On this trip I kept a journal, which I wrote in at least once a day. This is the transcription of that journal, annotated with some of the many photos I took. All photos can be clicked to view the full size version.
France -- June 2007
I had a relatively uneventful journey to the airport. I left later than I wanted to, but got to the airport way earlier than necessary. Pretty typical for me when I have to be somewhere at a certain time.
I took the TTC to the airport and the subway randomly went out of service at Royal York, so everyone had to get off the train and wait for the next one. I ended up talking to an older man for a bit who was seeking an explanation as to why we had to get off the train. He didn't seem to understand that there just isn't an explanation and that the ways of the subway are mysterious and strange. The other strange TTC incident happened at Kipling station while I was waiting for the bus to the airport. I swear that one of the other people waiting was Alexandra Zwicker, a girl who used to be on the Usability team at Alias. I wasn't sure though so I didn't approach her. Maybe I'm just crazy.
When we got to the airport the driver turned out to be one of the ones that don't like to announce the stops, so I ever sure which terminal we were at. I chose a stop at random and it turned out to be the correct terminal, so that was awesome. Terminal 3 has changed a little since the last time I was there. Specifically, it now has two Tim Horton's! That's soooo much better than random over-priced airport cafes. I got a muffin and read my book until we boarded.
I'm sitting on the plane now, waiting to take off. This is the first time I have ever flown on a plane with 3 aisles of seats. It is 2-3-2, and I have a window seat behind the wing. It's pretty sad, but the air on the plane is also the nicest I've breathed all day. At work it was hot due to my computers and outside it was humid and gross. Apparently we're stopping in Montreal on the way to Paris, no one told me that before. I don't have to get off or anything though, we're just picking up passengers and fuel. The safety video just came on, and it is all done in 3D, but rendered with a vector-based renderer. Haha, it's hilarious. Anyway, we're about to take off, so it's time to stop writing.
We're in the air now, but there won't be any dinner until after we leave Montreal. I'm hungry now! I guess I'll have some of the chocolate that I brought specifically for this reason. The guy sitting beside me is a sleeper, but not a very good one. He totally has sleep apnea, he'll stop breathing for a minute or two, cough and then wake up a little before falling asleep and doing it all again. Pretty scary.
Montreal is a really short flight from Toronto. We literally reached our cruising altitude and then started to descend. There's a neat display on the TVs on the plane right now showing statistics about our speed and direction and so forth. Apparently it is -45°C when you are at 33,000 feet, I didn't know it got that cold up here!
We just landed in Paris, and I think I slept for a total of one hour, and not very well at that. I haven't seen anything yet because it's cloudy, but on the way in we flew over the islands of Jersey and Guernsey. I met someone from Jersey a couple months ago so that amused me. They were really small islands but very pretty looking with lots of trees and beaches.
While we were taxiing in Paris we passed an Airbus A380 which is the largest passenger airplane in the world!
I just dropped off my big bag at the hostel (leaving it in the front room under the watchful eyes of a disgruntled hostel employee). It was pretty easy to find the hostel (one train, two subways and a five minute walk to get there from the airport), but the last subway stop was REALLY far underground. It had a spiral staircase to get out with a warning sign indicating that there were 97 steps to get up and out. I later found out that there is also an elevator in the station, but that first time, with all my bags and tired from the flight, I took the stairs. Go me!
I'm now sitting on a bench down the street from the hostel just looking around at all the different stuff here. It's neat seeing signs and things in French and then looking at the other side of the sign to try to find the English like in Canada. But the English is never there. I think it's time to leave this bench now, the pigeons have found me and are starting to circle.
I'm waiting for 4pm to roll around so that I can check into my hostel properly, have a shower and get settled. I'm pretty tired due to not sleeping last night so I decided not to try to go to anything far away this afternoon. The closet point of interest to my hostel is Sacre Coeur, a huge cathedral sitting at the highest point in Paris. In front of the cathedral there are large open grassy areas where people sit and enjoy the view of the cathedral and the whole city of Paris. The area is of course full of tourists, but I've given up on trying to avoid the more touristy things already, because it's all so cool. There are also these guys from Senegal everywhere who come up to you and try to tie a bracelet around your wrist. They claim to not be bad people, but once they finish the bracelet you can't get it off without cutting (and destroying) it so you have to pay them for it. I managed to avoid them, but I had to convince about 10 separate guys that I wasn't interested (and that takes a while).
I went back to the hostel and found out that I had only set my watch five hours ahead instead of six, so I had to go out and kill an extra hour. I walked down to the Montmartre Cemetery and even though the walk back is going to kill me (all uphill) it was totally worth it. This place is just crazy.
It is overflowing with graves, all above ground, and packed together so close they are practically on top of each other. And most of them are actually family graves with multiple people buried in each. Basically I'm surrounded by tens of thousands of dead people. The dates on the graves range from the late 1700s to the present. Most are from the mid 1800s though. It's neat though because even the really old graves are well maintained, many have fresh flowers on them and most are clean and in good repair. I should clarify though, when I say graves I really mean tombs, or more possibly sepulchres. Many are huge (like 2-3 stories tall) and most are very ornately decorated. There's even one that looks like a miniature gothic cathedral!
The cemetery itself is full of trees and feels completely isolated from the busy city of Paris that surrounds it. It's very peaceful and people of all ages are walking quietly through. There are lots of people, but it doesn't feel busy or crowded, just nice. It's hard to describe. There are also lots of cats. They must be cared for though, because they're all healthy and well-fed (note to self, don't step in the cat poo beside this bench when you stand up).
The thing I like about these old places in Europe is that they are not just history but also remain an active part of day to day life. This cemetary is an important place for many people here despite the fact that most of the graves are for people who died before any of the people visiting were born. It's neat when something of historical significance is not just relegated to history, but continues to be active in the world.
I'm checked into my hostel now and just sitting in my room. It's not too bad, clean and cheap (especially for the high season). It's a bit small but I was expecting that. The bathroom is the worst, every time I go in there I bump some random part of my body as I try to navigate the tiny space around the toilet and sink. I'm going to be covered in bruises by the time I leave. Having a shower was nice though, so I'm happy for now. There aren't any roommates around right now but hopefully I'll see some of them tonight. I'm going to go find some supper now and then go to the Eiffel tower to see it all lit up at night.
I'm at the Eiffel Tower right now, and it's soooo cool. It's hard to believe it was built to be a temporary structure! I wanted to go up tonight because it is such a nice evening and the sun is just starting to set. Unfortunately the rest of Paris has the same idea. The lines are like five times longer than the sign that says "30 minute wait from this point." There is supposed to be access by stairs as well but that appears to be closed. That's a good thing though since the walk up the stairs would probably kill me at this point.
