A sentimental journey.
Do you know this weird feeling? When a wonderful journey comes to an end. Tired from moving from place to place, you’re sitting in the train, bus, plane or whatever going back home. It feels like yesterday, when you were full of anticipation of your coming adventure… Suddenly, everything is over, just like that. Were the moments real or just a dream? You’re wondering how fast time flies! You’re asking yourself: What is actually remaining of that journey?
This is how I feel now, after having backpacked in the north of France for almost 3 weeks. I am tired but very happy. Happy, as I know, what remains at the end of my journey: beautiful moments, nice friendships and a lot exciting stories to tell my friends! Basically, those are priceless experiences lasting a lifetime and make one grow personally!
Finally, my journey ended wonderful in Paris: the city of love & light. The place from where I also started my journey 3 weeks ago. At the end of this post you’ll find a little musical surprise…
A friend brings me a little piece of home (Day 1)
This time, I wasn’t travelling alone. In the capital of France I met up with Linh, a friend of mine from Dresden. She spontaneously decided to visit me as we haven’t seen each other for more than a year. Firstly, we had breakfast in a park in front of the Tour Eiffel which was built 100 years after the French Revolution. So, my friends, when was that?
I saw it for the last time with my family 10 years ago. In my memories, the Tour Eiffel was much bigger and more overwhelming! It is funny how much more intensely we experienced things, when we were a child. Also, we expected more tourists around the highest building in Paris. Someone told me that the number of tourists fell due to the assassinations in Paris in November 2015.
Then we took the Metro to Aubervilliers where Aisha, our Couch Surfing host, lives. We climbed up the stairs of the underground station and found ourselves in the heart of the suburb: big streets, much traffic, everywhere little shops and a lot of people from different nationalities. At the Metro Station, dark-skinned people were shouting: “BORO BORO BORO” (Marlboro) or “Marijuana, Marijuana”. We walked a few minutes and arrived at Aisha’s apartment. She is a friendly English teacher from Washington, D.C. who is living in the house of her Au-Pair family.
Afterwards we took the metro to La Place de la Liberté and discovered the beautiful district “Le Marais”. For dinner, I let Linh, who is vegetarian, taste the cheese Comté, Bleu d’Auvergne and Tomme de Chèvre with baguette. She was impressed. At night we met Aisha in Ménilmontant, a district where locals go out. During our walk we got lost several times and we totally underestimated the long distances: Welcome to a metropolis!
At home, I opened the little pack from my mother that Linh had carried for me. My heart warmed up as I found a little piece of home: Vietnamese green tea, roasted nuts and sweets. Thanks, mom!
A different kind of guide and Vodka Red Bull (Day 2)
What is the third biggest and one of the most visited museums in the world? Yes, it is the Louvre, a must see sight! Weirdly, a Nintendo DS guided me through the fascinating exhibition. That was really cool! Thanks to the Nintendo DS with integrated GPS, I had an audio guide in real-time for every room and I didn’t get lost! You could directly type in specific objects to get further information.
The highlight for me was the Mummy, the painting of LOUIS XIV, the seated scribe, the Winged Victory of Samothrace and for sure the Mona Lisa. It is kind of strange, how the mysterious beauty of Mona Lisa attracts so many people over the world, and also me. After having pushed myself through the crowd of people, I finally stood in front of her: the most famous oil painting of Leonardo Da Vinci which is only 77 cm high x 53 cm wide!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish the whole museum, but I will come back. For students and people under 26 the visit is anyway for free! This is what I love about France: for students, culture costs almost nothing everywhere ! For lunch, we finished our cheese from the day before. I bought a bit too much, almost 1 kg.
In the evening we went to Quartier Latin, near the Notre Dame. When I stood in front of the Notre Dame I was impressed by its Gothic architecture, which took 200 years of construction. Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned there in the year 1804?
I can also absolutely recommend the Quartier Latin for eating and drinking. Bars and restaurants are lined up next to each other. And it’s not expensive at all. You can get a full meal with 3 plates from 10 €. The Happy hours let you enjoy alcohol in a less “financial painful way”.
At night the Tour Eiffel presented us a light spectacle. Suddenly the tower was flashing stars. What an eye candy! Afterwards we went to a friend’s house of Aisha to get the key of her. There, we met that crazy Ph.D. student from Germany who was completely hyperactive! He found it particularly funny when Linh and I told him that we came from Germany. Okay, we have to admit that we do not really look like Germans! He started talking about German politics. To be more specific: about the repeating refugee issues. Linh listened to him but I didn’t feel like joining the conversation. I was fed up with that topic and was really tired from the day. So I watched a funny animation music video with Aisha’s French friends. Music, instead, makes people happy and connects them!
