3rd to the 10th August 2013
03.08.2013 - 10.08.2013
Day Four: Tuesday 6th August 2013:
So this morning I got an earlier start and left the hostel around 8:30am and headed to Gare De L'Est to get the train to Provins, a small, very scenic and picturesque town around 1 hour and a half from Paris. Upon arriving in Provins it is a short walk into the lower town which has some nice shops and a few cafes where I had something to eat and bought some gifts. It is very medieval style and has a lovely atmosphere, very quiet with cobbled streets. I then followed the signs for the Medieval Town which took me up quite a steep hill past the rose gardens and up to a square bustling with life. I followed the signs to Caesar Tower which has a sense of abandonment about it which just adds to its beauty. There were a few families picnicking on the bank and crows flying in and out of the tower, very big and the age is very prominent. I sat here for quite a while before walking even further up to where the Medieval Ramparts were and a tourist information centre where they had a large picnic area and little shop. I hung around here for a bit until it was time to go to the first show; The Legend Of The Knights which takes place in a covered, open aired theatre next to the Ramparts, the show was AMAZING! Bursting with energy and although in French the storyline very clear. They used horses, pigs, ducks ect all trained and well taken care of, they incorporated things like stunt riding, dressage, jousting and sword fighting and it was just indescribable, the energy of the actors alone was just magnificent, I think that is what makes things like this so good is when the performers are just bursting with so much energy and show that they are genuinely enjoying themselves. The show lasted around 50 minutes and afterwards I made my way up to the second show, set inside the Ramparts, called The Eagles Of The Ramparts, this one was completely open and with the sun bearing down, you could feel it burning so I put my umbrella up for shade. This show was also very good with an opportunity to hold one of the birds. They had eagles, vultures, owls ect all very well trained and did some amazing tricks. The vultures were HUGE!
This show lasted around 35 minutes and afterwards it was time to go and get the train back to Paris, so I walked back down the same way as I came up around a 20 minute walk and got to the station 5 minutes before the next train left! Upon arriving in Paris I visited a few shops that were on my list and got a pizza from a take away shop on Rivoli (something I had fancied all day!). Around 8pm I walked down to Pont Neuf and waited for the Ghost Tour (booked on Viator) that left at 9pm. The tour guide was called Laura and was very nice and knowledgeable on the subject. The tour was interesting and I learnt quite a lot. Things like King Henry and how he was killed, the Cemetery of the Innocents story, the Templar of the Knights, Marie-Antoinette, Montmartre amongst many more. It lasted until around 11pm and went super quick, there were some quite obnoxious young people from Scotland that were making offensive comments (probably unknowingly) but the tour guide coped well and didn't seem affected, however I think some other people on the tour was a little annoyed by it, it finished just outside the Hotel De Ville and so I went back to my hostel from there.
This day was a particular highlight for me, down to the shows in Provins (exactly the type of thing I love), the weather was hot yet again, but felt a lot better today.
Day 5: Wednesday 7th August 2013:
It was raining quite heavily when I woke up on this morning which was quite sad although it was quite a lot cooler which was a little more comfortable. I left the hostel a little later around 10am and headed for France Miniature out in Elancourt, it takes around an hour by train and there's a bus that stops right outside the station that goes past it, you will know when your there because the stop is called 'France Miniature' and there a huge signs on the road. I love things like this, a little different but still related to the place I am visiting. I was given a free English map and for each model there was a description and some information which made it even the more interesting, actually knowing what I was looking at, the models are numbered and are so on the map too, so is easy to follow round. It is basically the whole of France on a miniature scale, set into sections like the Alps, North, East, South-East, Central ect. There were things like castles, chateaus, churches, landmarks ect all down to the very last detail, beautifully designed with trains running on tracks around the park and boats floating on the lake. There were things like little seaside towns with scenarios depicted like roadworks and people sat eating ice cream, I could of spent all day looking at all the little details which is what made it so great. The rain had eased by now but it was still quite grey and damp. I stopped half way through for lunch at the restaurant on the site and to be honest there was only like three choices on the whole menu, I had steak and chips which was very nice and good quality for the price. I then continued looking at the last of the models. There is also a few rides at the back which would be fun for children and a gift shop.
I headed back into Paris around 2pm and caught the metro to the Natural History Museum which I was quite disappointed with as it is set in a large park but is actually in many different buildings all of which you have to pay separate admission prices for which I didn't think was right. I went to the Gallery of Evolution which was nice to look at but after around half an hour I decided I didn't want to be traipsing round looking for different buildings so instead stopped at a food van and bought the most delicious thing ever, I can't quite remember what it was called but it was a bit like a giant waffle with chocolate in! I then walked up to the the Musee Magie, near where I was staying and found the admission price quite expensive for what it was compared to other places I had been in Paris. There were a few interesting things but I don't recommend it, I only spent around 20 minutes here before catching the metro to Chatelet on Rue De Rivoli and doing some more shopping, I then went back to the hostel to get changed and caught the metro to Grands-Boulevards where I ate at the Hard Rock Café, expensive but worth it. It was now around 8pm and so walked the short distance to the Theatre Nouveautes? for my booked performance of 'How To Become Parisian In One Hour' I had a seat on the front row and the theatre itself was quite small but cosy in a way. The show was hilarious and was certainly true, there were jokes about French waiters, the metro, nightclubbing, relationships and shopping in Paris ect, I found I could relate to quite a lot of it or if not came across it later on in the trip. Definitely recommended, a really enjoyable night.
