Travel Dispatch: Paris

18 03 2008

We sat in the brightly lit bar of our Parisian hostel, the smell of fresh paint and construction hung heavy in the air. I stabbed a large chunk of gelatinous meat out from my bowl and peered suspiciously at the oily brown liquid dribbling from it. Beef Bourguignon, a French delicacy, apparently.

Expressing Myself Through The Medium Of MusicI hacked off the fatty portion, deposited it on a napkin and placed the remaining sliver of chewy meat inside my mouth. Blurgh. My sister Lisa, who had been delicately removing small bones from her minuscule salmon steak looked equally unimpressed. With a sigh, we pushed our barely touched plates to the side of the table and vowed we would never eat at the hostel again.

Still hungry and €30 poorer, we did the only sensible thing one can do in these situations and ordered a round of strong drinks. A few minutes later we were necking shots of a mysterious blue liquid and thankfully feeling much better about the events of our evening.

The following morning, after trying to counter-act our hangovers with half a dozen cups of watery hostel coffee, we set out on a guided walking tour of the city. Walking tours, I have decided, are the best way to see a city like Paris, neither self-exploration or the prerecorded bus tours come close. Our guide told us lively stories from the history of the city, from the rule of Napoleon to the breaking of Bastille and the French revolution. We heard about the public guillotining of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and the controversal glass pyramids at the Lourve. Despite the fact this trip was my third visit to the French capital I had obviously missed so much of the city’s fascinating history before.

Later that afternoon, despite having been on our feet for the best part of six hours, we were still feeling energetic so we decided to meander across central Paris and climb the 700 odd steps of the Eiffel Tower. Only as weLisa Eats Escargot stood atop the giant steel structure, admiring the world eighty-one storeys below did fatigue finally overcome us both. Wearily we limped on achy legs to the nearest Metro station and headed toward our accommodation.

Clean and showered, but completely exhausted, we decided to abandon the pub crawl we had intended for the evening and instead opt for the slightly less strenuous option of going out for dinner instead. We selected a quaint traditional French restaurant where a tired looking waitress unenthusiastically took our order in English as we pointed at things in our menus.

Dinner was delicious – Snails, check. Red wine check. Lisa knocking over the wine in true Lisa fashion, check. Having already irked our waitress by speaking only English we tried to ignore the giant sodden arc of red wine on the adjacent table as best we could, unfortunately it was a little too large and a little too obvious to be missed. With a sigh our waitress spotted the mess and set about cleaning up our devastation while Lisa and I watched on sheepishly.

Rousing ourselves early the following morning, we set out for another day planned with a wealth of activities and sights. For some time I had longed to visit the Catacombs, the home of the bones of seven million of Paris’s former inhabitants, all piled quietly in a large room beneath a round-a-bout on a busy urban street. Unfortunately my macabre desire left unfulfilled as it was closed for maintenence – who knew skeletons needed repairs? – so we trudged onward the Louvre.

The Mona LisaStill only on our second activity of our busy schedule the toll of the previous days effort finally struck home and we both sat lethargically on a bench near the Mona Lisa for quite some time. Finally we agreed that we were too tired to carry on, so we abandoned the rest of our hectic itinerary and snuck back to our hostel for some R&R. After a few idle hours sitting around and complaining to Lisa how sore my feet were, we finally ventured from our hostel and joined another walking tour through the artistic Montmartre district of Paris, notably the home of Moulin Rouge and filming location of the ever so lovely movie, Amélie.

Later that evening, accompanied by Peter – an Australian guy who had spent a large part of the previous evening trapped in an elevator – we made our way to the base of the Eiffel Tower. Having only visited the tower that previous day I wasn’t expecting too much from the evening, but after dusk the tower is transformed – the illuminated steel penetrating the dark canvas of the night sky is truly a breathtaking sight.

The Parisians have recently covered the entire Eiffel Tower in small flash bulb lights and now every hour on the hour after nightfall, the tower erupts in to a explosion of light which can be seen from all over the city. We sat on a rail at the base of the monument munching on ham and cheese crepes when the clock hit 10pm and the Eiffel Tower burst in to cataclysm of light, flickeriEiffel Tower Light Showng and glimmering just metres in front of us. We sat in awe taking in the spectacle, all grinning ear to ear. I thought to myself with a smirk, it’s moments like these that really make this whole travel gig so good.

I can safely confess now that I had a few concerns before my sister arrived in the UK with regard to just how well we were going to be able to travel together – travel can be a pressure cooker from which I’ve seen people emerge, never to speak to each other again. Thankfully, despite a few squabbles early on in our trip, my visions of pushing Lisa in to a Venetian canal and being forced to flee the country never came to pass and in fact, we proved to be better travel buddies than I dared hope.

And so, I feel I have fulfilled my brotherly duties for now. Lisa left, full of travel ideas of her own – her major concern seemed to be how she was to coerce her friends to go with her. I think it’s fair to say she’s now got the travel bug as bad as I do, so who knows? Perhaps this won’t be our last adventure together.

Photos from this trip:




One response

9 02 2012

glad to see sonmoee writing about how great hostels were…how about a profile on the independents in the USA? We are a lot more fun than HI, more unique looking…and not dry!

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