Night train to Carcassonne, November 2

written by bryan on November 9th, 2006 @ 12:19 PM

Today’s pictures on flickr

Today was mainly occupied with errands and such like; figuring out which train station we had to go to, buying tickets, getting maps, another bottle of camping gas, et cetera. These take time because it puts us in a couple of dangerous locations: a bookstore and a camping store! The camping store was particularly notable. Le Vieux Campeur has a massive selection of camping supplies, far surpassing the MEC in Canada. Yet rather than occupying a huge big box store as they would in Canada, they instead occupy twenty-five (25!) small and medium stores in the Latin Quarter. Very cool. They aren’t the only ones, the bookstore was spread over 6 stores.

But we did maage to snag a very nice meal. Close to the camping store we noticed a Tibetan restaurant. Neither of us has had Tibetan before, so we decided to give it a try. Very interesting. Some flavours were familiar, such as the curry, and others were very different, such as the butter tea and the goat cheese dessert.

So what do I think of Paris after my first trip. It definitely wasn’t what I expected. I expected a dirty city, but it was actually cleaner than Amsterdam and a lot of other places in France. I expected rude waiters, but they seemed polite, even if it was hard to catch their attention. I expected snobbish people who would turn up their nose at my butchery of their language, but I didn’t find it so. I didn’t expect hordes of tourists during off-season, but I certainly found that. I’d hate to be here during August! Paris is supposedly the top tourist destination in the world; I can certainly believe that.

Most people I’ve talked to have either loved it or hated it. I didn’t expect to be in between, but I am. I certainly enjoyed the city, but I wasn’t overwhelmed. There’s certainly lots to overwhelm: most of the buildings in downtown Paris would be postcard material in a North American city yet are ho-hum in Paris, and the number of cathedrals, eglises, monuments, palaces and other spectacular sites is amazing. The view from the Eiffel tower is all stone where in any other city it’d be all glass.

I expected more bicycles, instead we have scooters. They’re not so annoying on the streets (and do not come close to outnumbering the cars), but they are parked hap-hazardly everywhere.

I loved Paris, and it really is one of those must-see cities, but I do not believe it will be the highlight of my trip.

Tomorrow morning we’ll be waking up in Carcassonne! Actually, we better wake up before Carcassonne, otherwise we might not get off the train in time!

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