This trip I am about to lay out in front of you is a running diary. It’s from my own experiences with a few dotted in from the others on this journey.
I think I will do it this way.
I will wait until I have something to say on a particular area. This one is Paris (obviously) and I will do another for Normandy, and break it up in groups. I don’t think it serves a great purpose to start a new blog every day (although occasionally I will). So you will eventually see Day 1, 2 etc until we change locations. Why am I telling you this? So, if you’re interested in the blog, you can go back later and check for a later edition.
But I may change. For now, let us begin…
Our trip started on 28 May 2016 at the Adelaide Airport. A 9:15 am flight to Singapore on Singapore Airlines SQ278. Jane and I sat with extra leg room, which by the way is a God-send. There are certainly a few problems, like screaming annoying kids… It’s also a little colder than sitting back a little further with the other cattle, but we managed okay. The extra leg room really is a God-send. Did I say that already?
Prior to Flight SQ336 Singapore we moved to the Transit Lounge in Terminal 3 at Changi. For S$45 (about the same in AU$) each, we got to enjoy the relative quietness of the lounge. We also had a free alcoholic drink (yes other airports have it on tap), plus access to the Buffet, non-alcoholic drinks. But by far the best feature of the lounge was the ability to have a nice warm shower to freshen up after the 7+ hour flight and the 9 hour lay-over.
Eventually, we made our way to the gate for an hour or so before our plane was scheduled to depart. So we’ve been awake for about 18 hours at this stage and it was clear that delirium was setting in on my fellow travellers. For some reason they were trying to spot yellow clothing on anyone entering the Changi Airport Lounge. Don’t ask me why, but I’m happy to ask you the same question. I dare not ask them…
I was sitting there thinking this could be an opportunity to take a photograph for my 52 Week photography Challenge. Last week’s was “Landscape – Night Owl” which I had failed to capture. These challenges are a little less specific than one might expect and the inside of an airport was definitely a landscape in my eyes. I sure felt like a Night Owl. The following 3 images are ones that I took in that lounge around 11:10 p.m., an hour before take-off. A 13 hour journey awaits. Click here to go to my 52 Week Challenge
Sitting way back in the plane in the Bovine Class (practicing my French here), we were up the front of the back end of the plane, again with plenty of feet wiggle room. Same rules apply. Colder, people queuing up in front of you for the W.C. and an annoying tray table that unfolds from the armrest. But it was still worth the extra handful of $’s. Sleep.. Sleep.. I don’t sleep well on the plane. Jane does a lot better than me, and probably equal to many. I think she grabbed about 5 hours sleep (1 more than me), although it is always broken.
We got in at Charles de Gaulle airport a few minutes late (we left Changi late as well) quite tired. Luggage, a clothes change and a coffee later, [tip] we got our iPhone Sim Cards from the “Relay” booth on Level 1. €35 each for 14 days, 60 minutes talk and 2GB of data.
As we approach the taxi rank, we get stopped by a ‘sprier’ (and not the last time either), trying to sell us a cheaper ride to the country’s capital. We bite, and we rode. Sahed was a lovely fella actually. For €80 all 6 of us and our entourage of bags got to the Gare de Nord train station so we could put our bags into hibernation for a few hours whilst we made our way to the Catacombs.
And we eventually got there. Arrived at 11:55 a.m. and waited in line for 2 1/2 hours! Jane and Tracy went to the apartment to check in. This is our first accomodation for the trip (outside of the luxurious sofa’s we had on our A380-800 Airbus).
The Catacombs of Paris
Whilst Jane and Tracy were busy heading back, we did our walk through the catacombs of Paris. What an amazing sight. I thoroughly recommend this tour, however I do have a bit of information for those wanting to go through it.
- Get there early. A 2 1/2 hour wait is a long time. Get there before it opens and prepare to wait for an hour or so.
- Don’t trust online companies that promise a short cut to get in. We saw some who went straight to the start (based on a promise and an internet purchased ticket, and they had to join the queue.
- You CAN use a group called Wait4Me. If they are around, and they are already in line, you can pay them (about €25 per person) to jump the queue. Wait until they get near the end, and others will come to you and ask you if you want the opportunity. I don’t necessarily condone this queue jumping, but it can save you a long wait.
- This is not for those with any kind of walking handicap. When you finally get in, there is a long descent down steep spiral stairs. 130 steps to be exact. And an even more steep 83 steps up at the end. About 2km of walking through tunnels and experiencing the macabre but extraordinary skulls and bones that line the walls.
- It is simply just an interesting walk unless you hire the audio guide at the start (for another €17). Is it worth it? That’s up to you. It’s an extremely interesting part of Parisian History. And you can either enjoy the ambience as you walk through, or have a history lesson at the same time.
We finished the day and took a train back to the Gare du Nord, picked up our bags for a trip back to the Apartment. Again, we were spruiked and took a Mini Cab for the 4 of us and the 6 lots of luggage. We paid much more than we should, but being a very tired group who had been awake for more than 30 hours (with barely any sleep), we just wanted to get back. I’m not tell you how much we paid!
Spag Bol for dinner and an early night. Most of us hit-the-hay at about 8pm and didnt wake up until around the 7:30 a.m. mark. What a day!
Each location I stay at I intend to photograph the kitchen of the place we are sleeping. The kitchen for almost everyone is the “heart of the home” and they will vary greatly from a full chefs kitchen (hopefully) to a kettle and a bar fridge at some. This is a part of the kitchen of our first location in the very nicely accommodated apartment in Paris.
On our Day 1 (our first full day in Paris) we had terrible weather. It literally rained ALL day. I don’t think it stopped once, but being prepared with rain coats and umbrellas, we remained relatively dry. But we had planned and completely our tour around Paris on the Hop on Hop off Bus with L’Open Tour. Jane and I have used then several times in the past, and today was a trip along some of the routes they provide. We started on the Green Route which takes you through the central area of Paris and many of it’s wonderful sights. Moved to the yellow route after our regular stop of at the Illy Cafe in the Opera district. the yellow route takes you to Montmartre and famous locations like the Moulin Rouge, Sacré Coeur and of course the arty and sleazy side of Paris. I’m not going to link it here, but a highlight for some was the “MUSÉE DE L’ÉROTISME”. I’ll let you google that one yourself.
For me the highlight of the day was a stop at Sacré Coeur Basilica. We stayed right next door to this place on our trip in 2010. We could see it every time we climb the Eiffel Tower or the Arch de Triomphe. But I had never been. A lot of stairs at the front and not easy for those who find stairs troubling. But there is a watch out for those who try and rip you off, as they all but force you to wear one of their crappy string bracelets.
But after finally arriving at the top, we entered the Basilica and walked around this amazing place. There’s plenty of information on Sacré Coeur and it’s importance of Paris, and I won’t repeat it here. I will however provide this link to their website and you can learn some of the history if you wish to. It does remind me of C’était un rendezvous (translated into ‘It was a meeting’). This was a film made by Claude Lelouch in 1976 where someone (possibly he) drove the streets of Paris from a tunnel to Sacré Coeur to meet his lover. Lelouch was allegedly arrested after this film was made, but it’s not known if this was indeed fact.
The 8 minute film can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/34039780
Unfortunately returning home we were not treated to anything quite as haste. I swear it was a couple of hours until we arrived back at the lodgings. My experience is that mid afternoon, the city is busy, the traffic is relentless and the drivers are crazy. I think at this time in the day, you get to somewhere reasonably close (maybe 2-3 kilometres away) and you get off of the bus and walk, if you can.
However when we did return, some Fromage and still warm, fresh baguettes are the ideal finish to a drive through the streets of Paris.