Monday, 31 October 2011

Paris, first glimpse

The morning of our flight, the first Spring rains were lashing Brisbane. The water was sluicing across the windscreen of our new car as we packed it full of bags and coats and visited my sister's new house to see my parents briefly on their return from New York. I had barely slept the night before, excited but unbelieving of the fact that this was actually happening.

After checking in for our flight we sat in the departures terminal and I bounced a little as we watched the minutes tick by until we could board our flight. We were flying Thai, and I had heard good things about their service. Part of me was also looking forward to doing daggy things like watching "new" release movies and having a tipple. I had also bought an awesomely trashy Jilly Cooper novel to read on the plane, assuming (rightly) that I would not be sleeping much with the excitement.

Brisbane City

As we flew out of Brisbane the clouds cleared and we watched the city disappear under us, legs curled up under me with my forehead pressed against the glass. We arrived in Bangkok later that night and we wandered a little through the airport before I became sleepy and sick of overpriced "duty free" luxury stores. Sitting at the gate and watching the sign saying PARIS as it flickered between English and Thai, hardly believing that we would be there in a few short hours.

The flight from BKK left at midnight, and we were feeling seedy and gritty by this time, barely interested in the lights outside the window as we tried desperately to sleep in the crowded plane. I missed India as we flew over Delhi but Bingley tells me it was amazing. I woke sometime over the Caspian sea, and sat enthralled as we flew through the night over the Eastern bloc. We then chased the dawn as we flew into France in darkness, knowing the sun was close behind. As the wheels touched down on the tarmac all I could do was bounce and even with greasy hair and sallow, recycled air skin, I could feel myself sparkling. Bingley was too tired to do much but laugh at me as we queued to collect bags.

I had ordered a private shuttle service to pick us up from the airport, as after 25 hours travelling I hadn't been sure that I could navigate a taxi with my somnolent French, and we had wanted to get into Paris as soon as we possibly could. We used Paris Shuttle, and the driver was there as soon as we walked through customs, holding a sign and directing us to the car while taking my bags from me.

It was drizzling and the softest grey dawn met us as we walked out into the cool and sped along the highway towards Paris. If I had been hoping for tourist heaven from that moment I would have been disappointed, as the drive from Roissy is through an industrial area much the same as the outskirts of any major city. But as we got closer, suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by the 7 storey Haussman confections of lore and in the mist on the horizon I saw Montmartre and nearly cried because finally it was seeming real.

First Glimpse

As we pulled off the Peripherique and into Paris proper it was another world. Another beautiful, gingerbread world pulled straight from my dreams. I could not believe it when we saw the Arc de Triomphe in front of us and realised we would be heading around its legendarily insane roundabout. And then, as we navigated that step I saw the elegant spire of La Tour Eiffel. I felt like the tourist I was as I misted up at the boulangeries whizzing past and just ate up the view like I had not eaten in a month. Afraid to blink.

We arrived at our hotel as it opened, and of course our room was not ready so we left our bags, took our wallets and our camera and headed out, on our own, into Paris.

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