London to Paris and back again – May 2007

To be honest I don't want to blog about my weekend… because most of what i would want to put in is a feeling that i can't really describe.

About a month ago, maybe more, I decided to book a weekend in Paris and thought that the weekend before my birthday would be a great time to go. I was looking forward to going with Nirven, but that didn't work out.
Nonetheless I was excited about my trip.

Sher came to see me off at Waterloo station. Walked to the Eurostar entrance, went through customs which felt like when you're at the airport, stamped my passport with no hassle. Most of the people in my cabin were French. Actually there was a huge group of uni students making their way back to Paris. Arrived in Paris at 23:30 local time. I had forgotten about the one hour time difference. Had a little bit of an issue getting a ticket for the metro, eventually went across the road from the station, got some change for the ticket machine and got 2 metro lines to the hotel. 

Now, the first thing I noticed was how wonderfully warm it was, the night air was just perfect. The second thing is that people were quite helpful and there are just a lot of people out at night, there is a buzz in the air. The energy of the city is just fantastic.

The hotel was fine, nothing amazing, but clean just what i like. it had a little balcony as well which was great. Slept with the doors open because it was just so warm.

I am not going to go into any detail about what I did there because really I had no plan whatsoever, no map or guide book, nothing. Just wandered. Had an idea of the touristy attractions that I needed to see and worked my way around that. Set off on Friday morning, a hot sunny bright day. I walked and walked and walked and sat and watched and took photos and absorbed. I started in the 1st arrondissement at the Louvre, 

from there I walked along the River Seine crossed over to the side of the river towards St Germain and then on to the Latin Quarter. Found my way to Notre Dame, crossed to the other side of the river, wandered through the little streets of Marais which is in the 4th arrondissement. Lots of crêperies and cafes selling delicious lookingtasting ice-cream. At some stage I found myself walking in and out of pet shops on a street along the river. Parisians love their dogs, and not just dogs but good bred dogs. These pet shops started at 300 euro upwards for puppies, kittens.

There were a few times when I would be staring at a map at the metro stations and some kind person would ask me in French if I was lost, what was I looking for on the map and if I needed directions (at least this is what I gathered), to which I would reply that I do not speak french but would really appreciate their help.

In the late afternoon I made my way to La Défense to meet Adin whom I was introduced to by Romain. When I arrived there I had some time before he got off work, so I walked around the Grande Arche and sat on the stairs where a whole lot of people were sitting. After awhile the left portion of the building arche was smoking, literally smoke seeping 

through the walls. All the people on the stairs migrated away to have a better look, cameras out, clicking away and I guess in case it exploded or something they could clear off. When the firemen arrived in their firetruck there were cheers and applauds
from the crowd.

After Adin found me, we had a drink with another friend of his, went to his house for a bit, had dinner, then set off for a party in an apartment near La Madeleine. The people at the party were cool, it was someone's birthday. It was great to meet up with Adin and crash someone's house party in Paris on a Friday night. Quite a few attractive french girls at the party too (sadly attractive straight girls), though I could not be too sure about one…

Saturday was much like Friday, wandering around in the heat of the day. I did see the Eiffel Tower, had crepes with nutella along the river, walked for miles and miles (at least thats what it felt like to met). Had an afternoon nap as I was not feeling so great. Met with Adin at the Bastille in the evening. Went for dinner to his friend's apartment in a 'little india' area of Paris. And then to a night club much later.  The night club to me was like any other night club, the venue was fine, the music was 'house' and the people were alright, the cover was 10 euro, the drinks were crazy expensive.
(Side note) Around the Eiffel Tower area there are many scam artists. They will approach you and ask if you speak English. The first time you will naturally say yes, and then they will give you their sob stories and somehow you will move on. A bit further on, another person will approach you the same way, asking if you speak English hopefully by this time you would have learned and you will nod stupidly in an attempt to indicate that you don't understand what they're asking.

On Sunday, I checked out of my hotel, left my bag there and decided to do some last minute wandering. Found some awesome street cafes with the most delicious looking food and atmosphere. Of course because I had limited time, I got lost down some side streets between the 5th and 6th arrondisements. Just completely lost my sense of direction. Eventually made my way out of the maze of little streets and cafes and found myself at a metro that I recognised. Got back to the hotel in time to collect my bag and was on time at Gare du Nord station to head back to the UK.

I reccommend Paris as a city you have to visit and spend time in at least twice in your life if not more.

Some random thoughts:

Rollerblading is very very popular in Paris. It is quite a flat city as well which makes it perfect for getting around on your rollers. I did walk into a rollerblading store, and was in awe of what was on offer in terms of the rollers, the accessories, the equipment, clothing and other gear. Very cool!
Both Friday and Saturday night I took a cab back to the hotel, each time the trip cost just under 10 euro.
The metro is fairly simple to use if you can figure out which direction you're going in. There are 14 major lines and when you're not really looking for a metro station you will be able to find one every few hundred metres.
When I was with Adin we went on the Line 14 which is the only fully automated line in the Métro system, with driverless trains. We sat right up in the front of the train (where usually there would be a conductor) and could see down through the tunnel.

What I have discovered is that I prefer the wandering around instead of having fixed plans. I prefer taking photos of people and street scenes instead of buildings and famous attractions. I prefer watching people instead of browsing through museums, galleries and churches. But thats me, it doesn't appeal everyone for sure. Of course when you visit a new city you need to see the famous landmarks and monuments and have a taste of the cultural side like exhibitions art theatre museums…

A few people that I spoke to which gives me the impression that most people in France are of the view that South Africa is still in its apartheid feel even though they know it was abolished over a decade ago, they also feel it is not a good safe time to visit South Africa and that discrimination and violence is still rife. And I don't mean crime, but violence and fighting. This is concerning.

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