Margot is out.
But, before she bails, she heads out and picks up croissants for us, and leaves them on the table for breakfast.
This is why I love the Couch surfing community.
She is off to pick up the Americans from the balls up in communication yesterday, and then head off on a mad trip with them to Germany.
Meanwhile, it is still dark, not because it isn’t daylight, but because Arnaud has blocked all light form even thinking about entering his apartment with these epic hard core roller shutters.
As good as they are, I think that they are a 5 hour sleep-in waiting to happen.
We have breakfast with him, and he is totally chill. Just to explain how chill he is, he is sitting on the couch with his legs crossed, like he was going to do some yoga or something, with only a little emoji cushion to block his crotch and my eye holes.
I give Bec the “How good is this bloke?” look, with a little smile and a tilt of the head to suggest what I am referring to.
In return, I get the “Right?!” look with a returning smile and a nod of the head.
We’re coming up to 5 years married this year, and this is one of the perks of being with someone for a decent amount of time. You can start to have conversations with each other without really ever having to say a word. The worst part with this whole communication thing is when there is another couple who is at the same level or higher, and you know that it is happening, but you have no idea why it is happening, and you get nervous as to why they are talking their secret language.
Arnaud is working today, so we collect our gear, and get on our way into the city. We have been told that Paris is big, so we are going to hire bikes to get around the place. Lucky for us, there is a bike pick up station literally around the corner from Arnaud’s place. Not like that is anything special, though. There are there bike hire stations every 300m throughout the city of Paris, so pretty much everyone in Paris is as lucky as Arnaud, when it comes to living within a proximity of a bike hire place.
With a few stops to swap bikes so we don’t get over charged for going over our half hour limit, our first stop, is none other than the Eiffel Tower. Thats right, it took us about 40-50 mins to ride from our place to the Eiffel Tower.
We came up with a pretty foolproof way to see a city, back in NYC. This was, that we should go check out the biggest most iconic sights first, so that we feel like we have seen what really makes the city, the city, and then we can wander around and get a better feel for the place. Pretty much, it works a treat.
We see it starting to peek from around the sides of buildings and occasionally popping out and revealing it’s pointed metal tip among the other building’s roofs. We follow the river around, and it isn’t long before the tower is there in all it’s glory. I don’t know whether we have just lowered our expectations, or whether the landmarks that we have seen in the last few countries have been more impressive, but I have to say that the Eiffel tower did not disappoint.
Being that we have so many other big and grand towers throughout the world now, and that the Eiffel Tower is a pebble compared to the size of bigger towers, I was expecting to just tick it off the list as a touristy item.
But, I was really wrong.
I was kinda just mesmerised by the size of the structure. I was expecting to just see this tower that is kinda just ok, but when I got to stop imagining it, I realised that it is actually still really impressive, even when compared with the grand structures of our day and age. I think the thing that impressed me the most was how much of the tower is exposed and laid bare.
You get to see all it’s intricacies and little details.
It’s so fascinating to see with your own eyes. At least, I found it to be.
I wouldn’t really say that Paris is the city of love, but there are a few things that can be romanticised. All the couples sitting on the benches and having picnics can tell you that, and there are a fair few of them. All around the base of the tower, there are trees scattered among paths and gardens that seem to weave in and out from each other, but still keep their own.
We wander along the big grassy strip that leads up to the tower, and there are a tonne of people. Every shot that I think about taking of the tower, I see someone else framing up, and this is when I realise that there is a lot of work to be done to get an original shot of this icon.
To be honest, I kinda can’t be assed.
So, being that we still have a lot to see for the day, we keep moving.
We jump back on the bikes and make our way to the Arc De Triomphe. To go from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc is still a good 5-10 minutes. Paris, really is the most spread out city in Europe. In Rome, you could pretty much walk through and see all the prominent sights pretty easily. The only way you would be able to do this with Paris, is if you were to start at 6am, and spend the next 12 hours walking around seeing sights as quick as you can.
We get to the arc, and the first thing you notice is the amazing detail that has gone into the structure. There are bulk loads of sculptures on the face of sides of the arc, and the smallest ones you can see are about the size of the average man. It is amazingly intricate and just as grand. To top it off, there is an absolute monster of a French flag hanging in the middle of the arc, and I mean a monster. This thing is the biggest flag I have ever seen in my life.
We re-hire our bikes, and make our way down the Champs Elysse.
Lucky for us, it is all downhill.
Unlucky for us, as Art vs. Science prophesied, “The Champs Elysse is a busy street”, and it was a very very busy street.
Lucky for us, there is one of those push bike hire-a-guide things in front of us, and so we just tag along behind him, so as not to get cleaned up by some car or something.
The Champs Elysse slowly evolves away from this Gucci & Louis Vuitton laden shopping strip, introducing trees that act as covers for you to walk or ride under. Soon enough, we find ourselves at the gardens. If we kept on a direct path, we’d hit the Louvre. Being that our free half hour on the bikes was coming to an end, we decided that we would rack them and walk through the gardens on our way to see the Louvre.
We weren’t really going into the Louvre, purely because I know that people say you can spend a week easily in the place, so I am not going to waste my time with just a few hours in the afternoon. We just wanted to see it, so that when we see it around the place, we can say “Been there”, all effortlessly-like.
The only flaw with this whole racking the bikes idea, was that everyone else who hired a bike had the same idea. This meant that we were able to rack one bike, but literally took another half an hour to rack the other bike.
Right pain in the ass.
