Sunday, 8 November 2009

J's Visit Part 2: Messing About in Boats

One of the things on our list of things to do was a visit to Disneyland, but we decided that on a Saturday in the middle of a holiday weekend, that would be something of a nightmare, so we went for the next best option – the zoo at the Parc de Vincennes. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we discovered that is was closed until 2013, by which time I may not even still be in Paris, so we had to content ourselves with the park instead, and in fact, that turned out to be just as entertaining. You can hire bikes and go on pony rides, but we decided to get a rowing boat and row around the lake. The lake is really pretty, with bridges, grottoes and an island in the middle, so we didn't have to get bored just going round in circles. Most of the time we were pretty good at rowing, but we did have a wobbly moment when we tried to change places. The guy at the boat rental place was really friendly and told us all the tricks for getting into the toilets in McDonald's without having to buy something and also gave us 15 minutes in the boat for free. (We must have looked as if it would take us a long time to get around the lake!) By the end of the hour, we felt as though we had worked quite hard, so we rewarded ourselves with a crepe before getting the metro back into Paris.

We got of the metro at the Opera house and admired it from the middle of the busy traffic island for a while, then went to look at some shops. After that, we walked back along the river to the Eiffel Tower, which turned out to be a lot further than we thought, and went back to the same café as the day before. This time, however, we were in line for a wonderful surprise. This year is the 120th anniversary of the building of the Eiffel Tower and, to celebrate, every night there is a light show. Normally the tower sparkles like a Christmas tree every so often, but this was different. It went completely dark for a while, then lights sparkled on the dark metal. We wondered if they were making it look spooky for Hallowe'en, but then it continued to light up in different ways, with all the colours of the rainbow making patterns up and down the structure, getting more and more complicated as the show went on. There is sound to accompany the show but we couldn't hear it from where we were.

Some people think that the sparkles on the Eiffel Tower are really tacky, but I've always liked them. I first saw them the night I left France after my first year here. I had to stay in Paris to catch an early train the next morning and I was walking around all my myself, feeling a little bit lonely and sad about leaving, when suddenly I looked up and there was the tower, glittering in the darkening sky. It felt like my own personal goodbye present and I felt much better after that!

After the Eiffel Tower, we went back to the Latin Quarter for another fabulous dinner. It can be hard to pick out the good restaurants in the Latin Quarter because there are so many and they're always busy, but we went for a French one that had nobody outside the door trying to lure us in and it turned out to be a good choice. I was particularly pleased when the waiter said to J, “Is your friend French” because even if he was just trying to be complimentary, at least he realised that was a better way to do it than identifying us as “English” straight away!

After dinner, we went for a drink at a bar on the street corner near the bridge over to the Ile de la Cité. Although there was a good DJ and the waiters were really friendly (and dressed up for Hallowe'en, which was fun!) I would probably never go there again because after we had queued for a table and bought incredibly expensive drinks that we assumed would be enough to let us stay there for the whole evening, we were more or less told after about an hour that we had to order another drink or leave. We actually managed to have more sense than money at this point and headed home, missing the last metro by a few minutes and having to take the night bus once again.

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