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Jill McCracken’s Travel Diary

Friday, 07 Jan 2011

Location: Paris, France

MapOur big tourist day - Part Two

So even after our perfect moments at the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, we still felt a bit excluded from the activities that Paris has offered up to others in our larger group of students. We're not the type to be going out every night and have all agreed that getting plastered is not what this trip is about, but there was still an allure of the unfamiliar. Although exhausted, we decided that one beer would be appropriate, especially with our heads bloated with public transportation knowledge. So one beer, but where to go? We asked around but most gave names of dance clubs - - - not the atmosphere we were looking for. We had already eaten dinner so a tapas bar was inappropriate and of course dinner here rests around 9pm, so the night was drawing to a close. We wanted some sort of grungy pub that just serves a good pint and was easy to access from our knowledge of the trains: we found it.

I did a quick search and stumbled across a blog post about La Guillotine. It is a grungy, student-driven pub in the Latin Quarter that seemed to be the perfect destination. Little did we know, we would pop out of the underground to see another beautiful sight (it was the day of coincidences).Decision made and few train stops later, we arrived at Saint Michel - Notre Dame and climbed the stairs out of the station to see the imposing Notre Dame cathedral looming above us. Whoops, we hit another tourist spot without even planning to!

Not really knowing where we were going, we wandered towards the crowds of boisterous students lazily strolling down the cobbled streets. Each tiny alley was lit up by strings of overhead lights, it was like being in a movie. A turn here, a wander around there, and Emily turned around to see the pub just appear out of nowhere (things seem to do that in Paris....) We darted in and immediately adored it. It was dimly lit and felt sort of grungy - Guelph readers can imagine the atmosphere of Doogies, but squish that into a building from the 1700s. A VERY steep staircase led downstairs to the blues music emanating from the cave below. Correct: cave. It was called Le Caveau des Oubliettes, which is literally "The Cave of the Forgotten". Our humble pub used to be a storehouse for the "forgotten": prisoners awaiting their beheading at the nearby guillotine (which has been reconstructed and hung on a wall upstairs) so there were still shackle marks on the walls and handcuffs artfully placed as decorations. The live blues band cranked out blues and classic rock tunes for the Sorbonne students who rubbed elbows with their professors and other locals. The walls were composed of stone that felt dewy and cool to the touch and the spiral staircase had chain handrails.

It was quite crowded downstairs, so we grabbed our first pints in Paris and sat amongst French students at the tiny wooden tables on the first floor. We might have been overdressed even, it is so nice to find a pub that I can wear jeans in (in Paris!!) Our rule was one beer, so we set off again, but the trains close at 12:30am. New plan. Our first taxi. Hailed New York style, a sweet gentleman drove us back the Cite Universitaire and pointed out landmarks along the way. It must be said again, riding in public transit or in a taxi is a lovely way to see the city when you are exhausted and just cannot walk anymore...split 5 ways, the taxi was less than a cup of coffee. I think the ride home was so worth it because we got to see streets and neighbourhoods that might have taken us weeks to discover on foot. Just the excitement of racing through the streets with a knowledgeable cabbie was worth two euros. Our big tourist day finally complete, we snuggled into our beds for some rest before the next big adventure...