France Day 3 – Paris (A post of gargantuan length)

Monday, my third day in Paris, I was finally on my own. I’m not used to traveling with people and having to coordinate schedules, so it was nice to have a modicum of freedom once again. They had given me a key, so I confidently ventured out to wander the streets, and to see what I could see. I was hungry (as I usually am) and I found another cafe to eat some onion soup. Unfortunately the onion soup was so bad this time that I couldn’t finish it. I suppose it was somewhat appropriate: the first onion soup was the absolute very best in my life. I owed that to the fact that I was in France, but that assumption was turned upside down with this terrible soup. Even France can have unsavoury food.

One thing I found interesting when I was sitting there at that restaurant, pondering about the wonder of being in France, was that a family in two vehicles pulled over right beside the window I was sitting at. About half of them got out of the vehicles, and then a father pulled a little girl’s pants down and she proceeded to urinate all over the street. A few people changed vehicles, he pulled her pants up, and then they left. I was a bit confused as to why they wouldn’t just ask to use the washroom of the restaurant I was sitting in, and a bit disgusted that they didn’t make any effort to create some sort of privacy or do it somewhere people wouldn’t be trekking. There was a park kitty corner to them, and if they restaurant refused them, they could’ve at least gone in a bush, but I suppose that’s just my worldview.

I then began to adventure the way that I like to adventure: by wandering. I was starting to be able to orient myself in Paris, so I just started walking. If I saw something interesting, no matter how far away, I would walk to it. I had also hoped that I would meet some people and make friends, but the French aren’t as friendly as the locals in other places I’ve been to.

Regardless of my lack of social interaction, I did see a lot of interesting things.Take the fake beaches they set up for a few weeks during the summer. Some of them looked like they came straight out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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River cruise & fake beaches.

There are some market-like shops along the river. There are also tons of book shops along the river’s wall. It was a really interesting concept for me.

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It didn’t take long for something to happen that ruined my idealization Paris for me. I am a person who is easily pulled in any direction, so unfortunately I more or less got robbed. A girl came up to me pretending to be deaf and mute and thrust a “petition” in front of me. Right from the beginning, I didn’t feel comfortable with the whole scenario, but she was all smiley and very insisting. I looked at the paper and couldn’t make out any of the names or signatures, but I figured I’d sign under a fake name anyway. What harm could there be in signing? I gave it back to her and started to walk away and she pointed that I had to donate money. I tried to grab the petition back, but she insisted on getting a donation. I grabbed 2 euros from my pocket and gave it to her and she wrote down that I had to give 10 euros. I shook my head “no” but she followed me and kept insisting. Of course I now realize all my mistakes, but I am the kind of person who just wants everyone to be happy all the time, so in the moment I was extremely flustered and couldn’t think straight. I put my hand in my pocket to show I only had a few coins left, and when I took out my hand, she took everything that was in it and ran away. I then became extremely angry. Another kid came up to me to do the same thing, but one look at my face and he turned away. I walked away in a huff, not understanding how I could be so stupid. Then I cried for about an hour before gathering enough courage to go back and demand to cross my name off the “petition” at least so that others wouldn’t see a clearly written name and be further duped. When I went back, however, she was gone. I had to let it go at that point, as there was literally nothing I could do. Paris is a giant city, and odds of me running into her were slim to none. This is the picture I took 30 seconds before the whole ordeal:

DSC_0358I know better than to let an incident ruin my entire day. So despite the whole crying and feeling devastated thing, I continued on and did my best to discover as much of the city as I could. The rest of the day was pretty superb.

I never had any interest in Europe until I reluctantly went for a grade 11 trip with my school, and then I was okay with it. But honestly, France is so damn gorgeous that I’m glad I opened up about going there. The fact that there is so much quality artwork in the street is flabbergasting. I suppose if you see it all the time, you might get used to it, but I found it to be quite stunning.

