Sunday, 22 January 2012

Paris holds the key to my heaaaaarrrrttt...

After establishing that our shower is amazing, I had a incredibly painful evening with my back completely stuffed from carrying my pack all day. It was the most heinous pain, but I took painkillers and felt much better when I woke up this morning. We were all up for a bit of the night because of the time difference still mucking us about, but when we got up this morning we all felt surprisingly good and un-jetlagged. Jules text us to say she was in Paris (yayyyyyyyyy!) and that she was doing a free walking tour at 1pm and would we like to join her? It was free. We said yes.

We headed first to a gorgeous little cafe in Pere Lachaise near the cemetery and had coffee and pain au chocolat. The people at the cafe were so friendly, and obviously very used to English speakers. The inside was red and black and very French chic. Then we headed to the cemetery. I asked for a map in French, because I'm a totally badass linguist, and we found Heloise and Abelard's tomb. YAYYY!! I'd been waiting to see them for years. (For all those who don't know, Heloise and Abelard lived centuries and centuries ago. Abelard was Heloise's tutor and they were in love and had a child together. When Heloise's dad found out, he sent Heloise to a nunnery and had Abelard castrated. They were supposedly Shakespeare's inspiration for Romeo and Juliet and my incredibly talented friend Natalie wrote her thesis on them. My favourite movie, 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', gets its title from the poem written by Alexander Pope about Heloise and Abelard. Cool beans. Facts are over.)

We ended up leaving the cemetery after that, but we have to go back later to find other graves. It's the most beautiful place, with cobblestones and beautiful stone figures of angels and gorgeous tombs. Then onto the metro to Saint-Michel to meet up with Jules and Neil and Justine and the tour guide! The fountain of Saint-Michel is in the Latin quarter and is simply enormous. It depicts Saint Michel booting Satan out of Heaven. It's pretty spectacular. Our tour guide was this lovely Scottish woman called Naomi and she took us on a three and a half hour walking tour. The tour was free, but it is her job and she works for tips. She was a brilliant hostess. Highlights of the tour included Notre Dame, La Conciergerie (a former palace and prison, now courtrooms, it was the place were all the noble prisoners were held during the French Revolution, including Marie Antoinette), Pont Neuf (Henry IV's bridge, the first ever stone bridge, covered in sculptures of 'drunk' faces), the equestrian statue of Henry IV (where we were told of the assassination of Henry IV and the subsequent hardcore torture of his assailant, Francois Ravaillic), the 'Love Bridge' (of 'Sex and the City' fame, covered in padlocks with lovers names all over it), the Lourve (just the outside, with extensive and beautiful facades and those ridiculous pyramids), the Jardin de Tuileries (beautiful gardens outside the Lourve from back when the Lourve was a royal residence, commisioned by Catherine de Medicis), the Place de la Concorde (with the huge Egyptian obelisk and the actual site of the guillotine during the French Revolution. That's right, I was standing on the very spot where Marie Antoinette, and over 2700 other Parisians, lost their heads. For decades after, no horse would go near it because the stench of blood was so putrid. So they covered it over and Napoleon plonked an obelisk he nicked from Egypt there.)

We walked up the Champs-Elysees and glimpsed the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, which we will investigate further tomorrow. Our guide informed us that the Champs-Elysees literally means 'Fields of Elixir' which is traditionally known as the pathway to Heaven. Napoleon wanted to march his army down the pathway to Heaven, which stretches from the Lourve, through the Jardin de Tuileries, through the Place de la Concorde, up the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, but died before he could complete it. We finished the tour overlooking Les Invalides, which is the hospital where wounded soldiers were sent to recover before they were sent back to war and wounded again. It is also the final resting place of Napoleon. We learnt so much more extra stuff, and there is no way I can blog it all because it would take me all night, but I strongly, STRONGLY recommend this tour to anyone visiting Paris. For more info, go to They apparently do similar tours in heaps of other European cities, and we will definitely take part in those.

After the tour, Naomi took anyone who was interested to a restaurant where she could guarantee we would not be ripped off. For 13 euro you could get a decent sized meal and a drink, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. As part of our budget backpacking, we don't plan to eat out a lot, but we decided to splurge on this because of it's decent value (and we were friggen starving). I had wine with chicken and french fries (yes, I know, very French. Shut up.) and the owner asked me how it was. I said 'Magnifique, merci!' and he kissed me and told me I too, was magnifique. Winning!

My back was really, really sore again, but we had already had a big day, so we headed back, buying some groceries on the way. I tried uploading the 58 photos I took to facebook but the computer wasn't having a bar of it, so I'll try it again later.

Au revoir!!

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