T'eyla Minh (teylaminh) wrote,
T'eyla Minh

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Long Update...

Still no internet at home; they came to instal Sky TV (painlessly, as there was already a dish) on 6th September, with the phoneline being activated a week later, but the broadband line won't be activated until next Friday, apparently. So much for my best-laid plan of having two weeks off work and catching up on internet-stuff. I haven't checked Facebook or Twitter in that time, incidentally - nor LiveJournal either - and have only checked emails briefly, so if you've done anything important that I need to know about, let me know here. I'll be checking Facebook at lunch but only scanning it briefly. :P

So, two weeks off...

Quite frankly, I couldn't have timed it worse - I didn't know at that point how long Sky would take to provide us with internet access. Apparently even after it's been activated the service will fluctuate whilst they try and find the best connectivity for us, so I might have fully functional broadband by October. :P

As for the timing, whilst at work I was embroiled in fandom discussion with Eni and IIRC I have her last email still to respond to. I have spent several hours since then re-reading old fanfic for various fandoms and even doing a few bits of writing here and there - mostly Jonathan Creek but a bit of Sunset Boulevard, too, in the form of the Breakfast at Tiffany's crossover... I've finished my "Spearfish..." tag for JC and done another large-ish section of the pre-series 4 "Angstfic" (now called "The Day Before the Day" for want of a better title), and the only one left to finish properly is the "Three Gamblers" tag. So I was at least somewhat productive even without the ability to share the productivity in question.

I also now have a file on my PC entitled "THINGS", to email to Eni along with a proper response, because my head was still full of thoughts on the Friday evening after I finished work and I wanted to get them down. ;) Obviously, I will share it when I have t'internet. GETTING ANTSY NOW, OMG.

Er, anyway. The first week of leave was spent not doing much, really. On the Saturday we went into Dudley to buy a broom (don't ask) and to find an internet cafe after Oldbury Library was full, and instead ended up going to the Zoo and Castle. I hadn't found my camera charger at that point, alas, so we had to buy a disposable. The pictures came out surprisingly well, considering, and will be posted on Facebook soon.

Midweek we went to my mum's to use her internet as Oldbury Library was consistently full (the Job Centre is two doors down - you'd think they'd have internet in there by now, but apparently not), in order to book a last-minute deal to Paris.

We managed to get the entire five-day trip in for just under £600, which wasn't bad really. Flights ended up being somewhat more expensive because I forgot that BMI Baby and EasyJet don't fly out on Saturdays, so we booked via a catch-all website and went with Flybe, who actually even flew from Birmingham to Paris CDG - otherwise we were looking at going from East Mids (again) or Heathrow and spending even more money on trains/buses/hotels, etc...

The flight out was at 6.30am on the Saturday morning, which obviously meant we had to check in at 4.30am. Rather than attempt to get sleep, we decided to stay up and see it through. I lost count of how many sleep barriers I hit during this process, though the first was at around 3.00am until I had some coffee at the airport. I think by the time we'd finally checked into our hotel at around 4.30pm (having been up since 9.30am the day before), I was on about my twelfth wind.

Our actual hotel (Hotel Darcet) was fully booked for the first night so they put us up in a three-star place around the corner, free of charge (our actual hotel was two-star). We arrived in Paris itself at around 9.00am and sat on the RER line for an inordinate amount of time (the overground trains are normally really efficient and speedy, for some reason it was going very slowly). The weather that first day was absolutely glorious, but because we'd been awake for so long the morning felt like the afternoon. We managed to get a nap in once we'd checked in, but at one point (after Paul convinced me to have a G&T - I have no idea why I listened to him) the world took on a rather surreal, warped-at-the-edges appearance. We had been awake for around 30 hours at that point, though. ;)

I don't remember much else of the Saturday, as it was spent roaming around Montmatre and finding various cafes at which to refuel with caffeine. We found some food on the evening and wandered up to take some photographs of Sacre Coeur by night, but other than that it was a bit of a write-off. Next time I will not be going for an early morning flight. :P

