23 May 2009

Touring Paris

It would be my second day in Paris. One of the good things about traveling SOLO is the fact that you can always have a change of mind without anybody bothering about it. It was supposed to be the day that I’d allocated touring the world famous Chateau de Versailles  which is located some 20 km southwest of the French Capital. Somehow, I had preferred to go places around the city of Paris and spared the chateau for the next day.

My had planed my route to something like this:

I walked on the same route that I took when I went to the tower the day before. Thanks God the weather seemed much better and the sky was so clear. It was a good omen and it would be a perfect day for me in Paris.
As I walked nearer to the tower, my eyes almost popped out when I saw how ridiculously long the queues to ticket counter were. Bear in mind that Paris is an extremely popular tourist destination that the whole city itself seems to be swamped out with tourists coming there from every corner of the world. 

Getting into any of those popular attractions ain’t gonna be easy for anybody. Getting a ticket can prove to be such a big task that demands patience…. and…. a pair of strong legs. Seriously! This is the queue you'll have to get into if you want to go up the Eiffel Tower..

If that is not long enough, check out the queue to the entrance of Chateau de Versailles here.. (of course I took it the next day)
Luckily, I had no intention of going up to the Eiffel tower since I already did it the night before.PHEW.

I walked past the queue and I must be looking insane to the crowds while trying to get to bottom center of the four-legged tower and captured this picture. Never mind the staring eyes, it was fun!
I walked on towards the Trocedero, a platform area situated on the hill of Chaillot, just across the Seine River from the Tower. That was when I happened to bump into Ashley, the Australian girl from Melbourne, with whom I shared room at Aloha Hostel. We happened to be going on the same route so we kind of 'merged' our ways towards the next destination. 

It’s always good to have a partner on a walking tour for two reasons: Firstly, you’ve got somebody to talk to along the way and the distance would feel shorter. Secondly, you’ll spare the discomfort and awkwardness of asking some stranger to take photos for you. You’ve got somebody to do it such as the this one that she took for me here.

Despite being the venue of the Palais de Chaillot, there really is nothing much to see at the Trocedero. Still it is so crowded with people and this picture tells you why.

Despite the fact that Eiffel Tower can be seen from just about every corner of the city, it is said to be best viewed from the Trocedero.

We walked northbound towards another one of the city’s most prominent landmarks – the Arc de Triomphe (believe me, it’s not even pronounced in the way you probably think it is!). Apparently, it was quite a distance so it was one of those times when the need of a companion is well-justified. 

We completed each other, errrr, at least on that particular walk. She told how she was going to start a new job in Edinburg soon and had to leave her family in Melbourne for it. She told me she could cope up with having to be far and away from her family but she had one particular niece whom she was too fond of to split away from.

So, after continuously taking to each other as if there was no tomorrow, we were soon at the Arc de Triomphe. Apparently, it is located within a circle of a massive roundabout. I could only describe the traffic around the circle with one word – CRAZY! Having said that, I’d say it wasn't a good idea to venture and risk your life making a dash across the road.
Unless you love Paris very much to the extent that you’re prepared to die here, it is very much recommended that you go to the arc through the underground access. Nothing comes free nowadays so some fee does apply. My new-found tour partner Ashley had no intention of going up to the top of the arch so our companionship was ended there. 

Well, somehow, to my surprise, the queue to the ticket counter had not been as long as it was at the Eiffel Tower. I came out from under the arc with a big smile on my face. I thought I was lucky. Or was I? I walked through the entrance expecting some escalator to bring me right up to the top of the arc. Instead, what I found was a spiral staircase consisting of 284 stairs so ready to break my legs!
While I had to stop a few times to catch my breath along the way, I had to be amused to see how some people didn’t seem to be bothered at all. French people must be so used to high staircases just like this woman with high-heeled shoes here (knew she was French by the language she spoke).
At the top end of the staircase was a museum of some kind, telling in details about  the history and significance of this magnificent arc to the people of French and all. I actually caught myself swearing again when I found out that I had to climb another extra staircase to make it to the uppermost viewing platform of the arc. But then I found myself swallowing all the swears back in the moment I reached there. Of course it does take something in order to have the view of Paris like this…

Traveling alone means you have to master the art of cam-whoring. Believe it or not, I took this picture myself. As to how I did it, you'll just have to figure it out yourself.:-P
I wished I could stay longer at the top view-deck of Arc de Triomphe but I knew I couldn’t because I had many more other places to go to. Later back on the ground and out in the open street, I found myself traversing along a massive road. Called Avenue des Champs-Elysees, it has be the busiest road in Paris – and it wasn't just the traffic but the people that overcrowded the the whole stretch, locals or tourists alike. The road is flanked by rows of posh and fancy looking shops selling famous branded stuffs.
I’d seen so many beggars and homeless people asking for spare change in my life but never did I ever see a dog do it.

