Paris, France (Unguided)

I mentioned in my post yesterday that we had two days in Paris. One day was for a guided tour of Paris city. Yesterday’s post covered this guided tour, where we got to see quite a number of landmarks that Paris is famous for as a tourist destination.

Another day, Paul arranged for us to visit Disneyland Paris. The thing is, the entrance tickets to Disneyland was NOT covered by the tour package. We had to pay an additional €40 to purchase the tickets separately. You know, I am not really a Mickey Mouse/Minnie Mouse fan, so I was never really interested with Disneyland. That was why I also did not go to Disneyland LA when I had the chance. To pay €40 to go some place that I have no interest in was… rather steep to me. As it was for a few other tour group members.

So we made a deal with Paul (our tour guide). We would NOT be joining them to Disneyland. We would spend that day wandering around Paris by ourselves. Normally that would be impossible to arrange, as tour guides would insist we stick to the team. They have a legal obligation to ensure our safety at all times, and letting us wander around Paris without supervision works against that obligation. I forgot how we finally managed to persuade him. I think it went somewhere along the line of us refusing to pay for the Disneyland tickets and offered to just stay in the hotel for the day, and he realized how persistent we were, so he closed one eye and even hinted to us how to get to the nearest Metro station from our hotel.

Which is why today, I am able to, and am going to show you some parts of Paris that your typical tour guide will NOT bring you to. Now these are not necessarily those “off the beaten track” places, what I am showing you are still very touristy indeed.

1. Paris Metro

We were staying in Best Western Saint Maurice (which is now called Hotel Kyriad Paris Est – Bois de Vincennes). This hotel is on the outskirts of Paris city center. To get to Paris, the most economical way would be to take the Paris Metro. It was a 15 minutes walk from the hotel to the nearest Metro station.

Now Paris Metro is a network of underground train system that connects the entire Paris and its suburbs. It is very much like London’s Underground and Rome’s Metro system, which is very extensive, has very many lines, and would make KL’s LRT system look like child’s play.

When we got to the Metro station (CharentonÉcoles), we were given first hand reminder on the Frenchs’ distaste towards the English language. You see, we tried to purchase day passes for the Metro, but no matter how we explained to the cashier, she would just shake her head, say “No English, you speak French here“, and gave us wry smile after wry smile as we struggled. We knew she could speak English, she just didn’t want to communicate to us in English. It was very very frustrating.

Fortunately, in 2007, although smartphones were still in their infancy, phones with camera were already very common, and we all had them. After a few minutes of epic struggle, one of us was smart enough to capture a picture of the pricing table, and shoved it to the cashier. That, coupled with the use of our fingers to point at the price that we wanted, and indicating how many we wanted, finally got us our tickets, and we were on our way!

DSC09712
Paris Metro

I cannot imagine what we could’ve done if it was 1997 instead of 2007! God bless Japan/America, God bless camera phones!

This was how a Paris Metro train looked like back in 2007. I wonder if they are still the same or if they have upgraded to newer and nicer trains. If they do things like Malaysia then most likely not.

DSC00106
Paris Metro
DSC09723
Paris Metro

There was another incident on our Paris train adventure, although this one has got nothing to do with language barrier. You see, the train system is a network of many different lines. We were supposed to change to a train of a different line to get to our destination, but when our train arrived at that transit station, the door did not open. It remained closed for quite some time, then there was an announcement on the train’s PA system (in French, yes).

It was very confusing. What the heck is going on? This incident was how we got acquainted with a Chinese student, Kitty. Kitty was a student in another city in France, and she was in Paris for a solo vacation. She explained to us that there has been a bomb alert on one of the trains on OUR line, so all the trains on the same line were stopped and quarantined for investigations to be done. According to another (local) passenger, this happens quite frequently in Paris, so there is nothing to be worried about. How cool is THAT?

We were stuck inside the train for about an hour before the doors opened for us to leave. By then it was super crowded in the train station, and we had to wait like another hour to get onto our connecting train.

Helluva great start to our “free and easy” day. Super awesome!

2. Jardin du Luxembourg

Our first stop was the Jardin du Luxembourg [Luxembourg Garden]. Why did we come here? It is because of the rich history that this garden has… NOT. It is actually because another friend said according to her uncle, Paris is supposed to be famous for beautiful public parks. So I did a quick search online and based on Google Maps, this one seemed to be the largest in the vicinity of the other places we wanted to visit in Paris. Does this garden has some amazing history and stories tied to it? I don’t know.

DSC09748
Jardin du Luxembourg
DSC09755
Jardin du Luxembourg

This place is basically a garden filled with trees, flowers, lawns and statues, and in the middle of it is a big pond with a fountain (it did not work when we were there) to it. On one side of the pond is the Palais du Luxembourg [Luxembourg Palace].

