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Thursday, 28 March 2013

confession #000030

... or, throwback thursday

yeah! i hit the big 3-0 in terms of posts on this blog.  i guess it is somewhat of a milestone seeing as i'm not one of the most regular of bloggers.  today also calls for another little celebration: it's my eighth year at my current workplace and thanks to this job (which i truly have a passion for, as i suppose my colleagues can confirm), i get to visit quite a few places around europe.  and in celebration of this, i've decided that today's post will be all about one of the cities i visited quite recently for one of my meetings: paris. let's say that in pure hashtag fashion, this will also be the first #throwbackthursday and let nostalgia lead the way. 

i visited paris last december for the first time.  to be quite frank, i'm not actually sure if i would consider going again.  i suppose i had a mild bout of paris syndrome or it was just a collection of occurrences which came together to make me somewhat disillusioned about the city.  but let's not start on such a negative note. 

i spent a total of four days, arriving on saturday and leaving on tuesday, with the last two days being taken up by my work meetings. this allowed me almost 2 days to see the sites.  admittedly, this was not much time, but it was enough to get a good impression of the city of lights. i opted to stay in the montmartre area, with the aim of being inspired by all the artists who walked along the same streets i would be traipsing on, and also because it was the closest arrondisement to the meeting venue just outside paris. 


i first headed to the sacré-cœur basilica and the famous steps leading to it where practically all parisian youth congregate, and not just.  the place was replete with tourists enjoying the sun in the otherwise cold day.  i must admit it was quite a struggle making my way down the steps to reach the heart of montmartre and its quaint shops and cafes.  the next place which i visited was the cafe des deux moulins, which any amelie fan must, absolutely, visit.  this was my personal little mecca and i wouldn't have left paris before visiting it. the place is exactly like it was in the film, save for the fact that it was full of tourists who were obviously as intent as i was to have a coffee there.  

following that i walked on to galeries lafayette and the shops around boulevard hausmann.  honestly, i was not prepared for what i was to face.  i'm not sure if it was the louis vuitton christmas shop windows or the fact that i timed my visit to galeries lafayette when all the coach tours were visiting but it was a nightmare to get in, a nightmare to shop and a nightmare to get out.  i had to queue for a good twenty minutes at the longchamp shop to get the pliage totes which i was intent on laying my paws on. over the years, i've come to the realisation that i'm not good with crowds.  despite being in the mecca of luxury shopping, all i could think of was to get out. not one for going out in the evenings on my own, that was pretty much my saturday done. 

sunday called for my personal grand tour du paris. i caught a taxi from my hotel to the notre dame area and headed off to the shakespeare and company bookshop, which much to my dismay was still closed (that's what you get for being an early bird).  i returned there at the end of my tour and i could feel the spirit of kerouac and other great literary figures still present there. i then headed off to the notre dame  du paris itself and strolled along rue de rivoli until i got to the louvre. unfortunately there was no way i would manage to go in with all the visitors queuing but at least i could peruse the grounds. i kept on walking along rue de rivoli until place de la concorde where i then turned into avenue des champs-élysées.  i don't meant to lessen any of its charm and allure, but most big cosmopolitan cities have big, high-end shopping streets.  champs-élysées is yet another one. 



once i got to l'arc de triomphei found i needed to give my feet a rest and took a rick-shaw ride to trocadero to see the eiffel tower and then got dropped off at the invalides.  a quick tour of the grounds and then i headed off to the rodin museum where i enjoyed an hour or so, touring the museum and gardens. following that, i decided to start heading back to my starting point and walked along the rive gauche or southern bank of the seine.  i loved the little vintage books and prints stalls all along the bank and my two regrets are (a) not getting a vintage print of paris and (b) not queuing to go into the musée d'orsay when i walked by it (there was a fashion in 18th / 19th century art exhibition going on). when i decided to call it a day, i found a taxi to take me back to the hotel to prepare for the next two days full of meetings. 



as you may have noticed, i practically walked all the way or caught taxis.  the reason i opted for this approach is two-fold: firstly, i generally enjoy seeing places i've never been to on foot as i find that that's the best way to experience the real city (i wouldn't have spotted half of the space invader graffitis had i caught a site-seeing bus!).  secondly, i'll quote the various taxi drivers in their description of my hotel's area: "oh, dangeur! wahrninng! 'ot, 'ot area!" (you have to imagine these being spoken in a thick french accent to get why i purposely misspelt some words!) i had chosen the hotel purely on the basis that i would be in the same place as one of my foreign colleagues; however, i had not paid attention to the fact that the area was not the most savoury.  the hotel as well, turned out to be rather disappointing.  upon my arrival, i was told that the elevator was not working and had to get help to take my luggage up three flights of winding stairs.  there was no way i would go out alone at night and there were no restaurants in the hotel or nearby so sunday night i ended up calling pizza hut! my breakfast on the last day was cut short because the receptionist could only help me with the luggage (yes, the lift was still out of order) in a 5 minute time window where his shift overlapped with the next guy's.  i suppose, the elevator issue can be overlooked as a case of bad timing, but i certainly would not recommend the area nor the hotel to anyone i'm afraid. 
video

all in all, my trip to paris was as full of ups and downs as the streets in montmartre.  if i close my mind's eye to the negative bits, i did get to 'see' all that i wanted to see and in all truth and fairness, the central arrondissements are truly charming.  i doubt there's an ideal season when it's best to visit paris if throngs of tourists are not your cup of tea.  but if you do go, my little recommendation is to plan what you want to see in the time that you have, and to walk.  there are little gems round every corner and you won't get to see them otherwise, trust me. 

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