Monday, November 14, 2005

Bark: Grey Paris

My girlfriend and I had the most wonderful weekend in Paris, which (being November) was less "Gay" (as in the happy, jolly sense) and more "Grey" (as in the weather). Let's just say that it was a bit chilly, and I'm now nursing the early signs of a bad cold, which I will be undoubtedly be trying to beat back with the anti-oxidants packed into a bottle of very fine red wine. As the maitre-d of the restaurant we had lunch in yesterday said, you should drink red wine "pour les vitamins".

We had an unaccustomedly early start on Saturday morning: we were out of bed at 6am and out of the door three-quarters of an hour later, in order to get a train in Woking around 7.20am. This gave us plenty of time to check in a Waterloo, and we were on the Eurostar by 9am. Normally on a Saturday at this time, I'd still be tucked up in bed! The Eurostar itself is fabulous: fast (well, at least on the other side of the Channel), smooth and comfortable - if only all trains were like it! A little under three hours later, and we arrive in Paris, just in time for lunch. A half-kilometre hike, and we're soon dropping off our bags at the hotel, before immediately heading back out, walking from Gare de Nord down to the Eiffel Tower, via Opera and the Place de la Concorde, stopping off for lunch along the way (entrecote frites for me, washed down with a couple of glasses of vin chaud).

Paris is a beautiful city just to go strolling around in. It's got a very different feel to London - a similar kind of energy, but much more relaxed and laid back. The roads and pavements are much broader, so it doesn't feel nearly as crowded, either. So we make it down to the Eiffel Tower around 5.30pm, and it's just starting to get dark. We get in line, and wait the forty minutes or so to get to the ticket office. We eventually take the tower leg elevator (which is surely one of the scariest contraptions in existence - think the scenic elevator in The Towering Inferno, when it's coming off the track) up to the second floor, which is about as high as my vertigo would allow (for the record, 149.23m up) and took in the view of the illuminated city. It was a breathtaking view - if only because of the vertigo panic-attacks... Just kidding. It was awesome, though. We could even watch a football match being played in the stadium just down river to the west of the tower. After that, we walked back to Opera and took the tube the rest of the way to the hotel for an early night.

Another bright and early start on Sunday morning, and we're off to Bercy to see the cinema museum, which, amongst other exhibits, included "Mother"'s skull from Psycho, donated to the museum by Hitchcock himself and one of Greta Garbo's dresses. We stopped off for lunch (lamb chops with Provencal herbs) in Bercy before heading back into town to the Latin Quarter, which is one of the hillier parts of town. After an hour's bracing walk (it was quite windy, but no rain, thankfully), we stop off again to rest our feet and cut the crepe, before heading back to Gare de Nord for our return train.

All in all, a very pleasant weekend, if an exhausting one. The only downer being that I forgot to take my camera. I did pick up a disposable camera in the Duty Free at Waterloo, and took some great pictures from the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, I made a rather large schoolboy error and forgot my Physics when putting my bag into the Left Luggage at Gare de Nord on Sunday morning, leaving the camera in the pocket of my jacket as it went through the X-ray machine with my bag. Oops. You can tell I've gotten so used to digital cameras over the last five years. Ah, well, it just gives me an excuse to go back, I suppose. Nothing quite like going to Paris to score major brownie points with your other half, either. The only problem is that from our anniversaries from now on, I'm going to have to up the ante... New York for our 15th, I think. Something to look forward to, anyway. Only five years to go.
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