I got back to the hostel just after 10pm.
Day 6: Thursday 8th August 2013:
So this morning I planned on leaving early but awoke half an hour late, as I wanted to try and be one of the first in line for the Catacombs as I had read that the queue can get quite long as they limit the number of people to 200 inside at one time. It doesn't open till 10am but I was there for just before 9:30am and already the line was stretching around the small park/square in the middle, the sun was already shining and quite hot, but I got my place in line and had bought some breakfast to eat whilst stood there (such a good time passer), at 10am once the queue started moving it did move quicker than expected although I did get quite agitated towards the end. It was here that I witnessed the 'water bottle' guys and how disgusting and uncaring they are, basically all over Paris you can find men stood in the street with bottles of water in a bucket with ice for 1 euro however on numerous occasions the men would go behind a bush where people were queuing, open what looked like a homeless mans quilt on a extremely scruffy mattress and top up the buckets in full view of the people queuing who he was trying to sell the water too. Once I moved round to near the entrance there was another man stood there, he also disappeared only to retrieve more bottles from a disgusting bucket with flies swarming and then started relieving himself with bits clearly splashing up the side of the bucket, so, so disgusting!
Anyway I was stood in line for a little over 2 hours, but once inside the Catacombs it was worth it, very cheap entry price. You have to go down quite a lot of steps and enter into a series of tunnels which are quite dark and get quite damp towards the end, some of the tunnels were completely empty and were a little scary! You follow the tunnels round until you reach the memorial part which is where the bones are, very eerie and quite an unusual dampish smell. The bones are really close to you, but are fascinating to look at and imagine who they could of belonged to, there are thousands and thousands here, and are all artistically placed. They have plaques with years on, and some parts of the tunnel of bones have collapsed leaving bones sprawling onto the floor (these bits are closed off), I had previously been to the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora (Czech Republic) but seeing it on this scale and in this environment was much more full on. I was down in the tunnels for around 45 minutes before submerging up around 85 steps back to the surface, be warned where you enter is around a 10 minute walk on ground level from where you exit so can be a little confusing but it does show you on a map before you enter. There is a shop across the road from the exit where I bought a book about the Catacombs and its history, I haven't had time to read it yet but it does look interesting.
It was now around 12:30pm and so I caught the metro to Saint-Michel where I walked across and past Notre Dame which is huge! To the Deportation Memorial, it is very moving and such a quiet, peaceful place for thinking and reflection. You enter down some steps into a open type courtyard with very high walls that gives you a feeling of being enclosed which obviously a lot of them would of felt, you then enter the building where there are triangles on the wall with names of some of the concentration camps and there is also a long memorial type feature which is very beautiful. I only spent around 15 minutes here, but felt it was enough as there were people sat on the bench crying, so thought I'd give them some space. It is set directly behind Notre Dame in a small, pretty park.
Afterwards I walked back to the metro and caught it to Trocadero where I visited the Aquarium, I have never been to an Aquarium before so was quite excited as I love things like this, the admission price was high but average for these kind of things. There were many types of beautiful exotic creatures and some more not-so-beautiful weird but fascinating ones too. There were small tanks were you could get really close to detail and there were larger tanks that housed things like small sharks and huge fish, sting-rays and sword fish. There was also a petting pool with Koi type fish which was fun for the kids. The Aquarium is big and doesn't take long to get around but it was good and well-maintained. I really enjoyed it.
I was getting tired by this point and drained by the heat, but I ploughed on and headed up to Montmartre, getting off the metro at Anvers and walking up the bustling tourist street directly in front, leading up to Sacre Coeur, the street was packed with people, vendors and souvenir shops which had a buzzing atmosphere, the souvenir shops were selling slightly different things I had seen so far so bought a few things from these. Once at the top of the street, and got full view of Sacre Coeur, it was beautiful, almost peaceful sat up there, despite the hundreds of milling tourists taking photos, sat on the banks and wandering around. I bought a Banana and Nutella Crepe (my first) from a shop on the corner of the street which was beyond delicious, words cannot even describe! I sat on the wall at the bottom of Sacre Coeur and ate it while watching the many different types of people. I then decided to take a walk to the top and on the way up the first set of steps I encounted the 'bracelet' men who tried to grab my arm, I said 'No' and he replied back 'Don't worry, I not make you pay, no scam here' I was like yeah right, what made you say it then haha, but just walked away and carried on with no more hassle. I got someone to take my photo and the views where beautiful over the rooftops of Paris, it's so much more higher than you think! The walk isn't all that steep and was easily doable. Anyway it was getting a little late now and so I walked back down the same street and onto the boulevard where I followed it round to near the Moulin Rouge (such an iconic place), not the best of areas, sex shop after sex shop but can imagine the fun that young people could have here at night with the club lights and music ect. I visited the Musee Erotisme, near the Moulin Rouge which was actually quite cool, it housed many different little statues and artifacts and strangely enough I could see the art form in it. Really interesting and quite quirky, it isn't big and only takes around 20minutes to view but would recommend it for a bit of fun!
