Paris; The Eiffel Tower, Montmarte, and the Moulin Rouge

Today was our little jaunt to good ol’ Paris. First we made our way to Brussels, parked, and trudged through the train station to find where we had to go. We were an hour early so the platform number wasn’t up yet. I say trudged because we were all pretty tired. My eye is better, but still red. The drops and new contact helped. The polysporin drops aren’t the most pleasant thing going in, but give them time and they seem to help. I didn’t actually put my contacts in until we were pulling in to Paris and I took them out while waiting in the train station to come home. During our wait we wandered around the station and tested out some food. We found deep dish pizza and shared a piece of that. It was almost lunch after all. We went to the little grocery store they had in the station and grabbed a pack of waffles to eat on the train. We also met a couple of guys from the States. Mom happened to hear them talk and noticed there accent placed them somewhere in North America so she stopped to ask them where. The one guys was from San Diego, and the other, well I know that he studied in Chicago, but I don’t know where he lives now. It was neat. You know, to meet other travellers with somewhat common ground.

This was my 2nd time ever being on a train (the first was in Amsterdam), and my 1st time on a fast train. We took the Thalys train. The ride there was noisy and a little frustrating. There was a baby ahead of us screaming (that can’t be helped sometimes and it wasn’t that bad), there was a little girl in that same area talking the entire time, and there were two little girls behind Mom and me – one kept hitting Mom’s seat and the other would stare at me from around my seat and when I put the arm rest up she put it down again…my arm rest. I just started at her and put it back up. Her hand is also in a picture of Lisa and I. This didn’t really bother me much because I was listening to an audio book. Also, things like that are going to happen when you take public transport, it’s just the way it is. It can’t be changed so there’s no sense getting upset over it. And it wasn’t a very long trip; just 1h 15m.

We didn’t really have much of a plan for seeing things when we got there. We wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and the Moulin Rouge. I knew that to walk, the Moulin Rouge was about 25m from the station, and the Eiffel Tower about 1h 19m. Thank you Google Maps. But we didn’t have these with us and upon exiting the station, we were a bit lost. I had a book of Paris that my cousin lent us (thanks Katie!) and it had a map included. Unfortunately I was unable to locate the station on it at that time. Of course, later while just perusing it, the station was the first thing I saw. It was at the top and the street we were on wasn’t on the list of streets!

We ended up going back inside and trying to find bus tickets. The figured out it would be cheaper to just buy 8 or so single tickets than a day pass. We ended up only using 4, so before we left for home Dad and Lisa found some people who needed tickets and gave the rest away. Hopefully that brightened up their evening. We ended up taking the Metro, not buses. It was a little confusing at first because the transfer we were supposed to take (as told to us by one of the ticket vendors) was actually closed because of construction! When we got off at that point we stopped at information and were handed a handy piece of paper with very helpful instructions on how to get to the Eiffel Tower. They worked very well. We could see the Tower a few times when the metro went above ground, but when we got off it was hidden by other buildings. Then we rounded the corner of a building and there it was in all it’s glory. Well, as glorious as a 7,000 ton hunk of metal can be. No really, it was awesome, I just like to show my sarcastic side at times. Part of this day was really just to say ‘ok, we’ve been to Paris and seen the Eiffel Tower’ so we weren’t too concerned with getting to a lot of places. Plus, when you only have one day it can be very tiring. We bought ice cream there. €3.50 for a cone…just because it was set up right near the good view of the tower. Just a few hundred feet away, another vendor was set up (we had passed this one first of course, on our way to get pictures), still with a decent view. Their ice cream was .50¢ cheaper.

We were finishing up our cones and perusing the merchandise from the many souvenir stands there when I remembered Freddy! How is Freddy supposed to be a travelling beanie-panda if he always stays in my bag? He still travels, but there is no proof. So I went back and took some more pictures with Freddy. Freddy at the Eiffel Tower, Freddy at the Moulin Rouge.

We then ran into a women who was originally from, um, Croatia maybe? I can’t remember, but her and her husband have been living in Chicago for a long time. She heard us speaking English so she came over to ask us some questions. She was on her way to a cruise on the Mediterranean (the day after tomorrow) and she’s stranded in Paris until tomorrow (at least) because the airline lost her luggage! It didn’t even get on her plane. I know this happens all the time, but still, when you luggage doesn’t even make it on the plane and the airline says it’s not their fault…well, it’s someone’s fault. She was thinking of doing one of those bus tours and we happened to have a map with some details and routes with us and I should have given it to her, but I had a couple of things marked on that map that I hadn’t found yet on our others. Still though, I feel bad. I should have given it to her, we ended up not needing it. And she was by her self. After her cruise she was going to be going to her family (she just lost her job so she’s taking an extended vacation) and her husband will be visiting her sometime in September. I hope that she gets her luggage and everything works out!

After walking around aimlessly for a few minutes we made our way back to the metro station. We were trying to find our way back and must have looked hopelessly lost because this wonderful woman stopped and spent a few minutes with us working out which line we had to take (we were working off of two very tiny maps), where we had to transfer and what would be the easiest way of getting to the Moulin Rouge. We finally worked out a way with only one transfer and we were on our way. She was so nice. I felt a little stupid because it took us so long (I couldn’t see where she was pointing most of the time until we moved where there was more light). After that though I think I can work my way around the Paris metro system pretty confidently with the right maps. After that we were off to Montmarte. Also, listening to Dad’s pronunciations of the stops was priceless. I would have to pronounce things like he would (or spell them out) so that he would know where I was talking about and it hurt a little. I know that my pronunciation for most of the places wasn’t perfect or anything, but at least they sounded a bit like French :P.

