I've been to this city twice. And I did not like it one bit, twice (except for Disneyland). Yet, here I was again, trying really hard to give it another chance.
Why did I come? Well, my buddy Rich was getting married in Normandy. There was no way on earth I would miss witnessing the creation of the divine union between him and the lovely Cécile. I was even willing to come to Paris again.
This time, things will be different. Instead of suffering the smelly subways and wandering the streets that are a strange mix of a Woody Allen movie and Lasnamäe, my wife and I will give its neighbours a chance – Versailles and perhaps a few villages outside the metropolis.
LET'S STILL GIVE IT A CHANCE
Before we go exploring, we have half of a day on our arrival. So we have just enough time to put down our bags in our Airbnb, walk around in the area for a bit, grab a quick bite and go to bed.
Our Airbnb was awesome. It was (too) reasonably priced in a great location of being just 10 minutes from the Notre Dame. Upon arrival, we understood why the pricing had been so reasonable. We were smack in the middle of the local red light district.
Our landlady Michelle didn't speak a single word of English. But her local French-English dictionary on her 15-year old laptop made us feel just like a house [read: home].
Having already been in the great Quasimodo cathedral, we did not bother fighting the all the queueing Asian tourists. We probably would have lost the battle anyway, given their history in martial arts and their mastery in using a selfie stick.
Versailles – a tourist trap
In high school we learned how the kings and queens of old Europe lived in monumental palaces surrounded by gigantic gardens. Given how much time we dedicated in trying to learn all the Louis', their sequences and achievements, I felt that it was my moral obligation to pay respect to my history teacher to at least have a glimpse at how the everyday lives of the rulers may have looked like.
Of course, after I get past the selfie stick ninjas.
Yes. It was big. Really big. Sometimes beautiful. But mostly, just big. I have no clue how they navigated the place. Or how they heated the place. Or how they even cleaned the place.
Apparently, as my wife observantly pointed out, they don't clean it – at least not the decorations on the tops of their beds nor the fluffy feathers next to them. A palace for dust mites as well.
The gardens were unbelievable too. Hundreds of thousands of flowers, trees, bushes; fifty fountains etc.
Initially we gracefully took the time to slowly walk and enjoy the place. Two hours later we were just trying to see the major fountains and leave the place.
Time to get out
The wedding day arrives. Time to go to Normandy. How does one get to Normandy? By car of course.
I had not driven a car pretty much in eight years. To make the ride as comfortable as I possibly could, I did what any reasonable man would do – get a vehicle with an automatic transmission.
And boy was that a smart thing to do. Because all other aspects of that first encounter with a four wheel machine were...well, let's just say not too comfortable.
We had to get outside of parking building from floor -6. I had never driven in a parking house.
We ended up in the middle of Paris, next to Gare du Nord, during rush hour.
I had nowhere to put my phone that was our only navigation tool. So I trusted it to my wife to navigate for me instead. Turns out that her relationship with maps was as close as a hairbrush is to a bald man.
But we survived! And even made it on time!
Boy, was driving rewarding though. Not only did we make to Rich and Cécile's ceremony, we also got to visit the local villages with local castles, Chateau d'Acquigny being our favourite.
The house of Claude Monet
The garden was much smaller than I imagined it to be. Nonetheless, it was beautiful.
To my surprise, his house was gigantic! The had to be at least 8 rooms in that building.
And of course they had turned the whole village of Giverny into a massive tourist shop that sold copies of Monet's paintings as well as replicas of his hats and socks.
It was a good one.
Having been to quite a few big European cities and capitals, my biggest lesson from this trip is to get outside of the concrete jungles as fast as possible. They have a lot to offer.
Let's see if I can hold on to my word in my next trip – Budapest.