I had then planned to go to Tour Montparnasse but decided to skip this as I felt I had already visited quite a lot of high viewing points in Paris and still had gifts to buy and spending money left, so instead I headed back to my hostel area where I did a bit of shopping before returning to the hostel for a 45 minute power nap before departing to Pyramides, Cityrama for a booked Open Top bus Tour of Paris Illuminations. It didn't start till 10pm and I got a good seat, you also get the option to listen to the audio guide which was really interesting, the tour lasts around an hour and a half and covered quite a lot of ground, it was nice to see Paris from this different angle and witness the atmosphere of the night time. I really enjoyed this and was another particular highlight. Due to the late finish around 11:45pm I was a little nervous getting back but it was fine, I caught the metro from Tuileries to Saint-Paul and there where quite a few people on the metro and walking the streets, there were even people still sat outside restaurants which was really reassuring and not once did I pass through a part where I was completely alone.
I arrived back at the hostel around 12:00am and went straight to bed.
Day 7: Friday 9th August 2013:
So this morning I left the hostel around 10am and caught the train to Versailles, the price was really cheap for the tickets, except as I was about to put my ticket through the machine thing to open the gate a woman grabbed my arm and pleaded me to let her through the gate with me, I said you have to have a ticket and she said yeah mines ran out, so I was like yeah buy another one? But before I could say no she had rammed her way through with me, it annoyed me as I am a tourist visiting and willing to pay the price to see the city and all it's surrounding attractions, this wasn't the first time I'd seen this happen either and people would frequently hop over the gate, grab the door as people were coming out the exit and go in that way ect, and it was annoying but I suppose you get people like that everywhere. But anyway I arrived in Versailles around 11:30pm and having skipped breakfast walked across the road from the station to a small shopping place and had a baguette and cheese fritter type thing, the queue was quite long at the ticket kiosk next door, but there was a sign saying that if you were under 26 and an EU citizen then it was free and you just went straight up to the Palace and stand in line at Gate A. So I walked up and it took no longer than 10 minutes, my first impression was just 'Wow' it makes Buckingham Palace look like a council house! I am not too interested in places like this and visited due to the fact of it's popularity and something to fill my last day with, but I am really glad I went. The queues were HUGE! Weaving up and down the courtyard! There must of been easy 1000 people or more stood there, however the queues move quite fast, and I was only queuing for just under an hour an improvement from the Catacombs at least. As I entered the first courtyard a girl stopped me asking if I wanted to walk round with her so we could take photos of each other ect and I agreed, she was very nice, from South America and spoke good English. We walked through the main Palace, it was amazing but I don't feel I can give it full justice as I don't really agree with the type of décor and don't really find it all that appealing myself but it was beautiful in it's own way. It was hot and crowded so we walked round quickly and then headed to the gardens which were spectacular! I enjoy things like this! Flower beds, statues, sculptures, a huge beautiful lake/pond? It was beautiful! We took some photos and said goodbye as I wanted to get back into Paris to do some last shopping. I got back to the hostel around 6pm and got changed ready for that nights event before walking by the river and looking in the shops around the Notre Dame, crossing to Saint-Michel and having a look round there too, I bought quite a bit but by this point it was 7:15pm and time to head to Paris Paradis Latin Cabaret on Cardinal Lemoine. I had chosen the meal option which was absolutely delicious and just to my taste (not too fond on the starter) except the portion sizes left a little to be desired for. Also included was a half bottle of Champagne and a photographer came round taking photos with the option to purchase for 10 euros, I had mine done with one of the guys wearing loads of make up in a fishtail suit. The atmosphere was great, bursting with energy and who'd of known that the waiters got up to perform as well which was unexpected, everyone was really friendly with beaming smiles making you feel really welcome. The show was great a little tacky at times but I was expecting that, there was a trapeze artist and a guy on one of them one wheeled bike things throwing things on his head ect, the waiters bouncing around the room with energy clapping along just creating a fabulous atmosphere. It was really enjoyable and was a great finish to a great trip!
I walked back to my hostel, there were plenty of people around and it was really lit up from the street lights so felt safe.
Here is the link to my youtube channel which contains videos of Paris plus all the other places I have visited: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTlPcT9mu3v1OVkAmRoBs4A