DSC09768
Palais du Luxembourg
DSC09752
Palais du Luxembourg

Wandering around this beautiful garden helped sooth our frayed nerves quite a lot…

3. Galeries Lafayette

From the Jardin du Luxembourg, we proceeded to the next stop of our itinerary. This place is located on the intersection between two main streets of Paris, Rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin and Boulevard Hausmann.

DSC09811
Rue de la Chausee d’Antin

I wonder how many of you have read Alexandre Dumas’ novel, The Count of Monte Cristo. According to Dumas’ depiction, Rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin was one of the high streets of Paris in the 1800s. Although just a novel, Dumas is French, so I believe his depictions should be largely reflective of real life. This was where most of the rich bankers and merchants of Paris lived in. This was where all the operas and theaters were. This was also where one of the super-villain of the novel, the treacherous banker Baron Danglars, lived in.

Quite a number of opera buildings are still around today, although I’m not sure if any of them are still functioning as opera or something else. But, the most popular building is now Galeries Lafayette. This place is very famous, but in case you have not heard of it, it is one of the most prestigious high end departmental store of Paris. They now have expanded to a chain across Europe, but this one is the original flagship store.

DSC09865
Galeries Lafayette

If you want me to speak in a language understood by Malaysians, this is one of those places that the Fat Lady of Cincin [Malaysian insider joke] would approve of as one of her destination for shopping escapades. The lower floors are those more “public friendly” brands like Chanel or Gucci etc. The upper floors houses those brands that us commoners probably would never have seen before.

DSC09831
Galeries Lafayette

To me though, the most impressive feature of Galeries Lafayette is this, the smaller scaled inverted Eiffel Tower.

Panorama 1
Inverted Eiffel Tower

Holy crap! – That’s what came out of my mouth when I saw this structure…

4. Louvre

I know, I know, I have shown you the Louvre on the post yesterday. But we came back again anyway. And twice we came back. Not because we wanted to check out the exhibits, but for something else.

You see, if you visit the Louvre with a tour group, you will be ushered into the museum’s compound and inside the museum itself. You can get photos of the pyramid, and photos of the Mona Lisa, and photos of everything else. But you won’t be able to get photos of this. And this was the reason we came back today in the afternoon.

DSC09945
Jeanne d’Arc

Jeanne d’Arc, a bronze sculpture of Joan of Arc (her name in French as well), stands tall at one of the road intersections just OUTSIDE the museum compound. If you didn’t know better, you would just drive past it without giving it any second thoughts like it was just any other statues. But we DID know better.

You guys know Joan of Arc, right? She is mighty famous, especially among the Roman Catholics. She was supposed to be a great military strategist which she claimed was due to her having visions from God. She is a super heroine in France. She is one of the ultimate symbol of female power in the world.

And this bronze statue outside the Louvre, is one of the most famous sculpture ever built to commemorate her, because this is very close to where Joan was supposingly shot on her leg with a crossbow when she led the French army to retake Paris from the English army. Yes, the English and French used to go to war for 100 years, that’s why they hate each other so much.

We went some place else after this, but came back again to the Louvre at nightfall. Because we wanted photos of the Louvre Pyramid at night. This is something that you will never get if you join a tour. No tour guides in their right frame of mind would bring you to the Louvre at night because, well, the museum is closed!

DSC00182
Louvre Pyramid at night

5. Champs-Élysées

The next stop from the Louvre is somewhere fairly close. This stop, is an entire street that is world famous, and stretches from Place de la Concorde (the ferris wheel and the obelisk) at one end, to the Arc de Triomphe at the other end. This, is the Champs-Élysées.

IMG_2806
Champs-Élysées

We came back here not because of the arch. We came back here, because this street is the current high street of Paris. This is where the rich, but not so rich, do their shopping.

According to Alexandre Dumas’, this was also where The Count of Monte Cristo lived in when he was in Paris to plot his revenge. I tried looking for the address that the novel mentioned, I think it was a McDonald’s in real life. 😐

DSC00044
LV @ Champs-Élysées

Unfortunately, even when we came back to wander by ourselves, I still do not have much photos to share on this wonderful street. You see, the photographer with us today is a girl. You know girls won’t take pictures when they go into a LV, right? More like, they won’t remember to. When a girl goes into a LV flagship store, there are a million other better things to do that take photos…

We did also go into the Adidas store and Toyota showroom here. In Adidas, they have an awesome display of every iteration of World Cup balls that Adidas sponsored since 1978. Since football is not something a girl takes interest in, here there are photos.

