After our lovely, if not inspiring, visit to Amsterdam, our next stop was to a city you may have heard of before: Paris. Due to the vagaries of train schedules, we would be spending three nights in the city, but only have two full days of exploring: we were scheduled to arrive very late the first day, and leave very early on the third. We knew this would be the busiest schedule, and probably the most complicated plan. Our apartment was going to be very small, located in Montmartre, and I should mention that we knew basically zero french between the four of us. We could hack Italian, Spanish, and German pretty well between us, and could get enough by in Scandinavia so that we at least got our general point across. No such luck in France, and we knew it.
Anyway, we’re arriving at Gare du Nord, which is the train station that the high-speed transport from Amsterdam arrives at. It’s already behind schedule due to a breakdown in front of us, and we’re quickly getting our stuff and leaving when we notice a couple of heavily armed French police at the terminal. They seem to be guarding some guy who is searching through his own bag for something, and we start walking past when one of them (with a rifle, of course) approached us and said something in French while gesturing what appeared to say “nothing to see here, move along.” So we start moving, and then he says something again.
We’re just staring at him, and I’m fairly sure none of us had anticipated this particular situation. It wasn’t even cached in our minds. After a few seconds of staring, he says “speak English?” Heads nod YES. “Passports and train tickets please.” Okay, we understand that. As we all start rummaging through our coats to find passports, I manage to snag my train ticket before anyone else and hand it to him. he seemed satisfied that at least one of us had a ticket, didn’t seem to care about seeing a passport, and let us go along. Strike one.
Getting through the Metro wasn’t an issue, and we soon step off into Montmarte, which is one of the more “lively” hubs of Paris, and home to the red light district. We soon find our apartment. Down a small side street that is quickly named “Shank Alley.” Finding our host and our room, she starts explaining everything in very rapid French. Oops. Strike two.
We get our room, get online, and we all immediately look for as many French apps as we could find. I’m not kidding in the slightest, all of our phones and tablets were downloading “learn French survival words” books and were quickly memorizing and horribly pronouncing basic phrases. We didn’t have a French speaker, and we knew it was going to be rough. The French are a lot like Italians, they may know English, but will pretend not to know anything because they like messing with tourists.
Nova had to use the restroom, and we all had to hide when she managed to mess it up and caused it to enter cleaning mode. Almost while she was inside.
BUT HOLY CRAP GUYS. IT’S TIME TO GO TO SAINTE-CHAPELLE. This is one of the few buildings that I absolutely had to see on this trip, and verily, one of the few structures that I had to visit in my life. Even though it was partially under reconstruction (the stained glass was distorting over time and they were in the process of fixing/replacing a lot of it), Sainte-Chapelle was an astounding structure. It was remarkable, and even more so for a building built in the mid 1250s. The walls appeared to be made entirely of stained glass, and the atmosphere, even in the evening, was even better than I imagined it.
I think I just stood around in awe.
After Sainte-Chapelle, we went to Sacré Cœur, which is much more impressive from the exterior than the interior.
We returned back, had some sleep, and went off to the Eurostar Terminal early on the third day to visit the Isles.