I'm going to wait here and look around the Champ de Mars a bit until it's dark and the tower lights up. There are a whole bunch of people already waiting here, almost like when people gather in fields to watch fireworks. The difference is that this happens every night! I'm also going to write some postcards while I wait, hopefully I'll be able to mail them out in the next day or two.
It was awesome to see the tower all lit up, and after dark, every hour they set off hundreds of strobe lights for about 10 minutes. The effect is like the bubbles in a glass of champagne and is really cool. There's some pictures below and I also recorded a movie of the tower sparkling. It's late now though, so it's time for bed.
I'm waiting right now for the subway so that I can start my free museum day. On the first Sunday of each month, almost all of the museums in Paris are free! I'm going to try to go to the Picasso museum, the Musée d'Orsay, and the Rodin museum. I may also attempt to go up the Eiffel tower again, hopefully the line will be less long.
I met some of my roommates last night and they're generally nice people. We didn't talk too long though because one of them was already in bed. I'm still pretty tired today. Six hours of sleep for two days just isn't enough when you also run around all day. I tried to use the Internet this morning in my hostel but the keymap was permanently set to the European keymap which is just too obnoxious to use. I think I'll look for an Internet cafe instead.
The subway here is really easy to use and super useful. It criss-crosses the city and takes you basically anywhere you'd want to go. They're a bit too bumpy to write legibly on though.
I just finished at the Picasso museum. It was good, but the it was missing some of the more famous works. Apparently some of them were used to pay off debts at one point, so they are in the hands of multiple random people. That was OK though because I've always like his style in general and so there were a bunch of paintings that I really enjoyed seeing. Now I'm eating a really good sandwich on a baguette at a bakery near the museum. I think this is going to be a standard lunch for me because it's sooo good and not too expensive.
I was trying to walk to the next museum on my list when I got sidetracked, by, well, Paris. I was walking and noticed that I was on the Seine river so I went down beside it and sat on a bench for a while to watch the boats and look at the islands. Then I continued walking and came across this huge building with covered in statues and crazy architecture dealies. It also had a giant garden filling the square in front of it. It turns out that the building is city hall and the garden is a special display for the summer.
I looked around the garden a bit, and it appears to be called "The Garden of Tomorrow." I'm not sure why because everything is in French. All I know is that they were also giving out fresh apples and cherry tomatos so I had a snack while sitting near some fountains and admiring the building. The fruit was so fresh and tasty. Anyway, the Pompidou Centre (housing the museum of modern art) is near by so I'm going to go check it out before heading on to Orsay and Rodin.
The Pompidou Centre was cool, but I didn't spend too long at it. I wasn't really in the mood for modern art and didn't find it all that appealing. There was some cool stuff though, like a painting done using women covered in paint as brushes, as well as some more Picasso and also some Dali. There was a neat sculpture of a plane too. It was made of wicker and had thousands of "sharp objects" stuck into it, all of which had been confiscated by airport security over the years. The other neat thing about the museum was the view off of the escalator. It went up the outside of the building and gave a really great look at the city.
Oh man I'm exhausted! I was able to cram four museums all into one day, and two of those were pretty big. Sometimes you go for quality and sometimes you go for quantity I guess. Too bad I don't have more time in Paris to see all these things, but I figure I should see as much as I can while I'm here. I do take extra time when I see something I like though. Free museum day seems like a good day to see lots, since it's cheap and there are no lines to buy tickets.
After Pompidou I walked to Musée d'Orsay. It took longer than I thought it would to do that, and along the way I passed a bunch more cool buildings. I kept thinking that each new building was actually the museum but I kept finding out that it was just some other beautiful building. Paris seems to have a lot of those.
Anyway, Orsay was definitely my favourite museum of the day. It focuses on French art from 1848-1914, which includes impressionism. The impressionist stuff was what I expected to enjoy most but I ended up being surprised by how much I liked the stuff from before the Impressionist times. It was hyper-realistic, the people in the images looked almost alive! I tried to take lots of pictures of things I liked, but it was pretty dim and hard to get a good shot.
After finishing at Orsay I had exactly one hour to get to the Rodin museum before it closed. I walked as quickly as I could and got here with about half an hour left (I'm writing in the gardens of the museum now). The museum is on the grounds of Rodin's house, which he donated to be used as a museum. The building is his house and it is surrounded by these huge beautiful gardens. Some of his statues are placed throughout the gardens and it makes for a really nice place to sit (fortunately it is open longer than the museum).
I stayed in the museum for as long as I could, and then headed out and enjoyed the gardens. Part of that enjoyment was definitely derived from the raspberry gelato I got from a small cafe nearby. The only bad thing about the gelato was that the cashier gave me 20, 1 cent pieces as part of my change.
I'm going to relax here a bit longer, possibly "rest my eyes" for a bit, and then try to get some supper. Afterwards I'll try for the Eiffel tower maybe. Not sure yet. Tomorrow is the Louvre and the day after is Versailles. So much walking, ouchie!
Getting supper on a Sunday night is hard, because almost everything is closed. At least it was in the section of town I am in. I found a little hole in the wall type place that made me some quiche and a salad. On my way here I passed a big gold roofed building that has the tomb of Napolean inside. It was too late to go in but maybe I'll get to come back later in the week.
Last night after getting back to the hotel I was ready to collapse into bed early due to the intense amount of walking. However one of my roommates was in the room so I chatted with him for a bit. I think his name was Sulim or something, not totally sure. He is leaving today so he wanted to go out and explore one last time last night. He invited me along and I became instantly not tired any more. So we got on the subway and headed out to the Latin Quarter to look around.
The Latin Quarter is very active in the evenings, full of street performers and restaurants and tourist-shops. It's definitely a silly place compared to the rest of Paris, but when most other things are closed it's a great place to hang out. Notre Dame is right nearby, and it's all lit up at night so that is cool to see as well. We wandered around a bit and had some crepes and then a bit of gelato. I still can't get over how good all the food is here.
We caught one of the last subways back to the hostel and then headed up to our room. When we got there two other roommates were in, Lisa and Anthony. Both of them are also leaving today so we stayed up chatting until almost 2am. Lisa is from Edmonton and was off to England. Anthony was from Utah and is backpacking Europe super cheaply. He's making all his food in the hostel kitchens and avoiding everything expensive. He's headed to the south of France today, hoping to hitch-hike the whole way. He seemed interested in the film fest at Annecy so I might see him there (assuming he survives the hitch-hiking!). Sulim (the guy I went to the Latin Quarter with) came into Paris from Cannes, where he attended the Cannes film festival for the full 17 days! He got to see two movies a day and work at the USA pavilion. He's in school for post-production in Texas so we had a bunch to chat about. Good times!
