Have you ever stepped foot in an unknown country and a strange emotion crawls up your leg until it meets the nerve endings in the sensors of your brain?
This sense of having been there before. Or you were destined to be there. France does this to me. It’s my second time visiting and still that insistence I was a French Countess in a former life haunts me.
Scribes have often called Paris the city for lovers. I couldn’t agree more. For when I roam the streets and openly gawk at an 18th century building intense love overcomes me. The musical language and elegant presentation. Whimsy and form and texture. Paris has done a remarkable job of combining old world aesthetic with the post-modern sensibilities of technology and functionality.
I’ve fallen head to tail. In obsessive lust – with Paris. I doubt any real man could surpass it.
Along the path towards the bulls, I paused in my Paris. And was heartbroken to leave him.
I decided to do an unusual route to enter France by taking a National Express bus from Victoria Coach Station in London to Dover. At Dover you can take a P&O Ferry to cross into France by way of Calais.
At the Dover ferry terminal, the scenery was foreboding.
However, I was surprised (and delighted) to find two full floors of bars and restaurants on the ferry.
All engines at full speed.
This fellow kept me company on the viewing deck.
Every place has its charms, but Calais is a depressive port city with ugly freeways and dismal architecture.
All I managed to see of Calais (in front of Calais train station).
My life isn’t my life without some drama. Somehow I missed the correct train to arrive to Paris in the evening. I ended up staying in a small town across from the train station at a hotel run by two elderly ladies. They fed me a fromage sandwich and shook their heads at my foibles.
Yet arriving to Paris in the morning hours on a bright day in June is welcome. As though something magical beckons you to smile, take in breath and revel in being alive.
My first Paris meal: seared red tuna on a bed of snow peas and peppers. Grilled tomatoes on top of melted white cheese and some white wine to fortify my thirst. Salut!
I apologize, when I ate this meal was extremely jet lagged and forgot to grab the name and address. I will be back to Paris in August though and promise to update this post.
The Roomorama flat I stayed in was insidiously homey and comfortable. It was hard to leave daily to explore.
The neighborhood where my flat was located is the 11 arrondissement – an irresistible combination of cafes, boutique stores and snappy nightlife. Near to the Place de Bastille.
On a day excursion I explored the famous Parisian neighborhood, Montmartre.
It was once an underbelly of Paris, where the rich dabbled and artistes lived fully, in sin, filth, love and poetry. Can’t be surprising that part of the area now caters to those still on the hunt for sin.
Despite assumption, Montmartre is not a tourist ridden area. Certainly you’ll run into a fair share, but locals also have their special spots. I enjoyed ordinary discovery. That’s the key to Paris – a walk will do.
Kicking back with a cappuccino, my Kindle and Paris.
It was time to hit the rails again towards Bordeaux – prime, Parisan wine region.
Sunset on the TGV train.
Oh yes, more fun in the unpredictable world of movement. I arrived to Bordeaux past nine in the evening and with some struggle found my hotel in the dark amid the throb of locals out for a night on the town. I was given a code to the door, managed to enter with no problem until I discovered that a key that was supposed to be left for my room was nowhere to be found, I thought for sure my sleep would involve a park bench, a high priced hotel was not a solution and all the other budget hotels closed their reception desks by ten.
A haughty young British man who would only speak to me through his hotel door at first told me that I was out of luck and reception would open at eight. With that, I left, but his conscious must have gotten the better of him. He chased me down the street and as exhaustion hit me, I asked if there was anyway I could bunk on the floor of his room, promising that I wouldn’t rape him or steal his valuables. He wasn’t alone and had lost his friend amid the revelry outside, but let me enter his suite. He then left to find his friend. With that, I unrolled my sleeping bag and fell fast asleep. And I wasn’t even drunk, which is how I usually end up on the floor.
Bordeaux pulls me further into the legend and lure of France. I want to drink it all in – yet feel gluttonous and partially ashamed of my want.
I’m staying at a modest hotel called Hotel Studio, which is close to the famous Monument aux Girondins, a bronze masterpiece constructed during the 19th century to honour martrys of the French Revolution.
The fountain is in proximity to Place des Quinconces, where a series of historical buildings surround Europe’s largest square (120,000 square meters).
I was bummed to have missed the annual Bordeaux wine festival held all June every year. Caught some tail end tidbits though.
Trying some of the local fish, my meal last night was white fish slowly cooked in a tomato based sauce with potatoes and rice. I haven’t had one bad meal in France yet or bitter coffee.
I am gutted to leave France at all, but the bulls and my girls await. Tomorrow I hit the rails again. Next stop: Spain! Pamplona, to be exact.
If you plan on crossing into France through Dover, you can purchase a National Express ticket online, cost is 18 GBP. You can also purchase your ferry crossing ticket through P&O Ferries online as well. Cost for that is 30 GBP for one way. One travel site said you could approach the P&O ticket window and ask for a discount and get a one-way ticket for 17 GBP. I asked and was told it’s 30 GBP whether I buy online or directly from the window. Note that booking a return ticket from P&O is generally cheaper.
My stay in Paris was generously provided by Roomorama, but all opinions are my own.