We actually could have gone one stop further than the stop recommended to us, but it was no big deal to walk the extra way. I don’t think, even in Amsterdam, I’ve ever seen so many sex shops/clubs/etc. on one street. Mind you, I don’t spend a lot (or any really) time in big cities, so I guess I wouldn’t really know. It was kind of funny actually. You may wonder why I wanted to see the Moulin Rouge in the first place. Well, yes, I like the movie, but that’s not the main reason. In my last course I took for university last fall, I wrote my final university paper on the movie Moulin Rouge (2001) and the Orientalist tropes present in the film (through music, set design, story line…), blah, blah, blah. I actually got my highest mark ever on a university paper on that one. So I did a lot of research on the real Moulin Rouge and the people who made it popular. So for me, it was a place that if I was ever in Paris and it was possible, I wanted to make sure I could take a picture of the famous red windmill. And take pictures I did. I ended up buying a t-shirt at one of the many shops lining the streets, not that I was planning on it. It’s black with one of the Moulin Rouge posters painted by Toulouse-Lautrec (played by John Leguizamo in the movie) featuring a famous can-can dancer La Goulue (in English The Glutton if memory serves me correctly). I thought it was better than just a standard, I love/heart Paris, or Paris this, Paris that, let’s add sparkles, etc. that flooded the shelves. It actually means something to me and is a poster I saw many times in numerous books during my research. So there, not just because of the movie! Also, one of the guys that worked there was a really good salesman. He wasn’t too pushy, and was a hoot to boot. He kept telling Mom, Lisa, and I that we had pretty eyes. Flattery will get you sales my friend. He said he was going to buy Mom’s t-shirts, it was funny. When he was showing her shirts he held up one with a heart. She said she didn’t want any hearts on her shirt and he said (paraphrased) ‘that is my heart, you don’t like my heart? I have a nice heart’. Apparently he has a thing for eyes because he kept making comments about ours. That or he was just being cheeky :P. It made shopping a lot more fun though!

After taking some pictures we continued down the Blvd. de Clichy to find something to eat. By this time it was between 5:30-6pm. We only left Brussels at 12:30 or so, so we didn’t have an early start (that was the earliest my Dad was able to get tickets) and then trying to find our way around and such. We decided we wanted to have a leisurely dinner and stopped at a place called the Cafe Luna. We actually each got a post card of the restaurant with our bill! The specials in the window looked good, that’s what decided us. The food wasn’t that bad, maybe a little bland, but decent. We ended up going with a meal/dessert option. Mom, Lisa, and I got a bottle of fruity rosé to share. It was ok, I’m not a wine lover. I had to decent size glasses and was definitely feeling it for a while. At that point we went to check out something else, but I couldn’t find it (didn’t actually know exactly what it was – I know now that it’s a hill with a lot of different tourist things including the Sacred Heart Basilica). If we would have kept walking up a couple of streets we would have got to the area, but even though we had lots of time, we were planning on walking back to the train station and I didn’t know exactly where it was and this and that so we just when back to the Blvd. de Clichy and started walking for the station. Our train wasn’t leaving until 10pm and as it was we were an hour early, but we were also tired from all the walking around and it’s better early than late! Looking it up now I wish I would have continued on a little bit more and used my head a lot more. I kind of had a feeling of what it was, but I wasn’t as sure as I was with the Moulin Rouge and I had been on enough wild goose chases with wrong directions that I didn’t want to lead my tired family around in possible circles. So we saw two sections of Paris, and only two real sites (just the outsides), but we still got to experience a little of the city and can now claim we’ve been there. Yes, better planning would have made for a more organized, full day, but it also would have made us even more tired and stressed I think. This way we were able to enjoy our time a little more. We also used one of those self-cleaning washrooms that line the main streets. They were free! In the book I had it said you had to pay, but all the one’s we saw were free. And handy. It was a little freaky at first because I’ve heard some crazy stories about them (and when I first read the section about public washrooms, I thought it said ‘doomed’ self-cleaning washrooms, not ‘domed’ as is actually written). Silly Holly.

Like I said, we made it back to the station with an hour to spare, which gave us time to give away our extra Metro tickets. We ended up entering the station from a different side which caused a little confusion, but we just followed the huge line of taxi’s to the entrance on that side. Then we went out where we had exited the first time (Place Napoleon III) and took some pictures of the station from down the street. The train ride back we actually had 4 seats facing each other. Well, two and two, with shared tables in the centre. It was quieter, but they kept all the lights on so you couldn’t see anything outside even if you wanted to try.

Upon arriving back in Wasseiges we decided we were going to try, for fun, getting a pizza from the pizza vending machine down the street from the house. You choose from two kinds, how many you want, and then you pay. Well, Dad put a €5 in, but we couldn’t find the change slot. We tried two other €5 bills (which the machine didn’t want to take) and had just found the change slot and were about to put the rest in when it just cancelled it, ate our €5. We couldn’t get it back. I have no idea what is up with that. I mean, how could it just take our money like that and cancel everything? At least give the money back! So we’re a little peeved.

Now I really have to go to bed. Tomorrow will come earlier for me than the rest of my family and we have another (not quite as busy, but still lots of walking) busy day. I am now going to roll myself over to my bed and collapse. That sounds like an excellent idea.

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  1. I’ve always wanted to go there. Sounds like a nice day even if it was rushed. Enjoy yourself. Savor the moments.

    • It was a nice day. We got to take our time with dinner even though my Dad kept having to deal with work calls. It was kind of a ‘now we can say we’ve been to Paris’ day trip. And I have the pictures and a t-shirt to prove it!


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