Anyway, today I'm off to the Louvre, but I've gotten a late start because I slept in. It's raining out, so it will be a good day for a huge museum. Maybe it will be nicer by the time I finish.
I just finished at the Louvre (by which I mean I saw a bunch of stuff and had to leave out of fatigue). The place is just staggeringly large. I heard somewhere that if you spent 30 seconds looking at each piece they have for 8 hours a day it would take like a year or something to see it all. It was awesome, but so tiring. The building is really neat too, it used to be a palace and so it is really neat to look at, plus it is now full of priceless works of art and artifacts from around the world. I saw Egyptian, Greek and Roman artifacts, Italian sculptures, French and Italian paintings and the a whole bunch of other random stuff. They even had a section of the building preserved/restored from when it was used as a palace. It was so shiny and golden.
I saw a bunch of the famous stuff as well, like the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and others. I particularly liked many of the paintings but they didn't allow photos in many areas so I don't have pictures of everything I liked. I got the audioguide and it was totally worth it.
I had lunch in the Louvre itself, and I definitely spent too much for average food. But I didn't feel like leaving and I'm not really worried about money. I loaded up on veggies (huge salad) and got a crazy cheese bread thing (stuffed with brie or something) and I also had a slice of apple pie.
On my way to the Louvre this morning I passed through the Place de la Concorde which is a huge square with fountains and things. In the centre of the square is the Luxor Obelisk, a 3300 year old column from ancient Egypt. It was transported to France in the early 1800s and at the same time two really cool fountains were built to flank it in the square. The square itself is surround by huge roads full of cars and it takes forever to get into and out of the centre (without getting run over). This square was another example of something I wasn't looking for and just stumbled upon. I got off the subway for the Louvre and there it was!
I'm going to walk down the Champs-Élysées now and finish up at the Arc de Triomphe. My plans get fuzzier after that but I imagine there will be some supper in there at some point.
I'm sitting on top of the Arc de Triomphe. Paris looks awesome but it's a bit hazy. I'm starving now after all those stairs so I need to find somewhere to eat. There is a huge round about around the monument, and the traffic is just crazy. It's about ten to fifteen lanes wide with absolutely no lane markings. Thirteen streets meet here, and the drivers are all insane. Check out this video I took of it.
When I arrived here there was some sort of ceremony happening around the tomb of the unknown soldier. It had veterns and a military band and stuff, but I'm not totally sure what it was all about. So I just went up the tower.
Champs-Élysées was also neat, I almost bought some clothes but they weren't that special and not a super good price so I skipped.
Last night I got a Gyros and a Banana Nutella crepe for supper with "blood orange" Orangina to drink. I took this food out in front of Notre Dame and enjoyed it in full view of the cathedral. Then I wandered the Latin Quarter for a bit, taking pictures and watching street performers. There was a guy with these ball and chain things where the balls were on fire and he spun them around a lot and threw them in the air and stuff. It was pretty cool! For the finale he replaced the flaming balls with exploding fireworks. I was able to get a couple reasonable videos of it, although my first attempt takes about 20 seconds to actually focus on the guy (so be patient). The first video is of the guy and the ball and chain fire and the second is the guy with the fireworks.
Time seems to be going really fast but also slow at the same time. It feels like I've been here forever already because I've seen so much. But I've only missed oe day of work so far!
Right now I'm on a train to Versailles. I was able to buy a combo pass that pays for my train ride and my entrance to the Chateau/gardens at the train station. This is definitely the way to go because I've heard that the lines are huge at Versailles. This means I'll only have to stand in the entrance line and not also the ticket buying line.
A guy just started playing the accordion on the train. This happens all the time here. People will just jump on to trains or subways with an instrument and play for 5 or 10 minutes. Then they will walk around collecting money and get off.
I bought a weekly subway pass today, or at least I think I did. One of the fun parts about not really speaking the language is that you're not always sure if you've done what you think you've done. My guide books talk about a "Carte d'Orange" that lets you ride the subway as much as you want for a week. But there are lots of signs here saying that it is being phased out in favour of something called the "Navigo" pass. I don't really know what is right, but I made an attempt to buy a pass from the ticket machine today. It don't think it is a "Carte d'Orange" and it definitely not a "Navigo" but it has let me into the system twice without problems so we'll see how that goes.
Something neat I've seen here is that among the tourists, there are more families than I thought there would be. I can't imagine taking kids to Europe but a lot of people seem to do it. I think that's an amazing thing to do for your children if you can afford it. Traveling gives you a really neat perspective on the world and I imagine that it could really change your childhood.
I'm in the gardens at Versailles right now, enjoying a sunny day and a fresh breeze. The gardens are just huge (ie. distances are measured in kilometres), so I'm taking a good rest before attempting to explore them. I had a tasty panini from a cafe nearby, although if I had planned ahead I suppose I could have packed a tastier and cheaper lunch by going to a few shops in Paris before leaving. Oh well.
The Chateau itself was alo gigantic and so sparkley and golden. Everywhere you looked was intricate and busy and impossible to take in. There was so much detail and embellishment. It's not hard to understand why the common people of France got a bit irritated with the ruling class.
Throughout the gardens there are a whole bunch of fountains that are all fed by original plumbing and reservoirs. It's pretty cool that it all still works after hundreds of years. Unfortunately they only run the fountains on the weekends so I won't be able to see them. I guess I'll have to come back to Paris sometime in the future!
Oye that was a lot of walking! And I still have to head back to the train station! I walked all the way out to the back of the gardens and visited the Grand and Petit Trianons and then walked all around Marie Antoinette's gardens. I'm really tired now, but it was so cool to see. Versailles is definitely going to be one of the highlights of this trip.
Everything is just so peaceful and secluded here. Even with the piles of tourists. It's way too big to feel crowded and in the back gardens you can easily find yourself all alone. It's amazing how all of this was constructed just for a few people and how it was then maintained for hundreds of years. The number of people required to keep this place going must be huge!
When I got back from my big walk I went to the gift store and bought a guide book to remember my trip by. Apparently I should have bought it first, because it has all sorts of useful information about where some of the more cool fountains are in the gardens. I missed a bunch of them! So despite my aching feet I headed back out into the gardens to check them out. But because it was late they had closed the gates on them so I could only see them from a far! I'm a bit disappointed but I had such a good time here anyway that I can't feel too bad.
I'm on the train back to Paris now, eating a Kinder Beuno from a vending machine for supper. I'll have to supplement that with something else when I get back. France's prices for things aren't too bad if you don't take into account the exchange rate. This chocolate bar cost one Euro. Everything seems to be like that, always a reasonable price if you pretend it's in dollars. Too bad the exchange rate is actually about 1.5. Sigh.