We begin to walk through the park, and everyone tells us how dirty and poorly kept Paris is. But, if you were to visit NYC, you wouldn’t think that poorly of Paris. Not to bag out NYC or anything, but Paris really isn’t as dirty as people make it out to be, and whats more, the gardens are beautifully kept.
For such a big city, the place is so green, and feels so fresh.
At least, in my opinion.
We walk through to the Louvre, and cross the gardens to check out the glass pyramid. Bec doesn’t care if she doesn’t go in. She just wants to touch the glass, to say that she has actually touched the icon, so this is exactly what she does. The queues to get into the Louvre weren’t the thing that surprised me. It was the people waiting to stand on the concrete blocks, scattered around the area for the “finger on the tip of the pyramid” shot. Naturally, you have to do some kind of shot, but being that I don’t like doing the normal thing, I get Bec to direct the position of my tongue, and arm so that I can make out with the Louvre.
I don’t see anyone else doing it, so I’m a winner this time.
There might be a reason why nobody else is doing that, but I win.
Luckily for us, our next sight to see is Norte Dam Cathedral, and it isn’t that far away, so instead of having to deal with the headache of trying to find somewhere to park bikes, we just decide to walk there instead.
We head down by the river bank and get to see all the Parisian culture, in all it’s forms. From the students, reading on the embankment blocks, to others enjoying part of the sunshine, leaning against the wall next to an empty bin, to three kids chatting by the edge of the river, people are all doing their own thing, everywhere you look.
Soon enough, we find ourselves at the foot of Notre Dam.
Bec tells me, “This is another one of those moments when I just have to touch it”. With the Louvre, it was more of a “Huh. This is actually real…” moment, but with Notre Dam, it was more of a “Yeah. I got to touch Notre Dam” moment. Notre Dam was probably a little less exciting than I expected it to be, but it was cool to se it nonetheless.
After a homeless guy raging at me cos I pointed my camera at him, we head off from Notre Dam, to meet the rest of the CS crew for a picnic dinner by the canals. We walk and Bec runs into a shop to pick up some bread, wine and cheese, while I hang out the front and photograph the passers by.
We collect our groceries, and make our way to the meet up.
We arrive, half an hour late, and scour the sides of the canal for the group, which is meant to be a decent size, and for the life us cannot find anything. We end up just giving up, and sit down next to another decently sized group of punters all chatting amongst themselves. Another 20 mins passes, we have already started on the baguette and cheeses, and I decide to go for another wander. In the 5 mins that I am away, Arnaud shows up, and joins the group, right next to us.
We were at the right place the whole time, but just didn’t know it.
I mean, Arnaud was our only point of reference, and he wasn’t even there yet. We just get chatting with the surfers around us, handing bread, cheese and wine around like it’s going out of fashion, and then the strangest thing keeps happening. Because we are giving all the food out, people keep bringing more food our way.
As one baguette would finish, another would mysteriously arrive.
As one bottle of wine neared it’s last few drops, another full bottle would appear.
This kept happening all night.
We would send food out, and food would keep coming back. Nobody ever said no, I mean these people are largely on the poorer end of the travelling spectrum, so none of them really were against free baguettes. You can see that there is a lot of pride from the French in their cuisine, though. There is this one surfer who is your stereotypical creepy Frenchman, complete with phrases like, “I know m*therf*cker”, when complimenting him on something. He even has a banana, inside a hard plastic banana case which he carries around with him to protect the banana.
When he finally opens it to show us the anti-climatic contents, Bec tells him that she thought a dildo might have been hiding in there or something, to which the frenchman replies with “Anything is a dildo if you’re brave enough”.
We laugh, and even the very pom-sounding Russian man that Bec has been talking to begins to show signs of confusing concern amidst his laughter.
I’m sitting next to this French bloke named Thom, who does not stop telling me how much he loves Australia, and I have a feeling that he thinks he has to keep complimenting me on my homeland, to ensure that the supply of cheese and wine doesn’t stop. I really couldn’t care less what he thought of my country, but the thing that cracked me up the most was that while he was living in Australia, he bought a piece of crap car, and drove it across the Nullarbor.
Anyone who know about the Nullarbor knows that you want to have a good enough car to enjoy your trip with.
Thom’s car was already a piece of crap, but what makes this tale better was that he hit a roo, which completely screwed up one part of his sad excuse of a car. He pretty much had to finish the trip on 3 wheels.
2000 kms on 3 wheels.
Not the best.
I don’t even know if it was a true story, but he told me that his car was stickered by the police, and deemed not roadworthy, so I mean, he has got some facts right. Nevertheless, as the saying goes, never ruin a good story with the truth.
We make our way home as the cold Parisian breeze sets in.
I am getting colder and colder by the second, but try and tough it out, until Arnaud pretty much just tells me that we are going home. I mean, I wanna act all tough-like, but the truth is that I wasn’t upset that we were heading back.
We met some absolutely hilarious guys tonight and had a ball of a time meeting everyone.
We have heard all about the Couch surfing meet ups, but I think that it was our first couch surfing meet up. The truth is that everyone who goes to these things is there to meet people and have a good time. Yes, there are the creeps that just wanna try and shack up with travellers, but if you can put two and two together, its really not that hard to work out which ones they are.
We are yet to have a bad Couch Surfing experience, and we have only met people who want to give back to the CS community, and any traveller who is willing to share life with them.
This is what travel should be like.
This is what I love about travel, and it really isn’t as scary as you might imagine it to be.
Come back for the next story,