Parisian Honeymoon11 Jul 2011
As much as for us, as for others, I wanted to document our honeymoon to Paris.
Monday 30 May 2011
Our flight was scheduled to leave Edinburgh at 13:50 BST, arriving at Paris Charles de Gaulle at 16:40 GMT+1. It was my first flight abroad, and Jo hadn’t been abroad since she was a lot younger. We were a little nervous about getting things right at the airports, and unfortunately things didn’t go quite as smoothly as we had hoped; neither the airport signs nor staff were particularly helpful for the first-time traveller. We’d gone through security: I had a rucksack and a small wheeled suitcase; Jo had her handbag and a small wheeled suitcase. We hadn’t realised we should check our luggage in before going through security. Jo was told to ‘take her bag downstairs’ without explanation from a rather stern and unhelpful man at the security checkpoint. I had to wait upstairs. After speaking to Jo on the phone it would seem that the security personnel had figured out Jo and I were together. Without telling us, they had decided Jo could put her handbag in my rucksack, and thus leave us with two pieces of hand luggage between us: my rucksack and my suitcase. Jo just needed to check in her suitcase - it would have been nice if the security personnel could have let us in on their thought process.
While waiting to board, a French lady had a bit of a strop after being allowed to take her massive suitcase through security as hand luggage, and then having the cabin crew refuse to let her take it on the plane without paying a EUR40 fee. She refused to pay the fee insisting that nobody said it was a problem prior to boarding and was preventing the queue from moving forward. She quickly changed her mind when the cabin crew firstly said they would not let her on the fight, then mentioning police involvement for being threatening to staff.
The flight left on schedule and we arrived at Paris CDG without painful ear-popping. Although Paris CDG is massive compared to EDI airport, it’s well compartmentalised and despite it’s size, it was relatively straight forward to find our way to the train to Paris; that and Jo had taken the lead on doing the research! We managed to catch the RER-B to Gard du Nord just as it was leaving. We switched to Metro 2 at La Chapelle bound for Nation. Unfortunately Jo and her baggage got stuck in the turnstiles which seemed to lock in front of, and behind her. A kindly local used his card to open the gates for her - merci étranger! We wandered around Place de la Nation for a bit wondering in which direction our hotel lay. Thankfully Jo was in full Franglais mode and managed to persuade a local lady to point us in the right direction. Managed some passable French to get us checked in to the hotel then took the luggage up to our lovely little thank-the-climate-gods-for-air-con room.
Settled in, we spent the rest of the evening exploring our little piece of Paris. Unfortunately most places seemed to be closed. It wasn’t too late in the evening, but as it turns out a lot of places in Paris close on a Monday. Also, in somearrondissements, the local shop owners will randomly close on a Wednesday or Thursday for some or all of the afternoon. No notice, it’s just the way it is. We didn’t find anywhere to have some traditional French food, but did stumble across a very nice Italian restaurant. I’m sure the owner was entertained buy our attempts to converse in a language not hugely dissimilar to French. Managed to squeeze in to the conversation that we were on our honeymoon which scored as a free shot of Limoncello! I had an irresponsibly large Niçoise salad to start, and Jo had Bruschetta. I wolfed down a delicious ham and mushroom pizza for my main course, and Jo had Penne Arrabiata. We quaffed a bottle of rosé then wandered back toward the hotel.
Stopped off at a supermarket on the way to play spot-the-difference between French and British shops. They have a hell of a lot more varieties of Yop… Yum! Past a local vagrant taking a leak in a shop doorway en route to a tabac. The man behind the counter didn’t take too kindly to our pigeon French, but we shortly discovered that’s because he was trying to shut up shop for the night – oops! Oh well, wine and cigarettes in hand we got ourselves back to the hotel and called it a night.
Tuesday 31 May 2011
Woke up early to make the most of the time we had. Bloody cold. The air-con worked a little too well. Went to a nice looking place on the corner of the block our hotel was on, Cafe Marco Polo. Had a croissant and a coffee. Even without the camera around the neck I’m sure we looked very much the tourist couple! Took the Metro to go and see the Eiffel Tower. The first thing we noticed after the monument itself of course, were the droves of tat merchants selling their wares; and very persistent they were too. Thankfully we then noticed about a dozen armed military personnel! Also a lot of apparently homeless people collecting money on behalf of a deaf/mute charity; their donation forms were hand-drawn. A cunning ruse, makes it very difficult to communicate your lack of interest but allows them to be bloody persistent too! A short time later both tat merchants and charity muggers went running toward the Seine – not sure if it was related to the military presence.
