Paris, the city of… boulangeries, patisseries and criminal dazzlery

I’m writing this post from somewhere in Portugal. I don’t even know where – we just came across it and stopped. All I know is there’s a stunning beach with superbly iridescent blue waves, white sand, us and a tiny pub. All a win. Apart from the dude in fluoro orange Euro trunks. Fail.

So Paris was a bit of an interim stop for us I suppose, tying off the small gap between finishing up in Argentière and beginning our trip with the camper van (with one day prior to Argentière for good measure), only a week or so and that was enough for me to be honest.

It began with Ryan and I attempting to return our hire car that we’d just taken to the alps. I say attempting loosely as we did succeed in that regard, but not without embarking on a journey that would make Moses blush purely at the thought of it. Actually Moses is a convenient joke-butt there since it he was in a sense partly to blame for the mess we were about to involve ourselves in, him and his mate Jesus I suppose.

Note to self (write this down) DO NOT EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER try to drive through Paris in the middle of an anti-gay marriage rally. Never. I swore they were following us around the city but it turns out that Frenchies really don’t like the concept of two blokes tying the knot because there were literally millions of them marching around waving they’re anti-gay flags and banners to the beat of whatever the French equivalent of Kevin Bloody Wilson would be (I’m in now way suggesting the Kevin Bloody Wilson is a homophobe but that his music tends to become an anthem for the redneck inside all of us). Christianity (more specifically Catholicism) is rampant.

Ok, let me paint a picture for you, because there’s a number of contributing factors here. When we picked up the hire car the dude at Hertz told us to bring it back empty because they get a discounted rate for petrol (contributing factor number 1) and therefore it’d save us a swag of cash. So naturally we pushed the limits of fuel tank emptiness in the lead up to returning the car because we knew it was only just around the corner from Ryan’s apartment in Paris (thanks Rio Tinto by the way). This is where things started to fall apart. We round the corner to Trocadéro into the most pure form of carnage – Parisian gridlock. It took over half an hour to move three exits on the roundabout. If that woman inside the GPS told us once more to take the next exit off the traffic circle very bad things were going to happen. Not only were most of the exits blocked with police barricades but every second man, woman and dog had to get out of their cars to make sure that traffic cop knew how inconvenienced they were.

Being the savvy local bloke he is, Ryan attempted to negotiate Paris on his terms by doing a “quick lap” around the protesters and get across to the rental joint from the other side. Yeah, savvy alright. This super manoeuvre results in us being further pigeonholed in the fiery depths of Catholic love that it took us another half an hour to travel about 200m up a one way street. Saw a pretty sweet Ferrari though.

By this stage things are starting to get a little tense. The yellow fuel light is glaring at us like a temperamental child who didn’t get the two kilos of fairy floss he desperately required at the local show, the “range” indicator on the trip computer is trying to figure out how to put a negative sign in front of the “2” it is displaying and Ryan’s veins were even veinier that normal.

Next plan of attack is to hit the Périphérique that circles the city as a way of keeping traffic out of the city centre. Well Paris, you didn’t need it this day because six billion protesters were doing that job for you. Every exit we needed was blocked by cops, barricades or both and the traffic was thicker than Paul Gallen. A decision needed to be made and neither of us liked the obvious solution. We had to park up before we ran out of juice and caused the storming of the Citroen – the storming of the Bastille would have been a drop in the ocean compared to the rage we’d have caused.

So that’s what we did, we stopped in the middle of an exit smack bang in front of a police barricade and settled in for the long haul. Until something very awesome happened. Somebody else appeared to be a similar conundrum and pulled up in front of us, got his Missus out with her bags and ran her up the hill (obviously needing to get to the airport) before returning some time later, angry, and drives off.

At this point we were clutching at straws and starting to hit delirium which resulted in the best move of the day. It didn’t take much of a conversation between the two of us but before we knew it I was out the door throwing barricades out the way and we were driving straight through them into the eye of the tiger. I think we were both hoping we’d start some sort of revolution and everyone around would just follow suit, making the idea of the cops arresting anyone fruitless but nobody followed, not one. So that made things a little uneasy.

Driving up the exit ramp we pop out in the guts of the Champs Élysêes to the tune of all six billion protesters. Nothing the old Citroen C8 couldn’t handle. From here it pretty must turned into a game of avoid the cops with the big guns. The dudes with the machine guns were heaps more intimidating than the lowly old traffic cops who probably aren’t even allowed to carry a ticket book so we concentrated our efforts on trying to strong-arm our way through the weaker species. Nope. Again, nothing the Citroen couldn’t handle. A quick kilometre or two the wrong way down a one way street at warp speed an where should we find ourselves but at the rental agency. Bingo.

Now that’s quite a rant, and it should be. That was one of the most shit hot moments of criminal dazzlery that this pleb has experienced. The moral of this rant that you must take away with you and tell your kids, cousins, pupils etc is this – “Crime does pay.”

/End rant.

Don’t let anyone tell you that Parisians are rude, that’s not entirely true. They’re just proud, ignorant snobs that don’t appear to have any time for those who aren’t from Paris. Well that’s not entirely true either. As a matter of fact most Parisians we came across were lovely, particularly the woman at the patisserie that I got to know quite well. “Bonjour. Je voudrais deux pain au chocolat, deux pain au raisen et deux croissants s’il vous plaît.”… every morning my friends. You should never start your day in France without pastry, end of story.

We pretty well did the tourist thing in Paris which was ok because I don’t think there’s too much else you could do there.

The Louvre is a pretty sensational joint but in some ways it’s just too big get a handle on the magnitude of significant works contained with in it in a solitary morning,  actually a week couldn’t do it justice. We spent half a day and saw A LOT, but I’d hazard a guess that we only covered 50% of it and only got a proper appreciation for 2%. One thing that sticks out like dog’s balls while there is how young Australia is as a country. The louvre is littered with works that outdate the birth of Oz at least twofold, there’s also probably twice the population of Australia in there so that further makes it difficult to get a handle of things. We did see the Mona Lisa though… from a distance. Lucky she’s not camera shy.

We did the other touristy stuff you’re supposed to do while in Paris – Notre Dame, le Tour Eiffel, the Arch de Triomphe, Champs Élysées, the Catacombs etc etc and it was pretty fun but we were both pretty happy to get out of the city and onto the road. In fact we picked up our camper van two days early as a result.

So, the next post will have less ranting about Catholics and more about the latest addition to the Taylor family – Jean Claude Van Damn. Yes, you heard that right. He’s here.


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