Paris

After two years in London & multiple enriching sojourns in other countries much further afield, over the first weekend of December I finally did what I probably should have done as soon as I moved and took the Eurostar to Paris.


I won't lie, Paris has never been particularly high up my list of cities to visit; I made a very brief visit on my gap year so had technically ticked it off, and by now I think we're all more than familiar with the fact I'm an Italy girl through and through. However, given that Paris is one of the easiest places to get to from London, and the fact that I frickin love trains, it seemed a bit ridiculous to not have been at least once before my relocation back to Australia, so Fiona and I booked in a last minute trip. 

My interest in Paris has never been particularly 21st-century-centric. I loved learning about the revolution, read up on almost every King Louis and have watched more than my fair share of Musketeers, but have always felt as a present day destination it was over-romanticised and over-hyped. I still think it is a bit of a cliche default favourite, but coming from someone who has been to Venice five times in the last seven years that sort of judgment really is quite weightless. Nevertheless, I equate it with that one print of Audrey Hepburn every basic bitch has incorporated into their decor at one point or another, in that I feel like there is a certain type of person who loves Paris for the sake of loving Paris, and not really out of any genuine appreciation.


I stand by that to an extent, but I can now also understand what about the city does genuinely resonate with an equally large portion of people, and although I will eternally sigh a heavy, judgmental sigh at those who shallowly fetishise one city without paying any attention to the rest of Europe, I will also be returning. I never knew I had quite so much of an issue with people who are blindly obsessed with the idea of Paris, but here we are. And there I was. Let's talk about that.


We hopped aboard the Eurostar at around midday on the Saturday, which meant that by the time we had sped under the channel, through a sea of snow covered fields and into Gare Du Nord there wasn't much time left for sight seeing. Luckily, we were staying in Montmartre which is rawther bellissimo in and of itself, so we managed to tick off a couple of boxes on our evening outing without even trying. As you see here, we had dinner at a quintessentially Parisian little establishment by the name of The Little Italy, which was mediocre in terms of cuisine but bangin' in terms of decor.


What can I say. You can take a girl to Paris but you can't make her stop wishing it were Rome instead. After dinner we took a stroll around the lower part of Montmartre (no hills for me at night, thanks hun) and stumbled upon one of the most unanticipated thrills I have had in quite some time. I never thought I was particularly interested in the Moulin Rouge. I had never thought about visiting the Moulin Rouge. I rewatched the Moulin Rouge movie a few months ago and thought it was terrible. Yet there I was, bathed in the holy scarlet glow of an illuminated, functionless windmill, feeling the same level of blindsidedly amped as when I went to the monarchy section at the National Portrait Gallery and got starstruck by the painting off Anne Boleyn's wikipedia page. Turns out I was really quite excited to see the Moulin Rouge, even if it was just a probable byproduct of having two separate copies of the soundtrack floating around my mum's car in the early 2000s. Just like that, I was ready for Paris.


The next morning I slept in (this was three weeks pre-move, still working full time and the next weekend we were flying to Sweden, so honestly I regret nothing), and then met Fiona for some coffee and croissants before we embarked upon an adventure around the loftier regions of Montmartre. I had used my breakfast time wisely, and googled 'instagram locations Montmartre', so we were able to create a handy little google map of supposed hotspots to peruse. Granted, most of these were leafier attractions or relied on nice weather for that je ne sais quoi, so we were swimming upstream from the get go, but it turns out there is a certain level of charm to the ivy-covered residential cul-de-sacs around Place Dalida that manages to prevail, even in the drizzliest of weather. Colour me shocked and a half.


I've only seen the movie Amelie once, and it didn't make much of an impression on me, but I imagine that if it had I would have some beautiful cinematic insights to share right now, considering we apparently walked right past some important plot-related restaurant on our ascent. My sincerest apologies for having failed you in the culture department on this occasion. HOWEVER, I did take note when we passed Van Gogh's house, and though I can't say it was a particularly remarkable sight I did get my History High imagining him traipsing sadly up and down the hill. "Cheer up, Vinny!" the townspeople would call. "Non." he would reply. Clear as day.


