After having successfully kicked jet lags arse, I’m here in Paris perfectly on Paris time. I ended up getting in later than anticipated thanks to an engineering problem of Qantas’s but all in all it was a good flight and I made it in one piece. It was night when I arrived and my introduction to Paris nightlife was bittersweet unfortunately. Now to preempt the following explanation of my first impressions of Paris, I feel the need to remind you that Japan has spoiled me for the rest of the world. It set me up with this idea of backpacking that was clean and backpacking is not. Hostels are grubby places in general but not in Japan. In Japan they have toilets that are heated, play sounds while you pee and do all the washing up for you. Hell, some even dry as well. In Europe you are lucky if you have a toilet seat. In Japan there is no rubbish, it doesn’t exist. The streets are clean and tidy. In Paris there is rubbish everywhere and everything is grimy and dirty. Secretly I think that this is Japan’s great plot to take over the world. They’re not allowed to have an army so they can’t invade other countries – instead they have designed this grand plan to lure tourists in, let them see how awesome Japan is and then send them back to implement a little bit of Japan in their own country. I will – I’m having a Japanese toilet in my house when I buy one!!
But Paris is odd. It’s simultaneously beautiful and dirty at the same time. I mean every city is to some degree but this I feel is worse. And the worst part of it is that everyone seems to spit on the ground here. At home they do too, but not to this extent. I’ve nearly been spat on twice. Not a good impression of Paris to have let me tell you! I’m also pretty sure at least two people tried to scam me yesterday, I’ve been approached by three different women with a story about Bosnia, a dead husband and starving children (the worst part is that they get your attention by saying ‘Excuse me, do you speak English?’, to which you automatically respond) and I was followed. It was a crazy day and I was a little worried that I’m being too paranoid but they all smelt dirty to me so I put out my hand and kept walking. One of the guys bent down to the ground & picked up a gold mens ring as I walked past and then asked me if it was mine. I said no and tried to keep walking but he kept up with me, asking if it was real gold and if I wanted it. Coincidentally, he was the same guy that ended up following me. But I made it through the day unscathed and with several tourist sites under my belt to boot. I even journeyed up the Eiffel Tower. Besides, none of it was as bad as falling victim to the old grab & run in Hong Kong. We were walking through the market when a guy grabbed me firmly on the arse and then ran away!
But despite the initial dim view I have painted I actually really love Paris. I love the people and I love the food. The bread here (only found in the form of baguette so far) is incredible. I mean, we don’t have bread like this at home. The bread in the train station is better than the best bread I had at home and I had to journey for that shit man. I also love listening to people talk. I love French, it’s such a beautiful sounding language. It’s so bizarre but I feel like I should be able to speak it. I keep opening my mouth to ask something and pausing like I’m looking for the words. I feel like I know it, like it’s swirling around somewhere in my stomach but I can’t quite seem to grab a hold of it. I didn’t feel anything like this when I was in Japan – it really is the oddest feeling! So far one of my favourite things is to just sit in a cafe and listen to the people around me. Forget the Eiffel tower! And to be fair, they all seem perfectly nice to me so far. No one has been rude (except the one girl in the shop change rooms today but I think she was more rude because she hated her job!) in fact I would go as far to say that everyone has been nice to me and gladly spoken English, which kind of annoys me because I would rather speak french to them.
Today I went to the catacombs for an hour or two of wandering around below Paris amongst the bones of Parisians past. It was both eerie and incredibly fascinating at the same time. I was on my own for most of the way although not far from anyone at any one time so it was just the right amount of creepy. I couldn’t resist myself and I touched a few of the bones. It’s so hard to connect the skulls in front of you with the skull you can feel just underneath your skin. The sheer amount of them is also hard to take and it all seems to be skulls & leg bones, no ribs or fingers as far as I could see. Although that wasn’t very far, it was incredibly dark in the tombs and the tunnels and the piles went on and on. Tomorrow I think I’m in the mood for something more upbeat before I head for more doom & gloom on Saturday when I visit the cemetery & the prison. I also have to figure out where the hell I’m going to go from here – I’m thinking Germany but how to get there and when to go? I just don’t know!