Paris – #BarrellEuroTrip

Posted on December 25, 2014 in Life

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As this is a very long blog we have added a gallery of our photos at the end.

Paris Day One (19/12)

Arrival

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It was time to leave Amsterdam, on any other day it would be hard to tear us away but given Paris was the next stop we were keen to jump on the train. We arrived at Amsterdam Central at 1030 to ensure we had everything right having never caught an international train before. We were quite surprised that the train was no hassle, comfy and a great way to unwind, though travelling backwards took a while to adjust.

Traveling by train also allowed us to see some of the country side as we saw countless windmills and wind turbines. While travelling we also saw parts of Brussels and I think it’s safe to say it’s not a place we will be rushing to visit any time soon.

The train took approximately 3 hours to travel from Amsterdam to Paris and to pass the time I watched the latest Brooklyn Nine Nine, Bobs Burgers and also Let’s Be Cops. Jess watched the latest Once Upon Time, Bobs Burgers and The Middle. Once we arrived in Paris it seemed weird that we were simply allowed to step off the train and arrive in a new country without any immigration/customs, maybe Europe is a trusting continent? We jumped off the train and headed towards the M4 line then had to jump off and walk to the M8 line which would deliver us right outside out hotel. Our first experience of the Paris train system was unbelievably easy even though everything was in French, so we are confident to now get around Paris in the days to come and are sure that we will be able to get around other cities later in our trip also. (Most importantly New York, it doesn’t seem that daunting now.) The trip from Paris Nord to our hotel took approximately 25 minutes and though at times we were squashed due to the Japanese rush hour (about 20-30 got on at one stop and filled the carriage – much to the delight of the French people on board.)

Splendid Hotel Tour Eiffel

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We walk up the steps of our metro stop and got our first glimpse of Paris… raining, but at the same time we were both excited to be there and the city looked impressive, not to mention one of the first things we saw was the Eiffel Tower sticking out from behind a building. Once we got over the awe of finally being in Paris we turned left and walked 1 street over to our hotel. As we walked in the door to guy behind the counter was speaking in French, which we ignored, he then however said the same thing again and it wasn’t until Jess and I turned around and had a no doubt stupid look on our face that he realised we weren’t french and spoke to us in English, firstly apologising and saying sorry I thought you were both French (This turns out to be a common trend for the rest of the trip.)

Upon check in we are informed that were upgraded to the top floor and a bigger room, so we are loving Paris even more. We open the door to our room and it is a good size, with all the trimmings you need. We then open up our window and walk out on to our balcony and POW! Nice view of the Eiffel Tower, though I am sure pretty much everywhere in Paris would have a view given how massive and central it is to the city.

Cafe Central / Rue Cler Markets

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Once we had settled into our hotel room, got ourselves organised and planned our approach for the night,  it was time to explore paris and I am feeling hungry.

As soon as we stepped outside it started to rain, only having one umbrella as mine had broke in Amsterdam (turning itself inside out – which Jess found hilarious) we first had to find a shop selling umbrellas. Given it is the middle of winter and I assume Paris is no stranger to rain, I thought that it wouldn’t be hard to find an umbrella. We tried numerous stores but had no luck, it wasn’t until we turned down an alley/lane and ran into a market area that I finally found an umbrella (and as soon as i bought one the rain stopped and pretty much has stopped ever since.)

While continuing to walk down the market place we stopped to take a couple of photos outside of a restaurant because it looked Christmasie, then realised that the restaurant looked great inside and the menu while in french looked promising. Given my need for food we just walked straight in. The waiter  handed us a menu in French, after requesting an English one he mentioned that they didn’t have an english menu, though we obviously couldn’t read the menu we were able to google a few words and have an educated guess at what to order. The waiter also spoke little english himself, but was friendly and impressed we tried to speak French and order by ourselves. This had a possible disaster written all over it however…. the meals were amazing and service was exceptional – I even drank white wine! Waiter poured me the wine first, Jess nudged me and said you are meant to taste it first to let him know it’s acceptable #ImClassy.

Eiffel Tower (night)

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Now that we had eaten and had a couple of glasses of wine we are ready to explore – First stop Eiffel Tower. We were both excited as school girls about to see One Direction (or Scott getting a pencil sharpener for Christmas *Family joke*), walking through the gardens we started taking photos at the very first glimpse, so apologies for the hundreds of Eiffel Tower photos we have posted within this blog.

