I’ve become a tourist again.
Last weekend was spent in Paris when my university fencing club made their annual trip to France for a huge “competition” (we say “competition” when really it’s a jolly that includes skill-less, hungover fencing accompanied by charming Europeans and a lot of red wine). It would be rude to use the French just for their endless supplies of Nutella and crêpes that were being handed out off piste, plus it was Valentines weekend and this is the City of Love, clichés don’t get much better than this.
And so our team of fencers Metro’d into the heart of the beautiful city to spend our last days exploring as much as possible. Somehow I’d been put in charge of this trip and when finding the perfect place to stay, my acquired cheap-but-not-crap skilled searches led me to The Loft, a boutique hostel situated in Belleville. With little clue of whether Belleville is Paris’ version of London’s Chelsea or Mumbai’s slums I went for it on the basis that it seemed very chique. The Loft and Belleville did not disappoint. The hostel was squeaky clean with welcoming faces and happy backpackers, situated in a student-vibe area where the graffiti led me to believe that Banksy had gone ape with his can and decorated everything in sight.
Dropping our bags and devouring a French McDonalds (I’m serious, McDonalds is an important way to experience different cultures) we made our way to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. The weather was beautiful and all of Paris’ runners and lovers seemed to be out enjoying the dearly missed sun.
The idyllic park comes with waterfalls and a moat that circles a mini temple, Temple de la Sibylle thanks to Wikipedia (which has also just pointed out that the surrounding area of the park was used to display hanged bodies of criminals and horse carcasses- I can see the artful meaning in the teddy hanging from the lampost now). We trekked up to the temple welcomed by some incredible views of Paris’ skyline.
The next part is hard to talk about so short and sour, the camera was dropped and it was au revoir to any photos for that day. However my keyboard still works, here’s the rest of the day…
We left Parc des Buttes Chaumont to do some serious tourism, no fooling around, it was Arc de Triomphe time. How much larger the thing is, I mean I don’t even know what it is but it was huge and I loved it. Even better was the roundabout/ cockpit going on down below, French traffic is tourist gold.
After standing and staring at car wars for long enough it was time to head down the long avenue that is home to every designer I can’t afford. We popped into Louis Vuitton for some sneering at price tags that disguised pure jealousy. We walked further down the street made for Dubai Princes until we found affordable luxury, bonjour crème glacée.
Ice cream in hand we continued this very long walk past grand architecture until we came to a fancy bridge; now every bridge in Paris is fancy but this one led us to Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine, the military museum. It’s garden was covered in bullet-shaped bushes and the courtyard was decorated with cannons, it’s what I’d call a ‘boy-museum’. Fortunately there was no time to go in…
Eventually our stomachs called and soon enough we were in Notre Dame on the hunt for food, not before taking in the magnificence of the cathedral. There was also a very questioning hobo (I really tried looking for a nicer word) who happened to have two very expensive looking puppies tucked up in his arms. I say watch your bags in that area.
The restaurant we were heading to was down a maze of streets, restaurant after restaurant and every kind you can get; I remember walking past one with a chandelier made of bras but instead we made for a more ‘conservative’ one. On came a three course meal of snails, duck and profiteroles swallowed down with plenty of red wine, finished with a coffee and digestif. Ironically the digestif was also the finish of me and so I can’t really tell you the rest of what happened that night but the final hours my day in Paris was spent tucked up back in the cosy hostel.