Bienvenue à Paris

Hello Paris! After taking two more final exams, some non-stop cleaning and packing for my place in Toronto (which I will not go back to, even after Europe), and just being so busy that I haven’t really had time to think about this trip… Well, I’m in Paris!

We arrived at CDG airport at around 9:30 AM, and took a taxi back to the city center because we didn’t really know where we were going. The airport is far! Cost us about 70e for 3 people. Public transport still wouldn’t be cheap, but maybe around half of that? Anyway, this was probably a good idea since we weren’t familiar with the city yet.

CDG airport was impressive. I remember being to the San Francisco airport over a decade ago and I thought it was huge. I want to say CDG is even bigger, but honestly, I don’t really remember the SF airport anymore so I can’t compare them fairly. Anyhow, with 6 terminals and shaped in this huge roundabout, there’s no way you can say it’s unimpressive when you see it. If I’m not mistaken, there is a Concorde replica on display in front of the CDG airport. I only passed by it in the taxi and wasn’t quick enough to snap a picture, but judging by the delta-wing, I’d guess it’s the Concorde.

After dropping off our bags, we set off! We decided to take the subway this time. Books of 10 t+ tickets are sold at 14.1e, a bit of a discount from the 1.8e each. Day tickets are 11.15e, and I find that there’s no way you would be able to take that many trips anyway. Plus, I like to walk around the city. When you’re underground, you see nothing.

I was the one to lead and I pointed us to Pont Marie station. From there, we just walked… and walked… and walked some more. We explored the two islands along the Seine, Ile St-Louis and Ile de la Cite. We saw a smaller love lock bridge (Pont de l’Archevêché), next to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. We didn’t go into the cathedral though; didn’t feel like lining up.

Funny thought about the Notre-Dame Cathedral; I literally realized after leaving the area, hey, isn’t this where Quasimodo lived in the Hunchback of Notre Dame? That’s a movie I grew up with, and something I should totally know, but it isn’t until you see it for yourself that it actually clicks.

We walked around a very tourist-y area south of those islands, all lined up with food and drink and flooded with people. A lot of places were closed because May 1st is a holiday, but that area was lively and well. I really wanted to see the bookstore Shakespeare and Company, and we found it, but it was closed as well. So maybe we’ll go back tomorrow?

My mom was attracted to this alleyway. She likes to take the road less taken as well! That’s where I get my adventurous spirit from 🙂

Lined along the Seine River are these stalls that people set up every morning to attract the huge market of tourists. Even today, on a public holiday, I would say about half of these stalls were open. On the south shore, there were more books, arts, and cards. On the north side, there were more flowers. Near the love lock bridge, obviously there were locks. It was interesting to see the pattern of these stalls.

Next, we walked north, past the two islands, and all the way to Centre Pompidou. I wasn’t actually interested in walking inside, but I had saw this on the Amazing Race Canada previously and I just wanted to take a look. It’s a very interesting building – this one modern place in the middle of all these old-fashioned streets of Paris. Next to this place was a chapel that we also stepped inside for a look.

I am so easily fascinated. Even the public toilets are interesting. (I didn’t go inside for a look, but I would imagine them to be a lot nicer than those in HK).

Most of the places I’ve seen in the city center of Paris are about 5 or 6 storeys high – nothing much taller, and nothing much shorter. I like that you can actually see the sky, unlike in Hong Kong. But I guess they also purposely keep the historic buildings around so the city looks the way it does. In a sense, it kind of feels like the Venetian hotel… not literally, because obviously the Venetian replicates Venice, but the fact that it’s just “put out for show”.

The northern side of Paris, right next to the Seine, also reminds me of Shanghai. That’s where all the stores area (you know, the same brands you see everywhere), and that’s what you would see at the main shopping area of Shanghai as well. As you walk along that main shopping street all the way out to the Bund, you see the same stores and also housed in beautifully old buildings. Not to mention all the bikes and electric scooters you see around both cities!

We also stumbled across this random basketball tournament taking place, with a carousel and a few stands. It’s so cool to imagine these very ‘normal everyday’ activities taking place in the middle of majestic Paris.

Our final stop for the day was the Palais Royal, and of course we saw the Louvre and the huge garden behind it. It’s not even a palace for the king himself, but it was still quite impressive. And you don’t have to go all the way to Versailles to see this palace, so that’s cool.

And because I try to keep familiar faces (aside from my own) off this public blog, this is the only picture of me I have to show my audience:

By that time, we were all tired from both walking and jet lag, so we headed back. The subway station we get off at is Tolbiac, and around this area is a large community of Chinese and Vietnamese people, or at least so it seems. There are Asian supermarkets and restaurants all over the place!

Thoughts… well, lots of people have told me that “Paris is overrated and Italy is much more beautiful than they expected”. I can see where they come from, but you can’t take away credit from Paris. It has the history and the buildings to deserve what its established; it’s just that when you go into a city with super high expectations, you’ll be disappointed.

I do kind of regret picking Paris as my first stop. On top of the difficulties in finding your way and not knowing where to go, you also need to fight with the language barrier. Yes, lots of people speak English in the Paris city center (and you hear a ton of other languages too, with the huge population of tourists around this city!), but once you head away from that area, it gets exponentially harder to find your way using English. The French that we were required to learn in grade school only got me so far… I can recognize specific words here and there, but not even enough to ask for directions or place an order at a restaurant.

Paris is an easy city to get lost in. Compared to Toronto, the typical North American ‘planned gridlock-type city’, well Paris is definitely the opposite. Intersections are not all perpendicular, and in fact, not even all 4-ways! Some have multiple junctions and just random cars coming from every direction. If you’re driving, there are a bunch of one-way roads that you can’t turn onto. The one thing that seems to be a bit better about Paris (compared to Hong Kong) is that at least their roads are straight, even if their intersections are messed up. That means if you’re heading north, as long as you continue along that road, you’ll still be heading north. This isn’t true in Hong Kong or Japan (as I’ve learned by unforgettable experience).

I don’t see many new developments in this city, if at all. Compare this to Vancouver, Toronto, or Hong Kong (the 3 cities that I’m most familiar with), where you have new condos being erected literally all the time. Seriously, every time I leave for a while and go back to any of these places, you have some old places being torn down and new places being built in place. I guess Paris just values its history (and tourism sector) more than the revenue it can generate from building new apartments… and rightfully so; I mean, you can’t buy history, right?

I like this city, but at the same time, I’m expecting another city to be my favourite. Maybe I would like it more if we actually got to see the sun. Nonetheless, Paris definitely majestic and beautiful. I’m looking forward to another good day!

One response to “Bienvenue à Paris

  1. Pingback: Twenty-fifteen | Adventures of a Wandering Flower·

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