PARIS DAY 1: Natalie comes to visit! (ft. guest appearances by pickpockets, home-away-from-home galleries and a spectacular view

I’d like to take this time to offer a major kudos to all those who somehow find the time to blog whilst traveling. I arrived in Europe with the best of intentions – the desire to document and photograph my adventurous tales. So far, I’ve only done much of the latter.

Time to stop slacking.

Now, a week into my European vacation, I will attempt to explain to you, one day at a time, my journey so far.

PS: part of this is to blame on the fact that I have no computer, and only an iPhone with a detachable keyboard. This is the cause of my partial blogging avoidance and extreme laziness.

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My first full day in Paris was an eventful one. My friend and old roommate Natalie kindly came in to the city to visit. Lovely Ottawa reunions occurred. Since I was still recovering from the mortifying advances of forward French men, it was nice to have the company of a French-speaking friend who could help me ward off the creeps.

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Since Natalie had already done the majority of the tacky tourist stuff I had on my agenda, we decided to spend the first half of our day vintage shopping in a neighbourhood just north-east of the Notre Dame (the name is lost to me, at the moment). Here, we encountered cheap (but strange smelling) garments selling for a single Euro, poorly chosen store soundtracks, cavernous bargain basements and completely unnecessary shoe purchases. We also stumbled upon a variety of cool boutique shops, the likes of which sold Lego-themed waterbottles, Playmobile figure pendants, paint chip-inspired wall deco and colourful clothing hooks. I wanted to buy a Parisian apartment that instant, just so I could furnish it using the store’s overly priced, designer furniture.

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Having gone straight to France in April to start her job at Vimy, Natalie hasn’t been home to Winnipeg in some time now. Due to this, she was particularly eager to visit out next stop: a Parisian gallery featuring, get this, all things Winnipeg. In Paris. Oh eccentric French art enthusiasts. The gallery was short walk from the Place de la Bastille, right across from the Seine. Inside, overwhelmed by Canadiana nostalgia, Natalie wandered through the exhibit, chuckling to herself like the entire studio was a giant inside joke. There was just as much quirky Canada-themed art to appreciate as there was Winnipeg stuff: beavers munching on desk legs, snow-filled images of frigid winters and many references to Louis Riel. I don’t think the French got the ironic nature of some displays.

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From here, we did something completely different, and went to Ladurée, the famous French bakery which I make reference to in many a post, tweet and Facebook photo. You can see more photos from the wonders of that tea room visit (as well as my gluttonous second visit) on my blog, Hilary Makes.

Next, because we hadn’t done nearly enough shopping earlier, we walked over to the Champs-Élysées to complete my obligatory window shop down the street. Okay, not so much window shop. More clothing was bought (on my part) and an H&M was found. Just as we were figuring out ways to get our European chic on, disaster struck.

Natalie got her wallet stolen.

It almost happened to me too. The pick-pocketing technique was seamless: as fast as you could say “macaron,” two girls surrounded their victim (i.e. distracted girls like Nat and I) and just sort of…well…walked into you for an extended period of time. It happened to me first. Being the easily annoyed, get-out-of-my-way-stupid-people-who-can’t-walk person that I am, I elbowed my way on through. Being the paranoid, neurotic freak that I am, I automatically felt my purse. The twisty buckle that normally clasps the flap shut was open. LE GASP.

Alas, my wallet was still there and tears and breakdowns were averted.

Shortly after, a similar situation happened to Nat. Unfortunately, she didn’t get so lucky.

Thank heavens she is fluent in French (I, for instance, do not even know the French word for wallet). After some undiscernable French chatter with an H&M employee and much searching around the store, we walked out, our otherwise brilliant day shrouded by the occurrence of the stolen wallet.

(Don’t think I’m leaving this hanging on a depressing note. The next day, Nat called the H&M, and was happily met with news that her wallet had been tossed and found. All was safe and, although she was a few Euros shorter, she was once again in possession of her attractive Manitoba driver’s license and her other plastic lifelines. So relieved).

After dropping Natalie off at the train station for the night, I decided to trek back over to the Champs-Élysées and check out the view from atop the Arc de Triomphe. My mood was lifted rapidly from here, especially after I found out my admission to the top was free (hello $15 saved!) thanks to my European Union passport. It was also later in the evening, so there was very little of a line. Once I climbed the 284 spiraling stairs to the top, I was met with a breathtaking view, not only of the 12 streets (including the Champs-Élysées) circling the panorama, but also of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur in the distance. Even though I didn’t pay to access the view, the experience was priceless.

