Lorna and I hopped off the train at Gare du Nord Station in Paris only to realise we had to catch another couple of trains if we were ever going to be out of the below-freezing conditions and safely in our relatively cheap hotelroom in Montmartre. For those of you who’ve never been to Montmartre, it’s the cool, artsy-type part of Paris with lots of cool restaurants, bars and clubs. Live touring bands generally play here and it’s also where the strip-clubs are. If you’re looking for night-time party action, this is where you want to book your room. Montmartre’s a little-bit edgy but a whole-lot cool.
Although we arrived with all our bags at one of the main subway-stops in Montmartre, we followed the directions our hotel gave us and basically walked to the outer-limits of the suburb. The hotel’s website clearly stated it was in Montmartre, but I’m telling you, it was a trick because it was miles away from the action. The hotel was called ETAP Porte de Montmartre and you can click on it if you’d like to read my review on the place. Personally, I wouldn’t waste my time though.
The next day we found a hotel in the middle of all the action of the real Montmartre. A place called Montmartre Clignancourt, which is actually in Montmartre. Before you start reaching for your credit card though, I’m sure there are better places to stay, but this place met our budget, gave us our own room with ensuite and was smack-bang where we wanted to be. We weren’t planning on being in the room other than to sleep, put it that way.
We now had three full days to do Paris with the safety of a good home-base.
I’d like to point out that Montmartre is where we chose to stay, but no matter where you stay in Paris, every day you’re going to be catching the tube to multiple locations because all the good sites are spread out across the city.
Lorna had been to Paris before, but hadn’t seen everything, so we made a list and started at the top. The first place we hit-up was the Catacombs.
In 1780, Paris’s largest cemetery, the Saints-Innocents Cemetery, was closed due to over-population and public-health problems. Five years later the local council ordered the removal of all human remains from various grave sites to be shoved into the underground tunnels and stone mines that were no longer being used.
After walking down a 19-meter spiral staircase into the dark depths of this scary place, we walked the dozens of dimly-lit tunnels to see tens of thousands of bones piled-up on top of one another.
At first it was quite thrilling to be seeing evidence of thousands of dead people all around you, twenty meters underground. But around fifteen minutes into the walk that initial thrill soon wore off. Especially once I told Lorna I wanted to walk on my own for a little while to take photos. All alone. With tens-of-thousands of empty skull-eyes looking at me.
We were happy to eventually complete the circuit and get out of the Catacombs.
Our next destination was the famous Notre Dame Cathedral.
The Notre Dame was built around the year 1160 and is one of the first Gothic Cathedrals ever made.
It contains the official chair of the Catholic Archbishop of Paris.
Whether you’re religious or not, the Notre Dame is worth a look alone for it’s unique gothic architecture.
Although freezing cold, Lorna said we should check out the Eiffel Tower, so we hopped on the tube again and came out somewhere else, walked around a corner and then…
I finally got a chance to see the thing.
As a kid you catch glimpses of it on TV and you hear all about Paris and France and you wonder if you’re ever going to get a chance to visit and see this famous structure with your own eyes…
I guess that goes for all famous structures and landmarks around the world. Sure, some of them are gimmicky and entirely designed to draw tourists from other countries with the purpose of creating revenue… but… famous landmarks like the Colosseum in Rome, the Statue of David in Florence, the Duomo in Milan, the Leaning Tower of Piza, the white-cliffside-houses of Santorini, the Fairy Chimneys of Gorome, the Blue Mosque of Istanbul, the Gaza Pyramids of Egypt, the Treasury and Monastery in Petra and the Statue of Liberty in New York, to name a few… all give you a sense of achievement and will change your life if you can just find the way to get off your arse and make the journey to see them.
To be honest… there’s been times when I’ve reminded myself that it costs a lot of money to see these so-called famous landmarks, and at some points I’ve been thinking, is it worth-it to blow all this money on something I can see on TV or on Google Images? Other times I’ve been like, Wouldn’t this money be better spent on a car or off the mortgage?
But, now I’m thinking
It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey… but, without these famous landmarks creating the destination, you wouldn’t bother making the journey… and the journey changes everything in your life, forever… and always in a good way. Always.
