My last day in Paris for this trip was typical of the way I travel – try to jam too much into too little time, run late and finish up exhausted.
I had to return the bike to Yamaha, which is a 40 minute ride if you know where you’re going, and I didn’t. So I got the directions on my iPhone from Google maps an did screen captures of not just the map, but also the directions. By doing it this way I didn’t use any expensive 3G data on my way, and I didn’t get lost, either.
But next time I’m spending 3 days in a foreign city I’m getting TomTom maps for the iPhone. With the maps stored on the iPhone and the GPS getting your location, it doesn’t use 3G data which costs so bloody much outside you’re home country, and you get turn-by-turn navigation in your headphones.. And even if they cost $100, at least you’ll have the maps if you return one day…
At least I’d worn joggers and had a fresh band-aid on the blister, so it was uncomfortable rather than debilitating.
An hour or so later I was back at the hotel, swapping bike gear for camera gear and heading for The Louvre, Notre Dame and whatever else I could make it to. Back on the metro – I had the hang of this now – and into the city, where I got lost, again. but eventually, by walking another million miles or so, I was at the Louvre.
This is one of the most impressive places I’ve ever been. Squillions of people, a reasonable price (9.50 euro), no extra for Mona, and exhibit after exhibit after exhibit.
I walked my feet off.
Outside, the combination of classic old building and glass pyramid roof over the now underground entry foyer is awesome. The whole site is huge and I could easily have spent a couple of days exploring and photographing the architecture, the space, the people and even the exhibits.
I was surprised at how close you could get to many of the major works – indeed, I could have reached out and touched paintings which I’m sure wore worth millions, but everyone had a healthy respect for the art. Most people even managed to take pictures without flash, as per the rules, but there are always a few how can’t/won’t/just don’t get it. And although many antiquities were in a cabinets, only one painting was – the Mona Lisa (or Monna Lisa as I saw it spelt in one spot). It lies behind a tinted(!) glass shield, a shelf and rope barriers, although I’m sure the last is just to keep people that bit further away so more people can see it.
To be honest I think it is an awesome work, but why it has become the painting by which all others are defined is a mystery to me, but one had to be the best, I suppose.
After a few hours at the Louvre, including a walk around its reproductions shop where the prices are quite staggering, it was off to Notre Dame. One of the most famous churches in the world, you can visit for free… and it’s well worth a look. Thousands of years old and huge, it is impressive and deeply historical.
I can’t begin to imagine what the peasants of France thought when they first saw the place – it must have been intimidating and terrifying in its time.
I was pretty worn out by this time so it was back to the hotel, pick up the luggage and get to the airport. I tried to go by train but that turned out too hard, so it was into a taxi – and I’m pretty sure this guy took my on a wild goose chase around the airport itself, I don’t think he really had much concept of where terminal 2A really was.
55 euro later I’m totally out of cash, the ATMs won’t give me anymore (problems with the financial system communicating with Australia) but at least I can buy stuff on credit.
I’m finishing this story on the plane: it’s 3.15am Sydney time (one the ground in less than three hours!) but I’ll be home before it actually gets posted to the web.
I had a great time in paris, I’d recommend it to anyone who can enjoy a fast, big city. I found navigation a problem – I’ve never got lost in my life like I got lost in Paris – but the metro is easy to use, the food is great, the people aren’t as bad as the reputation which they have attracted and the climate in May was good, if a little damp at times.
Paris isn’t a cheap place to visit, but it’s no worse than Sydney. There are ways to economise, but don’t do that too much – it’s a long way to travel for all of my friends, get over there and get into it.
Next time I go back I will go up the Eiffel Tower, see the Moulin Rouge and speak the language better. I hope.