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16 June 2012

city slackers

after all the country jaunts we've been doing lately, it was nice to really get away. i had booked this trip to paris for mama and i a few months ago, when i knew she would be in london with nothing planned. the night before we left, i was checking the details of the hotel on line, how to get there etc, and came across some not-so-glowing reviews of it from only a few weeks ago. the reviews claimed there were bed bugs in the sheets and mushrooms in the shower. it said the attendants didn't speak any english, and the overall rating was around 4/10. i was so worried! (we packed flip-flops for the shower and spare pillow cases just to be safe.) monday morning we woke up and it was pouring down. the weather report for paris was very much the same. i don't really own wet-weather gear. it doesn't particularly fall into my tea-party themed life. so mamma and i headed out to pick some up before we left for the train station to begin our journey.

we got to kings cross st. pancras about an hour early, plenty of time to grab a coffee and buy some food for the journey. large hot coffee in hand, half an hour before departure, we join the queue for security. only to be told, no hot drinks allowed through security. erm... mum downed hers cos she has an asbestos throat and doesn't feel heat, but i was struggling to hold mine without scalding my hand, let alone drink it! i had a few more mouthfuls until i could take it no longer, then threw the rest away. what a waste! once we boarded the train, we were noticing people boarding with coffee cups.. turns out there's a coffee bar in the boarding lounge after security! d'oh! next time..

we found our seats and tucked the luggage away and got comfy for the journey. a few minutes before departure, it became clear we were in the wrong seats. i'd sat us in coach 18 when we should be in coach 16. so, with all eyes on us, we grabbed all the luggage and crap we had settled down with and rush through the coach to what i thought was coach 16. which turned out to be 15. ! stuck my head outside to see if i could find someone to help, and heard the whistle blow and the train man waving me back into the carriage. wah! hurriedly we trundled back up the way we'd just gone, back all the same people we had knocked and bumped on the way through, and fiiiinally found the right seat. just as the train pulled out. success!

the trip was really quick - the marvels of the eurostar! we arrived in just over 2 hours, so a surprisingly sunny paris! after a small holdup at the metro station (mum almost got scammed by an gypsy trying to oversell her metro tickets by about a zillion percent!), we got to the hotel around 7:30. it was still so sunny. we stopped briefly in the room to unload our crap, then we headed straight off to montmartre for a look around and potentially a spot of dinner. mama absolutely loved everything about the area, and the view from sacre coeur is just amazingly breathtaking - not to mention the church itself. so beautiful. we walked for a bit around the souvenir shops and then decided that as it was after 9:30 that we would have some crepes for supper and leave it at that. we had a lovely night discovering the real bohemian paris!

that night i struggled to sleep. the noise from the street was super loud and noisy through the night, and the pillow i had was so lumpy that i just couldnt find that comfy place. i tossed and turned for a long time, and eventually fell asleep somehow but woke up really early when mama woke around 6, then couldnt go back to sleep. argh! when we did get up and head out, we were off to the opera house to meet our walking tour guide for the day. along the way we hunted out potential coffee shops - none of which had soy milk for my sensi-belly, so i settled for a cappuccino with mama. which were 5,50 euro each! second rip off of the trip! as we were hanging about the steps of the opera house, i started to see starbucks cups everywhere - a quick scan of the area proved there was a starbucks just up the street - in the opposite direction of where we had just come from! gutted!

we met our guide philippe at around 10, just as it started to spit slightly. a true parisian, he was a ballet dancer in his prime, and used to live in the opera house. as it happens, the opera house is where the 'phantom of the opera' was set. i didn't know that, but in hindsight, it makes a lot of sense. anyway, he arrived to a party of 5 waiting for him. at this point, he had a few unkind things to say about the organisers of the company. now, this is is supposed to be a free your, and you tip your guide how much you think your tour was worth. except, he instantly started on how they don't do enough marketing for him, and how he shouldn't be taking any groups smaller than 15 as it's not worth it financially, and how for every person who comes on his tour, the company takes 5 euro off him to go back into his marketing.. he was really quite bitchy. mum and i shared looks to say 'what have we gotten ourselves into?' - this got us off on the wrong foot, cos it almost seemed like he didn't want to be there, and now we both felt like we had been bullied into giving him more because of the politics. this shouldn't be our responsibility!

 anyway, the tour went for just under 3 hours and we covered a lot of the right bank of paris and a lot of the major sights. it was a bit of a different tour than the one bex and i did a year ago, so there were new things to be shown and learn, which was great, but it didn't cover nearly as much as the one i'd been on previously, which was a bit of a shame because the last one was really thorough and we saw and learned a lot. the tour finished up at the louvre, which was handy cos the weather was still not great (although it had stopped raining) so we knew we could go in there and kill quite a few hours. we took a few pics of the pyramids, and i noted to mum that there didn't even seem to be much of a line, bonus! until.. we read the sign that said "the louvre is closed on tuesdays". it was tuesday. onto plan b. we walked to the seine and i took mum the way i remembered from the last time i was in paris, and headed across the bridge with all the love locks down it. we walked down the seine until we got to notre dame, and then got in the line to get inside. this is one of the most beautiful churches i've seen, and i love love love the inside of it. last time i was in there, i was lucky enough to hear them taking mass, in latin. i'm not religious, at all, but that was a very moving experience. no such luck this time, but it was still as beautiful as i remember.

