Paris (July 07)

30 07 2007

Mona LisaSnails; frogs legs; coffee and croissants in street side cafés – Paris proved to be a very cool city in which to spend a weekend. Having a day off work to use, I opted to take a three day weekend and caught the EuroStar across to Paris. I’ve had a visit to Paris before, albeit very briefly, back in 2005 when a friend of mine managed to score two VIP passes to the opening of Space Mountain 2 at EuroDisney, however other than the inside of the theme park I never saw much of anything, so I was really looking forward to spending a little more time there and truly explore the city.

The first thing I noticed about Paris, is everything looks exactly the way you would expect it to, unlike London, most development in recent years has been on the outskirts of the city, leaving most of the inner city unchanged for decades, if not centuries. All the streets are lined with quaint Parisian homes, with their ornate little window grills the French seem to love so dearly; cramped little cafes dotted all over the place, full of dour looking Parisians; and much to my delight, stalls selling Nutella crepes at every turn.

My first stop was the Louvre, famously home to the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, this immense gallery holds so much art, and so many treasures, I was told if you spent one minute looking at each item, it would still take you four months, night and day, to see everything. First construction on the Louvre began over eight hundred years ago, as a fortress and arsenal to hold the royal treasures and its collection has been expanding ever since. I admired most things for considerably less than one minute, and walked straight through large sections of art and artefacts, however I still spent three hours meandering around the various wings of the gallery. Unfortunately very little of the signage is in English, so most of the time I had little appreciation for what I was actually looking at,Tasty Snails! nevertheless, there is something quite surreal about being up-close and personal with a piece of art as famous at the Mona Lisa.

Coincidentally, my flatmate Chris and his ex-girlfriend Holly were in Paris the same weekend, so we decided combine forces and meet up in the Montmartre suburb for a dinner and a few drinks. Montmartre is known as the artistic quarter of Paris and previously home to artists such as Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso; it is also famous for its cabaret bars, most recognisably Moulin Rouge. We had intentions of visiting Moulin Rouge, however we were somewhat deterred by the €175 entrance fee, so we opted to go find somewhere a little cheaper for a few drinks and some dinner. We found ourselves shortly thereafter in a nice little restaurant, and over a bottle of wine decided to experience the local delicacies. Pleased as we were with our selection, I have to confess our enthusiasm waned a little when our order of escargot and frogs legs finally reached the table. Surprisingly, the snails were delicious, much like garlicy balls of rubber; the frogs legs however, were much less appealing.

Notre DameBy this point, we’d drank a few bottles of wine, and decided to go for a walk and see what was going on. Chris and I were talking, and noticed that we’d lost Holly along the way, after turning around we found her talking to a rather muscular French man outside of a club, we wandered back to find out the story. Holly, rather drunk at this stage and seemingly disappointed that we hadn’t gone to Moulin Rouge, had negotiated us deal with a strip club hawker, under the ruse that it was my birthday (it wasn’t), all three of us could enter and we’d get a free bottle of wine, for the low low price of €20.

Considering this was more-or-less the price of the bottle of wine anyway, we decided to accept the offer. Once inside, we realised this dark, empty club wasn’t really the kind of place we wanted to spend the evening, so we quickly drank our wine and left, but not before all the strippers wished me happy birthday and I managed to knock over a large vase of plastic flowers. Still celebrating my fictitious birthday, we ambled through Paris’s seedy red light district and found ourselves a Chinese karaoke bar, with a lone Latino man onstage singing classic rock songs and playing guitar. On hearing it was my birthday, he lead a verse of happy birthday, and everyone in the bar joined in. It was definitely my best pretend birthday ever.
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The rest of the weekend was rather relaxed; we ambled up the Eiffel tower, visited the Pompidou Modern Art gallery, and watched street performers in the sunshine. We sipped coffee in Parisian cafes, ate Nutella Crepes by the riverside and posed like retards in front of all the major tourist attractions. The weather was nice, the company good, and the city was amazing. Everything a weekend away should be.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marksteele/sets/72157600976372480/

Mark

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