After getting back into Paris I went to the Bastille district and saw where the Bastille (a giant prison) originally was. Of course it was torn down during the revolution and now there is a large monument to the people who took part in those events. I then went to the train station to book my ticket to Nice. But they were all full for Friday!! The ticket man was very unhelpful and didn't really speak English. So I got back in line and talked to a different ticket man. He was very helpful and spent a long time looking for different connections that could get me there. Alas, all were booked. But he was able to upgrade me to first class (for a fee) on a train around lunch time. It's a bit later than I want to be leaving but I made up for it by booking a later train out of Nice. I also booked my Geneva to Paris train for the end of my trip because this incident made me nervous. I don't want to get stuck with no spot on the train!
I'm using a Eurail pass to get around, so I've already paid for everything. I just make reservations and it's all good. I was told that booking one to two days in advance was sufficient, and I am three days in advance for Nice, but I guess it is a popular destination right now. Even the ticket guy was a bit surprised it seemed.
I've been taking it easy today, just relaxing and recovering a bit after all the craziness of the last few days. I bought some stamps and mailed my postcards (finally), although I have no idea if they'll make it. The mailbox had two slots, and I believe the labels indicated that one slot was for local mail (within Paris) and the other was for everything else. Hopefully I was right!
Next I wandered to an Internet cafe to book a room for my last night in Paris. I asked at my current hostel, but they said it was all full. The guy suggested calling 24 hours before I needed it though because that is when they find out about cancellations and stuff. Since I have to catch a plane the next morning there is no way I'm taking that chance. So I've booked a random HI hostel at the edge of the city. It's still on the subway lines (barely), but I went out there and checked it out and it doesn't seem too sketchy. I'm sure it will do the job for one night.
After returning from my trip to the edge, I went to a bakery that won "Best Baguette in Paris" in 2006. I obviously got a baguette and I also bought a couple chocolate eclairs. I only wanted one, but they gave me two and it was really busy so I didn't complain. I decided I should buy some other stuff and make a proper meal out of this food, so I also got a tomato, a pint of raspberries and some random cheese. I actually got the cheese from a cheese shop, mainly by waving the bread at the lady and saying, "I want cheese to go with this." To drink I bought some Tropicana Essentials juice, which has twelve different fruit juices in it (orange, apple, white grape, banana, pineapple, passion fruit, apricot, mango, peach, guava, pear, lemon), awesome! I then packed this food all up in my bag and headed to the Jardin du Luxembourg. It's very calm and peaceful, with lots of trees and chairs and stuff (I'm eating and writing under the trees right now...mmm, the baguette is awesome). There is also a pond in the middle where kids can rent little sailboats and sail them. There are no remote controls or anything, they just get a stick that they can use to turn the boat around and give it a push. It's neat to see something so simple.
I have all new roommates as of last night and they appear to be travelling together. I think they're all German, and they're definitely loud and clumsy (lots of door slamming and foot stomping). It would be awesome if they were cool like the last set of roommates because I'm feeling a touch lonely lately. I think it's just having to deal with everything myself instead of being able to share the load. Anyway, it's not hard to forget your troubles in a massive park on a sunny day with some really awesome food.
I'm sitting in line right now to go up to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral. This will be the second tall thing I've gone up today, as I've just come from the Pantheon. It was pretty cool because underneath is a set of crypts where the bodies of important French people were laid to rest. There were many people from the revolutionary times that I did not recognize, as well as others like Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Marie Curie. The crypts were in the basement, so it was cold and dim and very sombre. For the most part it was just room after room, each holding six to eight people (or fewer but with spaces for more). There was one room however completely devoted to just one person. I can't remember who it was, but he was clearly some sort of hero from the revolution. The room looked like it hadn't been touched since he was originally placed there. There were flags and wreaths and things that were as old as the room itself. Lots of it ahd blackened with the dirt of many many years. It was very cool to see.
The rest of the Pantheon was cool, but not a whole lot to look at. It was originally supposed to be a church, but it was completed at the same time as the revolution, so it was taken over to be a secular resting place for the heroes of the people. The one thing of note inside was the Foucault pendulum, a recreation of an experiment done in 1851 by Leon Foucault which demonstrated the rotation of the earth using a pendulum suspended from the top of the central dome. I was also able to go up on top of the Pantheon and get some nice views of Paris.
After finishing at the Pantheon, I went to Notre Dame and wandered around inside. It was a lot like the Kölner Dom, in Köln, Germany. Gigantic and towering, with a lot of stained glass and sculptures and historical stuff. Whoops, the line is moving, time to climb over 400 steps to get to the top of the cathedral.
(later) OK, I'm back and all done with the towers. Personally, I think the Kölner Dome had cooler stairs up, because they were both up and down which meant that you got to trip over people as you went. Notre Dame was far too organized with it's separate up and down stairs. The view from the top was great (and very windy) and the gargoyles were awesome. I was also able to go into one of the bell towers and see a huge bell. The tower itself was all wood inside to absorb some of the vibrations of the bell to prevent the stone from cracking and crumbling. Pretty cool!
I had made up my mind to walk around and explore the islands this evening, get some supper, and then go up the Eiffel Tower. But I had barely started with the islands when I came across the cathedral of Sainte-Chapelle on the same island as Notre Dame. There was a poster out front advertising a classical music concert tonight inside, starting at 7:30. So I went in to investigate and found that tickets were still available. I quickly bought one, grabbed a bit of food for supper and then headed inside to get a seat. I'm now sitting in a towering cathedral completely filled with stained glass about to hear a string quartet play a bunch of Mozart. How cool is that!??! I think the only problem is I feel a bit underdressed. But I'm certainly not going to let that stop me.
I basically scared the crap out of myself just now. I wanted to see Sacre Coeur by night so I got off at the closest subway stop and started walking. Unfortunately the area is like a maze and I quickly got lost. It seemed like none of the streets were labeled and in my map book the streets were too dense to all be named. About the same time I realized I was lost I also realized that the streets were basically deserted and that everything was closed. I got pretty nervous because I wouldn't be able to get help if I got in trouble. But I knew that Sacre Coeur was at the highest point in the area so I just kept following streets that went uphill. I eventually found it but it was pretty deserted there as well. Plus it was foggy and gross so I didn't even get a good view of Paris. I quickly took a couple pictures and then headed back to the hostel where I had to sit and calm down for like fifteen minutes. I was really worked up.
The rest of the evening was awesome however. The concert was amazing! I even bought a CD from the performers at the end. It was so nice to just sit in that place and listen to such wonderful music. After I walked around the Latin Quarter for a bit, got some food, watched some street performers and hung out at an Internet cafe. Other than my misadventure this was an awesome day.
