After only about an hours sleep, the flight to Paris was a bit of a struggle, but we made it to the airport on time & were in Paris before we knew it.
Paris brought out the real tourists in Alison & me. We managed to do something new everyday, not wasting any time, & we still didn't have long enough to see everything that the city had to offer.
On our first day we headed to the Eiffel Tower, where we climbed about a million steps to the second level, then caught the lift up to the top. It would actually have been a lot easier if you could climb all the way up, as the line for the lift was ridiculous, but the wait was worth it once you got up to the top. The view was amazing & the tower itself isn't too bad either. It looks like a massive meccano set (the building things that little kids have but on a huge scale). Very cool.
After that we headed to the Arch De Triomphe, which was also very cool. At first we were a little baffled as to how we were actually going to get across to look at it, the traffic being completely insane, but low & behold, they thought of that & had built a tunnel under the road. Very smart I thought. We opted against climbing up the Arch, as we had already seen Paris from above that day, but the actual arch was beautiful. Then we wandered back along the Champs Elisse for a bit, stopping in too many over priced shops. So, a little depressed at our lack of funds & shopping power, we headed back home.
After wandering around for the morning trying to find a travel agent that could change Alison's plane ticket (which I might add is a lot harder than you might think), we headed out to the Louvre, which was amazing. The building itself is enough of an attraction without all the art inside. It was massive, much bigger than I expected, as was the Mona Lisa. For years I have heard people saying how tiny it is & when I actually saw it, I was quite surprised - it's really not that small! Unfortunately, because we had been mucking around all morning with the travel agents, by the time we actually got there, we were cranky & tired, so definitely didn't spend enough time looking around - but hey, that just gives me a good reason to head back there one day.
On our third day, we moved hostels to a much swankier area, right near the Moulin Rouge. After moving we went to see the Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise, the cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried. I had to go, had to live out my 16 year old dream, & it turns out I wasn't the only one. His grave was very small & understated, possibly the millionth replacement, because people are constantly graffiting it. These days it is all fenced in. People had still managed to leave offerings, flowers & whisky the call of the day. Just standing there made you feel like you should have a cigarette in one hand & a shot of whisky in the other. As expected, there were a heap of people there, bustling around trying to get a look. There were even a couple of middle aged ladies in the crowd, listening to The Doors on their walkman & bawling there eyes out. Id like to think that when I kick it, that many people will want to come & visit me, but unless I do something fantabulous in the mean time, I think I might be dreaming.
Also resting in the same cemetery was Edith Piaf, who also had a steady stream of visitors, even if they were a little more reserved. She was buried with her entire family, a lot like the rest of the people in the cemetery, which was nice; even some big stars stick to tradition.
And last but defiantly not least was Oscar Wilde's grave, which was a great big amazing sculptural stone. Unfortunately a whole heap of Wilde fans had lippied up & kissed all over the stone, which, although I'm sure they were trying to show their love for the guy, actually felt kind of disrespectful & wrong.
The rest of the cemetery was really beautiful also; there were so many different headstones & tombs, from all different people. One of the headstones even looked a bit vampish. Cemeteries really are great places for photos & in some weird kind of way, very peaceful & pleasant.
At our new hostel we befriended a group of Aussies & Canadians & headed out to Versailles with them to have a look at the Royal Palace. Sadly, to actually go in costs about 20 euros, just a bit out of our budgets, but we did go into the gardens to look around. The gardens were ok, but would have been a lot cooler if the flower beds had been planted. It was massive & very well manicured, but not terribly impressive. Twice a day they turn on the millions of fountains in the garden, which was kind of cool & kinds of hilarious, because it was all set to this very loud classical soundtrack. The build up was the funniest: after all this brouhaha & dadar, the fountains started to trickle out water - very amusing, if nothing else.
The best part of the whole day was visiting a little village that Marie Antoinette had built so that she could stay there & be like the common people. It also housed some of her staff & was very cute. Unfortunately once we got there it started bucketing down with rain & we had to leave. Although leaving it didn't really make much of a difference, as we were already completely soaked. It felt like we had jumped into a pool in our clothes, but we weren't the only ones, the entire train was full of poor buggers just like us.
Latter that night, the rain finally stopped, so Al & I went out for a celebratory dinner (we're allowed 1 per country) & then went to have a look at the Moulin Rouge. Unfortunately the shows there were also out of our budget, but it was cool to see the outside, set in a fairly seedy street, now complemented by a massive coca cola neon sign right next door. There were a heap of other people also taking happy snaps & it was very hard not to break into a little cancan jig & embarrass myself.
Next on the list was Notre Dame, which as you can guess was amazing. Inside the church itself was just like most of the other churches that we had seen, & let me tell you, there have been many, but the stained glass windows were amazing & once on the roof, the feeling of the place totally changed. After climbing the 400+ steps, you are greeted by the many Gargoyles that line the roof, looking over the city. They were so cool; I think I nearly filled up my memory card taking pictures. Defiantly well worth the climb up.
After that we decided to reward ourselves for being so very cultured for the past few days & headed up the river to the Galleries Lafayette, a massive, very expensive shopping centre. It is in a very cool building, which was a bonus, but I can't say I paid too much attention to it, with a whole lot of expensive clothes surrounding me. It was hard to be a window shopper here, but with the credit card bills rolling in, Alison (yes girls - she managed to escape without one purchase!) & I left empty handed.
On our final day in Paris we decided to go & see a photography exhibition. After 7 months travelling, religious art was getting a bit old, & there was a Roger Ballen show on not too far away. The exhibition was great. I didn't know much about his work, but the images were incredibly moving. He takes photos in the poorer suburbs of South Africa, but not the kind of landscape stuff that you would imagine; he set up all his photos, using people from the community. I can't say it was an uplifting exhibition, but it was great all the same, it's not often that you find an exhibition that has that much of an effect on you.
Then it was off to Austria, to have a bit of a family history tour.