Sunday 28 June 2015
I had a lovely lie in today as I knew that there would be plenty of frequent trains running more or less every 30 minutes to take me to Paris from Bordeaux. I checked out of my hotel at noon and hiked over to the tram stop at Quinconces. For another 1.50 EUR, I took Tram C back to Bordeaux Gare St Jean where I caught the 1:28pm train to Paris first class. Speeding along, stress free, I arrived at Paris Montparnasse at around 5:30pm. A 30C heat greeted me as I navigated the metro system to Gare De Lyon station. As I stepped out of the station, I was further gifted with the aroma of stale urine. A five minute walk and I was glad to arrive at the Hotel Elysee Gare De Lyon where there was air conditioning and clean air. People always have an image of Paris as being a romantic city, which I do not doubt. However, the stench of pee as I walk around is sometimes overwhelming!
True to form, I dropped my bags off and freshened up before leaving my tiny hotel room to grab a beer. I settled into a whicker chair around the corner facing the main road and Gare De Lyon station and wait for some evidence of service. Feeling ignored after 20 minutes, I leave feeling thirsty as I round another corner and grab my first brew at the L’Express de Lyon bar.
Deciding to stay in the area where my hotel was located, the venue for dinner was at L’Européen. What an elegant french vibe and atmosphere this place had. The menu was geared toward fresh seafood and great wines. Without hesitation, I chose a sharing platter. My share consisted of a dozen oysters of differing sizes, whelks, muscles, clams, prawns and shrimps, all washed down with some refreshing white wine. Cancelling out the negative experience as I arrived in Paris, this was pure heaven…
Monday 29 June 2015
Having visited Paris a couple of times before, there was still two things that I needed to tick off my list. The first of which was a visit to the Louvre. Taking a three mile walk from my hotel, I arrived to a 20 minute queue to get in. It was only 9am but already it was reaching 25C as I pass street sellers in the queue trying to get tourists to part with their money by offering water for 1 EUR, those loathed selfie sticks and stack of postcards.
Passing through an airport style security check, I made my way to one of ten ticket kiosks in the Auditorium Du Louvre. Noticing a shorter queue to the right of the long queue for tickets that I was about to join, I headed that way. It turns out that this two person queue was for anyone who was brave enough to purchase their tickets from a machine and pay by card. Fine by me. It must have saved me about another 20 minutes of queuing.
Ticket in hand, I headed toward the Victoire De Samothrace. A bit of history about it. Created by the Greeks, Victory was a winged woman and a messenger of Zeus. It was in 1863 that Charles Champoiseau found the monument on the Island of Samothrace. I guess he liked it so much he decided to take it.
Walking away from the Victoire De Samothrace, I made my way to the ever popular portrait of the smug lady, Mona Lisa. Defended by a couple of barriers and a two metre “no go area”, I zoomed in on the painting by Leonardo da Vinci. It was a nice painting but in my opinion, that’s about it. It was a “tick it off your list” thing to do.
Next on the hit list was Venus de Milo. On my way to see the sculpture, I admired a few others including Melpomene (Muse of Tragedy), Heracles with baby Telephus and the Borghese Gladiator.
As I arrived at the sculpture of Venus de Milo, I was taken back in time. I thought I had landed back in China as I looked around the room to be greeted by hoards of Chinese tourists. True to form, they enjoyed the odd pushing and rudeness as I prepared my elbows for a few digs of my own just to get close to Venus de Milo. Like the portrait of Mona Lisa, it was nice but that’s about it!
I spent about a two and a half hours in the Louvre in the end looking at the exhibits before leaving to find some shade outside and a quick bite. Enjoying the view and greenery around the outside of the museum, it appeared the pigeons wanted in on my lunch too as I fed them part of my baguette.
Feeling recharged, I set off on a huge walk. First stop was to Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris. Having already been inside, I wasn’t keen to join the queue for an hour again. Besides, the view of this spectacular building from the outside was good enough. Then, it must have been a good 4 miles to The Eiffel Tower. With a huge amount of patience, it took three hours to get to the top and back down again after queuing for tickets, taking various lifts from the first, second and third level and being stuck at the top due to technical elevator issues. However, the views up the top were amazing due to the hot and clear weather I had.
Making my way to the Trocadéro, I took the metro for 1.80 EUR back to Gare de Lyon and back to my hotel for a rest before having another seafood platter at a nearby restaurant…
Tuesday 30 June 2015
The second thing I needed to tick off my list in Paris was a visit to the Catacombs of Paris. Since this was my last day in the capital, I decided to have a lazy morning. Again, the fragrance of urine greeted me on my journey to the Catacombs as I arrived at 11:30am to join a queue that had snaked around the entrance. It was another 30C heat today as I tried to shelter in the shade wherever possible as the queue made it’s way toward the entrance. Three hours later, I made my way down the spiralling stairs and into the quarry tunnels beneath Paris. With an audio guide in hand for 5 EUR, I walked through the tunnels before reaching the Catacombs where over 6 million peoples bones were beautifully arranged. The feeling wasn’t eerie at all but more a sense of art and peacefulness. I think it was down to the way the skulls and bones were laid out and the suitable lighting.
The audio guided tour took about 50 minutes as I exited the Catacombs by taking 83 steps to the top. A drop in the ocean for me these days as I’m more use to going up steps of more than 300 when visiting church towers and viewpoints. I stopped off at a local supermarket to pick up some delicious cheese and wine for the evening before getting an early night…
Wednesday 1 July 2015
Today was a sad day as it was my last one of this epic journey since leaving the UK 96 days ago. I was up early to catch my 9:10am Eurostar train from Gare Du Nord to London St Pancras. There was a slight delay to departing due to the current troubles of people trying to enter the UK by walking through the tunnel. Only yesterday, there was a fire in the channel tunnel which didn’t fill me with confidence either. Nonetheless, today’s train ran with minimal fuss.
Reflecting on my time away from home, during the whole 96 days of travelling across over half the world, I have enjoyed every single minute of it. Made some new friends and come across some very interesting people. There maybe only two countries I wouldn’t rush back to visit (Paris being one of them as I have done most of it, but probably the smell of stale urine was very off putting too when I walked through certain areas) but everywhere else had a unique draw and thing to offer. My experiences in South Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Russia and Europe, in a cliche kind of way, has given me more happiness and joy than money can give. As I arrived back into London, I wondered where the Cheeky Starfish would go to next…