October 26, 2010

The weekend in Paris :)

I am so unbelievably slow at writing these things... I need to make it part of my routine or something :)  So, more than two full weeks after going to Paris I'll finally write about it :P

First things first... I meant to book the bus tickets for Saturday morning but on Friday night, about 3 hrs before my friend Anastasia and I were supposed to be on the bus, we realized that I had booked the wrong itinerary - one that we'd looked at (cost the same price) but had kinda decided against and rushed off.  In the end, I think I preferred it, but it was a bit of a panicked rush to get ready! :P

Well, we made it to the bus on time and amazingly the travel time was less than expected too - only 3.5 hours!  It even passed relatively quickly while Anastasia and I played multiple games including eye-spy, 20 questions, name that capital and countries by letter, before resorting to actually chatting, listening to music and on my part - knitting!  I guess my time on buses with children this summer has taken its effect and I can't sit still and be mature (not that I could do that before).

When we did get to Paris... it was 11:30ish and we were tired, but especially hungry and in need of a washroom.  I think our excitement won out though as we headed down a street in a sorta directed way.  We walked for a while until we finally encountered a street sign that let us know where we were and where we needed to go!  So we set out - determined to walk our way to Becky's place (which should have only been a 45 min walk).  Of course in the end we managed to make a wrong turn (or a dozen) and, out of need, made a pit stop at a restaurant to have our first taste of french food and drink! :P  Well... we shared hummus while Anastasia had cheap wine and I had coffee (i somehow managed to order decaf.  which was prob a good idea as it was then pushing midnight).  After that, we managed to get on track with directions and make it to where we could rest our feet for the next 2 nights!  Becky was still up and we chatted about plans, the bus etc etc.  Then, Anastasia and I made up the couch and mattress and settled down to not sleep because we were of course way too excited!  I think we finally drifted off around 2:00am :P.

The next morning we were up bright and early!  Then out the door to do the most walking in one day that I think i've ever done (and that's saying a lot...)!  We started off close by with a daily market - wandering through to see if we wanted to buy our dinner right off - but decided we should probably listen to our rumbling stomachs and find a place to breakfast first!  We went to a cute café and had expresso (which is what it seems to be called in France, not espresso) and savory treats - cheese and veggies on different types of bread.  But we couldn't sit and linger too long, we had an abundance of sights and places to see and be!  So, off we went to the first one on the list.  But first... to figure out the Parisian metro :P

Le Montmartre is an area in the north of Paris (where they had a wine festival that weekend) - so that was our first destination.  We got to test out many different types of reds, whites and rosés as well as a selection of fruit and dessert wines.  Most of them were very yummy :) and it was definitely a nice change from all of the beer in Belgium.  We also checked out the area a bit - the Sacré Coeur - and admired the music and dancing that accompanied the festival.  There were lots of stands displaying sausages, cheeses, and many other delights, but I managed not to buy anything.  I got a couple free candies and Becky and I tried our luck at a little quiz on the champagne area of France (which was in french of course) and had very specific questions about dates and things.  Somehow we managed to get 50% right!  Also there, were a variety of dressed up men and woman in very pretty costumes but unfortunately creepy gold masks.  Ah well... life can't be perfect can it? :P  While we were in the area, we figured that we should stop by the gigantic cemetery too.  Anastasia searched out the tomb of the famous Dalida and we took a few pics after the tour group that we had momentarily joined had moved along on its way.  It was neat to see all of the beautifully decorated graves - so much more extravagant than what we have back home.

Some other things that we happened across in our wanderings were a wall d'amour - with LOVE written in all languages imaginable on it :), a bench in a lovely wooded road with a heart shaped post it note saying "You are beautiful" and a statue of a man walking out of the wall which we have no clue about the story behind.  More metro-ing, and more walking later, we were at the Moulin Rouge to take some photos and then off again to view l'avenue des Champs-Élysées and l'Arc de Triomphe!  Many pics were taken, but we didn't stop very long to really find out much about the monuments.  After all this, it was getting kinda late and we hadn't had lunch or supper... so it was time to search out food!  We ended up looking lost and having a very helpful stranger drag us into a health food store to chat to us for a very long time in both english and french about the restaurants in the area.  He ended up saying that there were no vegetarian places nearby so we ended up going to a pizza place for me that we saw up the road.  And guess what?  It was fully vegetarian :P.  So I got my pizza there and Anastasia and Becky went to a durum place where they could get something a bit more meaty.

I think we'd tired Becky out a bit - it doesn't sound like much, but we'd pretty much been all over Paris already.  So we decided we'd pick up dessert and eat it at the place we were staying.  I had a yummy flan and tea and then Anastasia and I got the crazy idea into our heads to walk to the Eiffel tower (a 1.5 hr walk if you knew where you were going).  So we left the place at 22:00 ...  and got to the Eiffel tower 3 hrs later.  The destination was kinda disappointing but as they say, the journey is the important part.  And what a journey it was!

The most obvious route to walk (and definitely the prettiest) was along la Seine...  so that's what we took.  It was amazing.  So pretty to see the stars shining in the water and the architecture in the background along the way.  Just before le notre dame de paris, we stumbled across some squares near the water that were crowded with people dancing and different styles of music.  We stopped to watch at the first one - with some folksy styling provided by an accordion and a guitar and ended up joining in on the fun!  Ah, it was great!  We so were not wearing the clothes to dance and we'd been walking all day... but it was the perfect addition to a trip to Paris.  It all ended with a group dance which we learned on the go - and chatted with all of our various partners in French.  We stayed there longer than we should have - until the last dance was over and the music was fading out.  I think we have to go back just for the dancing and atmosphere!  Then we picked up and continued our walk along la Seine.  Out of the blue, I heard my name and was sorta attacked from behind...  it was one of my friends from UBC who I had studied french with.  Of all the nights and rivers in Paris we just happened to be there at the same time!  So we stopped once again - this time to chat and plan other possible trips for the future!  We listened to an amazing singer who came up and joined in (or rather took over) a tune that had been stirring, only to wander off again down the path.  Then we decided that it really was getting late and we should continue on our route to la Tour Eiffel.  Somehow we completely missed le musée du Louvre which was on the other bank of the river.  But that's just another reason to go back to Paris - right? :D

We finally managed to catch one of the last night buses home after seeing the tower and settled down very quickly to sleep after such a long day of activity!  The next morning, was had a wonderful pre-brunch of crèpes at another market!  Then we wandered through the aisles and secured ourselves some 'dead mice' aka wild dried figs.  They were actually quite pleasant - and we haven't been able to find any in Brussels, thought the search hasn't yet been called off.  For actual lunch, I had cheese cake and expresso, but their version of cheese cake is quite different.  It was pretty egg-y and fluffy and not that sweet.  Becky had some chocolate creation and Anastasia had an eclair.  There wasn't even have a washroom :P (which is one of the more important reasons you usually go sit and eat in a café here).  Then we moved on to explore randomly for a bit and window shop.  I tried on a couple dresses - nothing quite right, but Anastasia found a pair of boots!  Yay.  And then we need to head off on the metro to find our way to the bus station.  Wow - that day seemed to go by really fast.

The bus ride back was nice... with it actually being light out, we could see the French countryside!  We passed some pretty neat graffiti, lots of fields and some windmills!!!  I think I also finally got some well deserved sleep :)  And then we were back home in Brussels - I guess it takes you going away to realize that you have started to call it "home".