When two second year journalism students from City university began to find their French module a little more authentic than they’d hoped, it seemed there was only one solution to save their course, and no better use of their student loan than to head to the city of lights and love; Paris.
Most people laughed at their far fetched idea to improve their language skills, some even called them stupid. But three brave young women (and fellow classmates) saw the true potential of the trip, and all five, Akua, Dilan, Hannah, Jemelyn and Rochaelle, embarked on a whirlwind tour of Paris that lasted a mammoth…3 days.
This is a small testament to our journey; where we went, what we did, where we stayed and how much it set us back. You might find it a helpful guide or merely find amusement in some of our antics.
This mini adventure didn’t come without struggle- a day before we were meant to leave, after booking accommodation, we lost one of the team- she couldn’t find her passport. But valiantly we went on. Hannah was in Canada up until the day before our departure. And having booked a hostel instead of the hotel that she had adamantly requested we thought it wise to wait till on the train to Paris before breaking it to her. We also discovered on route that no one had brought any form of phrase book and/or dictionary both vital to a group of people whose knowledge of French went little farther than ‘voulez-vous couchez avec moi ce soir?’ We had entrusted this menial task to Jemelyn – who swore that she had downloaded some sort interpretation device and put it on her iPod, which was now MIA. We were buggered.
We departed from Kings Cross St Pancras at 06:40am and arrived at Gare du Nord at 10:40am. We caught the metro (underground), which over the next few days became our closest Parisian pal. We found our hostel easily enough. Having conjured up images of a crack den with dorms, we were pleasantly surprised (and relieved) to find our hostel was actually really nice and had been voted by The Guardian as one of the top ten in the whole world. We dumped our bags and set about on our escapades.
I’ll sleep when I’m dead…
Having skipped a whole nights’ sleep we thought it best not to give in, but to see how far we could push ourselves before breaking point. So we agreed to continue our day as normal and run on enthusiasm and will power. Our hostel was conveniently located a two minute walk from a shopping centre and so we did what any female student with a bit of dough in their pocket would, and went shopping. After spending what felt like eight hours in Sephora, we returned to our hostel and got settled. We’d booked a boat tour of the Seine and it was beautiful, we could’ve happily ended our first night in Paris there. But no, we went in search of some more romanticism. Despite Hannah catching forty winks almost anywhere she could, we ventured into the Latin Quarter, known for its student atmosphere and busy bars. We foolishly went in hopes of finding a shisha place, knowing full well that Paris, like London, had become smoke free. We were told that there were no longer any shisha bars. We were all dressed up with no place to go, feeling deflated, exhausted and subsequently a little bit mad. We wondered the streets of Paris. But then a glimmer of hope came in the form of four hot and slightly drunk American guys. They too were looking for some entertainment and told us about a club on Le Champs Elysses called Queen. There’s nothing like good looking guys to rid you of your ailments, Hannah said she had been awoken by “the scent of man”, so we clamoured into a cab with no actual address of the club just the road name.
Queen was a gay bar, which we were aware of, we didn’t know, however, that it was disco night. You can only imagine what disco night in a gay bar in Paris would be like; over the top but very entertaining. The only point of frustration came when trying to decipher who was gay and who was straight. We decided to call it a night at 3am and after a day of shopping, drooling, dancing and drinking it couldn’t have come sooner.
Meet me under the Eiffel tower.
Morning came far too quick; who would have known waking up could be so difficult? Not ones to turn down anything for free, we woke ourselves up in time to catch breakfast, which was served between 7am and 9am. Bleary eyed we got ready. We decided that we would use this day to shop (again) only this time on the well known Champs Elysses (a more grand version of oxford street) and Galeries Lafayette department store (like Harrods). The Metro meant getting around was fairly easy and the location of the hostel meant we were close to most of Paris’ main attractions. Galeries Lafayette was stunning, with an abundance of luxury and designer wear it wasn’t the best of shopping locations for penny pinching students but it was still astonishing to look at. After a long day of running around like rats on the streets of Paris we were knackered. But the day wasn’t over. It is a prerequisite for any tourist visiting Paris to see the Eiffel tower and being the extroverts that we are we decided- in spite of me having a very real fear of heights, to go to the very top. So come nightfall we went. The view extended over the picturesque city and we truly understood its colloquial name of the city of lights, the Eiffel tower being its’ beacon. After experiencing the mesmerizing views of Paris we ate and then went on to a bar, and somehow managed to stay till its’ closing at 2am.
By our final day in Paris we’d all become aware that we were haemorrhaging money- the term “credit crunch” had been erased from our vocabulary. We had also disregarded the fact that the instalment of our student loan was to last us till April. In addition to this, we were all extremely sleep deprived.
We decided to launch an assault the streets of Montmartre, home to the Moulin Rouge, Espace Dali, the Sacre ceour and much to our surprise, dozens of sex shops. It was on exiting Pigalle station in search of Espace Dali (a museum dedicated to the works of artist and visionary Salvador Dali), that we realised our grave error. We were met at street level by a barrage of seedy and overtly named sex shops. It was here that we were approached by a French man asking if we “knew of any good sex shops in the area”, to whom we said no. Moments later he returned asking in his thick Parisian accent if we would “like to come to a sex shop” with him- to which we replied, “no thank you”. He then suggested that maybe we would like to take a photo of a part of his male anatomy, at which point we ran off.
Set on a hill 130meters high, the area of Montmartre overlooks Paris and along with the Eiffel tower, held the best views of the city. Once we reached the top (after a very steep walk) we reaped the rewards of our trek and were greeted by the perfect view below us. We came to Montmartre in Search of Espace Dali and to book tickets for that nights show at the Moulin Rouge. It was in a crepery in the area that we made friends with two French men who promised to take us out after the show.
The Moulin Rouge was everything I expected and that little bit more. And by the end of the night I’d seen just about as many boobs as I could take. At the end of the show Jemelyn erupted and began to sob out loud, she said she was moved to tears by emotion but we suspected the half bottle of champagne she consumed had something to do with it.
After the show, as promised, we were joined by our Parisian compares for the night. They took us to a club just off the Champs Elysses called 6-7. Wednesday night is tourist night, which means if you’re not a French native you get in for free.
We couldn’t fault the music and the free cocktails only helped to enhance the evening. I would, however, try and take back all five of us attempting to do the ‘soulja boy’ dance routine in the middle of a fancy Parisian club. Alcohol and time keeping do not go hand in hand as we found out. We got back to our hostel at 4am and our return train left at 6:40am. After foolishly knapping for an hour and a half we awoke and began to brick it.
We were very tired, a bit drunk and as a result Jemelyn was quite sick (anywhere she could). We bundled ourselves into a cab and prayed that we’d make our train. We arrived on the platform just as they’d announced they were about to close the doors. After leaping onto the train and barging through the carriages we found our seats. For the first time in three days there was silence.
Granted our time in Paris may not have made that great an impact on our French. There was no denying that we’d all fallen for the city of love.
Return Eurostar ticket (booked through STA): £52.50
Oops! Hostel Avenues des Gobelins: £22/ppn.
Metro: €5.80 for a day pass.
Moulin rouge: €90 (show and half a bottle of champagne)
Espace Dali: €6
Ticket to the top of the Eiffel tower: €12