We then stood in a queue for what seemed like an eternity to go up the Eiffel Tower. A woman in front of us in the queue had clearly eaten too much cabbage earlier that day and a sinister odour began to emanate from her. She thought we didn’t notice; we did. There were two security screens along the way. The first guy just had a rummage through our bags. I can only assume I have the look of a terrorist as the second security officer had me remove my boots; rings; watch; glasses and belt before checking me over with his security wand and letting me through. Continue on toward the elevator whilst getting dressed, I wasn’t allowed to dawdle! Once in the lift, Jo promptly began to freak out in a most conspicuous way – efforts to calm her down were in vain. It was a ‘cozy’ ride up to the second level; it certainly demonstrated that the majority of the other tourists had a lesser standard of personal hygiene than Jo and I. Once we exited the elevator, the views were breathtaking. I told Jo this because she was busy hugging anything close to the middle in case she somehow fell over the reinforced mesh that was in place to prevent that from happening.
I finally coaxed Jo a short distance away from the elevator to take a photo of her – she wasn’t impressed. After taking some photos of the amazing views, we headed back down. While waiting for the lift back down, the absence of said lift left a gaping hole behind the perspex doors, through which you could see all the way down to the ground below. This did not please Jo. Actually, this scared the shit out of Jo, who hugged the ground some more. Once out of the lift, Jo changed back from petrified barking creature to a relatively normal human. Still swamped by traders of awful tat we went for walk in the park. Our feet were hurting already. This was only the beginning!
We took a short walk across the Seine toPalais De Chaillot and the Trocadero where we snapped some great photos of the Eiffel Tower, and some naked lady statues. We had a late breakfast of a banana and chocolate crepe; absolutely delicious, couldn’t finish it all! After that we made the worst possible choice of bistro to get a coffee. Having gone inside to order a coffee, we asked if we could have it outside. We were told rather sternly that if we wanted to drink outside, we should go and sit down and wait to be served. Our feet now well rested, I thought I should pay for our coffee. That too was frowned upon; as with ordering, we should pay the waiter. Despite obvious visual cues that we were ready to leave, I think we were being punished for our ignorance of bistro customs. After an hour, and not before one customer polished off a three course lunch, and another customer had a good catch up with his waiter friend did our waiter finally leave the bill with us. I hastily thrust the money at him before he could run away. If you’re in any sort of a rush or are not completely familiar with the perfect etiquette required to dine there, I’d avoid Le Malakoff on your next visit to Paris! Next stop, lunch. Some baguettes and more wine and we were refuelled. Quick stop at a boulangerie for a delicious chocolate eclair and Jo bought a pack of the world’s strongest menthol cigarettes at a tabac.
Skipped a close up look at the Arc du Triumphe; it was packed full of other tourists. I think the best way to describe the circling the traffic is ‘batshit insane’. I’m fairly certain the traffic signals in Paris are purely a serving suggestion. We walked down Champs Elysees and popped in to a few shops; looked in the windows of some other ‘higher-class’ ones. After what felt like an eternity of walking we reached the Jardin de Tuileries. The gardens were beautiful. There were lots of pretty fountains; bronze statues of semi- and full-frontal nude ladies; statues of bearded men and children in entirely inappropriate poses; and mer-men holding aloft fish. We found the Louvre at the other end of the gardens. We gave the Louvre a miss, we’ll go back next visit when we have more time. We headed to Pont Neuf and on the way bought two of the world’s most overpriced cokes. Got to L’ile de la Cite and had an amazing Berthillion raspberry ice cream. We wound or way through a few beautiful streets and found Cethedral de Notre Dame. Unfortunately we got there as it was closing for the day so we had a quick look around then headed back to our hotel.
After a quick wash up we went for dinner at Cafe Marco Polo and had steak frites and a bottle of merlot. It was possibly the nicest steak I’d ever eaten. Jo had a lovely tarte tatin for dessert, and I had a delicious frombroise. We met a mouse in the restaurant, which despite Jo’s shrieks didn’t seem to bother anybody else. Apparently it’s not uncommon to see mice in restaurants. I hope they know to keep out of the kitchen!
Wednesday 01 June 2011
Got up and headed straight for the metro to Monmartre. We found a bistro on the corner of the road to Sacre Coeur and had a very touristy breakfast of orange juice, coffee, a croissant and a tartine; definitely sufficient fuel for the day ahead. The hill wasn’t terribly steep, but we took the short funicular ride to the top which afforded us some amazing view of Paris and the cathedral. We had a tour of the cathedral, which was truly a beautiful, magnificent building. We spent some time sitting on the steps soaking up the sun and taking in the amazing view of the city below; all set to some pretty background music courtesy of a local harpist.
