Sunday, 7 October 2007

Bonsoir, ma famille

On Friday I took my inaugural Eurostar trip. Firstly, I have to say how excellent the train is, and how I never want to fly again. No queues, normal bar prices, comfy seats, friendly staff, no liquid restrictions on your cabin baggage, and only one security check. You catch the train at Waterloo, which is right in the middle of London (or as was drilled into me on the trips over and back, from King's Cross St Pancras from November 14!), and less than 3 hours later, you emerge in Montmartre.

Anyhoo, my trip was to Paris to meet some ex-Australian Voices friends. Kent and Kelly have been travelling through Mongolia (on horse-back for 2 weeks!) and then through Russia. They met up with Kelly's sister Sarah, and we all met in Paris along with Anika who now lives in Cologne (Germany) with her boyfriend Florian, Andy who lives near Bath (England), Clare who lives near Glencoe (Scotland) with her boyfriend Jamie, and Brodie who is living in Besancon (France).

Kent, Sarah, Brodie, Kelly and I hit Sacre Coeur early(ish) on Saturday morning as our hostel was only a few hundred metres away. Absolutely gorgeous day. It's weird the way London is so close to Paris, and Paris' weather looks like this, while London manages to be overcast 90% of the time.

Then we caught the Metro down into the Centre of town. Unfortunately, and unusually for me, I was not the wielder of the guidebook, so now I can't remember the name of this building. Quite embarrassing because it's the scene of the major events of the French Revolution.

We wandered onto the Ile de Cite to Notre Dame. I was tempted to make a hunchback joke but luckily I curbed that impulse in time.

After some amazing ice-cream (for the others) and a croissant (for me), we found ourselves in the Jardins des Tuileries where we took some sun. Unfortunately you are not allowed to sit on the grass in this park (or many of the other Paris parks, it seems) so some of us squeezed onto a bench, and the rest onto the autumn leaf-covered gravel. I think we're still searching in vain for grass without a 'Pelouse Interdite' sign.

We had dinner at a Greek/French restaurant not far from where some of my family and I stayed in 1995. The restaurant was very touristy and the food was not fantastic but with the 12 of us, we were not likely to get a table anywhere else.

In any case, it was the night of the France/Argentina Rugby World Cup game so every restaurant had a big screen TV and hordes of excited Frenchmen. They actually shushed everyone when the game started. Luckily France won, or the jubilation in the streets after the game could have become something much uglier. There were people absolutely everywhere dancing and drinking and celebrating the win. I am utterly sick of rugby after all the attention it gets in England, but it was an experience to be on the streets of Paris and see the excitement. We walked down the Seine in the moonlight, and there were car horns going non-stop and people hanging (very dangerously) out of cars brandishing French flags. The guy in the middle below was a random excited French guy who wanted to be in our photo.

The next day I just had time for a Metro trip to Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris' most famous cemetery. Hundreds of famous people are buried here, including Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, and Oscar Wilde. My camera's battery died shortly before reaching any of these graves but here are some shots in the cemetery.

I was exhausted on Sunday night - our hostel room was right on the courtyard and consequently we all spent a few early morning hours listening to inane backpacker conversation - but I am still amazed about being able to just pop over to Paris for the weekend.

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