There’s no doubt you grow immensely as a person when you travel. Ten-times as much than if you were to stay trapped in your own country for your whole life.
We spent a good hour walking around the Eiffel Tower, and somewhere in this time-period the thoughts I’ve written above occurred to me. And I was so happy that Lorna had come up with this whole plan of seeing the world over ten months and drove us to do it as soon as possible. I mean, I knew from my band-days that life operates on another level when you’re traveling… but I may have waited years before getting back out there.
We made a two-year saving plan. And it’s the best thing we’ve both personally ever done. And we’re still going.
Okay, I’d better tell you the rest of what we saw in Paris… before they call me for this flight to New York I’m waiting on…
The Eiffel Tower was a lot fatter at the base and thinner in the middle and the top, compared to how I saw it in my head from images off TV. Things aren’t real in your mind until you see them with your own eyes.
And then the cold December wind picked up and we marched underground and caught the tube back to Montmartre and realized we’d just had one of the best days of our lives.
Day two started off by taking a shower and then walking next door to the French patisserie to buy two almond-croisants and coffees. Man, it’s true what they say about the French and their pastries. I never normally like anything other than weet-bix and cold milk for breakfast, but I could eat almond-croisants every day.
Then we moseyed up the near-by stairs and largish-hill to the Sacra Coure Basilica, one of Lorna’s favourite places to visit. It’s an old Roman Church that was completed in 1914.
It’s an absolute must-see in Paris, because it resides on the highest hill in the city and gives you the best birds-eye perspective of how the city lies.
Next up we made our way to the Dali Museum, located a few minutes around the back-corner of the Sacre Coure. There’s a local market in the area too, filled with painters who’ll create masterpieces for you in front of your eyes for the right amount of coin. This is where you want to have lunch and maybe a beer or coffee.
On the way home that day, walking past a very cool music venue in Montmartre called Le Trianon, I noticed a massive black tour bus parked outside. I didn’t really think too much about it, but caught the words Chino is a fag! written by finger in the dirty black paintwork. I thought it was pretty weird, so looked into the building and noticed a sign saying Deftones tonight! – SOLD OUT.
I nearly lost my mind.
After realising the dusty writing was probably written by a roadie for the band and they must have been playing that night, I told Lorna we had to instantly go back to the hotel and buy tickets on-line. Of course, there were none left.
I told her, come hell or high water, we’re going to get in tonight! and we both showered and got dressed for success.
We rocked up half an hour before the show and were offered scalped tickets. I don’t think it works like this anywhere else, but the guy selling the tickets proved to me that they were the real deal by getting the security guard to approve them before I handed over the money.
To say it was the best live rock-show I have ever seen in my life, is an understatement.
As Lorna posted on her Facebook account, …but the best part of the day was when Chino from Deftones said, “WHAT’S UP PARIS!!!” after scoring tickets off the street half an hour before the show, unreal!
After another amazing almond-croisant breakfast, we made our way to the Louvre early. Surely I don’t have to tell you that you’ve got to visit the Louvre, right? You want to get there by 9 a.m. because if you’re interested in history, specifically ancient Egyptian and the Italian Renaissance period like me, you’ve got a lot of work to do.
I’m not kidding when I say we were there for seven hours, looking at things as hard as we could, separately – as to not get in each others way of maximum artistic-absorption.
Seven hours. And it wasn’t enough.
The Louvre is every bit as awesome as it’s reputation loudly declares it to be. Here is just a splinter of what we saw…
Obviously there’s the Mona Lisa… but I personally found the Egyptian artifacts and Renaissance paintings to be mesmerizing.
And you’d think we’d have no energy left, but after our massive day of cultural-exposure to some of the world’s most precious historical items, we walked toward the Arc de Triomphe.
On the way it started snowing in front of the ferris wheel and it’s the first time Lorna and I had been out on a street when it was snowing. We ate American hotdogs from a stand at the christmas markets lining the street toward the Arc de Triomphe, eventually taking it all in as snow billowed down on us from high above in the night sky.
We ate dinner at Lorna’s favourite restaurant in Paris, then hit-the-sack in preparation for our early tube-ride to the airport to catch a ride on a giant tin-can to Manchester in the United Kingdom.