Bad Romance

paris.1Thursday, 14 November, 2013

Avignon, France

Television had ingrained a particular image of Paris into my brain. Basically, I expected to see men reading their adoring girlfriends poetry in the park, blokes standing beside couples playing the harp, and doves delivering roses. You know, romantic crap like that.

However, it didn’t take long for that mental image to be tarnished – in fact, just the train taking us from the airport to the city centre was enough to alter the view.

The train was rammed, and as a result, there was nowhere convenient to put our luggage. Our bags became a recurring subject of anger, which was usually directed right into our faces. I mean, I understood the frustration, to a degree – walking around bags in a crowded space is not particularly ideal, but, this is a train line that begins at the airport, the fact that some passengers are likely to have luggage is surely a given.

If the train journey suggested anything, it is that French people get frustrated very easily, and then shout about it a lot.

I’m not a troublemaker by any means, but I have, on occasion, had people express their annoyance at me in another language – it’s such a pointless exercise. Sure, I get that I’ve annoyed them, but I’m not going to learn from my mistakes this way, am I? For all I know, they could be ranting about the ridiculous rise of bus ticket prices in Leeds, in which case, I’d actually feel inclined to agree with them.

We actually got a fairly light dose of abuse. Certainly compared with the ferocity that is spewed when a raging local gets to go back and forth with a fellow French person anyway – which just goes to show that finding somebody who speaks the same language is key to a balanced argument.

People were screaming at each other for taking up too much space, strangers then chime in and scream some more – everybody here just seems really, really angry. Amy asked the man next to her what all the commotion was about, to which he simply replied, “This is Paris.”

Perhaps the romantic harps and doves were once a thing, until a harp playing dove was seen taking up too much room on the metro – so, the bird and instrument were banished forever. It’s just a theory.

Parisians, please loosen up a little. Life’s too short – have an ice cream, or a joint, or a game of tiddlywinks. Let’s all take a step back and chill out.

Perhaps the romantic label that Paris is graced with comes from the food? After all, food can be very romantic. Yep, well, except for the little fact that they eat snails here. Now, unless you are dating a python, snails is not a particularly romantic dish.

Regardless, we still gave them a go. They were pretty good; the taste is hard to describe – mushrooms which have been dipped in garden plants and topped with garlic? That’s the best I’ve got, I’m not a food critic. They were certainly enjoyable though.

We also tried our hand in some macaroons later in the week, these are tiny meringue cakes with different flavoured cream inside. Macaroons could also arguably fall into the romantic category – they are sweet, petite, and come gift wrapped. Well, at least that mystery is finally solved – the city of love reputation is clearly built on meringue.

Macaroons are delicious. I was going to get some for people back home, but the staff informed us that they should be eaten within three days – so that wouldn’t really work. You try to be thoughtful and then the world kicks you in the nuts for doing so.

Thankfully, we have seen countless blokes selling Eiffel Tower snow globes (along with fake designer sunglasses and cologne) on the side of the roads for a ‘buy one get one free’ deal. So, you’ll have endless fun shaking those things when I get back.

Palais des Papes

Palais des Papes

After Paris, we went south to visit the beautiful, Avignon, home of the alluring medieval gothic palace, Palais des Papes.

The castle would cost ten euros per ticket to enter; unfortunately, we only had fifteen between us. For those slow at maths, this left us five short. For a minute, I considered being the gentleman and sitting it out. However, the adventurer in me believed that there must be a more creative way around the problem.

I glanced at the entrance gate, and lo and behold, there was a gap at the bottom which could squeeze a small body – the advantages of being 5’6”. I knew right there and then that I was about to become a criminal on the run – I rolled under the doors and into the palace. Unfortunately, I was almost certain that two security guards noticed my actions.

I couldn’t take any chances. I dashed across the courtyard, up the stairs, through both the antechamber and the study room, before eventually feeling adamant that the coast was finally clear from the pope’s bedroom – admittedly, that does sound a lot like I’m just playing Tomb Raider.

Sadly, I wasn’t quite as deceiving as I first hoped. One of the security guards was hot on my trail – his approaching heels were making a very distinctive and intimidating noise as they made their way up the stairs.

What on earth was he wearing on his feet? Regardless, his heels created a nervous concern in me. The sound of his footsteps were reminiscent of a calm witch following her victims down the hallway in a horror movie.

If ever a person needed a fake moustache and a pair of comical glasses it was then. I was doomed. I ran away, all the way to the nearest exit, and I flipping made it, too! I was clear, I beat the authorities! Sure, I didn’t see much of the palace, but man, what a rush. Crime is great.

Amy said that the architecture was incredible, but the place was so big that she found herself lost on a number of occasions and re-entering previous rooms over and over again. Naturally, I then asked for her opinion on the security team, she claimed that she didn’t notice them.

That right there confirmed all of my suspicions, they had sent their whole squad to hunt me down and my skills surpassed all of them combined. I am a mastermind!

I’m writing this on the train to Nice, assume that Nice was nice. We are only there for two days, so unless something insane happens, I probably won’t write about it and just do my next blog entirely on Italy.

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