Korina's birthday present - weekend in Paris
6 Jan 2006
|Although Korina's birthday was in October, I decided to give her a mystery weekend in Paris. Due to advance booking considerations, we had to wait until early January to actually go on the trip. Budget airlines may have been a cheaper option from the North of England, however, we had never been on the Eurostar so decided to go for this option.
We went down to London after work on Friday night then across the Chunnel on the Eurostar - arriving in Paris around midnight. Amusingly enough in our carriage there were about 20 middle aged Korean ladies who were chattering like crazy. Luckily they all went to sleep pretty quickly (with the exception of the lady across from me who looked quite upset that she was seated across from someone with long legs!).
Due to the late hour of arrival we immediately headed over to our hotel which was not far from the Eiffel Tower. Speaking of the Eiffel Tower, my first impression was that although it looked quite pretty, it is certainly a lot smaller when viewing in-person as opposed to on the TV screen - I guess my response was quite similar to Korina's regarding 'moderately Big Ben'!
I think that in this age of Sky Towers in many major cities you just get to think that many of the older landmarks will be larger or grander than is actually the case. The Eiffel tower was lit up with lights however which did make it look quite attractive.
Saturday dawned surprisingly sunny, although smoggy. After sleeping in a bit and enjoying a complimentary breakfast of assorted french pastries, we headed out on the tourist trail. First stop was the Arc de Triomphe which contained a rather dull museum about Napolean, and more interestingly, a great view of central Paris, the Champ-Elysees and the Eiffel Tower.
After enjoying the view for a while, we walked down the Champ-Elysees all the way to the Louvre. On such a nice day Paris was quite stunning, but by the time we got to the Louvre the heat of the day was rapidly departing. We then spent a few hours inside looking at a number of the Louvre's classic works such as the Venus de Milo and of course the Mona Lisa. During this time we noticed how lacking in culture we both were to appreciate the art works properly. What was more noticiable was the shear scale of the Louvre - you could walk 10km inside just looking at all the different areas and wings!
From the Louvre we then attempted to go to Notre Dame. Unfortunately we got a bit lost and it took a while to actually find it (strange considering its a damn big church on a tiny island...). When we got there it was apparent that there were big cues for the tower, so we navigated the random beggars and went inside for a look around. Although quite beautiful, after looking at Cathedrals in Milan, Cologne, Lincoln and York, they do get a bit same-y after a while! Unfortunately by the time we came out the tower was then closed for the day so we missed out.
Feeling a bit down from missing the tower of Notre Dame, we then migrated to the nearest cafe for some french wine. We then enjoyed one of the most popular tourist events in Paris, being ripped off by the locals. An elderly Frnech lady alerted us to the fact, amidst much gesturing and sign language (as we spoke no French, and she spoke no English). However, by this stage we didn't really care too much.
We then found a nice little French restaurant for dinner - enjoyed some more French wine, and tried to order as much 'typically french' food of the menu. In addition to escargot, notable mentions included the creme brulee and the french onion soup. All served with ubiqitous french bread of course!
On the way home we went up the Eiffel Tower, which felt remarkably unsafe, and enjoyed some more views out over the city. We were quite lucky as the tower closed whilst we were up it - any later and we would have missed out. There was also a little carnival across from the tower, where we mucked about on the carnival rides and an Asian fella drew a characterture of Korina and myself. Pretty amusing, if I get around to it I will take a photo of it.
Being pretty buggered, we then crashed out for the night.
Sunday was then a pretty short day as we had to get the Eurostar back in the afternoon. We started out by looking around a random market across from our hotel - big on food and cheap clothes so Korina loved it.
Afterwards we headed over to the Modern art museum, which I personally liked better than the Louvre. I guess I kind of liked the craziness of modern art. Big names in the gallery included Picasso and Warhol.
After the modern art gallery we found a wine museum which although fairly dull ("here is our collection of 50 implements used for trimming grape vines in the early 1800's) did include a free wine tasting.
We then picked up our gear and went over to the Eurostar for the massive trip home. I say massive because there were also engineering works going on from London to Leeds which meant our usual 3 hour trip took around 6 hours and included 2 trains and a bus ride! Not an ideal finish to what was a really fun weekend!