July 28 2009: Adventures in Paris


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This day started with one of our earliest mornings and departures. We woke up at 5:20 am to catch a 7:00 am train eventually leading us to Paris. We were told the night before that a bakery adjacent to our hostel would be providing us breakfast, and wow did they ever. We walked in and said we were from the hostel, and were served all of the ingredients to make some delicious sandwiches and coffee for breakfast. We were asked if we wanted any more, and we said yes – to save for our long train ride for the rest of the day.

Our train connections were tight, and for a while we weren’t sure if we were going to make it to Paris that evening. We had two transfers before getting to Stuttgart, where we would have a connecting train leaving 5 minutes later to Paris. Thankfully, this was a common route and they positioned the two trains next to each other. Success! We were on our way to Paris.

It was four hours from Stuttgart to Paris, and the first thing I noticed in Paris was the graffiti problem. On many of the buildings lining the railway tracks there was graffiti that was completely unattended to. Not what I imaged to find in Paris, but we quickly passed into the train station. As we got off the train, we were presented with armed guards (with semi-automatic weapons) walking up and down the terminals. I saw this as intimidating, which wasn’t helping my first impression of a beautiful city. We pressed on.

We started some of our traditional activities in new cities: finding post cards, train information for the following day, where our hostel is and subway info to get there. To do this, we had to try and talk to the people in the train station to find basic information like “how much does the metro cost?” Desi tried approaching a number of people, all of which were ignorant or arrogant or both, until we finally found someone compassionate enough to tell us it was a Euro and a half. Alright. On our way.

One thing we noticed on the subway was in very poor shape. The plexiglass windows of the subway cars had all been carved in to, sometimes just to destroy them, other times with graffiti tags. It was dirty and overcrowded, not a very enjoyable experience either. We checked in to our hostel, which unfortunately put us in separate rooms based on gender. Apparently, no co-ed rooms at any hostel in Paris. Another frustration before we’ve even seen the beauty of the city.

Okay! All this complaining and no pictures! Our first stop was the Arc de Triomphe. A beautiful landmark that we were told we had to visit:

We spent some time here, and a little too much time walking around it – we couldn’t find which direction that Avenue des Champs-Élysées started, which was actually the direction we started. We met another confused couple that was trying to find the same path, and we exchanged a few nice words. I forget where they were from, but at least the other tourists were friendly! Anyhow, we started walking down the Avenue, and I looked back as were were crossing the street to take this photo:

Continuing our walk, we noticed another thing that didn’t improve our image of Paris. The number of gypsies in the city was unusually high. So many people begging on the streets, asking if we spoke English and then holding up a note with English writing asking for money. It was a little depressing, but we continued on looking for the beauty in the city. It wasn’t long before we found it:

This statue was along the edges of the bridge of Alexander III (Pont Alexandre III) on tall pillars. The statues were gilded, and were glowing so brightly in the evening sun. We had turned right off of Champs-Élysées to get here, and were well rewarded. the walk we were taking through Paris – with no direction except what we wanted to see – was an enjoyable and rewarding adventure. We crossed the bridge and had dinner in a café/restaurant slightly off the beaten path (better prices). We met another couple here with an adorable young daughter that had just learned to walk; she put smiles on our faces and warmed our hearts. After a nice sit down (even though the food and beer was mediocre), we headed back across the bridge on our way to our hostel:

Paris is stunning at night, and visually is a very beautiful city. There was much to be desired in the people and the experience however, so it was a mixed day. Many wonderful photos, and a very memorable day. The journey from Füssen to Paris was about 900km, and was just the start of our day. Desi and I had seen so much in so little time, I’m only fully absorbing it all now. 🙂 See the rest of the photos below:

Comments

  1. Diane and Walter Enns
    October 13th, 2009 | 6:39 pm

    Hi Don and Desi

    Paris, yes Walter and I would agree that the locals are ignorant and arrogant unless you can speak french. On the brighter side of things the detail and design of the buildings along with all the wonderful statues are beautiful. Don you are right about that one building being Les Invalides…I checked our trip memoradum from 2002 to verify. My favorite pictures are the 3 of the Eiffel tower at night with the one showcasing the light reflection into the sky scoring #1….definitely need prints of those.

    No co-ed rooms at the hostels in Paris that is disappointing, but at least you can say that you have been to Paris….

    Love Mom and Walter

    The police bus certainly makes you wonder about the safety in the city!!!

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