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And of course the river, and the surrounding architecture was fascinating. I loved seeing the rings along the walls, and imagining what kinds of ships would tie up there. It made me think of Les Miserables. I should probably watch that again, although I didn’t enjoy it the first time I watched it…

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The street performers were extra cool, too, although I wouldn’t want to be this guy:

I wandered around for something like 6 hours. I generally hate museums (I like the idea of them, but in reality they bore me), but the medieval museum caught my eye, and I wanted something to distract me from the humiliation of getting duped. I pretty much didn’t read anything in the museum, but I’m fond of medieval Europe, so it had a lot of interesting things to look at. I was such a turd to the employees there. I wanted to practice my French so bad, I pretended I didn’t speak any English. However, when I paid for my pass, the machine recognized my bank card as from Canada, and that my preferred language was English. So that was embarrassing, but I couldn’t stop there, could I? When I went to enter the museum, the lady asked in French to see my bag. I thought she meant I had to check it at the bag check, so I turned around and then she got mad at me and started speaking English, so I became doubly embarrassed.


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After the museum, I passed by Notre Dame again, but this time I decided to take a better look at it.

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This little island thing is quite lovely. At the end of my wandering for the day, I actually walked around the edge of the entire island during the sunset. It was absolutely beautiful. I was also jealous of all the friends hanging out, chatting, listening to music. I wanted to hang with them, but my French is too limited.

DSC_0394I also somehow ended up at the Louvre. I didn’t know I was at the Louvre until I was already there. Of course I didn’t go inside, but I did take a peek at the famous landmarks. The glass pyramid was in an episode of Touch, so I was pleased to see it.

The glass pyramid is to the left of this picture. You can see a corner of it.

The glass pyramid is to the left of this picture. You can see a corner of it.

The arch in the background of this picture I mistook for the Arc de Triomphe for maybe 30 seconds. I thought it was entirely too small, since my travel mate said she had climbed up it and had a wonderful view of Paris. In any case, I thought it was cool that there was a random arch. Also, hello rides! I wanted to go on the rides so bad, but I resisted.

DSC_0397At that arch, there was this amazing man playing the most amazing music. It was probably just because I was emotionally raw from my earlier encounter, but I cried when I heard him play. I didn’t want to leave. I would have been content to just sit there with him all day, but there was nowhere to sit, and my body was restless. Here is a taste of what I enjoyed so much, though the terrible audio of my camera doesn’t do him any justice:

I saw a roof that I thought was interesting, so I started on again. I soon saw that I had walked far enough that I could see the Eiffel Tower again. Now this is something that surprised me: I thought the Eiffel Tower was going to be a lot bigger. I thought you would be able to see it from much of the city, such as a defining feature that could help you navigate. Alas, it is so small that you cannot see it at all unless you are within the vicinity.

DSC_0401I have an obsession with horses, so this picture was a no-brainer. However, one of the signs said “Champs-Elysees” so I actually thought this was it (not the statue, but the area). I was like one street over. Bahaha! So close to seeing it and the Arc De Triomphe.

DSC_0402And voila! I finally found my beautiful roof! It belongs to the Grand Palais. I’m not going to lie, I thought it was going to be some sort of garden like at the Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver. Nope. Another museum.

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Across the street (the side I was on) was the Petit Palais, with its beautiful gate and a closed cafe that was “always open”.

DSC_0404I walked around the palace and found a film crew. I was so ridiculously excited. I checked out the trucks to see what was the same, and what was different. Set wasn’t nearby, however, so I left the poor souls alone and went on my jolly way. I then came across something I just love about Paris. Random art and gardens everywhere!

DSC_0405My riding instructor’s mother is from France, so she has spent a lot of time there, and even lived there for 6 years or so (I think?) as an adult. She told me that the French love Canadians. During my wanderings, I saw plenty of references to Canada, such as this sign in a very nice neighbourhood. I giggled when I saw it, because the colours are the same as the Vancouver Canucks’ jersey.

DSC_0406 I crossed the Seine in the direction of a very nice golden roof. It ended up being from this building, which is the Army Museum that apparently contains the tomb of Napolean, which is all a part of Les Invalides. I didn’t know any of this until after I got back to the apartment.