Just like there are photos in Toyota, because girls are less interested in cars and engines and technology and whatnot. I mean most girls anyway. I just remembered a certain lady blogger who ARE into planes and robots and machines…

Anyway, it was awesome in the Toyota showroom. They have a Prius out on display, which is dedicated for visitors to scribble on. Being the jakuns the we were, you know what has got to happen… 😉

6. Princess Diana

We stumbled onto this purely by accident. It was already nightfall, and we wandering around the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower, waiting for something special to happen, when we came across this.

IMG_3341
Princess Diana Memorial

A memorial monument for Princess Diana! You guys know Princess Diana, right? Right?? That famous English princess who died in a car crash in a tunnel in Paris? This monument is built on top of that tunnel, and we chanced upon it by accident.

IMG_3342
Princess Diana Memorial

It was then the 10 years anniversary of her death (or is there another word for this?), I thought maybe it was fated that we stumbled across this place…

7. Eiffel Tower Night View

I mentioned we were waiting for something special to happen to the Eiffel Tower, didn’t I?

DSC00124
Paris night view

Well, this was because, we were originally just intending to wander around Paris and taking photos. Everywhere we went, the Eiffel Tower was clearly visible. It was very pretty, seeing the tower lighting up the night sky with bright yellow and green.

IMG_3353
Eiffel Tower night view

And then, suddenly…

IMG_3368
Eiffel Tower night view

Hundreds (or maybe millions) or lights flashed from the tower, like those camera flashes, except it flashed non stop for the next 5 minutes. It was super amazing!

We checked our time, it was 8.00PM. It could be a one off every day, or maybe a one off every month or year. But we speculated that maybe it was a once every hour thing. We wanted to try our luck anyway. That was why we wandered around and waited that hour off. We slowly made our way towards the tower when it was almost 9.00PM.

DSC00159
Eiffel Tower night view

Seriously, even without those flashes, I thought the Eiffel Tower at night is already beautiful enough as it is.

Anyway, our speculation turned out correct. At 9.00PM sharp, we arrived beneath the Eiffel Tower just in time to witness this happen!

DSC00130
Made it, just in time!

Millions of lights flashing again! It was really a sight to behold! We spent the next 5 minutes quickly getting our pictures taken with this flashing Eiffel Tower.

It was the last thing we saw before we took the train back to our hotel. This was our last night in France and the last day in continental Europe, for the next day we headed back to England and our Europe Tour came to an end.

Spectacular! Freaking amazing! What a way to end our Europe Tour with a bang, quite literally!


And… I have finally come to and end of my Europe Tour 2007 travelogue. It was so long ago, but I had so much fun rewriting and rekindling those memories when I write these stuff, as always. I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have written them. 🙂

34 Comments

  1. I think the cashier at the Metro station was incredibly arrogant. That is not acceptable service. I’m sorry..coming from Canada where children are taught some French, that might be reasonable for us to try to speak French in Quebec, but …in Paris. Unless we told them we were from Canada.

    yes, we went to the Louvre twice ourselves. So much to see. We spent 4 days in Paris and took a train out to Palais de Versailles. Wonderful place.

    Lucky you about the Eiffel Tower.

    • I heard stories from others before my visit, but I was appalled to actually encounter this “No English” treatment first hand. You know, many of us in Malaysia don’t speak English well at all, but our people who work in the service and tourism line will always try to communicate with tourists, even with our limited “broken” English. But then, we did not go to war for 100 years with the English people, so I suppose I would never understand that animosity that boiled over even today.

      You know, we were actually given the choice between Disneyland and Versailles, but everyone wanted Disneyland. If it was Versailles then I would have joined and this blog post would never have existed.

  2. This makes me think back a lot about my times over there. been to paris three times but still wanting more. the place is huge with lots to offer. hope to be there again.

  3. This day looks like much more fun!! I like exploring malls when I travel. Galeries Lafayette looks so cool with the inverted tower! We’re actually headed to Paris in a few hours, just for one day/night. I wonder what sights I should fit in…. We’re staying in right by Luxembourg gardens, which is my favorite area (so far) of Paris. There’s a Sorbonne area right next to it that has a ton of eateries and cheap street food!

    • Well, I’m sure you would have more fun than I did. It seems you already know your way around. 🙂

  4. I even bought a pair of jeans in Galeries Lafayette when I went to Paris! They were actually discounted, not expensive at all! 🙂

    If that cashier could really speak English but she just didn’t want to I would seriously feel like hitting her. I hate when people do that. In a Burger King inside an airport in Spain I saw a very rude cashier yelling in Spanish to a group of guys, she was saying: “You are in Spain, speak in Spanish!”. She was stupid and couldn’t speak English, so I wonder why she was hired to work in an airport… BTW, the guys she was yelling at turned out to be travelling in my plane, they were very hot and I wondered who they were, until one of them changed seats, sit by my side and started hitting on me, haha. It was very funny, they were the Turkish sub 20 football team!!

