Nom de Plumage

February 19, 2012

Paris, The City of Lights, Love and STRIKES!


I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport on time at the respectable hour of 7:45am. the flight was short and I barely slept due to the adrenaline still pumping through my veins from my almost ‘not-happening-due-to-strike’ fiasco in New York. Never mind! I arrived safely and collected my luggage and was about to face head-on the complete and utter shambles of a Parisian nightmare. Up until this point, I had travelled in English speaking countries and was able to communicate and read my way around the cities. That had just changed. My understanding of the French language was very basic, but after hearing so many complaints from other travellers to France and the so-called ‘French arrogance’, I was really nervous (that was putting it mildly). There was hardly anyone who worked at the airport to offer and assistance and so I had to fumble my way around. I decided on following the crowd to the train station and it was here that the stress kicked in. I was looking for anyone to assist me, but everything was closed. There was meant to be a direct bus route to my accommodation, but no-buses and no help. To make matters worse, I could not for the life of me work out how to buy a train ticket and which platform to get on and what direction I was meant to go. It did not help matters when I was carrying 25kg on my back and each second that passed the weight on my back became unbearable.It nearly killed me! Forty-five minutes passed and I had enough. I bought a ticket, to God-knows where and got onto a platform that I hoped was to take me to God-knows where? The journey ended 30 minutes later after the train terminated. I walked up to the main concord and found long-awaited assistance who was not arrogant, but helpful in his directions. So getting on the ever famous ‘metro’, I made my way to Porte de Bagnolet station and to my hostel.
The directions from the metro station to my hostel was helpful and as I ascended from the station onto the main street, I was shocked. After seeing so many pictures of Paris, you automatically have a preconceived idea of how it would look like. Reality is so much different, but what I did learn, that the outer suburbs are no-where near as attractive as inner Paris. Porte de Bagnolet was a grey looking dirty suburb with a lot of street maintenance and construction.
My hostel (my very first) was off the main street and I arrived to late to check-in. It was now just after noon and it took me four hours to make my way here. Not knowing where to go, I met an American girl named Julianne who was in the same predicament. We started talking and decided on locking our luggage away and finding somewhere to have lunch. We found a beautiful little bakery and I bought a delicious crispy French baguette (as you do) filled with soft brie cheese, lettuce and tomato. We then got on the metro and made our way into Paris. Parisian metro system is brilliant. So well connected and disgustingly efficient, it made travelling about Paris a dream.
We arrived at the station directly under the Opera House and I cannot describe the feeling I had when we came out and into the heart of Paris. A dream! Surreal! The heady rush! Excitement and just plain EUPHORIA that I had finally arrived. Behind me stood the Opera House and as I turned to see it for the first time, I gasped. It is as beautiful as I knew it would be and this was only a precursor to what was coming. Julianne and I bought a ticket to enter, which you do from the rear entrance and It was spectacular. The interior was grand, plush and sickeningly stunning. The hall of mirrors was the piece-de-resistance and the rich red velvet of the actual theatre was sublime. We toured the premises on our own and afterwards we got back onto the metro and went to the Arc d’ Triumph. Now this is a must! Not for the faint hearted, the Arc itself is the side show compared to the main event of watching crazy Parisian drivers navigate their way in and out of the world’s most confusing round-about. No rules apply and every man/woman for them self. God help them because one needs it to survive the fiasco of this unique show. I loved watching it, but cringed for each car that entered the gauntlet. A beautiful piece of architecture and very poignant and somber.
Our final stop was at the Eiffel Tower, but there was so many queued to go to the top, that we decided to come back tomorrow. Instead we walked around the base and was harassed by ethnic vendors trying to sell us cheap and nasty souvenirs. We left and went to have dinner at a bistro. A very long day and it ended well with a glass of wine with a delicious dinner of roast chicken and chips, shared with a new friend.

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