Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bonjour mon amis!

Welcome to... Paris! City of lights! (and, um, a lot of litter. what the heck?!)

The past two days have been WAY too busy, so I'm just glad that we successfully got through the Paris metro and checked in to our hostel on rue de Crimee, just west of Pont Crimee.

Quick review, yesterday we used the London Pass to get in to a tour of the Globe Theatre (highly recommended), St. Paul's Cathedral (way highly recommended), the Tower of London (highly recommended), and the Tower Bridge (waste of time).

Yeah, I was surprised, the Tower Bridge is far more interesting to simply look at than it is to visit. Going to the Globe Theatre was like a Shakespearian pilgrimmage, so if that's your interest, you must do it. St. Paul's Cathedral was simply MONUMENTAL. I cannot get over it. It's like giants worship there. However, I will say that I was more impressed by the stained glass work at the Bath Abbey.

The Tower of London is a complete anachronism. A real medieval castle in the middle of London. Even amongst many very old, historic structures, it stands out as from a completely earlier time. I mean, the central White Tower was built by William the Conquerer -- still standing 964 years later. And most of it was finished by the year 1400. And the Crown Jewels cannot be missed. The strangest item had to be William's golden Coronation Spoon. Almost a thousand years old, and it looks brand new. They actually walk you through a giant two-room safe.

So on to Paris. I'll try to be brief.

Last night, we took the train to Portsmouth. I wouldn't say we got "lost", but we were given some very poor directions with badly estimated walking time. The police helped redirect us as we walked in pitch black darkness along the shorefront. And then a bit later we finally got a taxi. Then this morning we went to the wrong ferry, and had to take another taxi to the correct port. We made it right at check-in time, which was good, because the ferry left way early.

We landed near Caen, France around 10am, then took the train to Bayeux to see Normandy. Which was basically closed, because it's Sunday. We still could have seen the Bayeux Tapestry (google it), and Omaha Beach, but the train station didn't have lockers, and the buses weren't running. So we said, "forget this. Let's go to Paris and rest." That was a good idea.

By the time the train arrived in Paris, we had strongly realized that if you take the SNCF (France national rail), you need to reserve a seat ahead of time. Or you will have to stand. For a long, loooong time. From there, we figured out enough French to communicate the purchase of the metro tickets and navigated the metro to the hostel.

Two things: One, I was really glad we built our subway skills in London first, so we understood what the metro was trying to make us do. Second, the hostel (St. Christopher's Paris) is like an oasis of a Paris littered with trash all over the ground. It's the only place so far in all of France that I've seen that isn't sketch. I hope it's not like that around the Louvre and Notre Dame tomorrow. I'm kinda "homesick" for London.


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