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Paris, day 0.5: sleepy plane delays, pigeon pick-up lines and French architecture so gorgeous it makes you want to cry

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Rather than tell you the story about how my flight from Montreal to Paris was delayed by four hours last night, I’m just going to skip to the fun part: Paris itself. (all you must know about my delayed travels is that I miserably gravol-ed myself prematurely last night and paid the cost by passing out several times in different positions on airport chairs) (thank god they were leather and comfy).

I landed in Paris today at just after 3:30 local time. Following what seemed like endless signs to the Paris train station to go downtown, I finally got to the main transport terminal. Here, I was met with the task of purchasing my metro tickets, something which took me all of half an hour and caused several exasperated sighs. After about five attempts to walk into the I-will-not-budge-ever metro gates, I realized that I needed a different, more expensive ticket to take me from the airport downtown. I blame my lack of rationality on my sleep-deprived state.

ANYWAYS, I successfully navigated by way through the surprisingly easy to understand Paris underground system and found myself, a short hour later, at my hostel in the 14th arrondissement.

Since I had been in commute for more than 15 hours, I took a well deserved shower before deciding to head back out and explore.

After much negotiation over where to visit, I finally settled on taking the C-line train along the Seine, in hopes of catching a late evening view of the Musee d’Orsay and the Eiffel Tower.

Rule #1 about travel: things never go as planned.

Meaning to transfer onto the yellow C-line at the St-Michel Notre-Dame metro station, I was distraught to see that every sign that once held directions to my desired route was crossed off with some sort of electrical tape.

Alright, you win some you lose some. There will be plenty more days for tourist sight-seeing. Instead, I decided to wander.

Turns out that I had landed in the perfect Parisian neighborhood. Everything was exactly as I would have thought it to be – detailed architecture, cafe and restaurant patios, couples making out EVERYWHERE, Vespas and pigeons.

At the same time, there were also the not-so-romanticized parts of the city – girls eating McDonald’s on the edge of ornate flower beds, a woman in purple sweatpants chain smoking out her window…

Nonetheless, Paris is what it is, and I am already starting to love it for that reason.

Lost in translation (and just lost)
Continuing my wandering, I promptly got lost. I have slowly began to realize that my life is in shambles without 3G access and the guiding light of Google Maps.

But do not fret.

I swear that Paris must be the only city in the universe where you can be completely lost, and somehow still find yourself eating a crepe while sitting on the bank of the Seine. If this is lost, I never want to be found.

Oh right, I also stumbled onto a major Parisian landmark, the Notre Dame Cathedral. I’m not sure how that happened, but I made sure to take enough touristy photos to make my dad proud.

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What’s the French word for creepy?
In other news, Paris is certainly living up to its reputation of being the city of love (and not just because couples were making out everywhere).

I’m chalking this up to the fact that I’m a young girl strolling around Paris with map and camera in hand (read: I am the ultimate tourist), but I got picked up an insane amount of times tonight. And by that, I mean twice. Which is pretty good for me, okay?

My first courtier was Antonio, a creepy old man who led me around to the back of the Notre Dame touting its “photographic aesthetics.” I promptly told him I had to go and meet my family, and ran away to take refuge in a group of children who were playing with bubbles.

The next lover-boy, Sammy, was the perfect example of a smooth-talking Parisians. He ACTUALLY used a situation in which a pigeon almost flew into me as a pick-up line. After discovering my French left something to be desired, he continued to speak to me in broken English for the next half hour, lead me to the correct metro station entrance and frequently touch my arm in a way that only the French can touch strangers. Mon dieu.

Overall, I had a great first day in Paris. My hostel is AWESOME (pictures to come tomorrow) and I can’t wait to explore more of the city. Also, I’m meeting Natalie tomorrow and we’re going vintage shopping and macaron-eating. Can’t wait.

PS: sorry about the pictures, I looked ridiculous trying to snap shots on both my iPhone and actual camera. This is the result of the former.

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Twitter travel tweets

And just a quick post on why Twitter is awesome when you’re making travel plans and seeking international food/to-do recommendations. There’s plenty more where these came from, too. All have been written down and stored in my travel folder.

And my personal favourite, in response to a “what should I do in Europe” tweet…

Will do, Don, will do.

PS: I also got several French pastry shop recommendations from a Parisian baker in Ottawa. BAM.

Au Revoır Parıs and Selam Istanbul!

Time for another update from the road! 

