Paris Wrap-Up

by Karen

Paris was a city of ups and downs, an adventure of self-discovery, and building self-tolerance and a test of patience. In a period of 2 weeks I’ve gone from misplaced hatred to respectful admiration of the city.

Anyhoo, here are some things Mark & I liked and didn’t like about Paris:

Likes
– Parisians’ culture and appreciation for the arts
– so many wonderful museums
– people really are friendly (we’ve had a random stranger help us buy a train ticket with his own credit card). The notion of “mean Parisian people” is a myth. I like to draw parallels to Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino–Parisians may act cold and frown a lot, but they are really helpful and cheery deep down.
– croissants and baguettes are so fresh, we loved eating then everyday
– delicious, wonderful cheese (we’ve taken a liking to camembert!), so cheap and readily available
– macaroons & meringues the size of my fist!
– real bonafide hot chocolate (chocolat chaud)
– “Voila!”
– the Metro signs and station entrances are a work of art themselves
– café culture
– the Metro is always on time, and very extensive
– the waiters (there’s no pretense of customer service, but it’s still there. they felt like real people, not fake)
– pop-up flea markets & ultra-wide sidewalks
– absinthe made in France
– French words are easily decipherable into English, there are a lot of similar words
– having a discussion with my host about what the English word for “compote” was, finding out the word was the same as in French, and then both of us still not really knowing what “compote” exactly means in either language
– everyone eats dinner late (8-9pm), so restaurants are open later

Dislikes
– every single person smokes (which unfortunately ruins the café experience for me since I have trouble breathing), and air quality from pollution is quite bad
– the Metro map is quite messy and not as clearly designed as the London Underground maps
– pickpockets and scam artists that harrass you on the street
– not a fault of Paris, but more like other tourists being disrespectful and touching stuff in museums. DON’T TOUCH THE GODDAMN PAINTING! If there is a crack on a 5,000 year-old artifact, DON’T TRY AND SCRAPE THE CRACK!
– that one guy randomly stopping in front of me on the street and peeing, without hiding, in broad daylight.

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Paris Street Pixel Art

by Karen

I’ve been noticing these on various buildings and walls throughout Paris and have been collecting photos of them. To me, they are like Easter eggs you find as a reward for exploring the city.

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Movie Posters in the Paris Metro

by Karen

Having taken the Paris Metro for 2 weeks, I generally see 4 types of billboard ads:
– movie posters
– museum exhibition ads
– telecom ads
– travel ads

What fascinates me is ads for Hollywood movies in French.

Our tour guide last week (from our walking tour) explained that French people don’t view Hollywood movies as a part of American culture, they view it merely as a product they are consuming (i.e., The Avengers is neither an American or Hollywood movie; it is just an Avengers movie). I got into an interesting discussion with Mark about what constitutes as an “American”, “British”, or “French” movie. For example, would Batman Begins be considered British, since a majority of the actors (and the director) are from the UK? Or is the IP so great, that it transcends borders? Conversely, what makes Amélie specifically a French film? Anyway, that’s a topic of discussion for another post 🙂

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen that many posters for local French movies though, perhaps I am traveling in the wrong Metro stations.

I am curious, do any of these movie posters look like the ones back in the US?

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Our first week in Paris

by Karen

We’ve been in Paris for a week already, one would assume we’ve gone crazy all around town, seeing sights, and living the Parisian dream, with baguettes, turtlenecks, and berets, right?

Most of this week was spent:
– getting & recovering from our colds
– moving through three different types of housing (yeesh)
– being “lazy” tourists (running day-to-day errands instead of sightseeing)
– lots of planning (holy crap, Paris is overwhelming)
– enacting emergency plans for the middle part of our Europe trip (more on that later)

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The “marriage” district

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night facade

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Paris Metro

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Fromagerie

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Solitaire machines at the park

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Some people fly all the way to Paris in order to ____.

 

But, we did manage to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing:
– Arc de Triomphe
Eiffel Tower
– Champs Elysées
Notre-Dame Cathedral
– Musée de Carnavalet
– Musée de Arts et Métiers
– Another Sandeman’s free walking tour

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Charles de Gaulle statue

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Book vendors along the Seine River

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Eros, I think

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Obligatory Disney store visit

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Republique square

Paris Metro

by Karen

Thanks to Mark’s limited high school French and my iOS translator, we managed to figure out the basics of getting a pass for the Paris Metro.
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Similar to London’s Oyster Card, the Paris Metro uses a Navigo Card. For non-residents, it’s called a Navigo Découverte card. It gives you unlimited access to their public transportation system (subway, buses, etc) for an entire week, starting on Monday @ 12:00am, and ending on Sunday @ 11:59pm (therefore, if you arrive on a Thurs or Fri, you probably shouldn’t buy it).

It costs 5€ to buy the card (good for 10 years) and 19,90€ to charge it up for the week, as long as you stay within Zones 1&2 (where all the touristy stuff is anyway). A one-way ticket is approx. 1,70€, so if you ride the train at least 10x during the week, you’ll have already made up for the cost.

You’ll also need a passport-sized photo that gets affixed onto your Navigo card, and there are plenty of photo booths in every Metro station where you can get a set for 5€. (Hey, this is starting to add up!)

You can also buy ticket packets if you don’t plan on traveling by bus or subway as much. For 2 weeks in Paris starting on a Monday, getting a Navigo card seemed like a pretty sweet deal.

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Traveling from London to Paris on Megabus

by Karen

There are a bunch of different ways to travel to Paris from London, the cheapest most likely being a bus. There are also many different bus companies going to Paris (probably at around the same prices), but we ended up choosing Megabus because we didn’t realize how many others there were at the time of booking (we booked our Edinburgh-London bus at the same time).

Unfortunately, London-Paris does not offer a sleeper option yet. So we had to get a regular seater bus for £18/person.

Our bus left from Victoria Coach Station at 9:30pm on time (yay!). But we had to get to the check-in line about an hour earlier. Holy crap, the station was absolute chaos. It was like someone started throwing free money around and everyone was crowding around doors.

The seats are like normal coach seats and the bus is a duplex. It’s pretty full in contrast to our Megabus from last weekend.

Cheap bus full of (predominantly young) people traveling in groups = bring earplugs if you want to sleep. (I almost feel like the older I get, the more anti-social I become.) Fortunately I was tired enough to just pass out.

Two hours into our journey, we had to get off the bus and go through passport control. Mark said that it was like going through Communion for him; everytime he gets a passport stamp, he feels “blessed”.

We got off the bus again after that to get a sandwich while waiting to board the ferry, and again after the bus parked on the ferry. The ferry feels pretty huge, it was almost like being on a cruise ship, and had a large cafeteria and small slot machines. It was about a 1.5hr ride to the French shore. Goodbye, England! Unfortunately, it was too dark to see anything outside.

Our bus arrived in Paris around 8am and dropped us off in Porte Maillot, which is supposedly a giant concert hall & shopping mall area.

Nothing special about the bus, but it was pretty darn cheap. The ferry made us really sea sick though. 😦

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