Monday, 9 April 2012

Je Suis Arrieve en Paris!

The alarm went off at 6 this morning, not a favourable hour at any time but when you've spent the last 4 days in bed with a stomach bug, getting very little sleep 6 is particularly unwelcome. While Nick had a blissfully quick journey to Paris on the Eurostar, I had ahead of me 7 hours on a coach (after an hour and half on trains to get to Victoria). It is considerably cheaper to go on the coach, though, and, favouring being able to do more once here over I opted for Eurolines £60 return option, packed some food and books and settled in for the duration.

The coach was surprisingly roomy and had much more legroom than the Oxford Tube that I am so used to which is definitely an advantage on such a long journey. There were disadvantages, however, one major one being the driver's strange taste in music. Indeed, I started the journey annoyed that the woman next to me was playing the Beatles so loudly as she slept only to realise that it was the coach's stereo system I was hearing which over the coming hours would treat me and my fellow passengers to a mixture of 70s American, Spanish Euro-pop and Carmina Burana, The couple of opportunities I had to listen to another language during the journey were not much good for French practice as the driver was Spanish (as was the coach, whose signs advised 'Salida' instead of 'Exit' or 'Sortie') but it did reassure me that my Spanish is not as rusty as I might have thought...

Anyway, the journey to the tunnel was quick and painless and, after my passport was taken by a Gendarme ('He's going to bring that back right?...RIGHT?' went the panicking part of my brain), the coach drove into a beige plastic-looking tunnel with orange lighting that it seemed to barely fit into. Now, I'm not ashamed to say that I felt a little claustrophobic at this point...and the fact that I had no idea how long we would be in the tube worried me further. Once we were in, a metal shutter came down in front of and behind us and I judged from the slight rocking movement that we were off under the water.

30 ear popping minutes later we emerged on the other side of the channel and it was...raining. Oh well, c'est la vie! After a brief stop at Cite D'Europe (a large shopping centre that looked about as much fun as a 7 hour coach journey...oh wait...) were one hapless shopper exited, we were on the way to Paree. I thought that the journey through France would be interesting, perhaps some fun sights by the side of the motorway but let me tell you right now that a motorway is a motorway is a motorway. In fact, if it wasn't for the driving on the right and the occaisional French sign, we could have been in a drizzley, grey area of Warwickshire. The highlight of the motorway was the brief sighting of a sigh for Asterix land.

At 6 in the evening, or there abouts, I finally arrived at Gallieni bus station where Nick was waiting for me. After a visit to the hotel to drop bags and change out of sweaty coach clothes (yuck...) we headed out in search of dinner. We have the fortune to be near to the Rue Mouffetard which is home to market during the day (tomorrow...!) and has lots of restuarants along it serving traditional French fayre.

And what did I have for the first time in this little eateree? I'll give you a hint, it begins with E and involves some rather strange implements to eat it...

 Yes, that's right, I had escargot. And they were very tasty! I quite enjoyed the implements (pictures to be added ASAP) and the taste was not in the least bit slimy but a little like scallops. Nick had a lovely, if a tad too filling, onion soup and a steak while I tucked into Beouf Bourginon, which I have been dying to try since finishing reading Julie and Julia a week ago. It lived upto its reputation and, after a creme caramel apiece, we headed off to walk off some of the food and wine.

We wandered about a bit and soon came to the Pantheon, whose dome is the spitting image of St Paul's in London. Upon being prompted to turn around, I caught my first glimpse of the Tour Eiffel, shining away with its nightly light show. We also took in the Sorbonne and saw Notre Dame in the distance before heading back to the hotel for a well earned sleep, which is what I'm going to do now! After all, tomorrow is another Parisian day!

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