Before we got to Paris, before we even left the platform in our home town in fact, I, being probably the world’s most stupid person, realise I forgot to put my InterRail train ticket in my bag. This is the most important thing that we actually needed for the trip, besides our passports so you can appreciate my parents’ annoyance at my phone call begging them to find it and bring it to the station. Not very easy when even I was unsure of where I put it since it had arrived about three months before. In the end there wasn’t enough time anyway as I had to get on the train and set off without it. Luckily, my friend Leanne was meeting us in Paris in a couple of days time and could bring it with her so a major idiotic catastrophe turned into a minor annoyance, mainly for my parents (who also found out when they got home that I got a speeding ticket the week before, let’s just say, it was a good thing I was away for a month).
Moving on from my stupidity, after we got the train to dover and the ferry to Calais it was pretty late and we stayed over in a Formule 1 hotel for the night, which we nearly got kicked out of for all sitting and talking in one room after, god forbid, 10pm. The guy on reception came storming in, shouting in French and shoving his hands in peoples’ faces. Bit of an overreaction we thought, since you couldn’t hear us unless you actually stood outside the room. We moved though, in a shameless Inbetweeners apologising “sorry sorry sorry” style. He didn’t seem one to mess with. He didn’t even accept our apologies. Although, it was probably a good job we got split up in the end, since after the consumption of very cheap wine (€4 for 5 litres, and lots of it) one of us, I won’t name, threw up in the sink – and on someone else’s toothbrush. It was cleaned up though, no harm done. Except for the toothbrush owner obviously.
So the next day we got the train to Paris and, after walking around like the lost tourists we are, we eventually found the bus to the campsite and set up there. We stayed at Camping de Paris, Bois de Boulogne (http://www.campingparis.fr/index.php) which was probably the cheapest and most reasonable place we could get in Paris – it is an extremely expensive city! In the afternoon we went back into the centre and walked around the Palais Royale and the gardens around the Louvre, which are absolutely stunning, especially in the afternoon sun. Then we walked down the Seine towards the Eiffel Tower and sat on the grass nearby. However most of this was cut off because a stage and venue were being set up for, I presumed, the Rock en Seine festival. There were adverts for this all over the city and the line-up looks brilliant – Arctic Monkeys, The Kills, Miles Kane, Lykke Li, The La’s and loads more (visit http://www.rockenseine.com/). Might be worth a visit next year if this one is anything to go by.
The next day we went up to Montmatre, the hill above the city upon which boasts stunning views and upon which the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur sits. The narrow cobbled streets behind the Basilica are lined with artists and souvenir shops. Some of the art is fantastic, some tacky and nearly all outrageously expensive. Still, this is one of my favourite areas of Paris, the views, the buzz of people and the typically french atmosphere as a man plays the accordion outside a tiny restaurant. It is also a location used in one of my favourite films, Amélie.
After this we walked down towards the Moulin Rouge, just as a sight to ‘check off’ although from seeing it before I could remember it wasn’t as impressive as you would expect from a ‘must-see’ location in Paris. From here we went to Notre Dame, which absolutely is as impressive as you would expect and then walked down the Seine again towards the Eiffel Tower. This is the side of the Seine that I love, where booksellers display lines and piles of books and magazines, new and very very old. We then went up the tower but only got to the second level (it was cheaper) which also, to be honest, you can still see the entire city from and don’t have to scare yourself into going up the rickety lift to a windy point 300 metres from the ground. Or maybe that’s just my opinion – I seemed to have developed a minor fear of heights after we got that far.
I think that Paris is one of my favourite cities in Europe, of what i’ve seen anyway. It is beautiful, cultured and boasts some incredible sites. However, it is also an exclusive city; if you are a student on a budget then it is fairly limited since food, accommodation, travel and entrance fees are all expensive and above what we paid for in other cities. It’s more of a place you wander around in a fantasy, deciding on places you would live (they all had roof gardens) and go to ‘when you grow up’. That’s what I spent most of my time doing anyway.