France - Round The World Tour 2003 T-43

pre-departure

Paris

Wednesday 29th January

Paris, day 2. The hostel room was quite comfortable if a little on the warm side last night. Both our bunk beds (I’m on the top bunk) sink a little in the middle. It’s actually quite comfortable if you sleep on your back but a little less so if you sleep on your side.

This morning, Sandy ventured out into Paris to buy some fresh bread and then went down to the kitchen to make us some boiled eggs for breakfast and packed lunches. So far, the gear that we have chosen is working quite well for us. The daypack is very comfortable to wear and is plenty big enough for all our essentials for a day out on the town. I keep the laptop with me in the daypack so it’s a little on the heavy side, but very much worth the peace of mind of not knowing is someone is pilfering through our room while we’re out. I’ve been wearing it underneath my rain/wind jacket and I’m surmising that this draws less attention from undesirables as opposed to having it in plain view all the time. The waterproof trousers also are working out well. I put them on and took them off twice today already. The silk sleep sheets work brilliantly and enabled us to forgo the need to hire sheets and pillowcases. Sandy’s main backpack, on the other hand is already showing signs of wear.

Fully kitted out, off we set this morning to visit the Moulin Rouge. Actually, before I saw the Baz Lehrman film of the same name, I had no idea what the Moulin Rouge was; much less appreciate its role in Parisian history. Our hostel is in the Monmatre district and the Moulin Rouge is just two metro stops away. Not fully appreciating this, however, we set off by foot instead. As it happens, the Moulin Rouge sits smack bank in the middle of what must be the red light district. Sex shops abound up and down the street on both sides of the main road.

Having seen the famous windmill and documented the occasion with a suitable number of photos, off we set to visit the Louvre. By this time the weather was not cooperating too well but at least we would spend the afternoon inside enjoying the Louvre’s many treasures.

Much like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre is everything it’s cracked up to be. The modern glass pyramid, which sits atop the main entrance and reception area below the street, is complimented nicely by the classic architecture of the huge Louvre building that wraps around three sides of the pyramid and then some.

With just a €7 per person entrance fee, this was turning out to be a cheap day out. I was half expecting to pay about €20 or more each just to get in. Once inside, you are spoiled with choices of what to see. There aren’t enough days in the year to see everything that is on display. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to fully appreciate just one of the dozens of different sections if you spent the whole day there. This place is truly enormous. We went to see the painting section and, of course, stopped by the Mona Lisa. I nestled myself neatly between some other viewers, out of sight of the guards, and covertly sneaked a photo of the painting. What all the fuss is about, however, I can’t tell you. It looks just like another painting to me.

Other sections that we meandered through were the Louvre History section, the Egyptian section and the French sculpture section. After savouring some of the world’s finest art and walking up and down the numerous passages of history, we decided to venture outside to get a good look at the Pyramid and other neighbouring tourist sights. The weather held up by and large with some spattering of light downfalls every now and again. Not enough to dampen our spirits although it would have been nice if it were a little warmer and the wind were a little less harsh.

From the Louvre, we walked in the direction of the Champs Elysees, through the Carrousel Arc to about as far as the obelisk. Although the huge Arc de Triomphe looked like walking distance, we knew that this was but an illusion brought on by the size of the monolithic Arch. Not to worry, just two stops further on the metro and we were close up. For €7 per person, we could have went into and up on top of the Arch but we decided against it. It had started to rain again and we figured it was not worth the additional expenditure.

Onwards, then, to the Arc de Défense. If the Arc de Triomphe looked big from a distance, this thing was huge. Effectively, it is two skyscrapers with a bridge at the top between them. The outside elevator shuttling people up and down the length of the Arch is really the only thing that give its size away. The elevators are dwarfed entirely by this 105-meter monument located in the middle of downtown. With a visit to the downtown district, we felt we had seen both the contemporary and modern sides of what Paris has to offer.

Paris is a well-organised and clean city. So far, it has been a pleasure exploring its treasures.

After a nice, self-prepared meal, a few games of cards and a relaxing shower, we rounded out day 2 in Paris.

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