Any of you who had had contact with me at any point during my last few days in Germany would know that I was really stressed out about catching my TGV train. The last time I caught one (2006, Paris to Brussels), the only reason I ended up getting my ticket validated is because an overly flirtatious porter did it for me. And even then, I still couldn’t work out which carriage to get on and ended up sitting in someone else’s seat.
This time, the experience was uneventful. I went to the station, asked what platform number, sat in the first class lounge, went to the platform at the right time and then got on the train.
I had my own seat by itself and spent the journey watching Game of Thrones, fast forwarding through the bits that were unsuitable for other people to look over my shoulder and see. The country side started to get less foresty and more pastoral, and very soon we were arriving at Gare de Paris Est. Apparently, this station is considered the more grand of the Nord and Est so when Queen Victoria came to visit Paris, they actually laid a new bit of track so that she could arrive at the Est station. That’s certainly a level of enthusiasm towards the English that I wouldn’t have expected from the French…
I caught a taxi, trying to practice my French (which is mostly learnt from popular culture, rather than an official LOTE program) and listened to The Lion Sleeps Tonight in French all the way to my hotel. We are very well located here in Voltare, right next to the Metro station.
The lovely Sarah Barker arrived at the hotel very soon after and we started to get ready for what we thought was the night we were going to have dinner at the Eiffel Tower. Turns out that it was actually booked for Tuesday night, so we got undressed back into less fancy clothes and went exploring.
Last time I was in Paris, I was a little too overwhelmed to use the Metro. This time, with Sarah there to hold my hand (and navigate) I conquered the Metro and rode a few stops to Republique to see a fountain with a statue and some metro signs:
There was a bride who stopped for a coffee and some photos in our cafe. It was really quite bizarre. We ended up concluding that it was more likely a photo shoot than an actual wedding but even now I am not sure.
We walked along the river, staying on our side of the bank but using some bridges for the photo opportunities they provided.
I wish we had been able to go inside the Palais properly but it seemed as though it was closed for a private function where they were checking names on lists. The outside was spectacular though – columns, friezes, carvings, statues! But that seems to be just like Paris in general, just so much opulence to see everywhere!
After our little break, we continued on our quest, which was to make it to the Arc de Triomphe. After passing many, many expensive shops (some with their own gold dinosaurs), we arrived!
We climbed up 248 steps in a spiral staircase to reach the top of the Arc de Triomphe and it was worth every step! The view was spectacular, especially of the Eiffel Tower!
We went to a strange French restaurant off the Champs-Elysees where only certain courses were available and even the native Parisians didn’t seem to know what was going on. Excellent cultural emersion experience!
We then, very conveniently, caught the Metro home to our hotel for a well-deserved sleep!