I met my "German" roommates last night and although they speak German to each other it turns out that they're not German at all. They're all on an exchange in Vienna from other parts of Eastern Europe for the purpose of learning German. They're on vacation this week, and have already been to Amsterdam and someplace else. They're pretty nice now that I've met them (although they're still loud). On of the guys from Hungary is in IT although he claimed to not know too much about anything. I think he was lying about this though because he seemed to know a lot of words and claims to have set up his own VPN stuff on a Linux box and personally managed some LVM stuff. I've never done either of those. He also knew way too much about 3D for someone who "only dabbles." Crazy.
This morning I'm doing laundry at a laundromat down the street. It's funny because I've never used a laundromat before anywhere in the world, and my first time is in Paris. It's awesome because it's obviously a front loader, and it holds a lot, so all my clothes fit in one load. Not that it matters since I screwed up the money the first time. You're supposed to load the clothes then do the money. I did it the other way. So it just ate my money without letting me run a load, forcing me to put more in. Oh well. I'm watching the clothes dance in the little window now, and after I'm done writing I'll read my book until it is all finished. Other people seem to just start the load and then leave, but I'm not quite willing to do that. I don't want anyone stealing my stuff.
I finished up my laundry and got it back to the hostel with no problems at all. They even let me take it up to my room despite being past lockout time. That was definitely one of the easiest parts of the trip thus far. After I headed over to L'Etoile d'Or, the chocolate shop I read up about on the Internet before leaving. It is run by this older lady who only stocks things she loves and wears a school girl outfit to work every day. I got four truffles to eat now, some caramels (her specialty) some lemon marshmallow things (another exclusive) and three bars of Bernachon chocolate (yep, also exclusive to this store). The total bill was forty Euros, but I don't mind. I've already had two truffles and the were absolutely delicious. The bars of chocolate are supposed to be amazing and if you read the website you'll find that you can only get them from the factory, so it's really special that I got them here. She has a special agreement with the makers. The lady was super nice and helpful as well, and I even got some pictures!
I'm sitting here savouring a hazelnut truffle after going up the Eiffel Tower (finally). I'm glad I went up despite the cloudy hazy weather because it was neat to see the history of it all. The Eiffel tower is really old! I only went up to the second viewing level instead of all the way to the top because the top was basically in the clouds.
I'm back at my hostel for a minute to drop off some souveniers and take a short break. I was able to steal a bottom bunk too (finally!). I also smelled my fresh washed clothes...mmmm.
I just ate a sandwich and Notre Dame and now I have to check my email one last time, try to print my hostel reservation form and then maybe hit the shops near Sacre Coeur before heading back to the hostel to pack and get ready to leave for Nice tomorrow. Before supper I went shopping at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps and the surrounding area. It was super insanely busy, a lot like the Eaton's centre only much much classier. I didn't end up buying anything though because I didn't really see any good deals. In fact the only things that weren't completely overpriced were things that I could also buy in Canada so I didn't bother. I like H&M and Zara a lot better in Europe than I do in Canada. Why can't they stock the Europe clothes here? I also made a quick detour to go see the original Paris opera house. I just walked by it quickly but it was a neat enough building to take a picture of.
I'm at the train station (Gare de Lyon) in Paris waiting for my train to Nice. It was a huge pain to get around with all my stuff which tells me that I brought too much for sure. Laundry was so easy to handle that I could have easily brought fewer clothes. At least I'll know for next time.
I went back to Sacre Coeur yesterday evening, and was able to go inside and look around. It was nice, however I was too late to go up to the top to look out over the city. I also wandered around the area a bit, but I got lost again because it's pretty confusing. At least this time it wasn't so late and there were still people out and shops open. Afterwards I found myself, I went back to the hostel in good time, expecting it to be empty so that I could pack and get ready to leave. Instead my room was full with a group of five people travelling together from Hong Kong. It wasn't a problem though because they kept doing everything they could to make sure I was happy. Giving me food, offering me the bathroom first, and making sure I wasn't being kept awake. It was really nice of them. Before going to sleep they made me promise to go to breakfast with them before I left and so we did and it was fun.
Now that I'm leaving I'm thinking about all the things I didn't get a chance to do. I didn't get up to the 3rd level of the Eiffel tower, nor to the top of Sacre Coeur. I didn't really do much shopping or go try out as many restaurants as I would have liked. I also missed the Catacombs (basically open tombs you walk through), a whole bunch of museums, and a bunch of stuff at the Louvre. I would have liked to go to Giverny and see Monet's gardens and I also would have liked to see Jim Morrison's grave. Finally I never went to the church of Sainte Madeleine which is even more like the Greek pantheon than the thing called the Pantheon in Paris. These are just the things that I'm aware of having missed. I only saw a fraction of the city and I didn't really get into more of the non-tourist things. I'm not sad though because I had a great time. I just wish there was more time for me to see it all!
I'm on the train now and it rocks! The seats are huge, I have more leg room than I know what to do with, I have a window seat, and the centre arm rest is actually two arm rests so I won't have to fight with my seat mate. First class is a nice way to travel. The only problem so far is that all the announcements are in French so I don't know if anything important has been said. Awesome, we just started moving. It looks like no one is sitting beside me so I have even more space to stretch out! The train is two levels and I'm on the top so the view is great too!
We're out in the French country side now and it's really pretty and rolling. Lots of hills with trees and rivers, little towns and farm houses nestled here and there. I can tell that the train is going fast because it's hard to take pictures of things out the window, but it doesn't really feel that fast.
I'm sitting on the beach about seven feet from the waves splashing up onto the shore here in Nice. The sun is setting behind me and I can see the whole city stretched out along the shore. I've just eaten a tasty sandwich thing and I couldn't be happier. This freaking rocks! I waded out into the water a bit with my pants rolled up but that never really works and I totally soaked one of the legs. So I'm going to sit here for a while until it dries (not that I really need an excuse to stay here and do nothing).
The hostel is really clean and bright, and the room has only three beds in it (compared with 6 in Paris). I had no trouble finding it (other than the super slow walkers I had to dodge the whole way) and the city itself seems really nice. It's too bad I have to leave tomorrow evening, because there is definitely a lot to do here. But I really only care about the Mediterranean so I'm happy to have made it here at all.
The water was cool, but not cold. Probably about the same temperature as the Great Lakes in Canada at the height of summer. The beach itself is a pebble beach, so it's made of smooth stones instead of sand. A bit bumpy, but not as bad as it sounds. There's an airport at the other end of the city, right on the water and from here it's easy to watch the planes taking off and landing. The coast is a giant crescent shape, so from any point on it you can see all of the rest of it. It's pretty neat.
