Callum’s 2016 Adventures: Paris, France

‘Paris is the only city in the world
where starving to death is still considered an art’
– Carlos Ruiz Zafón

If you haven’t done so already, I would really encourage you to take the Eurostar. Not only does it visit plenty of destinations, if you pick the right trains it can be very inexpensive. For example, my return trip to Paris cost a grand total of £61 – and that includes a £3 booking fee.

The purpose of my visit to Paris was to see a friend of mine – Heather – who I had met in my hostel in Edinburgh. As I had mentioned in that earlier post, I had just clicked with everyone I met in that hostel and – with my upcoming trip to the other side of the world – it felt like an opportunity to good to turn down.

Rather than stay in Paris, I booked an Air BnB in Fourqueux, which can be reached via Saint Germain-En-Laye. I’d 110% recommend staying here as not only is it affordable, but the host is just one of the loveliest people you will meet.

It was early evening by the time we arrived back into Paris, so visiting both the Catacombs and the Louvre was out of the question. Instead, we opted for the latter. This was prompted by the fact that on Friday evenings, it is free entry for all EU Citizens under the age of 26!

Everyone knows the Louvre is huge.I have often heard that you’d have to spend days – or even weeks – in there to see every exhibit properly. The thing is, I don’t think you can really appreciate the scale of this underground/overground museum until you actually set foot and end up in the wrong section of it because there are four separate entrances. It then becomes a mission to make your way back, turning into some sort of maze. If you aren’t careful, you could easily find yourself very lost! Of course I dragged Heather to see the Mona Lisa with me – I mean, if you don’t see the Mona Lisa, did you really visit the Louvre?!

This was followed up by dinner at a restaurant that formerly held a Michelin star. Despite the reputation this can provide, the set menu was extremely well-priced and I was able to wine and dine for a similar price to what I would pay at a lesser place in the UK. It was here I had my first ever souffle; mango and passion-fruit. I can tell you now, it was well worth the wait.

The evening ended with us laying on the ground, looking up at the illuminated Eiffel Tower. I didn’t realise that in the evening, on the hour, the lights sparkled like on a Christmas Tree. Considering I believe that the Eiffel Tower is quite an ugly build up close, this shone a whole new light upon it.

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A new day means a new place to visit and, at long last, I was able to step into the Palace of Versailles. My fascination with the palace stems purely from my love of history, and the fact that the Treaty of Versailles was signed there, in the Hall of Mirrors. With it being poor weather – and the fact it was autumn, we decided to ignore the gardens. However, once again the U26 EU Citizenship played into my hands, as I was able to get free entry to the house!

Words do little to effectively describe the grandeur of Versailles Palace. They do even less to describe the wonder of the Hall of Mirrors. Other people may be able to put how they felt into words, but standing in the room that had caught my fascination more than a decade earlier was really special. It’s just such a shame that the weather was quite so bland (as depicted in the image below).

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Keeping with the theme of fantastic sights, my evening was spent over-looking one of the most beautiful; Paris at night. We weren’t at Montmartre however. No, we were at the bottom of the steps in Saint Germain-En-Laye, 25km outside of central Paris. Yet another reason to live/stay nearby.

I’m not sure of anyone else saw it, but doing the rounds on Facebook the week after Halloween was a video concerning the ‘largest chocolate exhibition in the world‘. This  is known as Salon du Chocolat, and it is where I found myself on Sunday afternoon. So that giant 15ft Eiffel Tower the video shows? I’ve seen that in person. Personally, that wasn’t even the most impressive piece of skill on display but hey, when it comes to chocolate I am a man of simple pleasures.

I want to apologies to any of my pescatarian/vegetarian/vegan friends right now, because the next section discusses meat. Raw meat. A dish called Steak Tartare to be exact.

For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s effectively raw ground beef served with capers, onions and seasonings on the side, with a raw egg yolk on top.You then mix it all together, season as required, then eat it with bread or thin toast. I’ve always maintained that I would only try this dish in France. I didn’t dislike it, but I probably wouldn’t order it again. However, I’ve tried it now, so that’s another dish to cross off the list.

I also had some bone marrow. The jury is still out on that but, if you don’t like fatty food, it certainly is not for you.

One thing that France has in abundance is a beautiful colouring in autumn. My final morning was spent walking through a park with the trees displaying vibrant autumnal leaves. The afternoon saw me dragged up to the top of Montmartre, where I finally saw a bonafide French mime in the stereotypical dress putting on a performance for the tourists. However, it was busy. Far far too busy. The sort of ‘I’m cramped and cannot really move very well oh god get me out of here’ kind of busy that is far from enjoyable. So we found a café a short distance away from the pinnacle to eat some bread and cheese.

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With the day having escaped us, I was soon on my way back to MK via LDN, straight into bed so I would be up for work the next day.

Talk about a whirlwind 4 days!

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