On Sunday it rained - it was supposed to rain on the Saturday, anyway, so that wasn't too bad. First of all we went to the Opéra (of course!), opting not to go for a guided tour as there was an hour to wait for the English-speaking ones, and wandered around on our own. The refurbishment is still underway and they'd opened up the balcony area outside the "gold room" (I can't remember its real name but it's where patrons go in the interval) as it's now a smoking area, and there was an exhibition of old costumes which was quite interesting, though we only gave that a whistle-stop tour. Amusingly, they have now put a little sign on the door of Box Five which reads "Loge de la Fantome de l'Opera". There is an unspoken rule in the building that you're not allowed to ask staff about the Phantom because (a) they're sick of it and (b) there's a bit of a superstition around the story, and the place is supposed to be haunted anyway. It's a shame that they no longer include the catacombs in the guided tours because I think at one point they used to; I would absolutely kill to go down there and see the lake - and Erik's domain - for myself.

After wandering around inside we went off in search of the Rue Scribe so I could get another photograph of the road sign, because I'm a massive geek, and then we got back on the Metro.

Next stop was the Place de la Concorde, where we took some photographs from the Obelisk towards the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, before walking through tge Tuilleries towards the Louvre and the Pyramid. It was raining quite heavily by this point but whatever. ;) After that we went walking in a random direction (over the river) and found ourselves at Notre Dame. There was a massive queue to get in so we decreed to come back later in the week (assuming long weekends would be over by then), and on the way back we spotted that the Crypt was open so went to have a look.

Beneath Notre Dame are the original Roman and medieval city walls that formed Paris in its earliest form (Notre Dame - itself dating from the 12th century [!!] - sits on an island in the Seine, where the centre of Paris was first built), which were miraculously preserved by sympathetic builders over the centuries. It was quite fascinating.

After that, we found a cafe in which to have a drink whilst the rain eased off a bit. We ended up buying some rain ponchos from a gift shop because it got heavier; naturally, by the time we got back to Montmatre again it had stopped completely. :P

I think that's all we did on the Sunday but as I don't have the photographs to hand I can't quite remember...

Monday it was a lovely day again and we decided to get all the energetic climbing out of the way whilst it was early, walking up to Sacre Coeur. We took the steps up to la Butte (about 300, Paul reckons) and then decided to visit the crypt and dome in there as well. This was actually Paul's idea; I'd been in the main body of the church but not the crypt, and the dome promised panoramic views of the city. You can only see the east of the city from the top of the hill. It was only when we got inside that he realised what a stupid idea this was. ;)

Another 300 steps later and we were in the dome, which is the third highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse Tower. Absolutely stunning views from up there, so it was definitely worth it. On the plus side, Paul is getting much better at heights; the worst bit was that on the way out they make you walk up and over the roof, which was rather unfair considering you're meant to be going DOWN. There is a picture of Paul up there looking nervous, just to prove he did it. ;) We were at one point higher than the gargoyles, also...

After that we traipsed allllll the way to Denfert-Rochereau station on the Metro to go and find the catacombs, only to discover they're closed on Mondays. :P

Next we went up to the Eiffel Tower to have a look. At first Paul said he wouldn't go anywhere near it (just looking up at it is dizzifying enough) but we walked underneath it anyway. Then we walked up to the Trocadero as it's the best place to take photographs from; I do like that Paris is well-organised in that sense, with landmarks placed in a straight line... It rained on us a little bit at that point but it was a five-minute flurry and soon brightened up again...

After that we had a look at the map and decided to visit the Pantheon, where the likes of Victor Hugo are buried, which took us a while to find but was worth it anyway for the sheer size and scope - and also the fascinating Foucault's Pendulum therein.

Back to Montmatre for dinner, although this time we headed away from the main road and in the other direction. There was a cemetary under the bridge full of family tombs which we did intend to go back and investigate, but forgot about in the end...

On Tuesday we went back to Denfert-Rochereau for the catacombs. The queue was around the block but it transpired that was because they can only have 200 people in there at any given time, so there were 5-10 minute waits between each batch of people being let through...

