21 May 2009

Hello Paris!

I’ve always liked the idea of travelling without too much planning because I believe too much planning will make my journey less-adventurous. I don’t really like to stick too closely to a pre-planned itinerary. I’d like to get to a place without knowing too much about it, expecting to experience the excitement of discovering one thing after another. But when it comes to travelling to an place thousands miles away from home, where everything tend to be alien even to your own world, leaving without at least the simplest itinerary and budget details wouldn’t be a wise idea. Doing a little bit of research to get from one place to another will help saving a lot of your time – and money.

So, I went to London with a complete itinerary and budget details in my pocket. I couldn’t guarantee I would really stick to them, but at least I would have the leads. I even had prepared a list of priorities and not-priorities so that I wouldn’t spend too much time in making a decision when I had to choose from one place over another. Suddenly, I was having thoughts that two weeks would be quite too long and a hell of a waste to spend all of it in and around London alone so I decided why not make a full use of it by visiting another place? At that time, I only had one place in mind – Paris!

The idea of visiting Paris was had been vague and distant until a friend of mine Jennifer had come to Sandakan for a job visit. We happened to hang out a little and she spoke of her job schedule for April and May of which some of it would involve a visit to London and Paris. I then found out that she’d be in London at just about the same time that I’d be there. She’d still be in London when I get there, and she’d take a train to Paris from where she’d be flying back to KL. So, I went – why not make my journey more interesting by joining her to Paris? The next thing I knew, I had put Paris in my itinerary, and of course, budget details. More money would be spent.

So, the meeting place was the St. Pancras International. I launched myself off to an early start by taking a train to Waterloo Station before going on a series of Underground trains to reach St. Pancras International.
The Eurostar trains run from there to Gare du Nord in Paris. I might have waited for half an hour before I saw Jennifer waving me over to her and she led me to….. a pile of big suitcases?? The girls, Jennifer and her girl friend, must have been having a good time fishing up things from the stores all over London. The Summer Sale seemed to have had started and with the current currency exchange rate, nothing could be more appealing to errrr, women. Hmmm, the next thing I knew, I was dragging myself into the train with two large suitcases. And believe me; they were so heavy I almost stumbled when I tried to put them up into the luggage compartment.

I reached Gare du Nord of Paris in just over 2 hours after I left St Pancras International. The first thing I noticed when I got there was the presence of so many armed army personnel and police officers guarding around the station. They seemed to be everywhere. With so many of them around, it could be quite intimidating to somebody like me who was not quite used to see that back in Malaysia. In Malaysia, we only see that during the election.

But what the heck, I am in Paris! The City of Light, the City of Romance! Or so they say. I intended to find out…

After helping the girls with bringing all the bags and suitcases down to the safety room on the lower ground of the station, we split ways, them to their hotel room and me to a hostel called Aloha Hostel. I’d then call it ‘my bunk’ because it really was more of a place that I could go back to at night, after a day-long of traveling. Or if I was lucky, a place to get some sleep. Nothing fancy, but good enough to get some comfort and warmth from the cold night air in Paris. Mind to tell you that spring in Paris could get very cold, and it could get much worse by night.
Good thing about Aloha Hostel that they provide you with breakfast. Again, nothing fancy but in city known to be extremely expensive, where you pay for just breathing in its air, a simple breakfast does mean a lot. It does make a big difference budget-wise. I was placed in a room I shared with a few other guests. Again, in Paris, a double-deck bed like this can cost you a staggering RM160 per night!
I got into acquaintance with some of the guests – A young Korean girl who was so nice to give me a 1 pound coin because she wouldn’t need it anymore, and a chubby girl with a thick Australian accent from Melbourne. She introduced herself as Ashley. 

To my question whether it would be alright for me to sleep ‘among them’ she quipped 'Ahhh, I have no problem with that. I've slept with men so many times in my life'. Hmmm. Ok. The only other guy in the room was a Japanese who worked in Germany and spoke very little English. It had me amused as just how he could travel a lot with that very little English of his. I could only assume that- language is not really a barrier when it comes to traveling then. 

After putting my luggage into safety, I was set out to see Paris for real. The first place I had in mind was of course – the Eiffel Tower. I’d be meeting with girls there to see the night view of Paris from the top of it. Finding it was not a problem at all. I had seen to it that I knew the walk routes from the hostel to all the places that I was going to visit in Paris. How? Google Maps of course. The satellite view on Google doesn't lie…

So, based on my memory of Google Map, I walked off towards where I believed the Eiffel Tower was located. I was actually nearing the Eiffel Tower when I saw this…

Believe me, I walked past the same corner everyday for all the four days I spent in Paris, and they were always there.. I could only assume that they live there permanently. I'd even see visitors coming to join them sometimes.

As I continued walking, a building with a distinctive architecture caught my attention. It was only separated from the famed tower by a large park. It later found out that it was a military school called Elcole Miliaire.
The park itself called Parc du Champs de Mars, which was rectangular in shape, is  one of Parisians’ favorite playing ground. They spend almost all evening in the park playing football, jogging around or walking their dogs. Believe me, Parisians love dogs very very much so it is just wise for you to be cautious while walking on their parks or streets because the dogs have no manners they'd poo anywhere they like and it is very likely that you'll step into one of them. Period.

By then, the sky over Paris was darkening. It wasn’t long before the sun set.

I walked on closer and closer to IT and my heart was beating faster and faster and finally, I reached the world’s most famous tower! I spent each of the moment savoring its beauty and magnificence and everything suddenly turned into a slow motion. I was choked with emotion. Uhuks!

Eiffel Tower... I can't even describe it in words..

Then came the ladies and we hastily joined the queue to the ticket counter. Then we were escalated to the top deck of the tower and there it was, the night view of Paris which was breath-taking. Paris really is the City of Light and this picture tells it all.

After spending about one hour or so on the top deck, it was time to return to the ground and savoring the view of the tower itself from a distance. We were fooling around with our cameras when the tower suddenly went sparkling in thousands of lights. It was 10 pm and the girls went jumping up and down in excitement just like those kids who have just been surprised with a present on the eve of Christmas. It went on for quite awhile, probably 5 minutes or so or probably longer and we took in the magnificence of every moment of it.
It was too late to stay outside in the chill air of Paris so we said good night to each other and went our own ways. Back at the hostel later, I took the beauty of the sparkling Eiffel Tower to my dream..


chegu carol said...

Jip...sa betul2 jelos sdh sama ko cos ko sdh gmbar sama eiffel tower.

by the way, interesting travel piece oh this one.
siok sa mo baca...

Osburne OJ said...

Wow bro. Nice one. Can't wait to read more! I went to Paris a few years back and I enjoyed it. Wanna go there again during summer.


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