It’s hard to believe I’ve been here a whole month – in the sense that time has flown, and in the sense that I’ve done so much it’s hard to believe it’s only been a month. Most of the other graduates are gone, having completed their much shorter training, so that leaves the IT grads here to get through the project as the weather goes steadily downhill.
Paris first, though: The city was awesome, the wine was fine, the french women gorgeous, and the company was excellent, making it an all-round perfect weekend trip. The Eurostar is a smooth easy ride, and the lack of lead-time means that it’s as quick as catching a plane. For all the hype, Paris is initally a little “ordinary”, in that it looks much like any other European city.
But then you turn your head, and poking between two buildings is the Eiffel, and suddenly you’re entranced. It’s not like Sydney or New York, where the tallest building is integrated into the skyline (post-2001 for NY, obviously). It’s a little like Tokyo Tower, but more so – the Eiffel really stands out, because it’s got nothing near it of comparable height. I probably took at least 50 photos of it just because it was so “there” with nothing in the way (note to self: remove multitude of exact-same photos). At night, it’s even more of a wonder.
First place visited, following lunch by the banks of the Seinne, was Notre Dame, right in the middle of the city. I can imagine it being quite impressive standing in the middle of the city as the hour rang out from Notre Dame, and was repeated by church bells throughout the city. Considering when it was built, it would have been quite imposing – still is, really, and the intricacy of the decorations carved into stone make you think of how little effort is spent these days on the things that were once so valued. Big buildings like that now have to prove their economic worth, and decoration would simply raise the barrier; as a fan of minimalist styles, that’s an idea I can agree with, but you can’t help but be impressed by the work.
Following that, and lunch, we headed to the Latin Quarter to find our hostel, and got throughly lost. Getting lost in a foreign speaking country is never the most reassuring experience, but it seems to happen with some regularity with me, and I’ve come to appreciate it as a way to get to see bits of the city I might not normally see.
Eventually we found our hostel, dumped the bags and raced north to Moulin Rouge to see if we could get tickets. Europeans though don’t seem to share our view on acceptable clothing standards, and the only session we could turn up to with jeans was sold out till Wednesday. Natch. A second Lunch nearby eased our worries though, and we headed to the Eiffel Tower by way of Arc de Triomphe (no that’s probably not spelt right). What was intended as a short stop turned into a little extended excursion, as the views from the top of the Arc were quite nice. Eiffel loomed large though, and so we headed over there too get even higher up the Paris skyline…
As we arrived though, a thunderstorm swept in from the south, and the tower, being essentially a giant lightning rod, probably wasn’t the most sensible place to be. We stuck around waiting for a friend to come down, thinking we’d go up the next morning, but before he came down the tower lit up, night descended and suddenly it looked… gorgeous.
The next day, we failed at getting up early but still managed to get to the Louvre in time to avoid the massive lines. Impressive collection – you could spend weeks if you chose to. The Mona Lisa was, invariably, a disappointment – it might be a technically briliant painting, but … well, the other 100,000 people seeing it at the same time as you is a little off-putting.
In the afternoon, we did the Catacombs – very very cool =D I spent half the time wondering where the spines were, and the other half feeling a little guilty because it was basically walking through people’s graves. It’s a morbid person who uses skulls to create an arch and cross in a wall of arm & leg bones, I tell you.
Ended the day sitting in a cafe for a good hour chewing the fat with the people I went with, before the Eurostar home. I do wish I lived in London so I could do this more often…
(photos over in the gallery)