I had heard about these before in various capacities - someone on ontdcreepy went there and posted some photographs, and they were mentioned on Filthy Cities when it covered Paris. During the revolution all of the casualties were dumped in a mass open grave, but because the city was disgusting (open sewers, etc) at that time, disease began to spread, and they eventually moved the bodies into the quarries which had been used for building materials. Several other cemeteries in the Paris area were then emptied into the catacombs, and a few years later someone official decided to arrange the bones in a decorative manner and opened the catacombs to the public.

You go down underground several metres, then follow a long, narrow passageway until you reach "L'Empire de la Mort", where the bones are displayed. The scale is amazing; the bones are about five feet deep on either side and about the same in height, arranged in decorative layers. Mostly they're in rows - leg and arm bones forming the majority and then two separate layers of skulls - but occasionally the skulls are arranged in patterns such as crosses or hearts. Whether the place is haunted, I don't know; but as soon as you walk over the threshold you can feel the atmosphere change. It's not oppressive, exactly, just... I don't know. There's something eerie about it, even despite the fact you're in a room full of randomly-scattered bones...

I took loads of photos in there, most of which actually seemed to come out, although the quality isn't very good because I had to turn the exposure right up. Flash photography and tripods aren't allowed down there. The only thing which marred it was some idiot who decided to bring a torch down with him; the place is only lit very dimly, but enough that you can read the inscriptions. We did slow down our walking to try and avoid him but some of the photos are over-illuminated because of his bloody torchlight.

Anyway, they do go on for quite a while; the entire underground journey is 2km and I would say about half of that is full of bones. The sheer amount of people who must be buried there is mind-blowing. I think this was my favourite part of our trip – I’d done everything else before (aside from the Sacre Coeur dome anyway), but the catacombs were new to me, and it was definitely worth the queue despite our initial reaction. ;)

After that we got some bits from the gift shop – including some “Nomskulls”, which are skull-shaped silicone muffin moulds and TOTALLY AWESOME – and went wandering around the Gare Montparnasse area. Although I didn’t know it at the time, we did in fact walk past Montparnasse Tower, which is bloody mahoosive.

We then headed back to Notre Dame to find the queue significantly dwindled, at least for going into the church itself, and had a wander around inside there – mostly to see the famous window from the inside rather than the outside. The queue for the towers was still ridiculous, but we’d already done enough climbing (86 steps out of the catacombs, too!) and gave that a miss.

We spent the evening getting drunk as there was happy hour on cocktails at one bar, then we found a rock bar in a side street which was selling lethal version of Caipirinhas (hence the drunk) which were almost entirely composed of alcohol, after which we decided to get food. ;)

Also? French food is uh-maze-ing. I think my favourite meal was Monday night at the local brassierie (just around the corner from our hotel) because it was the best value of the lot and I got to try veal, which was OMG delicious. Paul’s favourite was our last meal because he got to have a cheese platter. ;)

We slept in late on the Wednesday morning as our flight home wasn’t until 3.25pm. Having missed breakfast at the hotel, we found a crepe and sandwich stall and I had a Nutella pancake for breakfast. OM NOM.

Flight back was uneventful and thankfully not delayed (in fact, Flybe were very good in all respects), and had curry for tea on getting home because Paris kept taunting me with its own love of Indian food…

Rest of the week was uneventful and mostly involved catching up on washing. I have now managed to miss two entire weeks’ worth of EastEnders, as I forgot to Sky+ the one whilst we were away and it didn’t appear to have an omnibus this weekend. Unfortunately Sky doesn’t give us Replay / On Demand like Virgin (the only thing the latter had in its favour), but at least when our internet is working I can get iPlayer through the Wii…

Back at work today and thankfully it doesn’t appear to be too busy, which makes a change. I shall now post this and trawl through my Facebook feed… Photos of various things coming once we have internet, so watch this space…

PS: I forgot again, but it’s Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arr, avast, etc.
Tags: fandom: general, holiday, paris, write-ups
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