From one flame haired icon to another - due to obvious reasons, I grew up quite the fan of Madeline. Sure, her name was spelt the English way despite MY name with the extra 'e' being the correct, accurate spelling were her tale to be authentically French (the other kindergarteners really loved when I would explain this, and eagerly followed along with my nomenclature-related rhetoric), but when your name is Madeleine you've hardly got a plethora of literary bros to choose from, so I embraced her. The books and the TV show, at least. The real people movie is an abomination and is NOT canon. I will fight. Innywho, anyone familiar with the Sacred Text will know that Madeline begins with the line "In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines," so the photo you see above was very easy for me to caption. Side note, I fully accepted that they were all orphans but turns out they were just normal children with really heartless parents who sent them off to live with Miss Clavel instead of just getting an in-house nanny or a dog like the Darlings. Wild.


As well as seeking out specific spots the internet had told us to, we had a gentle meander along the Rue Lepic (somehow managing not to see the Sacre Couer despite being what, like 300m away) and I particularly appreciated the stark contrast of the calm buzz of the frosty streets to the overcrowded hellhole (aka Oxford St) that I had to navigate on my way to and from work each day at home. There were people in the pubs and cafes, and motorbikes parked all over the place; there was noise and life and a comforting sense of population, but everyone kept to themselves and there was room to move without even coming close to having to ram myself into a group of stationary tourists. Really, when you've spent any extended period of time in central London, the ability to actually walk at a pace of your own choosing is a luxury, and the fact everything was Christmassy was the ornamental star on top.


I didn't really mind the weather as it created an enjoyably reflective atmosphere, but I'd imagine strolling through Montmartre on a sunny day would be a very different experience. It reminds me a bit of the town from Beauty and the Beast, and I can see myself happily sitting down for an extraordinarily overpriced coffee and pastry with Will at whichever cafe I impulsively deemed most photogenic. This time around, the greatest seasonal tragedy was not my hands nearly dropping off, nor the Londonesque ever-present drizzle, but the fact that wintery trees are just not my aesthetic unless they are daintily snow-capped. Try as I may (I do not), I simply cannot get amongst the spindly little wood fingers sticking out willy-nilly, nor the particular shades of browny yellow and orange spattered about the place. Next time I must remember to fax a copy of my instagram feed to Tourism France beforehand so they have time to install some greenery in richer tones, and perhaps a bit of better lighting. Either that or I'll just go back in Spring. Anyone's call.


Another Wintery byproduct was a limited window of daylight, and by this time we were on the wrong side of midday, so we decided to prioritise some more famous sights and left the in-depth exploration of Montmartre for another time. To maximise on immersion and cultural in-soaking, we decided to skip the Metro and walk down to the comparative hustle & bustle of the 1st arrondissement. Luckily this journey was primarily downhill, for which I'd like to offer thanks to probably Dionysus, because as god of partying I feel he was likely also responsible for people who don't love unnecessary physical exertion, especially sans-wine. Anyway, as my previous trip to Paris also consisted of only two days, one of which was spent primarily in Versailles and the other at Euro Disney, I was pretty amped by this point to start seeing all the things they print on tacky stationery and postcards.

Side note, is that the Sacre frickin Couer in the background there? How and why we did not go. It's so close. I didn't know that's what it was until literally this moment but Fiona goes to Paris like 20 times a year so SURELY she knew. SURELY. We done goofed.


Back to business. Given it was December, the walk was very uplifting thanks to an abundance of Christmas trees for sale in the streets, and the fact the air was just crisp enough to make perambulation bearable without forcing us into the Metro to stave off frostbite; lucky, given my refusal to wear a proper coat. There also seemed to be some sort of musical about Jesus going on that was very heavily advertised and VERY intriguing; I still wonder about it regularly. We made a few stops along the way including Galerie Vivienne which was lit up twinkly as all hell, and the Jardin des Tuileries, which looked bald and bleak without the actual jardin part present, before popping up at that one place Carly Cristman took her engagement photos, aka the Colonnes de Buren, aka Les Deux Plateaux. 


