After spending too long in one place without adventuring, I start to get cabin fever. I become antsy and begin to check flights and destinations. This is even more accurate now I don’t work weekends or Bank Holidays anymore. When Alessio and I had a rare shared weekend together, there was no question. We were spending three days in Paris.
Being a bank holiday, the prices had shot up for flights and the Eurostar, but we managed to find a Eurolines bus for around £100. Thanks to an error, our journey may work out cheaper. You see once we boarded the bus on the Friday night, it took over an hour to actually leave because the door wouldn’t shut. As a student, I supplemented my retail salary by writing strongly worded emails to National Express (a sister company of Eurolines) and getting my transport fares back.
Our bus stopped at the Port of Dover, and I realised this was Alessio’s first time crossing the channel.
I’ll pause the blog for a minute to describe a reverie. I dreamt a few weeks ago that Alessio, a good friend of mine and I were crossing a border to catch a plane and they had brought with them a few joints. They realised they couldn’t cross the border with them, so they hid the joints behind vegetables in the supermarket, like you might do the last pack of muffins so no one else can take them. But the police found the joints and arrested my friend, Alessio and eventually me, because I knew they were carrying joints.
Now. Back to the blog. Like a genius, Alessio had brought with him some herbal relief and only alerted me to this fact when we arrived at the Calais border.
“They have advanced security now.” I noted.
He stuffed it down the side of the chair. A nightmare come true.
We passed customs unarrested, but then the gendarmerie boarded the bus and Alessio slipped it into his mouth like a true mule.
Both our friend, who I was texting, and I remarked that the substance would be better forced up a different orifice.
“No.” He replied.
After the first and last crime of our trip, we boarded the ferry to Calais and watched the sunrise over the white cliffs. In no time, it was back to the bus where I fell straight to sleep, waking up to the scorching Paris sun five hours later.
Our hotel was in the luxurious Kléber district, situated a stones throw away from both the Arc du Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. We headed to the Eiffel Tower first, oohing and aahing mostly at the absurd queues to visit the top, before grabbing a huge, crispy baguette and venturing onwards to St. Germain.
Parc du Luxembourg was especially very nice and peaceful, with the surrounding wine shops keeping Alessio very happy.
Next on the list was Ile de Cité. Famous for Notre Dame, the Conciergerie and Sainte Chapelle. Notre Dame is beautiful, and great for pretending you’re Count Frollo, but Sainte Chapelle is breathtaking.
We queued for 20 minutes, and at the door had to pay €10 rather than €18 because we couldn’t prove I was under 25. Alessio was already in a mood because he had decided the cashier was una stronza, and upon entering Sainte Chapelle we did a little deflated “…oh.” It didn’t look like the pictures at all. Where were the high ceilings? The majestic stained glass?
“It’s a bit…shit. I knew it.”
“Yeah.” I said, sadly. “We might as well go up those stairs and get our money’s worth.”
“I’m going to stay here for ten hours to get my money’s worth.” Alessio replied, stomping up the stairs.
At the top of the stairs, we shut up.
There it was. An actual thing of beauty.
We headed outside where Alessio attempted to decipher the biblical stories depicted on the stones. The creation story, the story of “Adamo ed Eva”, The Ten Commandments and more Biblical stories to delight the former Altar Boy turned rebel.
We took a guidebook to decipher the stained glass but with my non-Christian upbringing and Alessio’s excommunication, we really struggled
Debauchery, sex, the Moulin Rouge… the only thing Alessio remembered from his schoolboy visit to Paris.
From Le Pigalle, you can walk to Montmartre. Now, I know it’s touristy. I know it’s very “done”. But I love it. Like Portobello Road in London, Coney Island in New York, or fresh white bread, everyone knows it’s there, everyone’s done it, but I will always have a space in my heart for it.
At the very top of the hill is Sacre Coeur, a church from which the view – on a quiet day, is astounding. Weaving our way back through the tourists and far enough down the hill for the food to be reasonably priced and reasonably edible, we found a small restaurant where we could eat dessert al fresco. Yes, only dessert. We’re in France.
She cornered us outside a Tabac store in the Pigalle, offering us “couples fun”. Being polite and very British, I nodded and politely accepted a business card.
“No, just come and SEE INSIDE!” She insisted.
Where was the strength of character and refusal I had so strongly in Asia? We meekly tagged along behind her and looked around the rather non-descript nightclub. There were only a few giveaways, such as the poles and velour curtains around the private show areas.
“For couples too! Not just men.”
“Let us eat some dinner first, and we’ll think about it!”
“We have crêpes here!”
“Lola, they mean real food.” Her colleague replied.
We ducked out the door, trying to look inconspicuous to the passersby and determined to find real food.
Instead we took the metro to Charles de Gaulle-Etoile to see the Arc de Triomphe, took a quick stroll down a small section of the Champs Elysées and then took to bed for the night, our legs throbbing and my eyes resisting any attempt to stay awake.