Having the chance to explore Paris without having to get up before the crack of dawn is something that I’ve not had the chance to do before so when we arrived on the champs élysées at breakfast time on Wednesday without feeling like it should really be bedtime, the first thing to do was to have some petit dejeuner. All of this was happening because of my desire to follow my favourite band Iron Maiden on a small part of their European summer tour but this trip was to be split into two very distinct parts with all things maiden related taking place on the Wednesday, before a more gentle paced stroll around the city on Thursday before the last flight home later in the day. I’ve only been to Paris on two previous occasions the first of which was as a kid with my folks, and again just about eighteen months ago on one of our crazy day away trips but this time we would be able to spend a little bit more time seeing this city in a bit more detail. Sitting on the champs élysées at rush hour is a bit like sitting on the hard shoulder of the M25 as the quantity of traffic going past is huge and relentless and any attempt to get a half decent photo of either the road itself or the arc de triumphe at the top is utterly pointless unless you want the picture to have either a truck, coach or lorry in it as well. And even if none of these things are present you can bet your bottom dollar that another tourist will step in front of you the moment that you press the shutter button anyway. On our previous trip I made the mistake of thinking that the best way to walk to the Eiffel tower was to take the scenic route, which whilst being a very lovely walk was also the longest walk in the world ever and one that the French foreign legion themselves would have mutinied over if they had done the same trip, so this time before setting off I downloaded a map which turned a 3hour walk into a 30 minute one which was far more satisfactory.
Although the object of our attention was indeed the Eiffel tower, it was more the view of it that I was interested in as opposed to going to the tower itself. I had read before we left home that by far and away the best view of it was from the Trocadero and along the way we began to see why. The towers world famous top begins to appear, looming over the tops of all the apartment blocks and quaint little squares as we get closer to it and despite all the usual pictures you see being of an unimpeded view, I really liked the partial views of the tower that this walk offered us and got some really good photos as a result. Then as we walked round the corner of the trocadero we saw why this is regarded as such a great place to go to. A bit like the first time I turned to my right and saw Time square in New York and had by breath taken away, the view of one of the worlds most iconic buildings in its full, unimpeded glory is really such a special sight, so we decided to stop here for a little while, take in the view and take on some water too as the temperature was beginning to get up. One of the other really nice things about being here at this time was that the crowds weren’t to big and we were able to take some great photos and even had people coming up to us asking if they could take ours too. It was all very civilised indeed and even the looky looky men were not to persistent in trying to sell their €1 replicas of the tower and went away when asked to. The remaining part of our first day was spent getting prepared for the concert at the end of the day but the following day we had some new places to check out.
Paris has an image of being a romantic city and I’m sure that one day if they ever get rid of the persistent smell of toilets, this reputation could be even more enhanced. This aside, one of the things that Cally wanted to see was lovers bridge, a bridge that links the Louvre and the Ponts des art on the other side of the river Seine. If there were no other reason to go here other than the view from this bridge, it would still be worth going as you can see many of Paris’s most famous landmarks from here. But what this bridge has become famous for are the padlocks secured to the chain fence that runs along both sides. It seems that what a couple in love are expected to do is to buy a padlock and write their names on it and then lock it on to the fence and in a symbol of never ending love, simultaneously throw the keys into the river thus ensuring their love will remain locked forever. So we did. I’m not normally into this kind of stuff but it was certainly an impressive sight, seeing what was probably in excess of a million of these tokens of love there for all the world to see. I did read that the local government had them taken down and cleared a few years ago but the people of France are not normally ones to take bowing down to authority lightly and they quickly started re appearing soon after. We put ours close down to the ground in what we hope will help prevent them being vandalised as many of the others appear to have been. We also chose to put the date of our engagement on ours.
So with only a few hours left before we needed to head to the airport for our flight home, we decided that we didn’t want to head up to Montmartre like we had planned to as our feet had pretty much had enough of the constant travelling, so instead we went to the louvre and spent a few hours there taking in the atmosphere and sitting in the shade after having been in the sun all day. Whether we were just lucky or whether it was just a quiet day, I don’t know but all of Paris seemed quieter that I remember it having been in the past and the Louvre was no different. Sure it was impossible to take a photo of something nice without getting a fellow tourist in the shot as well, but by and large it was a very chilled out hour or two as we spent it just resting our feet and watching the world go by. We also decided that before we headed home we needed to get some food and drink and we therefore walked round the corner to a nearby cafe. Maybe it was because I was wearing my maiden T-shirt or maybe it was because the waiter was in a mood,but he virtually ignored us all the time we were sitting there waiting to order but in a way I’m glad he did, as a quick glance at the menu showed that to eat there we would be paying €20 for a sandwich and €9 for a beer. So when he was inside and before he could comeback and take our order, we legged it over the road to a mini mart and bought beer and snacks for a total of €11 and sat in the town square eating them, enjoying our unplanned picnic in in the open air and just a few hundred feet from the hotel de louvre, one of Paris’s most up market eateries.
Sadly though, the time had come to start making our way back to the airport and back home. I can’t say that I have exactly fallen in love with Paris but I do like it,and like it enough to keep an open mind about going back one day, but there are other places that I’d like to see first before doing so. Like many major capital cities, it’s eye wateringly expensive if you want to enjoy it to the max but equally if you want to do it on a budget then you can still have a good time. There is an air of elegance about it in both it’s architecture and indeed it’s inhabitants seem to be fully dressed in top designer clothes. The food lived up to it’s reputation with even it’s burgers tasting better than they do at home but someone needs to go over there and show them how to make a proper coffee because they sure as hell don’t. I only ordered the one while we were there and it arrived in what looked like a thimble with a handle on in, worse still was my decision to put two sugar cubes in it turning it into some kind of syrupy black liquid. What I will concede though is that this is not just the best drink to have in order to overcome a minor hangover,it is also the best thing ever to give you a sudden rush of energy,as after drinking it I wanted to run down the road screaming at pensioners. We achieved all we wanted to do on this trip and will no doubt go back another time, maybe for a more leisurely break but there will be other places on that list before Paris, but in one small corner of this beautifully maintained capital city famed for its romance, is a padlock with mine and Cally’s name on it secured to the bridge of love, hopefully forever.