As the Metro closed late at night, Aisha booked us a lift with UBER, a hotly debated transportation network company. She gave us the key and stayed at her friend’s house. Then something really strange happened: We got in the car, I sat in the front and we drove. After 20 minutes I heard a girl behind me sneezing. I wished her in French “Bless you”. Suddenly another weird sound followed and she vomited in the car. The poor driver, the whole car smelled after “sour” Vodka Red Bull. Luckily, her boyfriend sat next to her. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be very pleasant for Linh!
Oh, Tourists! (Day 3)
The third day, we visited the Musée de l’Armée, the national military museum of France. At the reception for the Audio guide, I observed an interesting situation: The staff seemed to be stressed out by an Asian tourist. The young lady asked never-ending questions and made objections. With an audio guide in her hand, she seemed to be unbalanced and hectic. However, the ”cool” French couldn’t understand her stress. Therefore, I felt an unpleasant atmosphere between them. With his stressed eyes, he looked up to me. I gave him a smile and said some calming words in French. I don’t remember anymore what I said exactly.
Thus, we got into a nice conversation about his work and tourists. He revealed to me that “French tourists” are the most annoying. I didn’t believe it. He was very friendly. He allowed us to keep the audio guides longer than the others. It was already quite late. So he recommended us quickly the most important things: the Tomb of Napoleon I in the pompous dome church, the artillery collections and the exhibition of the two world wars.
I was impressed by the Tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, I am especially interested in his person. The former emperor of France was banished twice to islands. After a short stay on Elba, he returned 100 days back to Power. After having lost the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 he was finally banished to St. Helena where he died.
When we gave back the Audio Guides, we picked up our conversation again. This time, with the whole team who had finished work for the day. That was really amusing! Afterwards we went to the Quartier Montmartre where we got into a Sunday Mass in the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. At the foot of the church we had an amazing panorama of Paris!
Later on, our biggest dream came true. We drank a coffee where Amelie Poulain worked: Café des Deux Moulins from the movie Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, a must see for all cinema fans! Nearby, there is the famous Moulin Rouge. I was disappointed when we got there. I thought it would be much more exciting!
Our day ended in Quartier Latin for dining. The first time I ate the infamous “Cuisses de Grenouilles” (frog legs). It tasted like chicken meat. Suddenly Italian and Spanish tourists on the other tables started joyfully singing traditional songs, for example l’asciatemi cantare. An elderly Italian gentleman played “drums” with his cutlery and his plate. This man impressed me and reminded me a bit of myself. So I am not the only one who likes playing drums with anything! The highlight was when the different tables sang together! I guess, they all belonged to one tourist group. Each time, when someone of the group was going to leave, the remaining were singing a goodbye song. It was such a wonderful ambiance. Oh, how I love this Latin joy of life, their passion and their temperament!
La bouffe, c’est la vie ! (Day 4 )
The next day we hang out in the “Parc des Buttes Chaumont” to observe nature. In the afternoon we met Tamayo and her friends. Tamayo is a half Korean girl who did Erasmus in Dresden. I got to know her on our ESN trip on Rügen, the biggest Island of Germany.
With her friends Wonbin Lim and Miora Raharinelina, we drank something in the bar “Nomad’s” near the Opera. Afterwards we ate in a Japanese restaurant. For the first time in my life I tasted “Ramen” noodles with butter and corn. What a culinary delight! In general, I have to admit that Paris is a very good place to eat well, also with a small budget.
During my travels in France, I learned a beautiful philosophy: “La bouffe, c’est la vie !” (The food, that’s life). I have the feeling that French people “live to eat” and “not eat to live, survive”. Definitely it’s worth writing an article about that highly interesting topic! ^_^
The “Champs-Élysées” on the Champs-Élysées! (End)
As a farewell to that wonderful journey, I felt like expressing myself artistically. So I could save you hundreds of pages in which I express my feelings, by entrusting you just a video. What a coincidence that I had already learned the song Champs-Élysées of Joe Dassin 3 months ago, long before I started to write this blog.
I sing the “Champs-Élysées” on the Champs-Élysées! For me, in this way the circle is closing.
Thank you Paris, that you took me charming and rich in experiences to the end of my travel in the north of France. A big hug to the lovely people who made my TRIP unforgettable ( I start in chronological order ): Marie – Madeline 1, Arielle, Camille, Catherine, YOAN, Sylvian, Aysel, Daphné, Simon, Clément, Robin, Anne Sophie, Laure and family, Marie-Madeleine 2, chef cook Maxime, Paul, Marceau, Aisha, Tamayo, Wonbin Lim Miora Raharinelina and Linh.
Thank you, Linh, that you spent the time in Paris with me. I know that my way of traveling is kind of different from yours. Maybe I used to travel too long on my own. Anyway, it was cool with you! What an experience, I learned much more about myself!
GOODBYE! Keep rolling!
Yours Viet. 🙂