A lot of adventures, a lot of mishaps, a lot of gelato
Welcome to the first edition of ‘Top Chicks on Topdeck’, the tales of four crazy Australian girls travelling through Europe together!
The city of lights, the city of art, the city of love.
For my first time in Paris I was extremely happy to be experiencing it with my girlfriends, particularly my friends Monica and Jessica. Both of them have a love of France and have knowledge of the french language, so I effectively had two tour guides and translators in one.
We finally arrived in the lovely city of Paris after a quick stop at the White Cliffs of Dover, a two hour ferry across the English Channel and a lot of driving across the French countryside, which is absolutely beautiful.
After settling in to our humble hostel, which I might add was located in an extremely dodgy area in Paris, we went for our first dinner with our tour group. It was at a really cute restaurant called L’Orange Bleue (The Blue Orange) where we indulged in traditional french cuisine. Our dishes started with a healthy serving of escargot, otherwise known as snails. My enjoyment of eating snails can be summed up by the following set of images:
So how can I describe Escargot in garlic sauce? Delicious flavoursome sauce covering rubbery, squishy, slimy snails. I loved the flavour but absolutely hated the texture! I am not eating snails again, presto, finito. What followed was a delicious french onion soup and beef bourguignon with macaroni, which was also very tasty. For my first introduction to French food I was very satisfied, except the snails. I am still having food nightmares about them.
After our trip leader took us on a ‘City of Lights’ tour to see all the sights of Paris. We first visited the Moulin Rouge and the red light district, with my friends and I stopping for a quick can-can dance outside the front! To those of you who are huge fans of the film Moulin Rouge, like myself, it is nothing like it appears in the movie, except the red windmill, and it was a lot smaller than I anticipated. It is still a beautiful and eclectic building to see though.
We then drove down the Champs Elysees to “The Champs Elysees is a busy street…Parlez-vous francais” (I mean, what else really?!) and saw the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe. The street is absolutely beautiful and lined with so many designer stores. We had a photo stop at the Eiffel Tower, which I have to admit took my breath away and is actually very beautiful.
The next day we had free to roam around Paris ourselves. I had my day expertly planned out by Monica and Jessica, who gave me the full Parisian experience. We started off at the Notre Dame Cathedral, which is absolutely stunning. Just a note if you want to go inside the cathedral, or any cathedral in Europe for that matter: cover yourself up. No shoulders on show or anything above the knee, they won’t care if it is boiling hot outside, you need to be respectfully covered if you want to go inside. The decor of the cathedral is beautiful, and we had a choir of french schoolgirls singing hymns whilst we were inside, their voices ethereally echoing throughout the cathedral. It was a wonderful experience.
We then walked down the River Seine, stopping to check out the market stalls along the way, where Parisians were selling old books, postcards, posters and an assortment of odd bits and pieces. I love antiques, and this woman was selling really old postcards that people had sent from years ago. I absolutely loved them and bought one, unfortunately it is in French so I can’t actually read it, but I can make out that the person wrote 1923 and Claudia. I love it, it’s like owning a little bit of history. We then bought a padlock and put our names on it and locked it to the Pont des Arts, sealing our friendship and love forever in France. If you put a lock on this particular bridge and then throw the keys into the River Seine your love will last forever.
Next we walked to the Louvre. Now, I no nothing about art and my knowledge of the Louvre extends to what I learnt before I fell asleep watching The Da Vinci Code (I’m sorry, but that movie was really boring), so I was not too excited to go inside and see it. I know that it is one of those things that you should do when in Paris, but I feel it is wasted on me as I know nothing about art. I can appreciate fine artwork when I see it, but I feel that unless you have studied it you can’t really experience it that way it is meant to be experienced. I guess I am not a fan of art museums, but for only twelve euro and a line that was only twenty minutes, why not? When in Paris after all!
It turns out that the Louvre was oddly my favourite place we went to in Paris. I didn’t spend any time looking at the statues and artworks though, I spent most of my time staring in the wonder at the architecture, it was absolutely incredible. I would have paid to go in and just see the building, even if it wasn’t filled with works of art. That is how beautiful I thought it was.
After the Louvre we headed to the town of Montmartre by the metro. If you are buying tickets for the metro be aware that if you have to change trains to get to the stop you want, you will need another ticket, one ticket won’t cover the journey if you need to change. We learnt this the hard way unfortunately, but I least I now know for future Paris travels.
Montmartre is a beautiful and quaint little French town in Paris. We went for a stroll along the streets and then stopped for Macaroons at Christophe Roussel’s boutique. They were THAT delicious, I don’t even know how to describe how good they were. We had different flavours like choc-banana, cheesecake, lavender and apricot, and my personal favourite, lime daiquiri.
We were walking along the streets with our newly bought macaroons when we stopped by a school that had all these French kids bursting from it, screaming, running around and playing games. Two kids immediately ran to a piano that was just by that school and started playing it. I found out later that it is a project around the area, they leave old pianos around the place to encourage people to play and be creative. I love the project and it really demonstrates how organically creative a city Paris is.
We also climbed the stairs to the Sacre Couer, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which is a lovely basilica that also provides an amazing view of Paris. We were heading back to the metro when we stopped inside a few of the shops and I happened to find a vintage shop, Vintage Desir, that had some really nice stuff in it. I was browsing through the racks, not really thinking of buying anything because ironically, “vintage” is usually synonymous with “expensive”. The owner walked past and then said in a very thick French accent, “All the dresses are ten euro and everything else is five euro”. I think my expression must have scared her because she walked away rather quickly, that or my quickly grabbing everything in sight because it was so cheap. I had to be dragged out of that shop, not before buying a new floral 90s style dress, a mid length homemade floral skirt and a pair of leather shorts. Seriously, I may have died and gone to vintage heaven. I would come back to Paris just for the vintage shopping alone.
After we went back to the Eiffel Tower, where we had a delicious picnic with our tour group . It was all cheeses, breads and meats. Besides the threat of snails I think I could really get on board with this whole French food thing. With our bellies full of delicious French goodness we headed to Le Paradis Latin for a night of French Cabaret. It was silly and fun, with a lot of boobies, a lot of abs and even unicyclists and trapeze artists. It was great fun, my only issue was the main singer, she was bloody awful, or as one of my friends said: “This is what I imagine strangling a cat would sound like!”
We weren’t able to take pictures, but these pictures off their website should give you a taste of the night I had:
I liked the city of Paris, I wasn’t crazy about it but I did love the town of Montmartre. Which is great because that is where my friends want to live when they move over to France. I found the Parisian people to be either completely welcoming, helpful and friendly or completely rude, offensive and disrespectful, it was one or the other. The inner city of Paris, where all the good stuff is, is charming and beautiful, but the outer rims of the city are dirty, grimy and cramped. As well as the city of lights, art and love, it should be called the city of contradictions. I had a great time though, and my personal tour guides were fabulous and even managed to instil in me a little bit of French.
So with my new knowledge of the French language, au revoir.