I'm back at the hostel now after an evening exploring the waterfront. The city is stretched all the way along the coast for miles, so I just walked along for a really long time. They have a big promenade the whole way. There were lots of wobbly rollerbladers out which suggests to me that there is somewhere to rent them. That would be awesome to try tomorrow, but there might not be enough time. There were also some local people out on rollerblades doing crazy tricks and stuff. But not for money or anything, just for fun.
I never met my roommates last night, because they got in extremely late and then left very early. They were both French though. There seem to be a lot of tourists here, but they are generally from France and not other countries. Breakfast at the hostel was good, and after I wandered through old Nice a bit and eventually found a really good market. I got some strawberries and brought them down here to the beach, where I'm sitting now.
I'm at the top of this huge hill in the middle of the city right now. There used to be an old castle up hear from back in the day. Now there are just ruins and an amazing view of the whole area. It's a lot hotter here in Nice than up in Paris though, so I was sweating like crazy by the time I reached the top. Before coming up here I explored the harbour a bit and I also went down onto some rocks above the water and played around climbing on them for a while. It's so awesome here!
After finishing with the ruins and awesome views I went back into town to get some food and then head up to the Matisse museum. I ended up going to a highly recommended place for lunch and picked up a really good sandwich for lunch. I also got some juice and an awesome fruit tart thing. The food is amazing in France. I decided to walk to the Matisse museum rather than take a bus and this turned out to be a mistake. It was really hot, and it just kept getting worse the further from the sea that I went. The museum itself wasn't that good. It was pretty small and didn't have a lot to look at. I was easily finished in less than an hour and then I just walked back.
The lady selling tickets at the museum was such a stereotypical rude French woman, with intensely slicked back hair and a very no-nonsense attitude. The admission price was four Euros, and I tried to pay with a ten Euro note. She asked me if I had anything smaller, and I told her no (I actually did, but I wanted to save it for the bus in Lyon tonight). She asked me if I was sure and if I could check again (in a very rude voice). I assured her that I only had a ten, and then she made a face and some grumpy noises and very slowly got out the cash box. The box was full of money so it's not like it was hard to make change, she just didn't want to. I don't understand that at all, why should the customer be the one who is inconvenienced??
I'm sitting in the Nice train station now waiting for my train to Lyon. I probably could have fit one more activity in but I was all hot and tired and grumpy so I just grabbed my stuff and headed here. I've been reading a little, but it's pretty crowded here with a total of about three benches, so it's not the greatest. I can't wait to get on the train and relax, even if it will be only second class.
We've left the coast now and are headed inland, hopefully towards Lyon. I really wish they spoke more English on the trains, or at least spoke French a bit slower and more clearly. I guess I'll find out for sure when the ticket guy comes. I have a seatmate this time around, a nice older lady who doesn't speak any English at all. We had a passable conversation in French though and she told me that I speak very well! I don't know about that, but it was nice of her to say at least. We talked about usual travel stuff, where we'd been and where we were going. We also covered the basics of where we were from and what we do (I think she's retired). She found it amusing that I went into the Mediterranean because she thought it was too cold. I tried to tell her that I was Canadian and that it was warmer than most of the beaches here, but I don't think she understood. I also helped her with her cell phone. I added a contact to her address book for her because she didn't know how to use it at all. This amused me a lot because everyone here has cell phones and I assumed that they all knew how to use them fairly well. I always think about people like my Mom who just know how to turn them on and off and how to make a call and I thought that people weren't like that here. I guess I was wrong! Anyway, it was a bit tricky to add the contact because the interface was all in French, but it was a Nokia (similar to mine) so I did what I do on my phone and it worked out. She was super happy and thankful towards me after that.
An argument has just broken out in front of me between the ticket guy and some kid. I'm going to stop writing until after it's done. (later) OK, it's done now. I got the lady to try to explain what happened but I'm still not totally sure. I think the kid had a student ticket or something but didn't have proof of age so the ticket guy was yelling at him. It was all in French and very fast. The ticket guy kept pointing at people around us and asking them questions about the kid. I'm really glad he didn't ask me because I had no idea what was happening or what anyone was saying. The kid didn't get kicked off though, so I guess they worked it out.
Also, it turns out this is the train to Lyon, so I'm at least heading to the right place. When I get there I have to take a tram or something to get to Morgan's house. Morgan is a friend of Mike's from frosh leading who's uncle has a place in Lyon. Morgan's travelling in Europe right now as well, and his uncle is not in Lyon currently so he's letting us crash there for the night. I can't wait to be in a real home instead of a hostel, it's gonna be great. It will also be fun to meet up with Mike and chat a bunch before heading to Annecy.
A lot has happened since I last had the chance to write. I got to Morgan's place alright last night. It was easy to catch the Tram in Lyon and I arrived just ten minutes before Mike did (around 10:00pm). The apartment was sweet and moran had a bunch of food and beer for us. Sleeping in hostel's and stuff for the last week made me appreciate the niceness of the apartment even more. It was a good chance to relax and there was even Internet and a real shower. Good times! We chatted for a bunch that evening and Mike and I stayed up until like 4am using the Internet and talking. Mike stayed up even later to finish some blogging or something.
The next day Mike and I went to the market in Lyon and got some breakfast and also went to a cafe for some coffee and juice. It was sooooo relaxed and nice to be able to just eat and not think about rushing off to go see or do something. For lunch we met Morgan for crepes and when we got back to the apartment there were two other travelers waiting for him. I think he was having lots of people stay with him over the course of his week there. Mike and I had to leave to catch a train to Rumilly however, so we chatted for a minute and left.
The train to Rumilly was awesome as it went through the French Alps area and stuff. So many mountains and trees and rocks and stuff. At Rumilly we decided to walk to the bed and breakfast. This turned out to be a mistake, although we found out later that we probably didn't have any choice as the town has like one taxi. Anyway the walk was long and hot and it took us forever because we had our all our bags. Mike had a suitcase with wheels as well as two backpacks. This would have been OK but one of the wheels was busted so we mostly dragged it. Plus the walk was all uphill.
We weren't totally sure where we were going at the time, but we had a general idea. The bed and breakfast was up in the hills outside of town so we were quickly out in a very rural area. At one point when we came across a group of kids in wheelchairs hanging out in a field and enjoying the day. We were really not sure if we were going the right way so we called over to ask directions. Well one of the girls jumped right out of her wheelchair and ran over to us. No sign of any disability at all. So we have no idea what that was about. She gave us good directions though, and we made it the rest of the way without a problem.
