By Brianna 31/July/16 France
Bonjour mes amis! We've been on the road for a little over a week now, are four countries down the line and currently sat drinking tea in a Bratislavan apartment. It's been fantastic and hectic, which means we haven't had as much time as we'd like to write/tweak the website. Hopefully it'll all come together with regular posts/photos/social media involvement soon, but for now please enjoy reading about our time in belle Paris!
For us, getting a 2.5 hour train from London usually means heading up to Lancaster University. Not this time. This time we were commencing our year-long mission with the Eurostar to Paris. We love Lancaster, but it felt so right to be heading in the opposite direction for once. Not that we really believed it. Even after what felt like a month of late-night packing, planning and emotional goodbyes, it was still difficult for us to comprehend that we were leaving the UK for longer than any of us had been away before.
Arriving by Eurostar made us feel like we'd cruised into Paris with a certain amount of sophistication and style. That'll probably be the first and last time we enter a country feeling that way. A short hop on and off the metro later, we found ourselves in the heart of Commerce; a district dominated by locals and a stone's throw away from the Eiffel Tower. We were greeted by our charismatic and generous AirBnB host, who welcomed us into his beautiful apartment. It was our first ever AirBnB experience and we felt at home immediately - we couldn't believe how lucky we'd been!
As it was my first time in Paris, the city's connoisseurs (Alex and Cheddar) acted as my tour guides. We fuelled up for our first full day with €2 coffee and pain au chocolat from the local Boulangerie, and scouted around a bustling market for some lunch, giving Alex a chance to polish up his French skills. Their walking tour began at the le Tour Eiffel. I'd caught a glimpse of it the night we arrived, lit up with the Tricolore in all its glory, but it still looked as majestic in the summer sun. We meandered down the Seine, taking in our picturesque surroundings, before devouring our French-style picnic of bread and cheese on the river bank. Although we hadn't travelled all that far, we already felt miles away from our regular daily lives. The huge, serene open spaces, intricately decorated buildings and beautiful bridges; we were definitely in Paris. We had to admit, we weren't massive fans of all the love locks covering the bridges, especially after finding out that they're frequently removed to make room for more (not exactly a metaphor for 'eternal love'). We were, however, big fans of the iconic and very photogenic Notre Dame:
Alex was keen to join in with the Finale of Le Tour de France (men's) celebrations that evening and we spent a long time deliberating the best place to watch from as the cyclists performed their laps of victory around the city. It wasn't easy to do this, as there were no signs or any indication at all when/where the tour was actually happening. We finally thought we'd hit the jackpot, with a spot just outside Le Louvre, but after a two hour wait we watched the cyclists whiz past us just once before the circuit appeared to shift away from us. Thankfully, we'd accidentally managed to stumble across the female finale (yes, there's a female Tour de France; no, I've never seen it televised either) earlier in the day, so we didn't feel too disheartened. Moral of the story: if you want to go and watch le grand finale du Tour de France in Paris, choose your spot wisely. Or just watch the women's.
The next day we were feeling inspired by all the bicycles and decided to have a go ourselves. We hopped on a couple of Velibs (Parisienne Boris Bikes) and peddled to the Louvre. Cheddar was desperate to go into the museum itself but had to compromise on this one due to our strict budgets. Instead, we walked on down to the Place de la Concorde (no longer any guillotines in sight but an Egyptian obelisk that oddly didn't look too out of place), before reaching L'Arc de Triomphe. As we are still EU citizens (for now), we clambered up the spiral staircase inside to be rewarded with excellent views over the whole of Paris - for free! We grabbed a few more Velibs to take us back to Commerce, as it was almost time for us to be moving on to our next destination. Cycling past the Eiffel Tower on a bicycle with a baguette in the front basket (ooh lala), I felt more Parisienne than ever. We collected our bags from our gracious host's lovely home and prepared for the next adventure.
Au revoir, belle Paris, vous étiez fantastique, but for now, onwards and Eastwards!