DSC_0408By this time I had already gotten hungry and was looking for somewhere to eat. I was also constantly looking for an electronics store, or somewhere I thought I might be able to get an adapter. I ended up stopping at a restaurant called Les Antiques, which was absolutely beautiful. It was like being transported back a century, and the food was delicious to boot. I tried to find it online when I got back, but without any luck. It must be fairly new because I spent an hour on Google Maps street view trying to find it so that I could recommend it.

After the meal, I decided it would be a brilliant idea to go to the free street dancing. If only I could remember where it was. I don’t know why I thought it was on that island, but that is why I went around the entire island, only to see it on the other side of the river. By then, I was too tired and wanted to go back. But I did see lots of other cool stuff on the way back:

More awesome French street art. There were lots of variations of this around.

More awesome French street art. There were lots of variations of this around.

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I LOVE this. One day, when I have my castle, I will have a set of doors like these.

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It’s so cool to look up and see this!

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Typical style of cafe in France. Everyone prefers to sit outside. Sometimes you may think the restaurant is full, but there is no one inside.

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This made me laugh so hard.

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So random!

I can’t remember what I did after I got back, but I think I went out for another crepe, because they’re so damn good.

France Day 2 – Paris

I couldn’t sleep that first night. I was way too excited to be there, although everyone else blamed it on jet lag. I finally got to sleep at about sunrise and slept till about 10. Everyone was gone when I woke up. They left me a note stating when they would be back to go on a walking tour if I wanted to join. They didn’t leave me a key, so I was a little annoyed at feeling extremely trapped. I also didn’t have any adaptors with me, so my phone was nearing the end of its battery life. I thought they would be easy to find, considering the abundance of tourists from around the world, however that did not end up being the case. I sneakily used my travel mate’s adapter while I was getting ready. I had mentioned that I had no adapters with me the day before and asked where I could get one, but they didn’t know, suggested the name of something I had never heard of, but never offered me the use of theirs until I found one.

I debated whether or not I should leave, and decided if I was going to be in Paris, I might as well explore it. I left and started to explore the district. I walked up and down streets, taking everything in. It was everything they say Paris is, and at the same time, nothing like it. After wandering around looking for a decently priced breakfast, I settled on ordering an onion soup at a cafe near the apartment. Let me tell you: nothing is cheap in Paris. The soup cost me 9 euros, which included tax and gratuity, but it’s still expensive as far as soup goes, and of course it took about 1.5 Canadian dollars to buy a Euro, so my soup was actually $13.50. Most of my traveling has happened in cheaper countries. For example: in Ecuador I would regularly buy 3 course meals and a drink for US $1.50. It was a difficult adjustment for me to make, spending so much money on food.

We all met up later and went to go on our walking tour with a local Parisian guide. It is a free service they offer through Discover Walks. We met up with our guide and he was a lovely, chatty fellow who enjoyed speaking English to everyone’s relief except mine. I wanted to practice my French! The biggest thing I took from his tour was the awesome graffiti that the Parisians do. I didn’t really pay attention to any of them before, but after his tour, I saw them everywhere, and it became almost a sort of game when it came to spotting them.

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French street art is better than Canadian street art.

My travel mate, L, said she was disappointed that there wasn’t much green space in Paris, so our guide made sure to take us through many parks to show her a different perspective. He also took us to a mosque with a giant tea house that was always packed with people, and a lovely walk along the Seine. I saw people dancing for free, and in that moment I wanted to move to Paris, just so I could dance alongside the river for free with like-minded people. He ended our journey at the Islamic Cultural Centre that has a fantastic view of Paris, which you can see in the video below.

It was getting late when we got back, and I was hungry but no one else was, so I decided to go out and find another crepe. This time they gave me the spare key to take. I felt that the district we were in was safe, so I didn’t mind wandering around alone at night. I eventually bought a shwarma and a crepe and ate the two together on the steps of one of the many churches. The shwarma wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but the crepe was fantastic. I later returned to the apartment for another sleepless night.

WordPress is making me sad because the quality of the videos is very poor compared to the originals. I may have to try something else eventually.

