Paris & UK Trip Part 1

A quote from Gossip Girl season 4 – “Just as every summer ends, all tourists come home, all dreamers wake up.” That’s the case with me. I finally picked up my laptop and started blogging again.

And where had I been missing? I was in UK and France for a 10 days trip, something that took me one whole year to plan. It started out naively when I mentioned to my friends that I wanted to visit them in UK without knowing how much money will be needed. I even asked them whether RM3000 will be enough, lol! After a meticulous calculation, I set the budget at RM5K per person and everyone (literally, everyone) told me it’s impossible. But you know me.. I like to challenge a tight budget.

Of course, I had been warned, Paris is nothing like we imagined but still, it’s in my list of ‘places to go before I die’. I decided to brave whatever that’s in store Paris for me. Especially after watching 4th season of Gossip Girl, lovely.

My posts for this trip are going to be lengthy, since I wanted to give as much information (and directions) as possible for anyone who wants to go there, something that I wished before the trip.

After a long 14 hours nightmarish flight, we finally landed in Orly Aiport, Paris. We took the ride in Oryval and changed to RER B at Antony. If anyone must know the condition of their metro (their version of subway/train) I would say, horrible. No air cons, dirty, loads of graffiti and homeless guys. The metro stations are basically their homes and toilets, so you can imagine how’s the smell. No escalator or lift but luckily we only had one luggage to drag.

We had our first stop at Gare du Nord, the main train station of Paris serving many train lines including the Eurostar and TGV. The station is so big, complicated and we couldn’t find the paid lockers. The simple French that Iearnt before the trip proved to be handy. To get to the lockers, walk to one of the end of the station, passing by a few cafes and sandwich stores on left. Look out for the sign ‘conciergee’ or a symbol of luggage, go down an escalator at the end and you’ll reach the lockers. We were required to pass through tight security scanner (like those in airports) but thank god, no body search. Everything were self serviced here. Just choose the size of locker you’ll need – small, medium or large. All the available lockers are open so you can try and error to decide which size is the best for you. Once decided, just put your stuffs in and pay shillings via the machine by keying in the locker number. Remember to keep the receipt as you’ll need the PIN to open the locker later.

Finally we got out of Gare du Nord and took a short walk to Gare d’Lest for metro to Opera area. There’s no sign on how to get to Gare d’lest, so walk out Gare du Nord onto the street in front of station. Turn left along the front of the station, keep straight ahead up the Rue de Dunkerque until tracks leading into the Gare de L’est stop you going any further. turn right into the Rue d’Alsace along the tracks, descend long flight of pedestrian steps to the side entrance of the Gare de L’est. From there we took line 7 to Opera and there’s the Paris that I wanted to see – extravagant opera building in the midst of nicely preserved pre-war buildings, gargoyles, statues, and fountains.

A little short walk brought us to the Fragonard Musee (Perfume Museum) at Rue de Scribe. We tried to enter the museum but was told by a tourist guide (who was bringing his group of tourist from India) that this museum is not open to public. We found out he lied and went in, not before giving him dirty looks. The museum itself was interesting, showing us the development of perfumes from early France till now but it was very small and we only spent 15 minutes in there.

Next we walked to Galleries le Fayette, the biggest luxury shopping arena in Paris only to find it closed on Sunday. Although lonely and crowd-less, our leisurely walk in this area was enjoyable.

Musee de Louvre

Music performance outside de Louvre.

Cafes opposite of de Louvre and these ‘Mat Salleh’ really loves sunshine, don’t they?

People modelling in front of de Louvre building.

In de Louvre’s courtyard.

As it was the first Sunday of the month, entrance to a few museums are free in Paris, including Musee de Louvre. I know, I know, everyone is going to say IMPOSSIBLE because the queue will be the longest we had ever set eyes upon. That was very true. Disappointed, we walked to Jardin Tuileries, only to discover an easier way to enter De Louvre via Portes de Lion. There wasn’t a sign that says it’s an entrance to De Louvre. We thought it was another small museum around because there’s no queue at all. Realization only came to us when we saw the sign “This way to Mona Lisa”!

Porte des lion entrance, our ‘secret passage’ into de Louvre.

De Louvre is a humungous maze. In order to really appreciate all the arts and artifacts, one would have to come back another day. I am not into religious and medieval painting so we skipped to Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and took a whole one hour looking for the Egyptian section, only to be disappointed with only one or two mummies. British Museum has more (and better) mummies than De Louvre. Finally we took another one hour just to figure out how to get out of De Louvre!

I might as well add a tip here; buy bottled waters (notice the plural?) before you even get to de Louvre area. Bottle waters are super expensive in this area and even worst in the museum itself. We learnt this the hard way when we had to pay 2.60 Euro for a 400ml distilled water! If you’re thinking fountain or tap water, the answer is no. There’s no water dispenser/fountain here and the queue to the washroom is crazily long. Worst come to worst, buy waters from the street vendors which will cost you 1 Euro, pricier than other places but better than inside the museum.

By 6 pm, we were back at Gare Du Nord. We had to wait for another 2 hours before we can check in to Eurostar for departure to London. There’s no free public toilet in Gare du Nord and we can’t get into the washroom in Eurostar area yet. I ended up paying 1.70 Euro (about RM5.50) for a paid washroom. CS cracked a joke by suggesting that I might as well go for ‘big business’ instead of ‘small’ one to make my money worth it! That, earned a glare from me.

By 8pm, we filled up the Visa card for UK and queue for Eurostar. UK immigration enter point is at Gare du Nord, so travelers can disembarked right away once reached London. That’s when I started to worry. What will the UK immigration officers asked? What if they don’t believe that we’re going to UK for holiday? What if we get deported? There’s no other Asian around, and we stood out like sore thumbs.

P:S

Finally, it was CS turn. The officer looked at him and me, signaled for me to come forward too.

Officer : What are you here for?
Me : Holiday.
Officer : For how long will you be in UK?
Me : 5 days.
Officer : Where will you stay in UK?
Me : Tune Hotel at Westminster Bridge Road.
Officer : Where will you be hereafter?
Me : We’ll be back to Paris on day 6.
Officer : You’re a Parisian?
(Do I look like Parisian?)
Me : No, we’re departing from Orly airport back to Malaysia.

PASSED!! That wasn’t too bad.

After the stress, I totally forgot how did I got onto Eurostar train. For me, I would consider Eurostar as the best way to get from Paris to UK and vice versa. It’s so fast that it shorten a 10 hours journey to only 2 hours plus. Both main station is situated right in the smack of the busy cities with extensive metro/tube line to other places, not to mention we don’t have to worry about baggage limit. Plus points ; the scenery is good too.

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