Waking up in Paris…

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The title of this post is quite literal.  Arriving in Paris with our wedding suitcases may not be the wisest thing to do.  But, we embraced the cliche.  After all how many women wouldn’t give an arm and a leg to wake up in Paris on the first day of their honeymoon??  Yes, this was ideal for The Boss, and I succumbed to it.  And I at least got a head start on the ‘Romantic Husband’ scale of life.

Truth be told, this city wasn’t earmarked, nor was I too excited about it.  There were a number of reason why I felt this way.  Namely:

– an overrated cliche

– the French are rude snobs (based on feedback from people that visited there, no offense to the French)

– its an expensive city!

I am so glad that these were false generalised perceptions.

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I kinda knew that we were to expect small rooms in the 3-4 Star dwellings that we booked ourselves into, throughout our Europe trip.  That, however, didn’t equip me enough to not be somewhat annoyed that our room fits a queen bed, and enough space for 2 suitcases.  And that’s only when all doors were closed.  Nevertheless, I took pride in our planning.  We didn’t want to go on a full on backpacking honeymoon, but we were determined to maintain our budget, flexibility, whilst becoming a devoted Google worshiper.  Thus, we were grinning ear to ear just for managing to take different modes of public transports and getting to the hotel in a reasonably walking state of zombie-ism.  But, darn them hotel room photographers that manages to turn a shoe box to look like a spacious hotel suite, when viewed at Agoda.

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*picture above is of the street where our hotel was.  Loved the scene.  And cobble stones, to me, are as important to Paris as eggs are for breakfast.*

With every destination, there would always be pros and cons.  No city can be perfect to anyone.  Paris, with all my initial reservations, was a delightful surprise.  But, not without its flaws.  I have contemplated and decided that, if I’ve got nothing good to say about a city, then I really shouldn’t even blog about them.  As Paris has both sides, I decided that both sides of the coin needs to be represented.

This being at the end of winter, Paris had gloomy skies and chilly weather.  I couldn’t ask for more.  How boring would sunny days be??  We opted to go with the flow in Paris, and hopped into the ‘Red Bus’.  Great thing about this place is, most of the famous monuments in are centrally located, thus it was so easy for us to get to them as well as be picky on what we want to see, by having the option to retrace our steps for things that we missed. Champs Elysees lived up to its name, and the street was lit up beautifully at night.  Even the Eiffel tower didn’t disappoint, as the gloomy skies provided great textures through my lenses which got me quite giddy with excitement.

And the French are not that bad!  What I heard before getting there, was that the French were snobs that looked down on English-tourists, and are not accommodating or helpful.  We didn’t find this to be true.  They lack the warmth and sincerity of the lovely people in the Greek islands, for example, but they are no worst than any other people living in big cities around the world.  Being labeled as snobs was quite an unfair generalisation.  What I was surprised to find, though, was the amount of cigarette butt litters on the street.  Even on a prided street like Champs Elysees.  I am a smoker myself, but being so used to smoking near rubbish bins and public ashtrays I was amused on how dirty the streets were.  But, hey, we don’t always have to walk with our eyes on the ground.  Especially when the view was terrific above ground.  We also didn’t enjoy the food in Paris.  Much to our surprise.  The fine cuisines around the city were massively over priced.  And I am agitated by how hard it is to find breakfast at 9-10am in the mornings.  Tartines were probably the most readily available breakfast selection in most cafes, but we didn’t find it all that good.  Croissants was superb, though.

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The Boss’ prime target was The Louvre, which inexplicably became my most dreaded.  She let me off the hook though, and compromised down to only a 4 hours visit at the famous museum.  We ended up spending 6 hours.  It wasn’t that bad though.  It was an eye-opener seeing Louvre with my own eyes, after years of reading and hearing about it.  The Boss wondered aimlessly, with child-like enthusiasim, like a kid in Willy Wonka’s factory.  I loved the outside the best.  The architecture of the Louvre was amazing, and crowd watching in the outside yard was rewarding.  I’ve always loved crowd watching.  And in a place like the Louvre, where there was so much excitement and awe in most people’s faces, was magical to experience.

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We did get 1 sunny day.  And we were at the Notre Dame cathedral for it.  We were wowed.  Of course, we haven’t got to Italy yet, at this stage, but still I felt Notre Dame held its own against the Italian Basillicas.  Being inside the cathedral we felt a huge sense of grandeur and majesty being bestowed on the place.  Taking photographs without flash or tripod was a huge challenge, but one that I have no complaints about.  After all, this was about the Cathedral.  The last thing I wanted to do was disturb the ambiance that was so synonymous with the church.   The area around this Church was also 1 of our favourites in Paris.  It was littered full of street art sellers, little gift stores, and tonnes of different food vendors in every corner.

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Now, as for the Moulin Rouge…?  Overrated!!  Overpriced and over hyped.  I can’t blame them for cashing in on the worldwide success of the same-titled movie.  But, gosh was I expecting a lot more.  The show itself was like a simple cabaret with pricey looking costumes.  There were some boobs.  But, it had lacked the whole feel and theater that was so captivating in the movie, and our expectations.  Tourist trap, definitely.  And the worst part about it, is probably its seating arrangements.  I’ve read reviews online and heeded the advise that we had to show up early, so our seats won’t be too bad.  Seating arrangements, for the most part, are groups of long tables where couples sat on opposing sides.  The mingling with others was totally fine.  What was not was having the entire row stand up when 1 needs to go to the bathroom, and the fact that 90% of us men had sore necks as our backs were facing the stage.  Not being sexist here, just complaining about the disregard of comfort.  If the tables were more angled, it would give better viewing angles for us men, but it would also hinder the maximum efficiency of the seating.  Meaning, they would have to get to reduce seating numbers for the show.  For the record, there are far better things to watch than Moulin Rouge.

Montmartre was the last place we visited.  I sooooooo wanted to love this place.  A small village on a hill, cafes like the ones in ‘Amelie’, Basillica of the Sacred Heart, and more.  As it happens, this place ended up being my tourism horror instead.  The friendship bracelet scam is best to be avoided.  A true holiday dampener.  It was at the steps leading to the Basillica that we came across this.  The Boss was around 10 paces ahead of me, at that time, this was a common thing, as I usually take extra time with photo taking.  I saw a group of Africans stopping her in the middle of the steps.  I quickly approached, sensing trouble.  It was a good thing, as this freed The Boss to walk away.  But, they ended up cornering me and told me stories about some Friendship campaign for Kenya.  They tried to ease my mind and talked to me about places to visit in Paris, and etc.  All the while one of them weaved colored strings on my wrist, into a friendship bracelet.  Upon completion of this, however, there were suddenly more of them.  around 6 of the so-called Kenyans had me cornered, and half of them had their wallets opened, asking for contributions!  With intimidation tactic they slowly extorted up to EU 130 from me.  Most expensive stringed bracelet I ever owned.  This totally put me off, and all I wanted to do after that was to head back to the hotel.  It is a damn shame.  And Paris needs to do more to protect tourists at big sites such as this.  This however, is not specific to Paris.  Unfortunately, we saw this again happening in Rome and Barcelona as well.

That’s my two sided coin view of Paris.  The bad things hasn’t totally deterred me from ever coming back.  I, however, am not too excited to going back anytime soon.

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