By then, hungriness was beginning to pinch at the pit of my stomach. With all the walking and climbing and cam-whoring, energy was certainly vital. I knew I needed to eat something before I passed out in front of everybody. I continued walking along the road of Avenue des Champs-Elysees and looked if I could find something affordable enough to eat. 

I actually allocated €15 per day on meals in my budgeting details. With the current currency exchange rate, that would be like 70 bucks in Malaysian Ringgit. I could have a seafood buffet and a mug of Tiger Beer at least four times in Sandakan for that amount alone. But again, it was not Sandakan. I was in Paris. I stopped at one of many parks alongside the road and bought whatever edible to meet my budget details. I ended up buying this.

It had cost me some €4, plus another €2 for the small-sized bottle of Coke. I never had anything so dry for lunch in my entire life and that thing was full of raw sliced tomato. But then, I was in Paris and I couldn’t ask for more. I forced myself to finish it out and returned to my walking tour with renewed energy. I was soon at the Lourve.

Lourve that I found out was a vast collection of arts and some of them dated back to the medieval time and beyond. The museum is so damn massive that it is just impossible to cover everything in one single day. People from all over the world would come to the Louvre to celebrate the world of art. It was already so famous as it is and it became even more popular among tourists when it was featured as the final resting venue of The Holy Grail (errrr, depicted in this movie to be actually a woman, which is Mary Magdalene, instead of a physical chalice as in the Bible) in the blockbuster movie Da Vinci Code.

Oh well, I’m not really into arts and museums and having said that, I’d say the Louvre was not really a place for me. I had come to find out that the Louvre is full of statues and paintings in all shapes and sizes. It kind of amused me just how each of the sculptures always had something missing or not in place. Every now and then I’d bump into a headless sculpture..
A torso-less...

or the ones without a hand..

and nose-less..

or even worse without a penis…
I could only assume that the art of statues probably means missing some part of the body…Or if  there's nothing missing, it has to be a show-it-all business.

I CAN NEVER UNDERSTAND ART.

I ended up touring the Louvre in less than 1 hour. In fact, I only had something in mind when I entered the museum – the Monalisa! I was mostly driven by the curiosity as to why somebody (Vincenzo Peruggia) would put his life at risk by stealing it. But then, why shouldn’t he when this piece of s*** is valued at USD 700 million (1.8b MYR) ???

I offered my farewell to Mona Lisa after less than 5 minutes. There was no doubt that she has a sweet smile, but no thanks - she is just a woman in the painting and will remain so forever. She ain't real. Heh. 

Out from the Louvre, I continued my walking tour by crossing the Seine River, on the wooden bridge called Pont Des Arts. I walked down to the walk-way on the riverside and for the first time since I came to Paris, I felt so close to the river - a river that is always considered the lifeline of the city. It was the most relaxing feeling.

As I continued walking, it wasn’t long before I got my first glimpse of another important landmark of Paris - the world famous Notre Dame Cathedral. Upon walking closer to it, I suddenly knew why it was so popular among tourists in Paris.
Notre Dame is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the world. The flying buttress (arched exterior supports) which were meant to be part of the structural supports seemed to have added more of the architectural values of the whole building.
Notre Dame might be splendid and beautiful to visualize as a whole and from a distance but  it can get quite spooky and creepy when we get really close to it. I mean, why would there be statues of devilish demons on the walls of a God's church?

And why would the be-headed king as depicted in these statues hold his own head?

We don’t get to see any of those on any of our churches in Malaysia. We’ve only got statues of Jesus or Mary or probably saints. But again, this is Paris and not Malaysia. After all, it is gothic architecture. I can never understand it. 

The inside the church was even more beautiful to look at. Unlike most churches in England where admission fees along can make you go broke, entry to the Notre Damn Cathedral was FOC.
A mass service was taking place when I was there so the people in attendance were a blend of tourists and church-goers. Tourists were free to go in and out of the church as long as they remain silent.

After making a full tour inside and around the cathedral, I decided it was time to go back outside and take more photos of myself with the cathedral in the background.
It would be my profile picture on Friendster for many many months. Heh. 

I wandered along the Seine River for another hour or so before calling it a day. By then, the sky was darkening over Paris and I decided to spare my energy by taking the underground train (known as Metro in Paris) to return to Aloha Hostel. 

What happened back at the hostel was quite funny. All the lights were switched off and the room was so dark when I came in. Thinking that it was impossible for me to see anything in pitch black, I switched the light on and realized that the upper bed was already occupied by somebody. The new comer, apparently distracted by the light, grunted groggily and said, “Why did you switch the light on?” To this I said “How am I supposed to see in the dark? I need to unpack before I can get to sleep”. She continued murmuring and grunting but my head was already occupied with something else so I wasn't bothered by her at all.

My head was per-occupied by the picture of a beautiful castle, the kind of castle depicted so much in the books about kings, princes and princesses that I used to read a lot when I was a kid… I dreamed about it in the form of The Chateau de Versailles…

1 comment:

kenwooi said...

haha.. this entry is nice..
i like the lourve shot (the one from the corner) very much! =)

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