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Nomad’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 04 Mar 2009

Location: Paris, France

MapOnto Paris!
We had booked accom that morning so we vaguely knew where we were headed and found our Hostel with only a little overshoot. We were greeted with French attitude and felt like shoe filth straight away. Bless the rude customer service. We went walking for a pizza and balked at the prices (about 26 Euros for two SMALL pizzas). They weren’t even good. We slept well though and woke up early for breakfast. Which turned out to be croissants and jam, very French. We set out on our way to St Michel’s fountain in the Latin Quarter for a free walking tour. We spent about four and a half hours walking around Paris taking in all the sights and hearing about the history behind the buildings and monuments. Its impossible to remember all that we were told, but I will try for a few. Close to St Michel’s in Notre Dame cathedral (no hunchback in sight). We talked about how Napoleon was crowned Emperor of France in an elaborate ceremony there. He invited the Pope up from Italy to crown him in front of the masses but just as he was about to place the crown on his head, Napoleon snatched it out of his hand and told the crowd ‘Not even God’s representative on earth is worthy of crowning me’. Back in the times that was a HUGE thing to say so it was a sensational moment for the people. He also was exiled later on in his career for leading his troops into Russia in the middle of winter (duh) causing the loss of thousands of lives and an embarrassing retreat. When he escaped form the island they had stranded him on, thousands of troops waited on the beaches for him with the order to fire on site. As they were his former troops he marched straight up to them and cried ‘let he among you who would shoot his emperor fire now’. No one fired and he was lead back to Paris with cheers and excitement. I bet that confused the new ruler.
Close by to Notre dame was the New Bridge. It is actually the oldest bridge in Paris but it was the first made by materials that lasted long term. On this bridge there are hundreds of carved faces that look HILARIOUS. King Henry the 4th was known to be a bit of a party animal in his time. When the bridge was close to finished, he held a party for all his friends to celebrate. When they were drunk he snuck artists in to sketch the way his friends looked. The next day he employed stone carvers to carve the faces into the bridge. Making this bridge the first ever Face book. Can’t untag yourself from those photos unfortunately.
Other stores included the gardens in the centre of the city that used to be tile factories. Sadly for the people that worked there, Marie Antoinette didn’t like the fact that she could see them from her windows so she had it all ripped down and replaced by gardens. I don’t think they had severance pay back then. Talking about severance pay we learnt that its origins were in France during the guillotine days (last in 1978!!!!!) where the families of the condemned would pay the executer to sharpen the blades to make sure the head was severed in one hit.
We also learnt about the last standing of Nazi’s during the end of the war. Paris was taken at the start of the war as a repayment for the treaty of Versailles which ended the first world war. The Germans occupied the city until the near end of the war. The order came from Hitler to burn Paris to the ground if it looked like they were losing the ground. There were cannons lined up around the outside of the city and explosive wired to all the important monuments. The lead commander had a last minute crisis of faith and came up with a plan to deceive Hitler. He took the cannons and aimed them away from the city and sent troops to fight in the outskirts of the city where there isn’t anything of great importance. He took the explosives and set them up in the Grand Palais which is HUGE and empty on the inside. When the order came to burn the city, he set the explosives off and fired all the cannons. All the smoke and fire, combined with the troops noise was enough to convince Hitler that Paris no longer stood. Ironically even the Grand palais had no damage done. A few days later the allies marched down the Champs Elysees and liberated the city.
After the walk we were pretty exhausted but decided to use the rest of our afternoon constructively. We went to site see at the Arc De Triumph, where the eternal flame sits. We had a laugh when we found out that twice in the history of the flame it has been extinguished. Once was when a drunk football fan urinated on it. When this happened it turned into and international incident with ambassadors from brazil (where he was from) having to come for relighting ceremonies, and the PERMANENT deportation of the man. Another time it was put out when a group of 5 Australian men where toasting a marshmallow on it. Lets just say they got a free ride home as well. From there we went down to the Eiffel Tower. During the day it is quite nice but it looks unimpressive so we were a little disappointed. We decided in the interest of recouping some of the lost money (see Amsterdam and Prague!) we would walk the first two stories. It was a mission and a lot higher than you think! We mucked around on the levels taking our time making our way up. When we finally got in the lift to head to the top< Craig and Amy suddenly decided they were afraid of heights and lost all colour and knee strength. Sam thoroughly enjoyed the ride though and took in the sites. At the top we actually couldn’t believe how high it was. We read a little about the history of the tower and were surprised to find it had actually been built for the world fair in the 1890’s. It was only supposed to stand for 20 years and was designed to not only be a talking point but to be the entrance to the fair and a landmark for people to find their way to the festivities. The way they decided on what to build was to hold a competition. Gustav Eiffel obviously won, but some of the runners up included things I would love to see erected in the centre of the city of love. There was a Cyclops, an elephant and a ship made of metal. My vote would have gone to the Cyclops.
After we had seen the sunset from the top of the tower we made our way down to the bottom. Just as we were crossing the road away from the tower the lights went on for the first laser show of the evening. We were actually awestruck and went crazy snapping photos. I can tell you we understood the power of the tower when we saw it at night. As we made our way back to the hostel we kept stopping over and over again to take more photos. We finally found a supermarket and stocked up on sandwich fillings and a few baguettes. Home for the night and a very deep sleep. We had been on our feet for over 10 hours.

The next day we woke up to find a rare thing in Europe at this time of year. A BEAUTIFUL day. Not believing our luck we header straight to Mont Matre cathedral where we sat down overlooking the entire skyline of Paris listening to streets buskers from down on the road in front of us. We had a baguette picnic and lay in the sun enjoying it. After the longest time we decided to head to the next level and we found a street performer working for donations. He was an amazing singer and had great persona so we found ourselves sitting on these steps in the sun for about an hour singing along with people from all over the world (he kept asking people where they were from). We bought his CD and gave him 10 Euros for his collection. After that we went to see the inside of the cathedral. It was quite beautiful but being inside seemed like a crime so we were quite quick there. We went on our way walking through the city towards the Notre Dame cathedral to go inside. As we had learnt a bit about it the day before we were excited to see what it had to offer. We walked in in the middle of a coronation of a French Cardinal so we sat through a French service with no idea what was happening. Afterwards we were a little clued up and moved around a little. We saw the world’s largest organ and some amazing stained glass rose windows. Not to mention the worlds largest flying buttresses… You’ll have to ask Craig about those. After wards we walked slowly along the river taking in some of the sights we had seen the day before at our own pace and made our way towards the Louvre. We had been told on the walking tour that the museum was open for free to under 25’s on a Friday night after 6 so we were aiming for that. Once we had made our way into the museum we made our first stop to find a map. The Louvre boasts over 35,000 pieces and if you were to spent 30 seconds in front of each piece without sleeping eating or bathroom breaks, you would be there for over 3 months.
First stop for us was the Egyptian exhibition so we could see the Mummies. After we had done that area pretty thoroughly we moved along to the Mona Lisa. We knew it was going to be smaller than expected and quite disappointing all round but we went anyway as it is ‘the thing’ to do at the Louvre. It was as we expected. Afterwards we treated ourselves to a starbucks and continued on out way to take some night shots of all the main things. It was pretty cold outside and after two days moving on our feet we were ready to call it a night. Back to the Hostel at about 10pm to pack our things ready to leave the next day. After an uneventful flight home we were ready to head back to London.
For Craig and I it was just heading home but for Amy it was the start of another adventure.

Bring on London.