Saturday, 5 May 2012

Midnight in Paris

It's even bigger than it looks in this picture

Getting to the centre of Paris seemed to be a perfectly sane idea, so I asked several people but nobody seemed to understand.  Wow.  People aren't joking when they say nobody speaks English in France.  Surely the word centre is pretty much the same in French? Centro, centra, centrio; I tried them all.  I resigned myself to following a map towards the Eiffel Tower.  Now let me tell you, walking boots make no difference to how sore your feet will become when walking with a big backpack all the way across Paris.

Me & Notre Dame

I managed to make it to the Louvre and take advantage of the free baggage holding area until the evening when I met with Arno, my host for the next few days.  I told him about my tiring day then he told me that there is no centre in Paris.  I wish I had known that seven hours earlier.


The entire time I spent in Paris, I didn't learn my lesson; I walked a similar distance every day.  I think I must have seen every nook and cranny the city has to offer.  My feet met every cobble along the river Seine.  My eyes met every brick of every flawless building.  My body lay on every blade of grass on every park.  What a beautiful city.

Some wise words written under a bridge

Paris is such a rich city.  Which means that there are people who get left behind.  I saw so many homeless people that it made me wonder where they all go.  Of what I saw in the five days I was in the city, they spend their nights trying to sleep under some of the bridges along the river and mostly on the benches in the underground stations.  They spend their days warming up in the sun and try to make some pennies by begging the tourists for anything they can offer.  One man I saw preferred to walk around shouting random words in the faces of arrogant passers-by.  I almost gave him a high-five.

There are also a lot of illegal immigrants from Africa who are trying desperately to make a living selling tourist trinkts.  One of them was running towards me on my first day in the city shouting "Lady Gaga, Lady Gaga!"  I stopped to talk to him just because I found it such a funny original way of getting my attention.

Ben & Me
A few days in, I even had the chance to meet up with an old friend who I met whilst travelling in Thailand in 2009.  Ben and I wet for a coffee then took a nice long walk through the city and talked about everything.  We had so much to catch up on after three years!  Up to now, Ben is the only old travel friend I who I have had the chance to meet again, even though it is always the intention to do so with everybody.  I had such a good day with Ben that I will definitely be making sure I meet up with more old friends on my trips in the future.  So watch out everybody!

Me & Arno
After each long day, Arno was the perfect host.  We had great conversations over dinner every evening.  We laughed and joked and talked about our travels, politics, shopping, celebrities...everything!  It seems we have many similar interests and ideas.  We took a walk one night to experience the Parisian tradition of summer nights spent dancing by the river Seine whilst drinking wine and eating bread & cheese.  We spent our last night together watching the film "Midnight In Paris".  Bloody hell, this all sounds pretty romantic!  He was trying to turn me French, that's all.  It's ok, I turned him English too.  We queued up outside a shop one day.  Yes that's right, we stood in a queue!  And we drank tea in the morning... out of a bowl (not quite right but close enough).

All in all, I had the best time I could have possibly had in Paris.  All thanks to Arno, to Ben, and to the random people who made me smile each day.

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