While walking through the gardens there were many dogs playing and out for their nightly run, no doubt Maverick would care for tearing up the Eiffel Tower gardens! I must admit though I did have a picture perfect vision in my head of what i thought the gardens/surrounding areas of the tower would look like and this wasn’t really the case. I expected the gardens to be immaculate, prestige and not one leaf out of place, however the path ways were muddy, grass was over grown and piles of leaves everywhere. It doesn’t take away from the Eiffel Tower at all but was more a surprise and unexpected.

We spent over an hour taking in the sights and atmosphere of the Eiffel Tower, even though we knew we would be back the next day. It was simply an awe inspiring experience, finally standing in front of something admired by the world, with such historic significance and that you have seen a million times before but never seen in person. It is definitely something you have to see in person to fully appreciated and understand. We can’t wait to go up the tower tomorrow.

Jess was also over stimulated with her love of fairy lights going into over drive when the Tower lights lit up at the top of the hour (every hour). More on this later…

Walking Paris

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After spending time taking in the sights of the Eiffel Tower and its grounds we decided to walk along the River Siene on our way to the Champs-Élysées Christmas markets. It was great to be able to stretch our legs on the first night and explore Paris at our own pace. The river walk provided many photo opportunities and we were stoping every few meters to take photos. This was a great vantage point to also see the Eiffel Tower light up again and we were able to capture some video of this event (see below.)

First night in #paris thought why not go for a walk to explore #barrelleurotrip @jessicawithak0707

A video posted by Adam Barrell (@adam_barrell) on

 

Christmas Markets

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During the planning stages of the trip and once it had been confirmed that we would be in Paris just before christmas, Jess made plans for the Champs-Élysées Christmas Markets to be one of our first stops after checking into the hotel. The Christmas markets line both sides of Paris famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The atmosphere was fun with the streets filled with people and stalls everywhere. The markets are situated between the Arc de Triomphe at one end and a giant ferris wheel at the other, providing more great photo opportunities (Jess tried to kill herself by standing in the middle of the road to capture the best angle for her photos!) The Ferris wheel only appears in December as part of Christmas celebrations and draws a big crowd of both tourists and locals – as do the entire markets.

As we were exploring the markets I couldn’t help but notice that people were drinking mulled wine, I know it is cold but seriously why would you do that to yourself? Just as we were about to call it a night we decided to check out an alley way within the markets and came across a pop-up champagne bar, finally our first glass of champagne in Paris! After having walked over 5km it was the perfect way to relax and gave us an opportunity to officially ‘cheers’ being in Paris together. Once we had finished our glass of champagne and after lots of browsing through the stalls, without buying anything, we decided to head back to the hotel and rest up for the day of sight-seeing ahead.


Paris Day Two (20/12)

Planning / Breakfast

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I don’t know what it is about being in Europe but so far I have woken up at 6-6:30am every morning, back home my alarm would be dragging me out of bed at those times but here I am wide awake!  I decided to start planning the day out to ensure we had everything that we needed and also knew where we were going and how we were going to get there.

Once it hit 7:30am I kicked Jess out of bed as we had to get moving if we wanted to fit everything in before our 2:30 Eiffel Tower skip the line pass kicked in. Once dressed and ready to go, our very first item on the list was breakfast. The search for breakfast required 2 things – croissants and coffee. We decided the best place to start was the laneway near us ‘Rue Cler Markets’ and we found a cafe/cocktail bar called El Clare. Here we ordered a healthy Paris breakfast consisting of a croissant, pan au chocolat, orange juice, espresso and a cappuccino.  The coffee was way too strong for Jess; however, the espresso was a nice kickstart for me and my first actual coffee since being in Europe.

Notre Dame Cathedral

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Now with food and coffee in the system we are ready to start the day and the first stop was the Latin Quarter. This area of Paris is well known for cafes, nightlife, the university students who still speak latin and of course the giant Notre Dame Cathedral. Having walked close to 10km the night before we thought it was best to take a break and try our hand at using the Paris Metro system, which turns out was very easy, even when having to catch multiple lines to get to the location.

As my family know I am generally not one for old historic things (especially churches), however coming up from the under ground metro and seeing Notre Dame Cathedral my opinion was immediately changed. The sheer size of the building and gothic architecture was simply amazing, the attention to detail and carvings into the roof, walls and doors was staggering. I turned to Jess and said “how did they even build this, it must have taken them ages”, turns out i was right it took over 200 years to complete and was built in stages… Imagine that today, saying to the public “this project will take 200 years to finish” … well I guess this may happen (Perth Stadium, Ellenbrook Train Line).

