I blame Hollywood for all the events that transposed. On the silver screen, Paris always looks like the most romantic destination on Earth. With all that wine, delicous cakes, and lack of graffiti saying that "Connor is gay IDST", it comes across as such a seductive metropolis, where everything is designed to enflame the senses. It always seems like an entire metropolis dedicated to decadent pleasure. Naturally, this isn't what we experienced.
The trip down was a surefire indicator that we weren't in for a straightforward trip. We had booked to travel by coach down to London, then board the Eurostar straight into Paris. As we reached Watford Gap services, we were only then informed that we would be travelling by Ferry instead, which adds a good 5-6 hours to the journey. A lot of people on the coach were rightly annoyed, especially since many booked this trip to avoid ferry travel. But, being British, we decided to grin and bear it. That was until, several hours later when we'd reached the outskirts of Paris, the driver told us that we wouldn't staying in the hotel we'd originally booked, and would instead be on the miles away from the centre.
Upon arrival it was clear that the hotel were not ready for guests. The staff were running around like headless chickens trying to allocate us rooms. There were no other guests in the hotel apart from our trip. The staff were clearly annoyed at us, the heating wasn't on that first night, and there were only thin sheets on the bed. They eventually found us some more blankets, but it appeared as though the hotel had shut down for the season.
So anyway, we awoke in the freezing cold and set off into Paris. We caught the Metro in and decided to try and catch some of the sights. We went to Notre Dame, followed by the Eiffel Tower, by which time it was very late afternoon due to how busy it was. We wanted to get to the Louvre, but it shut early being New Years Eve, and wasn't open the day after, meaning that we missed one of the main attractions.
Since it was getting late and most places were starting to close, we decided to stay out until midnight to see the New Year celebrations. Most of the shops started shutting early (understandable), so we tried to find something to eat. We expected a major city to be fairly expensive, but didn't anticipate how much prices are raised around New Year. For example, we found a small bar several streets away from the Champs Elysses, one tiny plate of food was 75 Euros (that's a one course meal in a bar. Not a restaurant. A bar), so we stocked up on complimentary nuts and headed out.
Our search was pretty fruitless. Most places were completely out of our price range, so we ended up in McDonalds, which was utterly swarming. When we finally emerged back into the cold night air, we realised something wasn't quite right when shops on the Champs Elysees began boarding up their windows.
|Royale with cheese?|
I didn't realise how hard Parisians like to party. Many of them bought their own fireworks into the City centre, and started letting them off before New Year had started. The Eiffel Tower was lit up with a spotlight, but we knew from images on TV that the whole thing lights up spectacularly and they have a huge fireworks display, so we waited in anticipation in a spot with a good view.
Of course, this happened to be the one year where they didn't do anything. No lights, no fireworks, nothing. The crowd started to get a bit restless when it became obvious that nothing was about to happen, so they started setting off their own fireworks. Someone decided to throw some firecrackers at us, then disappear into the crowd, which was nice. So, once we'd avoiding being killed by a firework, we headed off to try and find something to do.
We wandered past some drunken locals who were drinking what appeared to be some expensive champagne out of the bottle. In between swigs, they took to swinging on the nearby railings and screaming "BONNE ANNEE!" at everyone who walked past. Word of warning, never say "Bonne annee" to a drunk Frenchman, especially if it's clear that you aren't French. While they were very friendly and excited that a foreigner took the time to wish them a happy new year, their method of inviting me to drink with them was rather rough. One of them grabbed my arm while another took me by the head, and dragged me away from the crowd. I felt like a sick deer being picked off of the herd. I was then found myself with a bottle in my hand, while the words "BONNE ANNEE" rang around my cranium. I didn't want to be a party pooper, but I tried to deny their generous booze and return to Mrs Addman, who was getting swept away by the moving crowd. They weren't happy about that. They were offering me their best liquor, who was I to deny it? The chants became more urgent and angry, and the bottle was thrust at me harder until I had to grasp it to save it from smashing on the floor. Not knowing what else to do, I placed the bottle gently on the floor, like I was a humble worshipper offering tribute, then barged my way back into the crowd. The human conveyor belt saved me that day.
The next day was much nicer. We visited the Pompdiou Centre since we couldn't visit the Louvre and managed to see a few shops that weren't closed. But of course, that's not entertaining enough. We did however, stumble across several homeless people laying face down on open grates. We thought they might have been dead, but instead figured that they were just trying to stay warm through the rising air currents.
So, even though we were in the city of love, just about everything ended up being the opposite of what we expected. We ended up waiting around in the cold for fireworks to be thrown at us, and then had a lovely romantic meal at McDonalds. Bonne annee everybody! Bonne annee...