Our stay in Paris

So, as I said before, we had quite some problems finding a way to get ti Paris, but finally we found a way to get there after talking to many incompetant employees. We thought that was it. Fat chance. We were told that our overnight train to Milan was not a REAL overnight train, in the sense that there are no couchettes (mini beds), and no rooms to sleep in. We were told that it was just a regular old train, and that we could not make reservations, and that we just show up, and grab a seat. Unfortunately, the employee who gave us this information proved to be incompetant as well.

Everybody had a reservation except for us. I mean EVERYBODY. There were rooms in the train, and every room was full. Finally, we found a room with a bunch of nice American girls, who told us they were getting off shortly, and that Jen and I could then grab their seats. We looked on the door to see if there were any reservations in that rooms, and there were not, so we waited outside their room on these pathetic little foldout seats. An hour later (at about midnight), these girls got off, so Jen and I took their seats. 10 minutes later, as we had already begun falling asleep, a fat Italian man came into the room with his family, pointed to his ticket violently, and made me get out of my seat, and out of the room. Of course, I wasn’t wearing my glasses, and figured he (or one of his family members) had a reservation for my seat. So I went back to the stupid little fold-out seat.

A few minutes later, the fat Italain man realized that he was supposed to have kicked Jen out of her seat, and not me (note: he had no idea Jen and I were together), but he did not bother to rectify the problem. He basically just shut the door in my face. About an hour and a half later, many people got off at a stop (about 1:30AM, possibly even later). So I went searching for a room to sleep in. Everybody in all the rooms, including the rooms that had people stretched out over several seats, claimed that there was no space. Right…. Finally some kind person admitted they had space in their room, and I slept the night.

Finally we arrived in Milan to catch our train to Paris. Unfortunately, our train was 20 minutes late. The woman who booked the Milan-Paris train gave us only a 15 minute period to catch the train to Paris, so we missed it, and had to wait for the next one. The problem was that we had reservations in first class for the train we missed. So we went around to about 5 different employees of the train station, all of who were most unwilling to help us. We finally found the one friendly person we met in all of Italy, who basically transferred our reservation to the next train to Paris. This whole process took about 2 hours. Isn’t Italy wonderful?

We were pretty exhausted when we got to Paris, and the weather was really crappy, so we went straight to our hostel in the Latin Quarters, and just walked around a bit. We stopped at a place for dinner, where the food was quite delicious. However, we asked something about a pourboire (tip), and he had no clue what we were talking about. Does anybody know how to say “tip” in France French?

The next day, we started out early, and went to the catacombs, which is pretty much a mass grave where they did weird artistic things with the bones. It’s pretty crazy; these bones are stacked about a metre an a half high on both sides of the hall you walk through, and the hall goes on for several kilometres. I believe they said there were a few hundred thousand people buried down there.

We then went to the Pantheon, where we climbed to the top (ack, stairs), and got a beautiful view of Paris. This city is absolutely enourmous, we couldn’t see the end of it, no matter which diresction we looked. We also went to the basement, where, among other people, Victor Hugo was buried. Victor Hugo is the author of the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and of Les Miserables. Interestingly, at one point in history, Notre-Dame was falling apart, and was to be torn down. But Victor Hugp brought interest back to it after having written the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, thereby single-handedly saving the church.
Then we went to Eiffel Tower with the intention of going up. After realizing that the walk was a little long, that the elevator cost 11 Euros, and that we had just got a view of Paris from above the Pantheon, we decided not to go up.

The weather on this day was even colder than the previous day, and it was windy and raining a bit, but we decided to do a bike tour anyway. Most bizarre thing - everybody who worked at this palce was Texan. It was an OK bike tour (nothing beats our Berlin bike tour), and for the last hour of the tour, we got to take a little tour boat, and had some free wine. Ah, le Paris. Also of note during the bike tour:

  • I almost ran over a poor French man as I was riding my bike and observing a monument to my left. Not a bright idea.
  • France has an “Office de la langue Francaise,” to preserve the French language. Our tour guide was quite amused by this, and we were like “Uh, we have one of those too.” Of course, we said this all while thinking “The French are nuts.”
  • They have a replica of the Statue of Liberty on the Seine river. Apparently this is because the statue was a gift to the Americans, so for soem reason, the French decided to build their own miniature version.

The next day we went to Notre-Dame, which was very nice. We went inside, and also to the top(ack, more stairs) where we saw gargoyles. Gargoyles are cool. We went all the way up (even more stairs) to the bell tower, where poor old Quasi Modo lived, and rang the bells for his entire life.

We also went down for a tour of the sewer systems, whis wasn’t particularly exciting, then went to spend the rest of the day at the Louvre. They have some really amazing art but the place is way way too big. I tried to take a picture of the Mona Lisa (without the flash), but a security card knocked the camera out of my hand, and gave me a look like he was going to kill, so I swiftly put my camera back in my pocket.

The enxt day we went to Saint-Chapelle, which is famous for their stained glass, or more specifically, that they have the entire story of the Bible told in stained glass. Sicne the weather was still cold, ugly, and not so sunny, the stained glass wasn’t nearly as impressive as it probably could ahve been.

We then went to Musee d’Orsay, which also had some great art. Lots of Monets, Van Gogh, and other famous artists. It wasn’t as nice as the Louvre, but at least we were able to walk around the whole thing.

Finally. on our last day we went to Chateau Versailles. The coolest part was in one room, they had paintings of every single battle that France had won in their history. We aslo went to Champs Elysees and to Arc de Triomphe, where we decided to not walk up the steps, as we were all steps’s out.

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We were supposed to end our trip in Paris, take a train to London, stay there for the day, then fly back to Montreal from London. Unfortunately, all the trains to London were booked, so we had to book a flight. So we booked a flight with EasyJet for twice the price that the train would ahve cost (150 Eur each). We thought it was all settled.

But when we got to the Paris airport to catch our flight to London, the flight had been cancelled due to some mechanical failure, and there was no other flight to London for 36 hours, at which point we would have missed our flight back to Montreal. The people at EasyJet were quitre uncooperative, and offered us nothing else. So in the end, we had to pay full price for a ticket from Paris straight back to Montreal, and we lost the money we paid for our London->Montreal flight. So we got home a day early, missed the play that we had purchased tickets for inLondon, and lost a lot of money, but we got home, and that’s all that mattered :P

Once we got home, I phoned EasyJet to complain, and they claimed that they would have booked us free of charge onto a flight with another airline to London. This really made me angry, because the EasyJet guy in Paris had told us the exact opposite. He said that they would not deal with other airlines. Period. I now feel that I was completely justified in having yelled at him.

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