    • That’s what I thought of doing, slapping that b*tch. But of course I didn’t… Well, they say get used to the locals way, I suppose this is also part of it, dealing with French who refuse to speak English. It is quite worrying to know that they also do this in Spain! I’m going to Barcelona next year!

      And… hahaha good for you! Football players are more often than not, hot. Who knows if any of them are Turkish national team now… 😛

      • Well it is said that French people do it because they don’t want to speak English, Spanish people might do it because they CAN’T speak English despite learning it for years at school 😀

        • I wanted to laugh, but then, it is not like us Malaysians are any better. We too, learn English for years in school, but if you read Malaysian forums and news sites, you will see our level of English through those comments. It is quite an embarrassment. 😐

  5. So in the end Paul was a very nice guy to let some of you guys go off on your own. Haha, seems like you can’t get enough of the Eiffel Towel. It is a beauty and what lovely lights.

    I definitely enjoyed following this travelogue series. Really liked how it was written. Conversational like you were narrating it. And the photos look very good though they are from a while back. All this gives me something to think of – at some point I would love to do a backpacking Europe trip. Sooner rather than later because getting old 😀

    • Well, he kind of had no choice, we didn’t want to go to Disneyland with him LOL! 😀

      It is not getting old that stops us from traveling, but I think once you get married and have kids, then you can kiss backpacking travel goodbye.

      • In other words, when more responsibility comes along, less leisurely solo travels. Also, getting older there is also the physical part of your body to worry about :/

        • I suppose you are right. I don’t think I can backpack the way I could when I was younger. I don’t think I can, for example, sleep in train stations, anymore. 😐

  6. Very interesting! Especially the flashing lights at the Eiffel Tower. I didn’t know about this until I read this post. Spectacular to watch it right there. Lucky you 🙂

  7. Now your post makes me miss Paris. Thought I wouldn’t miss it. Hehehe. Aaaah…I didn’t visit Louvre Pyramid at night and I must make it a point to visit next trip.

    • I believe not many people think of visiting this glass pyramid at night too. Usually people go to Eiffel Tower at night, and the Louvre is quite out of the way from there.

  8. Why wouldn’t the cashier at the train station speak English if she knew how to? Why would she want to make it difficult for tourists who are the very people who feeds her economy. I’m sure the sales personnel at the branded stores would speak English if they want to sell their high end goods!

    • Oh yes, those LV and Gucci sales persons speak perfect English with us. I don’t know, I guess the train is more of a transportation for locals rather than tourists, that’s why they are not bothered.

      I actually don’t know if the French really hate English in general, it was just that I was told that by other people. Then my personal experience over the 2 days seem to support that claim. Who knows if I stayed longer maybe I would experience differently…

  9. Eh, same here, I’m not a fan of Mickey Mouse & his girlfriend, Minnie, but I still went to Disneyland (HK) la, becoz, “tak ada oren, limau pun jadi la”.. Can’t go Disneyland Tokyo or Paris, ada Disneyland HK, sapu jugak la, at least can tell people I’ve been to Disneyland before.. Purposely took picture with Mickey too, saja, haha..

    • Hahaha I have no interest to go to any Disneyland at all. But I heard from other Mickey Meow fans, only the LA and Tokyo ones are worth going, the Paris and HK ones are not that worth..

  10. This post is definitely more interesting without Paul who couldn’t allow you to snap so many lovely photos. I like the museum at night and all the Eifel Towers being lighted up.
    Another reason we both cannot travel is that I must visit every Disneyland I could. You made me think that you must be a real bore or boar or just one who has no sense of inner child. Lol…. Just teasing you ok…. I am no Arthur!

    • This is not teasing matter. I believe what you say is true. We should never travel together. Hahahaha!

  11. This day is really the highlight of your tour. You did so much on this one day than your tour guide would be able to cover. I read the Count of Monte Cristo since I was young and find the revenge plot very interesting especially the number of years it took to execute it. Takes great patience to wait so long and plan it so carefully and in such detail.

    • You know there is a sequel to this novel, but it was written by an Englishman. I read one chapter of it, then threw the book away. His chapter 1 undid everything that we know about how great The Count of Monte Cristo is, made him lose his wife to a bandit, that kind of shit. Bloody moron, that Englishman, for writing the sequel like that. 😐

  12. wah really fun-packed trip to Paris!! you have been and seen and tried so many things.. the first time I spent 2 days, the second time I spent 3 days, and I still think there are a lot that I have not covered..

    • Paris is so big, and the suburbs is even bigger. Much bigger than KL I reckon. Probably need 1 month to cover them all. 😐

Comments are closed.