and blue foot, we walked/hobbled in search of a police station to report the stolen bag. Our search was futile, and we soon gave up and caught a taxi to the Australian Embassy where we applied for emergency passports. Being late on a Thursday afternoon, we were informed that one of us (Dan) would need to return the next day with new passport photos and several hundred Euro to complete the application process, which could take 48 hours. We returned to the hotel, booked an extra night, and retreated to our room to count our limited Euro Cents and work out a plan of action.
Travel tip: eight tips on what to do if your valuables or passport are lost or stolen (from my own experience).
A series of plane flights, white nights and late nights has resulted in our body clocks being terribly out of sync with our current time zone (one hour in front of London and eight hours behind Brisbane). So, Friday was a day of relaxation, rest and, in my case, not much moving at all. My swollen foot was purple, and I felt that it was better to rest it for a day, rather than hobble along with my crutches through Paris. We were definitely moving at a more ‘leisurely’ pace.
After disaster strikes…
On Saturday and Sunday we had very late starts (we are on our honeymoon!) and decided to enjoy the sights of Paris from a hop-on hop-off bus tour.
L’Open Tour had four routes with 50+ stops, so we circled around Paris, listening to our out-of-time commentary and jumped between routes when it suited us. We were able to see the city layout in a way that we had not seen before, and enjoyed travelling past the Musee Du Louvre, the Grand Palais, Place De L’Opera, the Madeleine Church, the Pantheon and the Musee De L’Armee.
But a definite highlight was travelling up the Champs Elysees and circling the Arc De Triomphe.
For the uninitiated, the Arc De Triomphe is an incredible arched monument surrounded by a round-about that has no lines with 12 avenues that feed into it, depositing large amounts of traffic. It is no surprise then that there are no insurance companies in France that will payout if your accident happens on the Arc De Triomphe roundabout, you drive on it at your own risk. A rather exciting ride, if you ever get the chance!
Being a Saturday and Sunday, the sights (and buses) were extremely busy and the lines were huge. We realised that the biggest advantage the last time we were here in minus 7 degree January weather was the fact that there are no lines. The other was that we didn’t get as sunburnt. The weather has been amazing for us, most of the trip. Yesterday and today it was not as warm and sunny, but the cool breeze has been good for me hobbling around on crutches.
We stayed an extra night in Paris, being told that we had to wait until after 2pm on Monday to collect our Emergency Passports. So on our last morning we strolled/hobbled through a botanical garden, just south of Bastille, and stumbled across a small zoo.
Being a big fan of random animals, we were very excited to find several species we had not heard of or seen before. One was a sloth/possum like grey cat that is apparently a wild animal in Asia. Another was a rabbit looking animal with long thin legs. And, with a bout of homesickness we laughed at the Aussie animals on display with French-like names. Kangourou, and Laughing Kookaburra were among the few featured.
The next stop…
At present I am sitting on the TVG train (in some places it gets over 300km per hour!) to Lyon, where we will stay with my folks until they get sick of us. I am very much looking forward to seeing them and it will give me a chance to rest my foot, and visit a hospital with someone (Dad) who can speak much more French than me. After examining it last night I am now thinking it could be broken (where have you all heard that before?).
While it is sad that we have left Paris, we know that we will be back in the coming weeks to meet with the British Embassy to sort out our UK working Visas. At this point we are unsure of whether we will make it to the UK with permits to work, but I am confident that something will work out. If not, perhaps the UK was not meant for us and Australia will be seeing us sooner rather than later… I wonder if we can get visas for Canada or the US…
Missing you all (but still hoping we don’t have to come home earlier than intended),
J & D