from notre dame, we headed to the metro and got underground to get us to the eiffel tower. as the train pulled up, IT WAS DOUBLE DECKER. awesome. it was really sunny when we got to eiffel tower, but the line to get up the tower was loooooong, so we decided against that and just hung out below for a bit, then decided to head back up to montmarte for some more souvenir shopping, and to visit inside the sacre coeur, all the while trying to avoid the 'looky looky' men trying to sell us their whory wares. we went inside the church, and i took some sneaky pics despite the SHHHH NO PICTURRRES policy, then we went for a spot of dinner at an authentic parisian cafe (wine included!) then headed back to the hotel to call it a night.

that night saw me cough and splutter most of the way through the night, poor mama snoring soundly next to me. i "woke up" at 4 and could not for the life of me get back to sleep. it was so loud and noisy on the street, and i was wide awake. after about an hour of trying, i gave up, got the phone out and started texting people i knew would be awake (those living on the other side of the world). after some of that, i picked up my book and started reading by the light of my phone. after about an hour of that, the sun was starting to come up and what sounded like rubbish trucks were banging out in the street, yet somehow i fell asleep! i woke up again at 8, then 8:30 and finally at last at 9. there was no hot water. great start to the day! wednesday morning we  checked out and headed back to the opera house to get a huuuuge starbucks, then walked the length of the rue rovoli that runs besides the louvre for some souvenir shopping before heading into back to the louvre to kill a few hours. we were told to go in via the lions entrance because no-one knows about it and there will be no line. we got there to find this sneaky entrance is closed on wednesdays. It was wednesday. what is wrong with this place! we get back to the main entrance, and join the queue. 40 minutes later, we're in.....in side, we still have to line up for tickets! all up, the waiting was only about an hour..

my mum loves a map a to find her barrings. loves to pull a map out to determine where we're headed, even if we have already reached our destination. loves to stop to check it, even though there may be a steady stream of people behind, or around her. loves it. although, not so much at the louvre.. in her opinion, there was not enough information on where the things she wanted to see were. not enough clarity on how to avoid the millions of families and tourists. didn't have a big red arrow pointing at the mona lisa, basically (there basically is, FYI). we did happen to catch a glance of it though, before deciding that it was all too hard pile, and chose to head back out in to the wild, and do a bit more shopping. now that's more like it! (note: we did spend a good few hours in there, and even got to go in and through louis xvi's house and check out his amazing grandiose chandeliers and china collection) we headed out along the seine at street level to indulge the street markets, and ended up at the giant shopping centre at the hotel deville. by that time it was almost time to head to the station, and we were pretty tired. we got to the station with enough time to spare to dabble in some duty free and magazine purchases, before boarding for the trip home.

ahhhh it felt good to be back in london, and even better to get home to my own bed - especially as the next 2 days were completely booked out again. boyfriend came home from work on wednesday with a bag full of ebay stuff i had bought and forgotten about. a lot of it was fabrics i had ordered, a new phone cover and, my business cards for www.facebook.com/BuyingErica.. how exciting!

thursday saw mama and i attend a matinee of shakespeare's 'henry v' at the globe theatre on southbank. i have no idea what the play is about, and now that i have seen it, i still don't. and, it was looooong. mama really liked it, and i give massive kudos to the actors who were amazing to watch, but.. it's not for me. after the show, we rushed off to meet up with boyfriend and liz as we had dinner plans before going to see bill bailey perform in the west end. he is hilarious! we had such a good night, which totally made up for my boredom during the shakespeare period. needless to say, i was exhasted... it didn't stop there! on friday, we shopped til we absolutely dropped on oxford street, before meeting up with erin and bex for a night of burlesque and italian goodness. i told myself i was allowed to buy anything i wanted (within reason), but as it turns out, old habits die hard. i am a bargain hunter, and i came away with 2 denim jackets, a belt, 2 pairs of earrings, a tube skirt and a lace cropped top for fifty squids! an absolute haul. mum had been wearing new shoes that she picked up in paris, which were killing her so we traded for a while. she's decided she's not going to take them home with her, so i guess i scored some new shoes too!

the show was supposed to start at 7, or so we though. we had dinner plans for 9, as we had scored these meal vouchers for an italian restaurant in soho, but they were all booked until then. by the time 8 cam around, and the show still hadn't started, we began to worry. checking the internet, we learned that the show wasn't due to start until 8:30.. we made a frantic call to the restaurant and moved our booking back a half an hour, and hoped we wouldn't starve in the meantime. the show was.... odd, and after about half an hour, they broke for a 20 minute interval. this meant we would only see another 10 minutes before our reservation! we bailed and headed for dinner.

the vouchers we scored were £13 each, and were for a full 3 courses and 2 glasses of wine. each. the main meals alone were valued between £19-£23.. we were very very lucky girls! this was an extended celebration of erin's birthday late last month, and we had a great night. the food was delicious! the only downside was that as we were leaving, the waiter came running out after us... to pay for the *discretionary service charge*. £6.50. unbelievable. am i crazy? these people get paid an ok wage to do their job. imagine if i insisted all my customers paid me an extra 12.5% of every invoice that's paid? guys! it's the uk! we don't tip! especially if it's discretionary.

anyway.. it's been an incredibly long week. i am exhausted, mum is buzzing! she is off to stay with erin's parents on monday in suffolk for a few days, then she is back for about a week then heads home! this 2 months has absolutely flown! and, i'm sure i have not done this much in ever.

thanks again for stopping by.. have you been to paris? what's your favourite thing to see or do? let me know for the next time i'm there.

much love x


ps. do you love the late aniversary present boyfriend snuck to me this week? isn't he adorable. i love them. how lucky am i!? spoiled much? x