The place is beautiful despite the walk. Just rolling beautiful hills and trees and green everywhere. There's a pool out in the garden too. When we arrived the other guests (two older british couples) were sitting around it and when they saw us stagger up with our bags they just laughed (in a nice way). The lady who runs the place (Chrystelle), was surprised we didn't have a car and suggested we rent one. Anyway, Mike's down at the pool now and I'm exhausted so I think I'll go join him.
The pool was awesome and super relaxing after the long walk. We got to chat with Chrystelle and her family a bit as well and she heavily recommended renting a car. She even said she'd call for us and see if she could sort it out.
After swimming we had some Nutella toast, and then walked back to Rumilly to find some supper. The walk was much easier and even pleasant without bags. Unfortunately since it was a Sunday night the entire town was shut down. We finally found an open restaurant and it turned out to be really good too. They had a fixed price menu and so we got steak, potatoes, veggies, a warm goat cheese salad and a chocolate mousse, all for a reasonable price. It was just what we needed to end off the day. The walk back was a bit scary because it was really dark and since it was down country roads there were no street lights. We made it OK though and now we're just relaxing before going to sleep.
Rumilly is a really nice little town, beautiful and friendly and happy. But since it is small it's not all that useful for things like Internet or food or having good train service. Hopefully Annecy is a bit more useful.
I should take a moment to explain what we're doing here. There is a nearby town called Annecy that annually hosts the largest International Animated Film Festival in the world. Mike and I both love this sort of thing so we decided to meet up and go to it together. Unfortunately we decided too late and were unable to secure accommodations in Annecy itself. Rumilly is just a sort train ride (that costs less than three Euros each way) from Annecy so when we found this bed and breakfast it seemed like a good idea. The bed and breakfast is a bit further outside of Rumilly than originally anticipated, but it's not too bad. Anyway, tomorrow we will walk back to Rumilly early in the morning and catch a train to Annecy for the first day of the festival. Unless we get a car we will have to leave by 8pm, as that is the last train back to Rumilly. This is a bit unfortunate because they continue to show movies late into the night, but we are going to try to work something out.
Today was the first day of the film festival and it was super amazing!! We saw a set of short films, the anime "Brave Story" and "Flushed Away." All of them were awesome and we met some nice people too. In particular we met some film students from France who were really into the festival and just as excited as us to be there. We met them while picking up the first swag of the festival, a cool shoulder bag that came with our passes and info booklets. I also bought a t-shirt and a poster to add to the general swag pile.
The town of Annecy itself was very pretty, with a big clear lake and mountains and nice stores and old buildings. Before leaving we got groceries to bring back to the bed and breakfast for supper and snacks. We got some awesome tomato basil babybels and blackberry yogurt too. The food is so good everywhere here!
So we originally booked two films per day, however we wanted to see more than that. We didn't have time to get to the Internet to book any more before the festival started. But the students we met told us we could just show up at any screening and if there was space we would be let in at the last minute. So we went with them to see Brave Story right after getting our passes. It was a good movie, fairly standard anime, but Mike really enjoyed it too so it must have been good. The drawing was exceptional and there was some cool 3D stuff mixed in too.
After Brave Story we saw a set of shorts, including two from the National Film Board, which was awesome. It was pretty funny to go all that way to see movies from Canada, but they were still really good. The others were from all over the world and equally good. Finally we saw Flushed Away, which I had already seen, but was still good. Nothing special, but a good movie nonetheless.
Today we saw another three movies. First up was Azur et Asmar, a French film with a very interesting look. It was 2D, but almost like paper cutouts or something. Very hard to describe, but very cool too. Plus the story was amazing! It's neat seeing films that are a total surprise and awesome and stuff.
Next up was lunch, which we purchased from the grocery store. Goat cheese babybels, Beaufort Gruyere, Tropicana 12 fruit juice, nectarines, baguette, mango yogurt and chocolate mousse (from individual sized glass jars!). We ate on the grass again by the lake.
After lunch we were going to see some short films, but instead we lined up to meet the the artistic director for Shrek 3. We got a huge signed Shrek 3 poster, a Shrek toque and a little McDonald's toy of one of the characters. At 4pm we went to see the continental premier of Shrek 3. I wasn't bad, although it seemed like Shrek and Fiona weren't even the main characters. They didn't grow or learn or anything, it was more like some crazy hijinks that happened to them. The graphics were super amazing though.
Last we went to see a set of short films titled "Sensuality and Desire." It was super weird and at no point did we understand anything that was going on. Probably a bit too artsy for us.
We wanted to go to an Autodesk party this evening, but Rumilly is kinda far out so we didn't want to risk not being able to get back. Instead we took the last train back to Rumilly and hung out here. It's too bad we didn't get a hotel in Annecy and if I ever come back I'll be sure to book early. As a side note here, it's crazy how much Autodesk is a presense at the festival. They have logos on all the staff shirts and passes and everything. It's crazy.
Today we took a break in the morning to use the Internet and so that Mike could sort out details for the next stage of his trip. We also were able to get a place in Annecy for Thursday night which is awesome because we can do a bunch of fun stuff in the evening tomorrow. We were originally going to go to Geneva, but the festival is so awesome so we're just going to skip it and do an extra day here.
In the afternoon we saw a set of short films, which included "Madame Tutli Putli" from the NFB and a cool Russian short film with a "painterly" look. After we headed to a presentation from Pixar on Renderman and Ratatouille. It was really cool to see the Renderman integration in Maya and all the art from Ratatouille. Plus we got a Renderman teapot from last year's SIGGRAPH and a huge Ratatouille poster! Swag rules.
Next up was a feature film, Film Noir, which had a super cool look (3D with a sort of toon shading in black and white with occasional colours). Unfortunately the plot was a bit thin stuff. We ended up leaving before the end to catch the train.
We're all packed now to head out for our new hotel in Annecy. I've "acquired" some of Mike's things to help lighten his load. I also picked up a bottle of wine for my mom from Mme. Benoit from a local independent winery. I hope my mom likes it! We had breakfast this morning with Mme. Benoit and all the other guests and they were all super nice. It's cool to meet fun new people!
Something I forgot to mention from last night was that we had donair in Rumilly for supper last night and as we were walking back a kid on a bike stopped us on the street. He had seen our festival passes and thought we were movie stars or something. He didn't speak any English though, so it was hard to explain things to him. Anyway, he went to get a camera and we let him take pictures with us. It was cute and he was very excited.
I'm back in Paris! It's a bit earlier than expected, but I'll get to that in a second.
