Tuesday 18 October 2011

WT - Paris

The Hi-Speed Train by Thalys from Amsterdam to Paris was awesome. We hardly noticed that we were travelling at 300kph until we went through points to change track, then there was a bit of quick sideways movement. The journey only took 3 hours and 18 minutes and that was with about 8 stops to drop and pick-up passengers. Very spacious and comfortable travel but expensive, both coach and air are cheaper but only marginally and this was far more comfortable without any security, customs or passport checks to delay one. As long as you arrive 15 minutes prior to departure you don't need to check in baggage, just load it as you board. Each wagon has it's own baggage racks for large cases (ours are the biggest BTW x 3).

On arrival in Paris, first impression is how great everything looks with the exception of the pot holes on the platform. Another first impression is that the French don't just dislike the English, they hate them with a passion! Always start a dialogue with any new person by greeting them in their own language "Bonjour" (French for G'Day) and then I found it helps to introduce yourself next "Australian" repeat several times whilst tapping oneself on the chest (they appear to be a little slow:) {for goodness sake do not use the term 'English' whilst tapping ones chest - even inadvertently it sends them into grossly animated fit}. French greeting followed by Australian introduction usually results in reasonable discourse but be prepared for the subtle upward flick of the hand (French for Piss-off).

We were only going to be in Paris 2 nights so we decided to take a taxi to the hotel as there did not appear to be an Hotel shuttle. The Taxi driver (a Turk) was not too impressed as our Hotel was only 1 block from the other side of the central railway station but agreed to take us if we made it worth his while (fare would have been 3 Euro) so we offered 10 and he was happy.

At the hotel we met a very nice Frenchman of Iranian decent (if memory serves) he offered us a personal VIP Guide service, we thanked him and took him up on the offer but only for transport for the evening as the hour was late and we wanted to go for a walk in the evening while the weather was good. He dropped us outside Louis Vitton on Av des Champs Elysees  at 18:30 and would pick us up at 21:30 giving us 3 hours for our discovery walkabout.

We tried very hard not to be offended by the rude superior attitude of these little French people but on our first day discovery walkabout we found a distinct lack of sign-age particularly for public toilets a cause to attempt friendly dialogue. Unfortunately for us, everyone we met that day had experienced a bad week...(at least that's what I'm putting it down to) what with their language being rated 8th most popular language on earth, the economy not doing so well and corruption doing too well for starters. Anyway several of the people we approached merely gave us the mild dismissal wave (PO) but we did have the bird offered, the chin flick and a spit on the shoe. To top off the day we made the mistake of entering a cinema annex and asking a security guard who promptly went into a fit making terrible gurgling noises with arms flailing, I was afraid he would do himself an injury and stepped toward him to render physical assistance whereupon he attempted to release his muzzled Guard dog which had been concealed by his desk until then. We retreated and he seemed to calm so we started to leave and just for the heck of it I turned and pointed my camera... well he went ballistic, I just couldn't help myself and beckoned him with my finger (I was up for teaching him some manners) but Ronnie started having a fit so I let it go. We found a Metro official to be most helpful in the end and he unlocked the public toilet (you would never know it was there it was so well hidden) for Ronnie.

The rest of the evening progressed without any real incident but we just accepted the rudeness and determined not to tip (we usually tip between 10 and 20 percent depending on the quality of service and have gone a little higher if we have been exceptionally impressed) a small protest perhaps but significant for us since we have never withheld a tip. We were certainly not dressed for the area that we were in but what the heck we were not there to impress anyone but rather to enjoy ourselves and be impressed. The view certainly impressed us and we did have a wonderful time in each others company. It was a bit foggy and damp, with a bit of occasional drizzle but romantic none the less.

We slept in the following day and made a late start determined to to use public transport, we after about an hour of trying to work out the system from notices and boards I admitted defeat to Ronnie and suggested we try a Taxi for a limited distance so that we could get our bearings (Our GPS - Telstra Latitude App was not working, in fact no GPS data was available to us at all - having tried several reliable apps, hence my confusion).

Whilst at the Taxi rank we started talking to 3 young men (mid 20's) who were very pleasant and helpful. One of them (I can't remember their names I'm afraid, probably the onset of 'old timers' disease) took us across to the Metro and explained the system in great detail (in broken English and a very global form of sign language) was able to make himself as clear as mud but we did manage to work out our starting point and direction so off we went on a new adventure. Ronnie asked me if I knew where we were going and I answered no! but that I would know our destination when we got there:) Actually the Metro in Paris is quite simple and straight forward not unlike London's Underground but a heck of a lot cheaper same day pass was 3 Euro as opposed to 22 Pound each.

We started at the Eiffel Tower, I figured that since it is such a tourist attraction we would get a feel for other attractions and the means for them such as bus tours or river cruises. We found both, I had no desire to queue for an accent of the tower but checked with Ronnie before making this known to her (most women would love to go up the Eiffel Tower) but not Ronnie, not interested at all were her words, wanting to look at it not from it! A river cruise? well that's another story, especially one where she could look at the Eiffel Tower at sunset.

So off we went on our river cruise which we timed to end at about sunset.It was great as can be seen fro the photo's. To top off the evening we had clear sky's and a full moon, who could ask for more. To end our stay in Paris we took a lovely long stroll, arm in arm along the canal bank with the Eiffel Tower and a full moon as our back drop - now how romantic is that!

Note the poster on the wall is the Australian Mulga's on the Australian Embassy.

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