A Travellerspoint blog


More of the real Paris

View 2009 Portugal, France & California on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_12535680778428.jpgView from Belle Ville Park shows the Paris skyline including the Eiffel Tower.
I thought revisit Sacre Coeur today but Marie took me for another "real Paris" outing. We took the bus to Belle Ville park in the northeast and walked back down. The walk back down was a mix of African, Asian and Middle Eastern areas. I was told Romanians have now entered the mix, with many Roma-looking (or gypsy) women around selling second or third-hand goods. They had set up shop in the middle of the boulevard, set aside for morning markets.

The cops came and kicked the goods around gently. Without saying a word, one copy picked up a box of the goods and put it in the patrol car and drove off. I think it was the only box of goods that looked new in plastic wrap. I suppose it was their way of saying "you're not allowed to sell here". I thought in most developed countries you'd have to give some kind of receipt for confiscated goods?

Don't get me wrong ... I love the place. Over dinner Marie and I talked about the possibility of future travels together in France or maybe even me stay put for a while ... in the same way we've done in Yemen and in the same way she'll be doing in Auckland soon. Kul shai mumkin!

PS. These photos are from my phone-camera and aren't very good ... my real camera went to London with Kim.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

The other Paris

View 2009 Portugal, France & California on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_12535679881855.jpgStarting off in the glitzy area near our place. This is St James tower.
This morning Marie took me to the northern part of Paris [Paris-travel-guide-471458] around Gare du Nord (the northern railway station). The area is a hotchpotch of people from Africa, Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent living in more rundown conditions than the Paris we know and love (no, not the blonde one ... the other Paris that we know and love).

The markets were incredible and far cheaper than in other areas. I attributed the hustle and bustle to the fact that it will Eid-al-Fitr (feast marking the end of Ramadhan), but I've been told it is daily.

Marie wanted to show me Little India so we could go to the Ganesh Temple. Approaching the Temple, I guessed from the script that they are probably Tamil but definitely south Indian.large_5550_12535679882047.jpgDinky petrol station.A few political posters later, it became apparent that they are Sri Lankan Tamils. The Temple itself was simple, housed in the ground floor of a typical Parisian 4-5 storey block ... with the open fires to Ganesh, it was certainly a fire risk.

The highlight was lunch at a Sri Lankan restaurant ... beautiful meat and vegetarian curries served with iddiappam (or putumayam) which is very like Chinese beehoon (rice vermicelli). All that washed down with a mango lassi cost EUR10 per person ... plus another Euro for a mango kulfi on a stick from the cornershop after.

Walking back to our part of town, I was surprised to see a large camp of homeless people in a relatively nice part of town not from from Republic. They had canvas roofing stretched from the front of a Union building all the way to the roadside (taking up the entire sidewalk). In their setup were beds and sofas. It looked pretty permanent and has been there for months. Sad but true.

Later in the afternoon there appeared to be riots in Paris ... well, nearly. There are techno-music beer-fueled drunken street parties dotted accross the city. Cops all around, flashing lights and siren. Away from the crowds, people are pissing in the streets ... it may be a bit too early for the chundering. It will be just like New Zealand.

PS. These photos are from my phone-camera and aren't very good ... my real camera went to London with Kim.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

French swimming pool

View 2009 Portugal, France & California on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_12533127514830.jpgLacy undies? No, the Eiffel Tower.
As Paris isn't entirely new to me, there was any pressure to do the touristy things. Instead it is quite nice to do the day-to-day activities ... very soon the familiar become strange!

In this case it is swimming ... Paris seems to be well-equipped with council swimming pools. There's about 4 that I know within a 15 minute walking radius of where I am, but I guess it serves a large population.

* Now, entering the pool complex, I was faced with a sign saying that swimcaps are compulsory! I've never worn one before but fortunately they're cheaply available from a vending machine. I guess it is hygiene ... but what about beards? And what about bears? There were a few people who had so much fur you could stroke them like they were a cat.large_5550_12533127525373.jpgView from our front window. Thanks for having us Marie & Bernard.

* Also in the vending machines were speedos ... because boardshorts are not acceptable ... but that is fine as most French are quite trim regardless of age.

* Once I had that sorted, I was faced with scores of cabins or changing cubicles. Each had a lock which can only be opened from the outside. But it wasn't equipped with a key. As it turns out, the attendant unlocks it for you when you've finished your swim. Strange ... he could unlock your cabinet for anyone too!

* In the shower, everything is very discreet. No one flicks off their apparel to have a good wash before or after swimming. It is all done while you're in your swimmers. Then it dawned on me that the changing cubicles are not there for security but for modesty! Strange, considering that it is a very liberal nation ... topless sunbathing and swimming is OK at the beach.

* Then there are rules about where you must take off your shoes or sandals upon entering the complex ... and when you can put them back on on the way out. This is demarcated with a red line on the floor shortly after you pay and enter. It took me two visits to come to grips with this one and had to be told!

PS. These photos are from my phone-camera and aren't very good ... my real camera went to London with Kim.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Visiting the departed

View 2009 Portugal, France & California on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_12533121884875.jpgOscar Wilde's grave.
One thing I haven't done in my previous visits to Paris [Paris-travel-guide-471458] is the Pere Lachaise cemetery which is home to the remains of many famous people.

From a quick googling, I found that it was best to approach from the rear entrance if one is interested in finding Oscar Wilde's grave ... not totally unexpected right? Well, it was smothered in lipstick-kisses!

As I haven't read a book since school, I didn't know many of the famous people. I'm not much of a name dropper! I found Bizet and Chopin but couldn't find Edit Piaf or Maria Callas.

It wasn't as creepy as the cemetery in Buenos Aires. Here the little house for the departed appears to be purely decorative and sits on top of the actual grave. In Buenos Aires, if you peek into the house, you could sometimes see a set of several coffins for the various family members :-(

PS. These photos are from my phone-camera and aren't very good ... my real camera went to London with Kim.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

The day that disappeared

View 2009 Portugal, France & California on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_12533112401963.jpgAt the Pont Marie metro station, Marie and I were magically transported to Istanbul ... it is a poster.
We travelled back to Paris [Paris-travel-guide-471458] today ... it was an early morning wakeup ... it was dark at 7am as Loix is in the west of the country. 1.5 hours on the bus followed by 3.5 hours on the train followed by another bus ride within Paris meant that the day disappeared :-(

It would have been rather uneventful but we managed to brighten up the day with dinner at Chatelier restaurant, a Parisian institution. The food is good and cheap, the decor is absolutely Parisian ... a bit like Denny's with style.

At times the staff were amusingly rude ...

* Our waiter snatched the menu (printed on just A4 paper as it changes daily) back from us and put it back in the rack behind us. We were given a rude look later when we tried to take a copy back for another perusal. Maybe people steal them as souvenirs.

* Later on, he put down a carafe of water on the table while clearing up ... but quickly snatched it back when we picked it up to pour. It was destined for another table ... he did quickly give us another carafe though (two-thirds full since we had finished dinner an didn't deserve a full one).

It was more amusing than offensive though. They do work hard ... seemingly non-stop and very quickly too!

By the way, we cruised straight to a table about 7:30pm but by the time we left, the queue was out the door and around the corner ... no exaggeration! It must be good!


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 9) Page [1] 2 » Next