Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: I. Paris, Versailles

This is part of a series I have been working on. The Introduction is here.



A few days into Paris—before the Australians, the honeymooners, the college kids, and the life-traveller; after the three asshole partiers, Matthieu from Montreal, and the nameless guy from Newport Beach—I decided to check out the Palace of Versailles. It was outside of the city and I was told to set aside a whole day. I took an RER train, nervously, I might add. This was still my first experience in navigating a non-English speaking public transit system that wasn’t as easily colour-coded as the Métro. I had been nervous about following the map from the train station to the palace, even if it was only a few blocks.

I didn’t have to be.

Continue reading “Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: I. Paris, Versailles”

Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: I. Paris, the Five Types of Travellers

This is part of a series I have been working on. The Introduction is here.

the five types of travellers


My first week in Paris was a crash course in backpacking. The first day, wandering from my hostel along Rue Moufftard down to Place St. Michel, took me onto the Ile de la Cite, towards Notre Dame.

I’d been expecting a cathedral, damn it.

And that’s what I got.

Continue reading “Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: I. Paris, the Five Types of Travellers”

The Final Countdown, Paris-style

I’m on my last full day in Paris right now, and suffering through a bit of a red wine hangover. For that last few nights we had an awesome group in my hostel room, two Californian college guys, Ben and Michael, two Australian radiographers, one of whom lives in London, Lou and Claire, and another Canadian-Hungarian from just outside Niagara Falls, Attila. With yesterday being Michael’s birthday, we took in a nice leisurely French dinner (everyone but Ben, that is, as he was incredibly hungover from the night before) with all the classics: red wine, baguettes, escargot and creme brulee. After that, we did as we heard the Parisians do, which is buy several bottles of wine and an assortment of French cheeses and sit on the Pont des Arts, the pedestrian-only bridge from the last episode of Sex and the City, the one Carrie and Big are on when they get together at the end, with a bunch of other Parisians drinking wine and eating cheese. It was great! There were people playing music and we met two French guys named Frederique and Marc. We (me and the hostel group, not me and the two French guys) staggered back to our hostel afterwards and all got crepes. Brilliant!

Anyway, on the tourist side of things, I’ve been getting around. I’ve seen the following places and subsequently rank them on a scale of one-to-ten: Eiffel Tower (5), Louvre (7), Musee de Moyen Age (Museum of the Middle Ages) (6), Notre Dame (8), Hotel des Invalides, including Napoleon’s tomb (6), the Catacombs (9), la Pere Lachaise cemetary, with the graves of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Heloise & Abelard and others (9), Jardins de Tuileries (6), Chateux de Versailles (8) as well as Marie Antoinette’s estate that is on it (10)! There are still a few places left to see, of course, but I do have today and I do have a couple of days in October when Bri gets here. However, the biggest recommendations: drinking wine on the bridge, and anything associated with death, really.

Still Not Over Jet Lag

Well today was interesting. I wandered around for a while, feeling exactly like a tourist. I know I stuck out like a gangrenous extremity. I made my way over to Notre Dame, which looked exactly like a postcard. I think the fact that it is surrounded by city on either side and seems sort of stuck in the middle of the rest of the world somewhat lessens the impact you think it should have. But that aside, it was surrounded my tourists, so this made me feel a little less like a Paris noob. The line to look inside was hideously long, I’m surprised that there wasn’t a wait time posted like at Disneyland.

Needless to say, I didn’t bother. From there I wandered a little more, and took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower, which was also sort of anti-climatic. I think a took the wrong approach, however. The RER station I got off of was at the rear side, rather than up from the Champs de Mars, so rather than seeing the giant open park with the glorious tower behind, my first impression was a little bit of it poking through the trees, then suddenly, BAM: the base. The entire area beneath it was paved and hundreds of people were milling around. There were lineups for each set of stairs, lineups for bank machines, lineups for… the sake of lineups. No, forget Notre Dame, this was like Disneyland.

It felt like it couldn’t have been the real Eiffel Tower, but a theme park replica or something. I didn’t really have that ‘Oh my god, I’m in Paris’ feeling that I was expecting. The other people I met in the hostel think I’m nuts for staying for a whole week. Apparently you can see everything you need to in a couple of days, so we’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll ditch out of here early. My hostel is good though, even though it does have a lock out time from 11 to 4, so it pretty much forces you to get up an at ’em. I’ve been really tired today; jet lag, I’m assuming. I slept through breakfast- a mistake I won’t make tomorrow. I almost nodded off on the Metro- a mistake I’m glad I didn’t make. I think tomorrow, the Louvre.

The Eagle has Landed

Sorry I wasn’t able to come up with a more original blog title, but I’ve been up for well over 24 hours and still haven’t crashed yet (but surely it’s to come). Anyway, despite my flight being delayed for over three hours, and my bank issues with my line of credit (I will not recapitulate that near-nightmare here), and yada yada yada, I’m here. In Paris. So far all I’ve seen from the ground, rather than underground- as in my adventure on the metro, is the one block from the metro station to my hostel and from my hostel to a kebab place. Anyway, I’m sure my jet lag will sink in sometime in the middle of the night (it’s nearly eleven at night here right now), and tomorrow morning I will have to be wrenched from bed with an oversize novelty spatula. I think tomorrow I might just have a wander. Or maybe see Versailles. Who knows?