Monday, May 18, 2009

George IV and his plastered friends: Paris, Part 1

Here we go with the documentation of my two-and-a-half week backpacking trip around Europe.  Paris is going to require two posts, but I hope to get all of France written and posted today.  Buckle up!

I started, technically, on April 29.  Like when I went to Italy, my flight to Paris left early in the morning from Liverpool, which meant, yes, that I got the privilege of sleeping in the airport.  I managed to get a collective total of 3 hours of sleep that night, but I got to Paris in one piece, so its all good.  I won't lie, I was a little (OK, a lot) terrified of making it from the airport to the hostel without getting hopelessly lost.  Luckily, signs are amazing, especially when they're in both French and English.  Carly left a few days before me and went to Barcelona, so we met in Paris.  She got to the hostel a little bit before I did, and the cell phone did come in handy! St. Christopher's (the hostel) was a chain hostel, but it had free breakfast, which is always a plus in my book.  The hostel advertised a free walking tour of Paris, and it came recommended by a friend, so we went.  The tour guides work on a tips basis, so that is how you can ensure that you get a good guide, because they go out of there way to be awesome.

We managed to conquer the Paris metro system, and because our hostel was WAY outside of the city center, we kind of needed to.  So we made our way down to St. Michel, where the tour was to begin.  We had a fantastic guide, from Australia, named Jacqueline.  She was super enthusiastic about Paris and hilarious.  She might have glossed over some of the history of Paris (I think I noticed some inconsistencies and errors), but overall she was great.  The walking tour was 4 hours long and we really did get to see everything.  And it was a good way to see something and then go back later to see it more thoroughly, which is the point, I guess.

St. Michel, banishing Lucifer to...hell.

St. Michel is in the Latin Quarter, so called because it is home to Sorbonne University.  They used to speak exclusively in Latin at universities, so they called the area the Latin Quarter.  Also, because it is a student area, food is cheaper.  Woohoo!

Notre Dame!

See the bullet holes?  These are practically the only scars that Paris has from WWII, because the Nazis got smart and decided that Paris was too important culturally to destroy.  Well played.

Jacqueline, our super-enthusiastic and hilarious guide.

So this was my favorite part of the tour, Pont Neuf.  The story goes that the king of France at the time, George IV, was a good time Charlie.  He had a bunch of friends over in the palace, all sipping champagne.  They proceeded to get hammered, and drank ALL the champagne.  George IV ordered wine for all the guests.  Now, I don't know this from experience, but I hear that wine after champagne is not the best idea.  So everyone then got PLASTERED.  Following an enormous hangover, George IV looked back on that night fondly and ordered the bridge, Pont Neuf, to be built.  He wanted to memorialize the night somehow, so he got the designer to make likenesses of his plastered friends and put them on the new bridge.  Hence, George IV and his plastered friends. hahahaha

That's my favorite guy, he looks like he's about to vomit.

George IV himself!  Jacqueline told us a bit about equestrian statue lore: if the horse has one front hoof raised, the rider was murdered.  If it has two front feet up (like he's rearing), the rider was killed in battle.  If all 4 hooves are on the ground, the rider died of natural causes, like old age.  So George IV was murdered.
Are you ready? The Louvre!
Ahhhhh! Dreams really do come true!

The old Prime Meridian, Rose Line, whathaveyou.  I think I have officially been almost everywhere mentioned in the Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. hehehehe

This is where the French Revolution started.  I think.

Cool, right?
Rue St. Honoré, second most expensive street in the world (after 5th Avenue in NYC).  Every major fashion house in the industry has a store on this street.
The only McDonald's in the world to have white arches.  You can order a Royal with Cheese there.  But I haven't seen Pulp Fiction, so it means nothing to me.
The Tuileries! And that is the Mussee d'Orsay in the background (it used to be a train station).