Last time I left you guys, I had just spent a pretty productive day marching around Paris. That night ended up being a bit more of a chill evening as both myself and the Aussie girls I had been traveling around with were exhausted.  To treat ourselves for such a productive day, we decided that we would sample some of the French cusine in the area.  We chose a restraunt called Marmite, not to far from the hostel and i had a delicious lamb dish that I would definitely recommend for anyone visiting Paris!  (num num)

Kirra and Cate on the Streets of Paris

The next day, the girls and I decided to split up as they wanted to check out the Louvre and I wanted to see the Musee D’Orsay.  Wow! what a museum! Some of the most beautiful works of art i have ever seen. What was really cool was the museum was hosting a Van Gogh exhibit so I got check some of his most famous works including his self-portrait.

After the art museum, I decided to wander about for a bit before I tried heading to the catacombs of Paris, where some of the bodies from the French revolution are buried. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the catacombs, they had already closed the line for the day. To cheer myself up, I decided to buy myself some Macarons, these cute colourful cookie-esque desserts that have become quite a fad around the world.  I ended trying three different flavours, including lavender, salted-caramel (apparently very French) and Mojito (not particularly French but still delicious).  

Macarons!

That evening, I reunited with Cate and Kirra and we made a delicious pasta dish that was the envy of all the other backpackers in the hostel. Unfortunately that I night I also learned the terrible news that I would  have to get up at 3:45 am to take a shuttle to the airport because my flight left before the metro started in the morning.

Note to all travelling friends, cheaper flights don’t always work out to be cheaper if you have to pay 37 euro to get the airport 😦

Yesterday was spent, sleeping on planes and in airports. After arriving at Charles de Gaulle, I boarded my flight destined for Warsaw. Unfortunately for me, my flight was delayed by a few hours. My orginal intention was to leave the Warsaw airport and check out the city, but I neded up only having and 1 and a half hours until my next flight, and I still needed to clear through EU customs.

Arriving in Istanbul was completely amazing.  The metro/street car ride through the city to get to my hostel, was jaw-droppingly beautiful.  The thing that comes across instantly about the city is that it is OLD. And by Old I mean 700 years older than Senor Jesus Christo.

I got to my hostel, no problem and ended up making some new friends at the hostel’s rooftop patio and bar. So far today, I hopped on a commuter ferry and headed over to the Asian side of Istanbul.  While less touristy than, the region my hostel is in, it’s still nice to be able to say that I’ve been to Asia. 

 

Well, that’s about it for now, I’m planning on hitting up the huge market this afternoon, in search of some new treasures! I’ll give you an update as soon as I can!

Later days! 

G

Paris Round 1

NOTE TO HILARY (and everyone else) Before you chastise me for my lack of pictures on the post, the computer I’m using doesn’t seem to like my Camera so I will upload them EVENTUALLY
ALSO this computer doesn’t seem to like wordpress so I can’t actually SEE what i’m writing, so I apologize if there are typos

Now that clerical issue is over with, Greetings From Paris!
While I’ve only been here for less than 48 hours, I feel like I’ve accomplished so much in this bustling city! But before I get into too much detail about what I’ve gotten up to today, let me recount my travels from Canada to Europe:

Monday afternoon, I got myself and Frank (my backpack) to the greyhound bus terminal just in time to catch my direct bus to the airport in Montreal. After chilling for a few hours in at the Trudeau airport, I squeezed my way into the “cozy” Air Transat seat and promptly fell asleep. Lucky for me, my flight was overnight, so I slept for almost all of the trip.

Arriving in Paris was a pretty easy procedure EXCEPT when I almost walked away with the wrong backpack. Apparently, another traveller on the plane had the same model of backpack as me. I quickly realized that the backpack I was holding wasn’t mine and dropped it back off on the belt and waited for Frank to arrive.

Getting to Paris was a simple train ride into the city and then a quick walk to my hostel. Upon arrival, I dropped of Frank and headed to explore. My hostel, Le Village, is located in Montmatre, the district of Paris home to the Moulin Rouge and the famed catherdral Sacre Couer.

After exploring the district for a bit, I headed back to the hostel to check out my room. Upon opening the door to my room, I met two delightful Australian girls from Adelaide. Kate and Kirra have been living in the UK working ata pub near London. After we introduced ourselves we became quick friends and went out to explore more of Montmatre.

Our evening was spent drinking wine, swapping stories and quoting from our mutual favourite show, Summer Heights High. The next morning was a bit of an early one as we all had planned to go on a walking tour of Paris. The tour was lots of fun and we ended up seeing lots of the popular sites here in Paris and learning some interesting facts.

Not to Hilary: Definitely check out the walking tour whwen you get here!

And that’s about it! Tomorrow I’m hoping to check some other sites here in Paris, but my time in this city is almost done! I depart early Friday morning for Istanbul and I’m not lying when I say I’m SUPER excited!!