Happily, it very much suited the rain. Nevertheless, let the peaceful, placid, easygoing tourist perched atop the column you observe below be a reminder to us all that social media is a lie, and even the most blessed of us have struggles. Yes, hidden behind my graceful form were at least 2/4 members of a family, all dressed in bright red, running and scooting and jumping and screaming, ruining the aesthetic of every other picture and making my extraordinarily cold life even chillier, by installing a piece of ice where my heart used to be. I was not pleased. Not at all. The colonnes are not for hopping. It is not called Les Deux Playgrounds. If you absolutely must dress your children in bright, fire engine red, do not take them and their scooters to a neutral toned haven of instagram pilgrimage. Mon dieu.
My children will be dressed in NAVY when WE travel.

Honestly I just woke up from a nap and typing that paragraph has brought me back to life.


Rage still bubbling beneath my frozen surface, like a caffeine-deprived volcano in the farthest reaches of Siberia, it was time to see one of Gay Paree's most famous sights: the place they found that body in Da Vinci Code.


By this point in the proceedings I was absolutely, ah... comment dites-vous... heckin froze 2 tha bone. I was, however, also determined to get my pics and pay my respects to the very real Secret Tomb Of Jesus'S WIFE Mary Magdalene. I watched Da Vinci Code on Netflix while writing this. Probably not the best idea. I did a great instagram caption on the pic below that said 'Can't believe this is where they buried Leonardo Da Vinci' and let me tell u, it absolutely banged, but I am cautious about how far to push that rhetoric on here in case there are some new little darlings who think I am an actual fool. Comedy, sweet friends, is a dangerous mistress.


Ancient cult-related conjecture aside, had this been a longer trip I would have liked to have actually gone inside the Louvre. I'm not a huge art person in and of itself, but I am very into history and using physical objects as a springboard to fling myself down a vivid imaginatory trail of exactly what life may have been like for whoever painted something, or saw it in the past, and what kind of intense Ye Olde Dramahs they had going on and whether I would have been cool if I lived in their time like damn I hope I would have been cool. Ya know? Appreciation from all angles. I am a historian after all.

This was one of the places that looked rawther different than I had imagined it would from photos, but not necessarily in a bad way. Much more vast than I had anticipated, and for some reason I also had assumed forever that the whole museum was underground, despite having seen on multiple occasions the buildings surrounding the square. I genuinely would look at the big pyramid and think 'damn, how do people get down into the museum from there' as though it were some sort of Spy Kids secret elevator. Somewhat disappointed by the revelation this was not the case, but would still like to go inside via the real, normal, unimaginative door some time. 


Post-Louvre I believe we went on a mission to find Notre Dame, but to be quite frank I think I was so cold that I had stopped caring. However, whenever the gram material is plentiful I can muster up an extra reserve of fighting spirit, so we walked along the Seine, like Harry and Donna from Mamma Mia. Although, unlike them, once it started to properly rain I was not laughing. I think that'll be because they were in love though and also went in Summer. Did you know Mamma Mia isn't on Australian Netflix? Because that was a horrible shock to me let me tell you that. Back to Paris. We hopped on and off some little islands in the Seine, happened upon some Christmassy markets and generally tried to avoid the rain as thoroughly as possible until I'd had quite enough and found somewhere to eat. I had a very ordinary burger. Sad times. Speaking of sad times, when we finally made it to Notre Dame there was one of the fugliest damn Christmas trees of my entire life smack bang in the middle of it. Except not EVEN smack bang in the middle, slightly off centre. And when I say fugly I mean sparse needles, overcompensated for with an excessive amount of I believe blue lights??? I don't know WHAT they were thinking but next time please hit me up Quasi and I will make sure ur prison home is decked out tastefully.