Notre Dame Cathedral was a centre for people to seek refuge, most notably Quasimodo. I took to referring to him as ‘lumpy’ and generally didn’t take the whole ‘church thing’ as seriously as I could have. But was still impressed by the building itself.

After some #NotreDameSelfies out the front we then walked through the main entrance into the Cathedral. Just walking through the doors really emphasises again the size of this building. Once inside the architecture of the building and stained glass windows were breathtaking and I don’t think our photos quite do it justice. Whilst walking around we saw lots of people praying and Jess thought it was weird that people had to pay for prayers and to light candles in the church, there were even people taking photos of other people praying, which we both thought was just a bit wrong.

After the cathedral visit we decided to walk back through Paris to the hotel with a few stops on the way.

Ladurée

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I’m not going to lie I had issues pronouncing Ladurée so I gave up and just kept calling it Laundry, making Jess shake her head every time. Jess has been researching where to find the ‘original macarons of Paris’ for over a year and for those in the know this is where you get the original and apparently best, with Ladurée opening in 1871. Once we had arrived we had no idea what to do, there were too many delicious treats to choose (see photos) so we did what any one would and selected one of each flavour macaron.

The way the store was setup it reminded me of the ‘Soup Natzi’ from Seinfeld. We ordered then moved to the right no chit chat or comments. Verdict on the macarons – how the hell do they do that! Delicious. Apple crumble flavour was the winner overall. The one and only weak link in our box of 24 was the licorice flavour (yuuuuuukkkk!)

Musee d’orsay

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Jessica: The Musée d’Orsay is a gallery situated on the left bank of the river Seine. The building was formerly the Gare d’Orsay railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The gallery holds mainly French artworks (suprising i know?!?) dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. However what i was most excited about was the fact that this art gallery houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, by some of my all time favourite painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh. For those that are unaware I have spent many years studying French impressionism (and teaching it) so the opprtunity to see the works in person was a milestone and something i had been looking forward to for quite some time.

Adam was time keeper on this leg of our site seeing & gave constant updates about how long i had left (i get the feeling he wasn’t as impressed with the Impressionists as i was) His main concern was that we had to be at the eiffel tower at 2:30pm to use our skip the line passes. In his haste to move me on, Adam tried and failed to lead me on quickly from the iconic clock on the 4th floor of the building (shown in the picture above) This clock overlooks the banks of the river Siene and on a clear day many of the surrounding suburbs of Paris.

Eiffel Tower

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Today was the day, having spent hours around the Eiffel Tower taking photos it was finally time to go up it. Having booked a skip the line pass, we didn’t have to wait and went straight up the to second floor viewing deck. We can’t understand why people would wait in line for over 3 hours to get a ticket and then wait in line to go up the tower, definitely a waste of time in Paris where there is so much to see and do.

While on the second floor viewing deck we took a moment to take it all in, the view, the amount of people on the tower and also the cold wind. Once we found a great spot we took what seemed like hundreds of photos.

Next it was off to line up for the Summit, this is to get to the very top of the Eiffel Tour. Once at the top we couldn’t believe firstly how cold it was, I think it is fair to say this is the coldest we have ever been. The view was even more incredible as we were now 320m from the ground. While taking in the view we thought it would go best with a glass of champagne so Jess and I had a glass each to cheers being at the highest point in Paris. Also once we were at the top we realised just how far we had actually walked over the first 2 days and the sites we have already been to, no wonder we were exhausted and our feet were hurting.

Once we had conquered the top it was time to go down to the first floor, where you will find an ice skating rink, glass floors and also the famous restaurant Le Jules Verne. As we were frozen to the core and wanting to get back to the hotel to warm up we walked out over the glass floor, which was quite daunting as people on the ground looked like ants! But decided to skip ice skating in favour of our warm hotel room.

Fun Fact One: French people originally hated the Eiffel Tower and many sold their houses and moved away as they thought the structure would ruin their views and property value.

Fun Fact Two: The Eiffel Tower was build for the 1889 World Fare to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution, however it was to be removed the following year but because it drew big crowds the French government decided to keep it (good call.)