It was such a good idea to stay for an extra day at the festival, especially after getting the hotel in Annecy. We arrived there around noon yesterday and had no problems dumping all our stuff. It was a nice enough place although a bit far from downtown (we had to take a city bus). The area did have a post office and a grocery store so we took a bit of time to mail home a poster roll with all the free posters we got and to also grab some lunch.
While we were eating on a bit of grass near the road, an Italian man stopped his rental car near us to ask us a strange question (in a mix of English, French and Italian). He had purchased a bunch of designer clothes (Armani, Prada, Gucci, and more!) in France for the festival and was off to Switzerland before heading home. He was concerned that he would have to pay customs in Switzerland so he wanted to give us the clothes for free (un cadeau!). All we had to do was follow him in his car to somewhere "out of the way." Well the car was pretty crappy for someone who can afford to just give away clothes so we told him we didn't want them and he left. Later we saw him driving again and he shouted "Un cadeau!" at us as he passed but we just waved him away. It might have been alright to take the clothes, but taking risks in a foreign country didn't seem like a good idea at the time.
After lunch Mike headed to MIFA (the conference part of the festival to which students get free admission but professionals don't), and I just used the Internet for a bit and relaxed. At 2pm we saw a set of short films, which included the hilarious "Gentleman's Duel" and a very neat puppet version of the story "Peter and the Wolf."
Next up was a talk on the making of Surf's Up which was way better than I expected. I guess I judged the movie too harshly considering I haven't seen it yet. Apparently it is shot in a documentary style with interviews and such and a sort of full immersion camera perspective. But it's actually a 3D animated film, so they had to fake it all. The coolest part was how they developed a motion capture technique to capture the movement of the camera (as opposed to the characters). This let a real life camera man move about a "virtual set" with a video camera and see a rough preview of what would be rendered in the final shots. They would capture the camera path as he moved and then use it in the final animated sequences. Awesome!
For our last film of the festival we saw Max & Co which was a claymation style film from a bunch countries headed up by Switzerland. It had a huge budget (for a European movie) and as a result came out very polished. The film itself was good and amusing too.
After the movie, we met up with Axel, Pierre and Pierre's girlfriend (our French film student friends) for some beers at a bar. It was a great experience to be able to hang out with them at the festival because they had a ton of interesting stories and were able to help us understand more of the culture of the festival. They were also just really fun people. They took off for another movie around nine, and Mike and I set out to get some supper.
Eventually we found a nice restaurant and settled down for some fondue, salmon and rice. I had never had real fondue before and it was extremely tasty. But the greatest part of the meal was that we ended up sitting beside a South African guy who worked on the only South African movie in the festival. It was a short called "The Tale of How" and it had a 2D paper cutout look, but it was all done in 3D software (XSI I think). It was really cool to meet and chat with the guy as he was one of only four people who worked on the film! They did it in six months working in their spare time and the guy we chatted with, Justin, was responsible for most of the 3D stuff.
Once supper was done, we went to the main field for "Annecybernight," a gigantic video dance party open to everyone at the festival and all the local residents. They had a bunch of DJs playing sorta trance/techno/dance music and everyone was dancing on the grass. We joined in for about an hour and a half. It was fun and we even met some English speakers in the crowd, a bunch of exchange students from Montana. Later, we sat around in the Grand Salle area, hoping to run into Axel and Pierre one last time, but we missed them. Instead we talked with some other exchange students from Taft. It was actually kinda nice to speak with other English speakers for once, as it wasn't a constant struggle to communicate.
We were eventually kicked out of Grand Salle so we went back to the hotel and packed so we would be ready to leave early in the morning. Just as we arrived a huge rainstorm hit and we barely made it inside without getting soaked.
The next morning I was supposed to go to Geneva at 9am, and hang out there before catching a train to Paris in the evening. Due to the rain, however, as well as some bus related confusion, I decided skip Switzerland and just go straight to Paris from Annecy. I had to take a bus and connect in Lyon, but it worked out OK. Unfortunately it meant that I arrived here just after 1pm, and I can't check into the hostel until 4pm. So I've been writing for the past hour and will probably read for a while before it's time to go to the hostel. I'm just sitting on a bench in the park along Champs-Élysées. Tonight I'm going to try to go to another concert at Sainte-Chapelle and probably use the Internet a bit.
I was able to get into another concert tonight, and I'm just waiting for it to start right now. It's The Four Seasons by Vivaldi and it looks like it is being played on original instruments. After this I'm going to get some supper, some Internet and then some sleep. It's been a great trip but I'm exhausted.
I was able to get to the hostel easily today, although when I arrived at the subway stop the huge rainstorm from Annecy had finally arrived in Paris. Fortunately it didn't last as long and I was able to wait in the station until the worst had passed.
The hostel itself is in an older building, but it has good security and is reasonably clean. The showers are communal for the whole floor, but I can deal with that for one night. There are three beds per room as well as a closet and sink, but not much else. I think they're renovating three of the floors because they're closed off with danger signs on them. The danger signs here always seem more serious than in Canada because they say things like "Danger of Death" when translated.
I'm back at the hostel now. One of my roommates is a Chinese man here on business (the elevator industry, apparently) and it sounds like the other guy is from Australia, but we haven't seen him yet. The concert tonight was alright, but it seemed like the material might have been a bit too advanced for the performers. It wasn't bad, but not that good either. I got my last crepe of the trip along with supper and I took a last look around to try to fix the city in my head before leaving.
Well I'm on the plane, so I've done everything I can to get home to Toronto. I always get a bit stressed at the actual travel parts of the trip because it would suck if things got messed up. So it's nice to relax and stop thinking about all that. Mike leant me "Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe" by Bill Bryson and I'm going to read it on the flight home. It's pretty amusing so far.
The terminal that Zoom flies to at CDG here in Paris is pretty funny. It's terminal 3 and it's pretty far from the main terminals. You have to walk to whole way along a covered path. The terminal itself only has three shops and you get to the plane using a shuttle from the gate. Everything went smoothly and the terminal is well maintained, but the experience was different from any airport I've been in before.
It looks like I won't have a seat-mate for the trip, which will be nice, and they've started doing announcements in both French and English again. This is especially good because there is a twenty minute delay.
I'm sitting in Montreal now, just waiting for all the Montreal people to get off the plane before we continue to Toronto. I finished Mike's book and I quite enjoyed it. I think I read it at the perfect time. It was all about the author's experiences backpacking through Europe and I found I could identify with a lot of what he said. I found the end especially interesting where he talked about the "momentum of travelling" and how it's sometimes fun to just keep going. When we landed here I had a passing urge to get off the plane and explore Montreal for a night and then catch a train home tomorrow. Then I remembered my extreme fatigue and felt the jet-lag setting in (I don't think the sun is in the right place), and decided to just stay put. It's been a great trip, but I am done.