Had to be very innovative with my angles to crop out the tree, and also #whoops it got dark, but here it is. Scene of the crime. #RIPQuasimodosMum


Speaking of Quasimodo, Notre Dame is another location I got way too amped about. But I guess it makes more sense than the Moulin Rouge because 1. I actually like the Hunchback movie 2. it is from my childhood and 3. it's got badass gargoyles and just generally looks pretty boss. So I was very upset about the entire aesthetic being ruined by the tackiest tree of all, but still excited to be there. We also saw some people crowded around a patch of fenced off grass next to the church and went over to see what they were looking at and turns out it was just a swarm of rats scurrying around a bush so that was great. Thanks Paris. Love ur native fauna.


As this was but a mere weekend getaway, our time on Monday had to be spent wisely. I'm sure next time I'm there for a slightly more prolonged visit I'll get into properly exploring the city and actually soaking in the #culture (slash eating some snails and frogs because Emi, a girl I worked with who is actually from Paris, was very disappointed in me for not doing so this trip - though Aude, who is also from France, said those are foods for old rich people so who knows man). This time around, however, I was just on a mission to GET. THAT. SHOT. I mean VISIT. SIGNIFICANT. LANDMARKS. So we popped on the Metro and headed to the Arc de Triomphe.

The most notable part of this experience was the first ever occurrence of a stranger taking a photo where 1. Fiona and I don't look like cousins who don't really speak to each other but are being forced to hang out as part of some sort of Christmas present arranged by their grandparents and 2. neither of us look hideously deformed. Strangers offering to take photos is one of the most terrifying prospects a gal can encounter, because you think that everyone knows how to point and shoot but buddy. Buddy. Some of these people. Will frame your head in the bottom sixth of the photo, somehow manage to blur the whole thing beyond recognition and make you look like an actual living hill. My boyfriend is one of these people. But the lady who took the photo below was NOT and I was PLEASED.


Following that photographic triomphe, it was time. Time for the main event. The moment I'd waited for since the last time I went to Paris and saw it at night in the distance from a taxi and then never again. La Tour Eiffel, bitches. And booooyyyyy was I underwhelmed. The sky was grey, the trees were brown, there was fog all up in everybody's business and the hulking metal mass looming across the river was, to put it delicately, really very ugly. I was in a MOOD. I thought the Eiffel Tower was meant to be beautiful, and more importantly GREY, but this thing looked brown and even Fiona said it looked abnormally terrible that day and I was cold and the selfie lighting was horrible and the whole thing was a disaster. Until the clouds parted and the sun came out and I got some certainly acceptable photographs in front of a tower that had magically turned a much more pleasant shade and forgot all about the trauma.

Considering this is a structure widely associated with romance, I can't say it is particularly beautiful to behold up close. One might say it reminded one of an oil rig or an electricity tower, but one may also not say that for fear of causing unnecessary upset to either Francophiles or particular fans of large, industrial, power conducting structures. However, I do acknowledge that it serves its purpose as a location-indicating photographic prop, and am also told there is a bangin' view from the top. Just a bit sparse from the ground. No h8. At the very least it looks great in the distant background of all those photos bloggers post from their balconies at the Plaza Athénée.


Our final grand adventure before hopping back aboard the Eurostar was to Versailles, but that's a journey we'll go on together in another post. In the words of The 1975, I'd love to go to Paris again, although I suspect our motives for the sentiment may differ slightly as my interest is less in getting phenomenally marinated and complicating my love life, and more along the vein of getting some nice lil piccies of the Jardin des Tuileries when there are actual leaves on the trees. Potato tomato amirite guys. I can't say Paris has the same sort of place in my heart as, say, every city in Italy, but it's no longer somewhere I will actively avoid. That is in part due to the movie Midnight in Paris and the instagram account Paris In Three Months, but also to the fact I had a genuinely pleasant time and did not find the locals half as terrifying and hostile and the last time I was there. A shifty man did try and touch my backpack near the train station, but I karate chopped his arm and glared right in his eyes so no harm no foul, but yes, by that point I was ready to get back to London. So on the train we hopped, and under the channel we sped, all the way home. Hasta la vista, Paris. Je ne regrette rien.

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