Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Il y a tout ce que vous voulez . . .

Alrighty-roo, back into the sequential tide of things. (Can a tide be sequential? Make sense, Crompton.) In between my visit from Greer and Lilly I partook in some international gallivanting. The first of those dashes away from Brizzle whisked me off to la belle Paris avec le toujours belle mademoiselle Brabazon.

I met up with Greer late the night before our (“vamos a el”) Eurostar trip on Monday morning. We stayed at her friend’s place in Camden, and I will not lie, I was hoping to run into Noel Fielding for the entirety of my approximately four hours of my waking time in that borough. No dice. But here’s a picture of him to ease what I am sure is the equal disappointment you are currently feeling.

We made it to St. Pancras WAY before we had to catch our 6:00 AM train, so got to sample all the exhilarating sights and sounds of the train station Starbucks. If I can borrow from Mike Birbiglia (and mangle slightly as well), “No, I love the train station, there’s like chairs.” All kidding aside it really wasn’t too bad cause it made me sleep like a baby on the Eurostar: quite fortuitous cause apparently it took a few hours longer than planned cause of snow and other such paltry precipitants that Europe seems to have lots of trouble with. I didn’t notice. Our parents trained us to be good car-babies in our infancy and that has payed off big time.

As soon as we arrived in Paris, the tour that we were on quickly shipped us off to the Eiffel Tower for sight-seeing and lunch. I said it before about Stonehenge, and I will say it again now: these attractions that everyone says aren’t very impressive? They lied to you, they are totally impressive. Of course because up until then I had only seen the tower in pictures and such I had no idea of the absolute massive scale of the structure, but when you are standing underneath it, hoo boy. The same can be said for the elevator ride up through the legs: love it or lump it, the Eiffel Tower is surely a formidable feat of engineering.

The views from up top are amazing, and give you a nice areal and mental snapshot of the city. Our guide pointed out all the historic buildings and landmarks, my favourite being Napoleon’s war hospital, and then filed us inside for a fancy lunch with further fantastic views. After feeling rather spoiled up top, we then descended and took a cruise on the Seine.

Did I mention that this was all in February? Well, it was COLD boys and girls, not necessarily the best time to be on a river. I was as bundled as I could be and was still quite nippy, so I’m certain that Greer must have been dying because her normal body temperature normally hovers around -30, even at the best of times. For all intents and purposes I’m not the biggest fan of the tourist cruises and rides, usually I would rather walk for ages to see a city, but because I only had 36 hours in one of the world’s biggest and brightest, it was a good way to get a glimpse at all the highlights. It was in fact how I was introduced to the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Pont Alexandre (my favourite bridge, pictured above), and the Assemblé National (my favourite building). After a few glamour shots back in front of the Tower, it was then to hop back on our bus and be shuffled around the city.

Our next stop was at the Louvre. Greer and I opted for exploring the courtyard and the grounds rather than rushing to see the Mona Lisa or some such, which made me quite pleased. I am STILL so smitten by all fancy old European buildings, and as the Louvre used to be a palace, I was of course in love. Even though it was winter, the grounds were still lovely; you just needed a sprinkling of imagination to make them verdant. The rest of the tour took us along to the all the other major destinations including the Champs Élysées, the Arc de Triomph, and a tiny little café that I found more moving than I thought I would. Though I enjoyed the Opera House itself, our guide mentioned in passing that just around the corner from it was the café in which Oscar Wilde, ahem, wiled away his final years in Paris after leaving England. Because this was just an off-hand remark I wasn’t able to snap a photog, but I was certainly able to burst into tears. I had no idea that I would be witnessing that gem, and I guess really it just goes lengths to say that no matter where I travel, England and its influences are always close to my heart, tugging at its strings.

The next day was bright, blue, and crisp. In the morning we trundled downtown to walk along the Seine for a spell and take in the Musée D’Orsay. I, of course, strong-armed Greer into letting me fawn over my favourite bridge, and then, again, bullied her into taking glamour shots of my in front of my favourite edifice as well. The line for the D’Orsay was of course ridiculous, but once inside it really boggles the mind. The building itself is GORGEOUS (I see a theme Paris, well played), and seeing as I am consistently star-struck by anything remotely famous, I was of course floored by their phenomenal collection of works by Van Gogh (augmented by the recent Doctor Who, nerd-alert), Degas, Pissarro, and my personal favourite, Toulouse-Lautrec. They were renovating at the time and so had erected a “Best Of” in the main foyer which ended up being quite the thing for our visit had to be quite short in order for us to catch our tour out to Versailles.

If I missed anything important in Paris (and I am fully aware that I did and need to go back for about a week or so when I am rich and famous one day), it was all worth it to see Versailles. I have literally never been to a place, nor a palace, so stunning. The gilded gates, the fine masonry, the incredible decadence of the indoors. . . . I know I don’t have the faculties to do it justice, so here’s a bucket-load of photos:

Upon our return to our hotel, we then had to boogie back to land of Angles. It was certainly too short of a visit, and I promise, Paris, I will one day return.

À la prochaine fois mes belles,

Votre amie Lina

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