Ah Paris. Really, what can you say? I actually avoided Paris on my last trip because I just didn’t think I’d find it that interesting (and I was afraid they’d be mean to me cos I don’t speak French). Well I officially stand corrected.
After a very relaxing night on the sleeper train from Barcelona, I arrived bright and early, checked into my hostel and headed straight out to join the always excellent free tour. Got a Scottish guide named Billy (good combo) who took us by (or at least within sight of all the major attractions and kept us amused with obscure histories, movie trivia and waving at passing river cruises. Afterwards, raced back to the hostel to change into something less…slept in on a train-ish and then joined a different guide, Adam, for an evening tour of Monmarte.
Started at the Moulin Rouge and then worked out way through the back streets past fascinating spots I would never have known about solo (such as the apartment where Van Gogh lived with his brother, and a bust of a French pop star whose boobs you rub for good luck) up to the magnificent view of the city from Sacre Coeur. Ducked into the church as well which, on top of being an oddly harmonious blend of at least 3 major architectural styles, has one of the most beautiful interiors I’ve seen. Meandered back down the hill past Picasso’s workshop, and finished with a complimentery plastic cup of wine at the Café de 2 Windmills (from the movie Amelie).
Set out next morning for another tour led by Adam, this time to Versailles. About 3 minutes after arriving I had decided that Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette and everyone who came in between were the very definition of more money than sense because that place, while beautiful, is just ridiculous. The tour was only of the gardens and in about 4 hours we saw maybe an 8th of them. There are 55 fountains, which can’t all run at the same time, and only get turned on at all for an hour and a half on weekends because of the insane amounts of water they use. We got a lot of history of the whacky royals who lived there, and after the regular tour finished, Adam took me and a few others around the grounds of the Grand and Petite Trianon which was sort of the private domain of Marie Antoinette, including the miniature village she had built for herself to herd around a flock of oink, perfumed sheep. Just nutty. You really begin to understand the motivation behind the revolutionaries pretty quickly. But despite the crazy, the whole place is honestly just gorgeous. The gardens themselves took the whole day so I can only imagine what the interior of the chateau must be like!
Headed back into the city with the last few girls from the tour group and grabbed a delicious, cheap meal of falafel and chips from the unfortunately nicknamed ‘bacteria alley’. After a relaxing sit down at the hostel, headed back out after dark to the Eiffel Tower which, despite having seen it all over the city from various vantage points, was still damn impressive up close. Got there a few minutes before the hour too so got to enjoy the couple minutes that is sparkles, but decided not to climb it as, even at midnight the lines were mental and, as Billy had pointed out, people get really disappointed when they get to the top and find themselves with a view of Paris that doesn’t actually include the Eiffel Tower :P