We meandered through the streets of Montmartre toward Pigalle, stopping at the Cafe des deux Moulins, which featured in Amelie. Boulevard de Clichy was filled with a random assortment of sex shops and kebab shops. We had a look around the museum of eroticism, which was just plain bizarre: all manner of sex instruments and more moulded, shaped, carved and resin injected penises that we hitherto thought possible to find in a single building. Next we made a brief stop at Moulin Rouge before heading to Galleries LaFayette. On the map, this seemed like a relatively short walk; it turned out to be a march of epic proportions in the baking hot sun. We made it eventually. We had a look around the shops; the building had the most beautiful ornate dome right in the centre. Although most things were out of our price range, Jo got some souvenir ‘Paris Sky’ blue nail polish.
Came back to the hotel and showered, then headed back out to Restaurant Amalfi. Jo had Diavolo pizza; wasn’t very spicy. I had a ham and mushroom pizza. We drained a bottle of rose wine. Went to the supermarket and bought what turned out to be gorgeous red wine for EUR2.50. Bargain. Drank it in the courtyard smoking and discussing what we’d do tomorrow – no doubt including drinking some more wine.
Thursday 02 June
Woke a little later than usual and had a much appreciated lay in. Chocolate brioche stick for breakfast from the boulangerie down the street from the hotel. We took the metro to Montparnasse-Bienvenue with the intention of going up Tour Montparnasse. Looking up at it we both decided that the Eiffel tower had offered sufficiently dizzyingly high views of Paris. Wandered around for a bit trying to find Luxemburg Palace Gardens. Saw lots of wig shops along the way; obviously not a particularly hirsute area of Paris! We managed to find the gardens eventually; there were lots of people jogging – lots. Why was nobody at work; are Thursday’s free holidays in Paris?!
On the way back to Sorbonne, we stopped for lunch at another lovely bistro. Oddly, the lady’s toilets were coin-operated; requiring 20 cents for Jo to relieve herself; the gent’s were free. After snapping a photos we continued down Boulevard St Michel to the Seine for a boat ride. It wasn’t all together obvious where the boats left from. There was a sign beside a set of steps at a bridge that lead down to the edge of the river that was defaced such that it could have suggested embarkation or no-docking. However, given the group of people dressed in tour-guide uniforms having lunch at the bottom of the steps, we figured they were waiting for the next boat to start their shift. Several boats went past; none stopped. The group finished their lunch, and then left. Soon figured out we should have gone down the steps behind us on the other side of the bridge. Oops.
Took the Batobus the entire route and saw some beautiful sites from the river under the scorching hot sun. We both got a bit sunburnt. We got off and headed for the Pompidou centre – one of the most bizarre buildings I’ve ever seen. Took the metro back to Picpus and stopped to have a look around what we thought was the equivalent of a Marks & Spencer – Printemps. We misjudged their target market; a pair of pants for EUR80, I think not! Got some more cheap red wine from the supermarket and grabbed some fast food at ‘Quick Burger’. It should have been called really-really-slow-but-kinad-worth-the-wait burger. Om nom nom. We quaffed our wine and enjoyed our last evening under the Parisian night sky before heading back to Bon Ecosse on Friday.
- Despite the excellent bicycle routes through Paris, and the batshit crazy traffic, few cyclist seemed to wear helmets
- The majority of cyclists appeared to be dressed for a formal dinner.
- Lots and lots of scooters.
- The general stereotype of the French paints them as being arrogant and unfriendly; nothing could be further from the truth. Every single person we met was friendly and happy to help.
- Supermarkets have digital price tags that can be presumably updated centrally. Excellent idea! Why don’t we do this!?
- You can only buy cigarettes from a tobacconist. All such places that we came across were pubs.
- We may see skateboards, and the occasional rollerblader here; in Paris, even a lot of adults got around on manual foot-powered scooters!
- Every street corner has a bistro! (perhaps slight hyperbole)
- Toilets in restaurants, bistros etc. seem to have shared washing facilities rather than a sink in each bathroom.
- Berthillion ice-cream is amazing!
- On the RER-B back to the airport, some random bloke hooked up an amp to his iPod and starting DJing in the train! Very loud, very crap, and he expected a donation!
- There was a controlled explosion of some unattended luggage at CDG airport.
- A tourist seemed to forget that the armed police were doing their job, and thought they might want to have their picture taken with her. Stupid woman.
- Couldn’t find a single packet of Salt and Vinegar crisps the whole trip but we did come across bolognese flavour!
If you’ve made it this far, Jo and I commend your dedication and probable insomnia. This was more a personal record of the fun times Jo and I had on our honeymoon. But since you’ve stuck around, please leave us a comment so we know who the true stalkers are!