Tuesday, August 3, 2010

French Kissing in Paris (July 13-17)

So now we’ve got your attention….just before leaving for our 7 weeks in the USA, some good friends – Pete & Alli asked us if we wanted to join them in Paris for Bastille Day on July 14 (French Independence Day). We hesitated initially, knowing that we would have just got back from the USA only a few days before, but we thought what the heck!! How good would it be to be reunited with friends who played a big part in the inspiration for us to leave Australia and do what we’re doing. We met Pete and Alli through couch surfing when we hosted them in Adelaide in 2008. They were only meant to stay for 2 nights, but ended up staying for 2 weeks because we had that instant connection and had so much fun hanging out together. So much so, that they returned for another 2 weeks stay a couple of months later. They had been travelling together for a solid 4 years and Pete for 8 years prior to that. With so many inspiring stories to tell and in hearing about our plans, they encouraged us to think about extending our 3 month whirlwind tour of the world to at least a year. At the time, we had considered it, but not given it much thought…..I was avoiding the idea simply because of my own fear, but Tim was keen. So we were left with some serious thinking and planning to do after our discussions with Pete & Alli. The rest is history!

So, back to Paris….we flew from London Luton airport and it was our first experience with Easy Jet as well as our first flight delay due to a maintenance issue. We hoped we would get out of our whole trip being unscathed by delays, but I guess that’s just wishful thinking! Thankfully, we weren’t meeting Pete & Alli until the next morning, so there wasn’t any need to be there in a hurry.

We arrived late to our little dingy hotel not far from the Eiffel Tower….we quickly discovered that you don’t get a whole lot for your money in Paris! But the place was clean and that’s what mattered. It was a bit of a joke that we couldn’t sit on the toilet properly without resting our legs on the Bo day…….GOOGLE lol! Our room also featured a hairdryer that looked like a vacuum cleaner and a chain hanging on the wall by the bedside that seemed to serve no purpose at all….or at least none of us could work out. The best we could come up with was we could use it to pull ourselves out of bed. Hehe.

We went out for a walk to get a bite to eat and stock up on bottled water ….whoever thought that finding bottled water would be such a challenging task!! No convenience stores open within a few kilometres! The ironic thing is that we ended up buying it from MacDonald’s! LOL! The price of 5 Euros for 2 x 500ml bottles was the not-so-funny part. Of course, after visiting Macca’s which we thought was our last option, we just happened to stumble across a convenience store 200m down the road and bought 1.5 litres for 1 Euro! Shit! Yes you can have a chuckle at our expense….all over buying water.

We were stoked to see Pete and Alli the next morning when they arrived. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t that kind to us and decided to bring us rain for Bastille Day. Having only one day (or so we thought) with the 4 of us together we headed out and braved the rain which was only spitting at the time. We wandered the streets of Paris for a while, past the Eiffel Tower and the site where Princess Diana was killed. Then, almost suddenly, the heavens opened and bucketed down a whole lot of water!! And I mean A LOT!! We just happened to be in an area where there was no shelter within a few hundred metres and the only option we had was to stand huddled against a tree with our one small umbrella between all of us. Tim stood under the neighbouring tree with his waterproof jacket gazing across at us with a concerned look on his face. After 15 minutes of being pounded with torrential rain, none of us stayed dry and the streets were flooding. The rain was pouring so hard that our umbrella was acting like a gutter, guiding the water straight down our backs and backs of our legs. As we looked around, we could see people caught without waterproof gear and those who were giving up on their umbrellas as well. Some people were walking in shin deep water in their nice clothes they had dressed in ready to celebrate Bastille Day. We decided to go back to the hotel to get out of our wet clothes and hope for the weather to clear.

Thankfully the weather did get better in the early evening, so much so that no one would have ever known how bad it was during the day. In the evening, we navigated through the crowds to find a great spot right in front of the Eiffel Tower for the Bastille Day fireworks. They were amazing….the best fireworks we have ever seen and were noticeably much better than those we’d seen recently in New York for the US Independence Day. The creativity and colours were exceptional, including even love hearts in the display. This was the moment we engaged in a little French kissing! Hehe! Yes, it was romantic! What made it even better was the lights on the Eiffel Tower were out and from where we were, the tower was a silhouette in front of the fireworks. Stunning.

Bastille Day Fireworks

Us with Pete & Alli

The Eiffel Tower at Sunset

We had planned to spend the following day saying goodbye to Pete & Alli who were heading to Versailles and then having a good look around Paris, especially since the weather was being kind. Our plans were thwarted by Pete & Alli without too much objection from us and we accompanied them to Versailles for the day. Despite running out of time to visit the inside of the very famous Versailles Palace, we weren’t too disappointed about lazing on the lawn in the Palace gardens drinking wine and eating French cheeses for pretty much the whole afternoon. Yes it is a very, very hard life!

The Versailles Palace Gardens

The hard life

A very hilarious statue giving the finger in the Palace gardens

It was a sad occasion saying goodbye to Pete & Alli again, not knowing when the would be the next time we would see them and that at some point we would be returning to Oz. We did say that maybe they could meet up with us somewhere on our European road trip…they were keen! Sweet! Maybe we will see each other in Rome next time?

On our final day in Paris, we felt like we hadn’t really seen or done a lot of what you do when it’s your first time in the French capital, but we weren’t too phased because we had spent time with very good friends. We did however cram a lot into that last day and got ourselves into a right state of exhaustion.

The day didn’t start out too well….without sharing too much gory detail, basically Tim and I had probably one of the biggest arguments we’ve ever had, exacerbated by the fact that we were in a foreign country. Although we did resolve the issue and a strategy for similar situations in the future, we both felt distant for a couple of days. When you say things in the heat of the moment, no matter how many times you say sorry or find a resolution, you can’t take those words back and words can wound. Thankfully, we have a very solid friendship, but it really made us realise that we can’t take that fact for granted and we need to protect what we have. It’s not always easy when you’re with the same person every day while travelling and there will always be times when you’ve had enough of the other person but these moments are reminders to be patient and selfless.

Although the day was slightly tarnished we decided to push on and continue with what we’d planned to see. The places we visited that day were:

Notre Dame Cathedral - stunning and intricate piece of architecture

Notre Dame Cathedral

The Arc Du Triomphe where we witnessed some crazy drivers on the craziest roundabout in the world. The place where you have to give way to drivers coming onto the round about as you’re driving around it. We witnessed so many near-misses in a 5 minute period. Wish we thought of capturing this on video.

The Louvre, although we decided against going in simply because we knew we would likely to be bored and viewing the Mona Lisa alongside a crowd of others didn’t seem that appealing. Sorry if we’ve offended anyone! We did enjoy the outside of the building and sitting by the fountains.

Eiffel Tower – we avoided the long lines and got tickets just before close at midnight. Unfortunately this was not the most brilliant decision because we got to the ticket booth and were told the top level closes at 10pm. The second level still treated us with a beautiful view over Paris and we were not disappointed.

We decided to walk back to our hotel from the Eiffel Tower which turned out to be more of a trek than expected……about 1km down the road we realised we were going in the completely opposite direction to the hotel. For once, I was actually right when it came to directions….I had told Tim back at the Tower that we were going the wrong way and was quickly corrected “have you done a 180 in your head??” Hmmm, I guess I had! NOT! It was about an hour’s walk back to the hotel and we arrived at 2am. We had been walking/standing since 10am the morning before (with a couple of short breaks to eat) and could not believe how much we’d crammed in (keeping in mind that we haven’t included every detail in this post). We had a much-needed sleep in before heading to the airport the next day for our flight back to the UK.


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