I wrote this post a few weeks ago and have been meaning to get it published, particularly as it was the Eiffel Tower’s 130th birthday a few weeks ago. However, life with a new-born gets pretty busy and I’m amazed I even got to write this piece! Then, this week, Notre-Dame caught fire and I wondered whether I should publish it at all. Seeing that the building will be restored after more than 600-million Euros has been pledged towards the repairs in just a few days, I decided I will. Here is my original travel tale (pre-fire):
Ah, Paris. What a wonderful city, full of culture, wide open spaces, croissants, rioting and loveliness. I’ve not been to Paris in nearly ten years, but my few days spent there have stuck with me. I arrived on a winter’s afternoon after leaving Luxembourg that morning. A journey that a few hours before I didn’t think was going to happen.
I was in Luxembourg’s main train station and I asked the ticket office for the next train to Paris.
“There are no trains to Paris today” he said. My heart sank; I didn’t want to spend another minute in Luxembourg if I could help it.
“None?” I enquired with a hint of exasperation in my voice. “Not even if I change at another station somewhere?”
“Oh, yes, if you want to change stations you can get to Paris.”
I wondered if this was just the Luxembourg way. I took the first available train out of there.
When I arrived at the Gare du Nord, I quickly found a hotel nearby, dropped my stuff off and went for a wander. I walked quite a long way that afternoon with the Eiffel Tower as my objective. It’s not hard to miss.
Growing up in Blackpool, I have a sense of affinity with the Eiffel Tower seeing as the Blackpool Tower was modelled on it. I was once asked by an American in the town centre if I could give him directions to the Blackpool Tower. I looked at him and pointed to a large steel structure in the sky and told him to head towards that.
The one thing I regret not doing that night was not walking up the tower (Eiffel, we’re back in Paris now, keep up). There was no queue and it was all lit up, it would have been a great way to see Paris at night. Instead I marvelled at its hugeness from the ground. I returned to my hotel via a Hard Rock Cafe. I don’t remember much about it, I probably had a burger.
The next day I woke up early and transformed the continental buffet breakfast into ham and cheese sandwiches with a muffin to go. My plan was to head to Notre-Dame and then towards the Eiffel Tower again.
Notre-Dame is a magnificent cathedral. It’s massive, it’s beautiful to look at and the level designers in TimeSplitters 2 modelled it brilliantly! I walked the perimeter and nipped inside for a look.
One thing I did notice about Paris was the amount of beggars on the street and the Notre-Dame had quite a congregation. I was caught off-guard by one; she approached me and asked if I spoke English. I nodded and she gave me a card with a back-story on. I gave it back and shook my head. Was she genuine? Who knows, it felt like a tourist scam to me though.
I then ventured towards the Louvre. What another impressive building, but mainly on the size of its footprint, it stretches for ages! I admired the glass pyramid in the courtyard too. I liked it, I thought it was tasteful (but then I don’t do modern art). I had a look round to see if anyone was using the Da Vinci Code as a guidebook but to my relief I couldn’t see any copies. As I was only in Paris for the day I didn’t have time to go into the museum which is just as well as the queues were pretty long.
My next stop was the Arc de Triomphe via the Champs Elysees. There are some expensive shops on that street. Wow. I couldn’t even afford a carrier bag from those places! I like what they have done though; dotted between the stores of high-end fashion and glamour are luxury car showrooms; I imagine to keep your typical bloke stimulated whilst their wives and/or girlfriends are enjoying a shopping spree. I fall into the typical bloke category and looked at all the pretty cars. No one asked if I wanted to test drive any…
When I finally arrived at the Arc de Triomphe, it was closed. Why? The staff were on strike. I should have guessed.
Pissed off, I turned around and headed towards the Eiffel Tower again. It looks even better in daylight. Whilst en route, I passed something which I wasn’t expecting – a statue of Winston Churchill outside of the Grand Palais.
Finally back at the Tower, the queue to climb it was long, so I took some photos instead and declined all the jangly cheap replicas the ‘legitimate’ business men were selling. It’s amazing how quickly they can scoop all their merchandise up in those blankets for a spontaneous jog.
Unfortunately I had to leave Paris. I did so slowly, meandering along the Seine and enjoying the crisp December evening. I stopped for a KFC and side-stepped a scuffle at the till. I couldn’t translate what was being argued but when the food was thrown, I’m guessing their chicken wasn’t finger lickin’ good.
The next morning I returned to London on the Eurostar. I was gutted that my little jaunt around Europe had come to an end but on the plus side, I was meeting friends in London to go and watch The Answer play a gig, but that, as they say, is a different story…
Reading over it and thinking about it now, I wonder how many of those homeless beggars would appreciate 600 million Euros…