Monday, 17 October 2011

The American Suburbanite in Paris

La Tour Eiffel
During our summer holiday we spent several days in Paris.  I studied French for 6 years in high shool and college and always had the fairytale view of Paris.  we caught the Eurostar from ebbsfleet train station and made it across the channel quite easily.  I was really surprised by how laid back customs and security are on the trains.  I suppose it is no less relaxed than interstate travel in the States, just seemed strange between countries. 

The State of a Nation

My fantasy view of Paris was quickly changed once arriving at Gare du Nord in Paris.  First, it was not very well signed to find the metro system into Paris.  Another very disturbing trend found throughout the city were the number of homeless and begging.  Most of these were not people who were native to France, but seemed prolific.  Groups of young women (girls really) were gathered at metro stations and tourist attractions throughout the city with clip boards.  They were so insistent upon getting you to cooperate with them that when you refused, their English skills were shown in the profanity that they would shout at you.  There seemed to be one man with each group of women, and he would hurry them along to a new spot if the police were seen  coming around.  Thankfully, they were easy to spot and avoid through out most of the city. 

After checking in at our hotel, we took in a bit of the city and headed towards La Tour Eiffel.  Our hotel was near the Catacombs, the opposite side of the city!  We thought the TomTom sat nav would help make our walk a bit easier, but it was more hassle than it was worth. In and amongst the tall buildings I think we were walking faster than the directions were coming through.  After several stops to get my bearings and pulling out my reading glasses to read the map, we were headed in the right direction, sans TomTom. 

Along the way, we stopped at a cafe.  The sun was warm and lovely, though my husband had to drink his very large beer rather quickly! 
Our first sighting!

We continued along our way, I again needed to pull out my glasses several times to head in the right direction.  It is quite frustrating how an object so large can hide behind trees and buildings so well!  When we finally made it we found a place on the lawn in the park and relaxed in the shadow of the tower.  We had tickets to go up the tower on Sunday (our final day) so we headed across the Seine (camera snapping away the whole time). 

going up?

view from across the Seine

Walked to l'arc de triomphe

Down the Champs Elysees

In front of the Louvre

Finally took the metro back to our room.  I'll talk about our experience in the hotel another time!  At least we did not have a 3am fire alarm like we did on my first visit to London!

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