May 5th, 2008

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Paris, Day 1

You'd think I'd never been abroad before...Leaving home, I made the stupidest mistake ever: I left my passport behind. I only noticed when I was en route to the station, and with half an hour to spare, I appealed to the charitable nature of a taxi driver on one of their busiest and most lucrative nights of the year, begging him to take me back home, wait for me to run up and get my passport, and take me back to the station again. Typically, the bastard didn't have much of a charitable nature to speak of; he took the opportunity to extort 30 euros in fare that would normally have cost under 10 (I live 5 minutes from the bloody station!). Meanwhile, my sister had the job of holding up our mode of transport until I got there.



Since this was 20 minutes late in coming, she didn't have too arduous a task.

We arrived in Paris in the early morning hours of April 30th, had a quick breakfast of croissants and coffee/hot chocolate at the international bus station, travelled on to Pigalle, found our hotel, and as check-in wasn't until 2pm and we weren't even halfway through the morning, left our luggage there while we ventured into town without any set purpose. We bought a guide to 'unknown places of interest' such as the Museum of Skin Diseases which I'm sure we would have visited if my niece hadn't vetoed the idea on account of her weak stomach, and Le Phallus Géant, which became something of a running gag throughout our stay. The weather wasn't particularly nice, but it was mostly dry and we were in our best holiday spirit, so it didn't affect us...much.



Eventually, we did seek sanctuary from the elements in McDonalds, which in the Champs-Elysées branch at least serves delicious coffees and pastries as well as fastfood.

Fortified, we walked from there to the top of Blvd Haussmann and down along it to Printemps, my favourite of the Paris department stores, stopping off to shelter from the rain in Monoprix where Romeo was overjoyed to find Dragonball-Z and Ben-10 cards that are guaranteed to be the envy of his classmates for the simple fact that apparently, you can't get them in Holland. Or not these ones, anyway. So we got him those cards and a Pokémon starter pack, and his trip was made.

We had a fabulous lunch in the sous la Coupolle-restaurant in Printemps, where our waitress made a few minor mistakes and explaining that it hadn't been her day all day and that she would have done better to stay in bed, offered us coffee on the house.

We checked into our hotel around 4pm, dozed in our room for a few hours, and then went out to pick and mix our dinner from the various traiteurs dotted around our neighbourhood, taking it all back to feast on in our room.

tbc
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Paris, Day 2

Day 2 dawned grey and chilly, but dry. As May 1st is a public holiday in France, none of the shops or museums were open, so we'd decided on a leisurely morning of wandering around Père Lachaise cemetery, followed by a leisurely afternoon in the Bois de Vincennes, which we knew houses a botanical garden and a zoo.

Because of Labour Day, we couldn't get a map of where to find all the graves of famous people, and there weren't any crowds to follow, so we just took a left here and a right there, and found both Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison's graves quite by accident.

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We went on to the Bois de Vincennes after lunch, but we didn't stay there for very long, as a creepy man followed us all about. We probably could have dealt with him if he'd tried anything funny, if my sister hadn't chosen that time to start regaling us to stories of women having been murdered and in one case partially eaten, then buried in the Bois de Boulogne some years ago. My niece and I decided caution is the better part of valour, and beat a hasty retreat back to Vincennes and the nearest patisserie.

Back at the hotel, we dined on strawberries that we'd bought at a local market; and then went back out again to take in the view of Paris by night from the top of Tour Montparnasse.


Paris sunset


The Eiffel tower as seen from Tour Montparnasse

tbc
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Paris, Day 3

The third day of our stay in Paris, and the weather had changed to a beautiful spring day with loads of sunshine. First item on our agenda was a visit to the Eiffel Tower, where the queues were enormous. It took us an hour to get to the front of the queue, where a scuffle broke out when a Rumanian man decided to jump it and then made matters worse by trying to bribe his way in. He was then ignominiously marched off the premises.



After the Eiffel Tower, we paid a visit to the Dome des Invalides, where we could view the tomb of Napoleon

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but where the adjoining museum was closed due to refurbishment. One item had been brought into the Dome, though, the Emperor's hat and coat:



We had come by a little jewellery shop on the way from the Eiffel Tower to the Dome des Invalides, and had gone in to take a closer look at some of the pieces. My sister quickly decided that she wasn't going to buy anything and quit the shop, but I had got talking to the owner who showed me some pendants and rings that she had recently made of amber. Now I love amber, and have always wanted to own a piece. And that's how I came to acquire

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We ended our tour of the city in my sister's favourite department store, Galéries Lafayette



and took pizza back to the hotel.

tbc
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Paris, Day 4

For our last day in Paris, we gave up on sight-seeing and cultural pursuits in favour of some serious shopping, which my sister and I both love to do but to which we both have different styles of approach. Monique is a bargain-hunter and goes for quantity, whereas I tend to go for quality and am less concerned with price tags. I do like a bargain as much as the next woman though, and will be forever grateful to my sister for dragging me into C&A, a chain I usually abhor, where I found a mock-military style (think Adam Ant) leather coat at an absurdly reasonable price. After several hours of traipsing through the isles of Zara and H&M and Bershka, where she bought tons of clothes for herself and for my niece, I finally persuaded her to allow me half an hour on the 5th floor of Au Printemps: heaven, or as it's more prosaically known, the shoe department.




Monique's frugality had by then rubbed off on me, and I bought only one pair, from the lower end of the price range. They're actually in that picture: the pink & grey wedges in the foreground.

We ended our day sunning ourselves and eating pancakes in the Jardins des Tuileries, and the next morning boarded our bus for the 7 hour drive home, with a 45 minute break in Brussels.


Romeo, enjoying a bowl of pasta on a bench in Brussels