France Day 1 – Paris

I originally wanted to do a vlog and update it while I was in France. Then I realized it was too much work, and I didn’t have any time to waste while I was there.

Then I wanted to edit all the footage I shot into a sort of delayed vlog, or a movie, or something. Then I realized the footage is mostly shitty, and still too much work for a lazy soul such as I.

So, despite it being 2.5 months later, I figure I must deal with my pictures and videos somehow, and it would be lovely to actually document my adventure since I didn’t write much in my journal when I was there, and I appear to have lost it anyway. That being said…

WELCOME TO FRANCE!

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I flew with Air Transat, and luckily they had a direct flight. I know some people enjoy getting off of the plane for a few hours, but I honestly would rather just go straight there, unless the stopover is a couple of days long in somewhere awesome. I upgraded to Option Plus, which I thought was cool, mostly because of the free snacks. I’m not a person who enjoys much alcohol, so I kind of choked down the free sparkling wine at the beginning, which I accidentally spilled and had to mop up with my sleeve. Chocolate and chips, however, yes please!

It’s kind of amazing how things work. I had been talking about needing to go to France for the past year, and suddenly, an opportunity that I could not refuse came up. Landing in Charles de Gaulle, I couldn’t help feeling extremely content, not like I was coming home, but that I was getting closer. I had that feeling for the majority of the time I was in France.

We were shuttled off the plane to a tiny terminal with no one in it, and my luggage was one of the last ones to arrive, but I was absolutely stoked to be there. It wasn’t what I had been expecting, but that is the beauty about traveling.

I am not a planner. Whenever I make plans, they fall through, so I learned many years ago to just stop planning.  Therefore, I did not plan ahead how I would actually get to the apartment from the airport. The lady I was going to be traveling with had mentioned that I could take the train straight from the airport, so I looked for some train signs and followed them to the station. I had absolutely no idea where in Paris I was actually going, but luckily there was free WiFi so I was able to look on Google Maps, because the information lady refused to acknowledge the existence of Rue Pecquay. I looked at the train map, made my best guess, and hopped on the train.

The first thing I noticed on the train was there was not a whole lot of French being spoken. This disappointed me because I really wanted to practice my French. I took Spanish in school, so I don’t know much French, but it is in my top 3 of languages to learn. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to see what France is actually like, and not necessarily how it is portrayed. I know a lot of foreigners assume things about Canada that are simply not true, and I recognized my own ignorance going into a new country.

When I got to my station, it seemed like forever to get above ground, and when I did, I had no idea where to go. Luckily, Paris has a lot of free WiFi throughout the city, so I was able to zoom in and out of my map and figure out where to go. Unfortunately, the street signs are really hard to find if you are not sure where to look, so I did accidentally pass the street I was supposed to turn on because I couldn’t find the street sign. I eventually made it to the apartment, and was warmly greeted by my travel mate and two members of her family. They wanted to go on a sunset tour along the Seine and asked me if I would like to join. Despite having been awake for over 30 hours straight, I gladly accepted on the condition that I could have a shower and change first.

Paris is a great walking and transit city, so we walked, and were greeted by a protest. Can’t go to France and not see a protest, right? At least that’s what people have told me since.

The cruise was a lovely way to begin the journey, and I was able to cross of the most obvious tourist item off my list: the Eiffel Tower. I don’t actually care whether or not I see famous tourist sites, but I’m not going to purposely avoid them. It is of course also nice to be able to say “Yep, I’ve seen that!”.

The ship had these little phone-like devices in whatever language you chose to listen to the guide, but my arm got tired and I stopped listening after a few minutes, and just took pictures and video instead.

We were apparently on the wrong side of the boat for pretty much all the narration, so I thought this random church was Notre Dame, and that the Louvre was the Musee d’Orsay. Regardless of me not connecting the correct things together, it was an absolutely beautiful evening and a splendid way to start the trip. After the cruise, I had my first crepe in France, and I almost melted with happiness. We waited until the tower did it’s little light show, and then headed back to the apartment. Someone I wasn’t tired, and I just wanted to keep exploring. I was already falling in love with Paris.

Paris from the Seine