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Monday, June 29th, 2009

My train from Stuttgart to Paris left late, at 2:00 in the morning and arrived in Paris about 9:30.  I slept a fair bit considering I was just in a regular train seat in a compartment with 4 other people.  Since my train to London was a similar time the next day, after dumping my backpack off at the hostel I attempted to pack in as many sights as possible, I’m pretty happy with my results.

The weather was hot and sunny, the tourists groups were everywhere in vast, mind numbing hordes, the Parisians were, speaking French.  So a typical summers day in Paris then.

I headed to Notre Dame first (after figuring out the unnecessarily confusing ticket options on the Paris metro), declining to go up the towers or even inside due to the length of the queues.  Very impressive from the outside though, on the island in the Seine.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

After wandering around on the island for a little while, I took one of the seemingly obligatory Seine river cruises, lasting about an hour and taking you by most of the well known buildings.  Perfect to see a lot in a short time, however the view of the buildings is often partially blocked by bridges, and when there’s no bridges it’s just the high walled river banks, you end up looking up at Paris instead of being on ground level with it.  Still it was a nice hour not walking around in the heat and still seeing stuff.

When the tour was finished I got back on the metro and headed over to the Sacre Cour basilica and the Montemart district.  The basilica is very cool and not something I recognized as far as famous Paris landmarks.  I climbed up the 300 or so winding stone stairs to the top for the city panorama.  Less than half the cost of going up the Eiffel tower.

Sacre Cour

view from the dome of Sacre Cour


After going back down the 300 stairs, I was feeling slightly dizzy, it may have been the stairs continuos winding or the fact that it was 3pm and all I’d eaten in the day was an apple upon arrival in the morning.  Hungry was an understatement, so I walked through the Montemart district, the artistic district.  Full of artists, street cafes and, more hordes of tourists.  I got some very late lunch, was thoroughly tired of walking so I headed back to the hostel to get a few things organized and rest my legs.

montemart district

Having one of my belgian beers back at the hostel rejuvenated me and I headed off for yet more sights.  Went by the basilica monument (French revolution times), the actual basilica is no longer there.  Then a square nearby, lined with curios and restaurants, Paris’s oldest square.

oldest square in Paris

Next stop was the Louvre.  I’d debated whether or not to go here since I only had a day, eventually deciding that if I went there I’d spend half the day there due to the sheer size of it (I had no idea how huge the place was!) and wouldn’t see too many other sights, and since art museums aren’t usually top on my list, I just admired the very impressive building from the outside and courtyard.

the lourve

I walked from the Louvre to the Arc de triumph along the Champs Elysees.  It’s lined with restaurants and shops, but in my opinion it looked like it could be in any city on earth, nothing really special about it.  Same brand shops and the typical high end restaurants, and of course, it was teaming with tourists.  I still walked all the way to the Arc though, for the required kodak moment.

Arc de triumph

By this point you may be wondering something along the lines of, “this is all the same day?”.  That’s what my legs were saying by the end of it too.  Anyway, the next world famous stop was the Eiffel tower.  I’d seen it from the boat tour earlier, but I found a much better viewpoint on dry land.  I walked underneath it, where there was some sort of Michael Jackson tribute going on and, (just in case I haven’t emphasized this point enough yet) loads more tourists.

me @ the Eiffel tower

Dinner was next in line as 8:00 approached, I headed back over to the Latin district, near the Notre Dame, which is full of all kinds of restaurants.  I chose not to dine on one of the main roads teaming with people, but instead wandered around for a while looking for a more out of the way place.  The area is very nice, cobbled streets, old buildings, narrow roads etc, but at this point of the day I wanted to sit down, and eat, pure and simple.  I found somewhere, gratefully sat down, ordered a duck fillet and some wine and enjoyed both.

latin district

Many people would’ve returned, and then collapsed exhausted at their accommodation by this point (or long before).  Not me.  Due to the fact that the longest day of the year was last week, the sunset isn’t until 10:00 here at the moment, and I had to see some landmark lit up at night.  I chose the Eiffel tower, so a metro back across the city was required.  When I got there the tower was sparkling with some kind of cool light show, that soon stopped but it still looks cool with the fountains in front and the city stretching far behind.

Eiffel tower

By this point, 11pm, I was ready to call it a day and headed back across the city to my hostel, where I headed for the shower about as fast I ever have, then had another one of my quality Belgian beers before going to bed.  Not a bad amount done for 1 day in Paris.  11am to 11pm of nearly solid sightseeing.

No rest for the backpacker though, up at 7:00 the next morning in order to catch my train to London.  I had high expectations for the eurostar, high speed eurotunnel train between London and Paris, (been wanting to go on it since it was built) but it was possibly the most cramped seat I’ve been in on a high speed train anywhere.  What is amazing though is I woke up this morning in Paris, caught a train, and two and a half hours later I was walking the streets of London.
The weather was great on both ends, though I have to say the newly remodeled London St Pancras station is superior to the origin at Paris Nord, even complete with free wifi throughout.

Now I’m in London, enjoying a few pints in the best pubs on earth before my night flight to Buenos Aires.  When I pulled out the handful of change to pay for my first beer from my backpack where I stashed my leftover British currency the other week I got a combination of Pounds, Rand and Australian dollars.  Fortunately I had enough GBP for the pint…

I do have to mention another thing.  In comparison, London and Paris.  I’ve just spent 1 day in each, consecutively and London wins for me.  Some people love Paris, some people dislike it, and while I didn’t dislike the city I can see why.  Rubbish in the streets is common place, and due to this parts of the city don’t smell too good.  There’s also a lot more tourists masses in Paris, I recall my experience in Rome to draw a parallel.   This may not be a scientific comparison, but it’s high season for both places right now and the weather is great either side of the channel.  Trafalgar square was empty in comparison to Notre Dame or the Eiffel tower, still a fair few people there but not nearly the masses I saw in Paris.  The London underground is also far superior to the Paris metro, despite being more expensive.

Next up is South America, starting with Argentina in Buenos Aires.  I haven’t heard anything bad about the city yet so my expectations are high.  I have no plan except for my flight from Chile to Peru in 5 weeks, which is plenty of time for the area I’ll be covering so basically I can stay as long as I feel like in places.  Places like the barbeque restaurants in Buenos Aires.  El proxima tiempo escribo, voy a estar en Argentina hablando espanol !