Rue Cler Markets / Champagne Picnic

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We had stumbled into Rue Cler Markets twice, but when we actually wanted to go there we had trouble finding it. After a little bit of wondering we manage to find our way back and we can’t get enough of our lane. Instead of going out for dinner we decided on creating our own balcony picnic; meats, cheeses, fruit and champagne (Piper-Heidseeck Brut and Trouillard Brut) all from Rue Cler Markets. For dessert we had our Ladurée Macarons, we only had 4 out of our many flavours, one actually tasted like apple crumble (how is that possible?)

Laundromat

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Being nearly a week in we thought it was best to get some washing done so we headed across the road to the laundromat. Not surprisingly it was all in French. Somehow me who doesn’t even know how to use our washing machine properly figured out the French laundromat operation. While we were waiting for our clothes we started on the Paris blog and as you can see this is one long blog!


Paris Day Three (21/12)

Tripshooter Photo Shoot

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We wanted to make sure that in Paris we had some special photos to remember our trip by, selfies and photos taken by strangers can only get you so far. Prior to leaving for Europe we had done some research and came across TripShooter, where you can hire a professional photographer for an hour to take photos at a location/surroundings in Paris, we chose for our photos to be taken at the Eiffel Tower and surrounding gardens. Photographer Pierre Turyan was easy to work with and made it an enjoyable experience. He is actually a professional photographer by trade working in fashion and as a wedding photographer, so we knew we were going to get the style of photos we wanted.

 

Arc de triomphe

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I didn’t think there was going to be much to see at the Arc de triomphe, however once we arrived it was far more impressive than I had imagined. Again the size and the attention to detail was amazing, also it was great to see the hustle and bustle of Paris in a shopping district as we so far had not been to this end of Paris. We stood across the road to take some photos but decided not to climb the Arc de triomphe due to the hundreds of stairs and instead we jumped back on the metro and headed to Galeries Lafayette.

Galeries Lafayette

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This is essentially David Jones on steroids! The main reason we wanted to visit Galeries Lafayette was not for the shopping but for the Christmas decorations. For some reason though Jess wasn’t keen to buy me a Louis Vuitton watch, but I quickly shut up once she showed me a bag she liked, didn’t know bags could cost as much as a house. It was probably not the best idea to visit Galeries Lafayette the weekend before Christmas, so once we had enough of the crowds of people we decided to head back to the hotel and rest up for the night ahead.

Dinner at Le Tourville

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Local cafe across the street opposite metro station Ecole Militaire. As it was right near our hotel it was a great way to relax with some drinks and grab a quick dinner before the busy night ahead. Jess ordered French Onion soup which she claims was amazing and similar to something Gran would have made and we both ordered pasta getting ourselves in training for Italy.

River Cruise

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Researching how to best fit everything into our short Paris trip, we came across a deal which included hotel transfers, night time river cruise and a drink/show at the Moulin Rouge. The night got off to a great start when our driver Henry (or ‘Enry’ in French) gave as a private tour of Paris as we were driving to the river docks. He was enthusiastic, friendly, informative and had a great sense of humour. We learnt more about Paris from being in the car with Henry for 15 minutes than we had actually learnt in our first 2 days.

The river cruise was exactly what Jess and I needed, a great way to sit back, relax and take in the sights of Paris while learning a few fun facts along the way. What made the cruise even more significant for us was nearly 10 years ago Jess was actually in Paris before new years, me I was at the Lanno pub drinking a few VB’s and it was on this night that I text Jess and told her that I had grown fond of her, actually I didn’t say that I said that I loved her and couldn’t wait for her to come back from her holiday. At the time I had texted Jess she was on a river cruise in Paris. This was the first time I had said I loved her – turns out she had also grown fond of me as well.

Once off the cruise it was back in the car with Henry on our way to catch a show at the Moulin Rouge. Henry again provided us with more information and insight into Paris on our 25-30min trip to the Mouline Rouge. It is amazing how someone can drive around Paris at top speeds, weaving in and out of traffic, while providing a commentary of the sights and looking directly at you the whole time rather than at the road.

Moulin Rouge

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I will admit I was definitely excited to see the Moulin Rouge, not just for the ‘show’ but to be apart of such an iconic venue. We had the drink and a show package, the drink being a bottle of champagne as you could imagine this made Jess quite happy. We had seats centre of the stage on the second tier, so we had a great view of the show. The opening scene had me confused… why is everyone dressed in disco gear and why are they doing the dance from ‘Gettin Jiggy with it’.