You can *just* see the Sacre Coeur between those two buildings.  We went there the next day...

aaaaaaaaand, our first sighting of the Eiffel Tower! WHY can't I open my eyes during pictures?! Srsly.
Luxor obelisk.  It was a "gift" from the Egyptians (riiiight).  It is located at the bottom of the Champs Elysées, in a square known as the Place de la Revolution.  There was a guillotine there before the obelisk.  Lovely.
Fun fact: this is the fountain that Anne Hathaway threw her cell phone in during the Devil Wears Prada.  Also, that hotel behind the fountain is super duper expensive, but it gives the winner of the Tour de France one free night, and they get to fly a flag of their choice on the roof.  Lance Armstrong chooses to fly the Texas flag. Nice.
The Champs Elysées, with the Arc de Triomphe at the end, home of the most dangerous roundabout in France, possibly the world.  Fact.

This is the Grand Palais, I think.  The Petit Palais was right next to it.
The Hotel des Invalides, I think it is a bunch of military museums, but it used to be a home for retired and injured veterans.  Nice digs, though.

So, we had a pretty packed day, you might say.  After that walking tour, I was pretty much swaying on the spot, having only gotten 3 hours of sleep.  So we headed back towards the hostel, and got some sustenance for the next few days (read: bananas and muesli.  This can be surprisingly filling.).
We got up early-ish the next morning, got breakfast, and went to the Eiffel Tower for our ritual photoshoot.  Carly and I have developed a tradition (of sorts) of setting up her camera on the self timer, so we can both be in the picture with something awesome in the background (like that one in Pisa, in front of the tower).  Carly still has those pictures, but I'll post the results when I get them.  I still took a lot of pictures there, though.

 There it is!  Perfect sky!

And again. Beautiful.  Jacqueline (the tour guide from the previous day) told us that there are something like 5 marriage proposals A DAY at the Eiffel Tower.  Could you get any more cliché?
After we took approximately 100 pictures at the Eiffel Tower, we headed up toward the Montmatre area, where the Sacre Coeur and Moulin Rouge are, and it is the birthplace of the Bohemian movement.  Very artsy and vibrant.  And it was a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG walk.  Took us about 2 hours.  And we're not slow and lazy.

Clearly, I was excited about being at the most famous cabaret in the world.  Site of one of my most favorite movies, though.  Carly and I decided it would be inappropriate to whip out Flat Stanley here.  heehee

The Sacre Coeur.  It is in the most northern tip of Paris, and there was a TON of people there.  My teensy bit of agoraphobia nearly got me.
Excellent gargoyles and flying buttresses.
The very tall bell tower at Sacre Coeur.

We then walked back toward the city center.  We stopped by the Opera Garnier, where the Phantom of the Opera takes place.  After reading through some of my posts, I have decided that the only reason I came to Europe in the first place is because of books and movies, not entirely for historical or cultural reasons.  This is a little embarrassing, but its the truth.

The phaaaaaaaaaaaaaantom of the opera is there, inside your mind.
Back to the Tuileries, right outside the Louvre.  They're racing sailboats, how awesome!

We had heard that the Louvre was free on Friday evenings for people under 26, so we were going to take advantage of that, BIG TIME.  Except we were thwarted: it was a bank holiday.  But no matter!  The first Sunday of every month is free for everybody, and (guess what) we happened to be there for that.  WOOHOO!
We then went back to the Eiffel Tower, because Jacqueline had told us that it lights up at night and sparkles on the hour.  No way were we going to miss that!  So to kill time, we went over to Notre Dame.

Clearly, I have not seen enough movies, as I did not understand the movie reference on the tour.  Its from the Bourne Identity.  Apparently, Jason Bourne is hiding behind the "M" on the Samartaine Hotel, waiting to kill someone.

Notre Dame, again!

Famous rose window.

Jean d'Arc.

Rose window again.

I do a shot like this at every cathedral.

It was about twilight at that point, so we headed on over to the Eiffel Tower.  There weren't as many people there at night (surprisingly).

Kind of awesome shot on the way there.

I got a video of the Tower as soon as it started sparkling!


Whew, so that was day 2 in Paris.  Days 3, 4, and 5 will require a separate post.  Then I'll do Nice.  Hopefully by this evening?  We'll see.

OH! I got ALL the pictures up on photobucket!  They're hopelessly out of order, but it'll give you a good preview of what's coming here.  Also, I finally figured out how to embed videos.  Snazzy, right?

1 comment:

karan said...

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