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The highlight of the night was definitely the rollerskating acrobats, don’t know how they did that, has to be seen to be believed – the duo performed on a tiny circular stage pulling and throwing each other around while spinning around at top speed. The ventriloquist was also a highlight with his talking dog routine and audience participation. The show it’s self was a great experience though I can’t help but feel that it was essentially Eurovision but with boobs, though all the support acts from the main show were amazing and helped compliment the entire night.

Also fun fact 1889 was a big year for Paris with the Eiffel Town and Moulin Rouge both being built at this time.


Paris Day Four (22/12)

Louvre

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Jessica: The Louvre Museum is one of the world’s largest museums and gallery spaces and is visited by more than 9.7 million people every year. The building itself and it’s iconic pyramids are a central landmark of Paris. The gallery is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement and hold over 35,000 artworks and artifacts. The display spans an area of approximately 60,600 square metres hence why in our half day trip Adam and I were only able to complete two wings out of the four! 

Adam and i were met at the entrance of the Louvre by our guide Laurent (French but spoke very good english) Laurent took us on a 2.5 hour guided tour of the gallery, beginning by talking about the buildings history and how the collection came to be.

What we learnt: The museum is housed in what used to be Louvre Palace, the building was originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century and the original remnants and building foundations of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. This foundation was only discovered around 1984 when the museum curators decided to expand the display and began excavating to acquire more space. 

The Louvre displays the royal collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures.  The collection was increased under Napoleon and the museum renamed the Musée Napoléon, but after Napoleon’s abdication many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces.

Adam was particularly impressed by the Greek and Roman sculptures (some as old as 100BC) and how the artists were able to carve such intricate details, like veins in arms and draped soft looking fabric (when its stone!) I preferred the classical paintings and in particular the works from the Renaissance era. As i’d whisper information about various works to Adam, our guide Laurent would add extra information to my commentary and i was impressed to find i was learning very useful information that i could take back to my art history classes.

No Louvre visit would be complete without talking about Mona so here are a few of our observations. Its true her eyes do follow you from one side of the room to the next and the painting is smaller than many imagine it would be. Laurent provided information about the ‘back story’ of the woman mona herself and why the painting was commissioned and how the French government ended up with such a valuable Italian artwork in their possession. Apparently Mona Lisa had miscarried her second child at the time the painting was made, her wealthy husband commissioned Leonardo Da Vinci to paint the portrait to cheer her up. Mona is dressed in black as a sign of her mourning and this also explains her unusual smile in the image. The French ended up ‘owning’ this painting because Leonardo had it in his possession when he died in France, the Italian government have tried unsuccessfully for many years to have the work returned to Italy…but i don’t like their chances, legally France have this one.

Catching up with Scott & Colleen

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So even though neither of us knew initially that the other was going to be in Paris for the same dates, we eventually figured it out (well the old man did.) It took until our last night to be able to catch up. It was great to hear Scott and Colleen’s experiences so far and share ours with them, plus give them some insight into Amsterdam for when they arrive at the end of their trip.

After walking past the Eiffel Tower we arrived at a nice restaurant to have dinner and a few drinks, we then proceeded to spend $400 Euros but it was definitely worth every cent. The food was great and the champagne nice, but most importantly it was about just getting an opportunity to catch up with Bozo in Paris and share a couple of bottles of champagne to celebrate like the French would.


Final thoughts

Amsterdam was a great first stop, however we think Paris definitely has it’s measure. You can see why Paris is such an iconic city, there is so much history, things to do and places to see. Jess said it would be great to have 2 weeks in Paris, guess we are coming back – maybe Spring/Summer next time!

We seemed to always be mistaken for French people (We were asked for directions by a tourist in attempted french, waiter actually thought we were french and not tourist giving us a French menu, on top of the Eiffel Tower a London tourist asked me to take a photo of them and they spoke to me in attempted French, and lastly a French elderly couple asked us for directions to a restaurant.)

The train networks made moving around the city quick and easy, this was a good thing as Paris is bigger than we had imagined.

Lastly the Police sirens in Paris remind us of the minions from Despicable Me (View video)

Next stop Zermatt, Switzerland!

Paris Photo Gallery

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Adam Barrell

MD of So Perth Media Group
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