The Heartbeat of Europe

Destination: Paris, France

Recommended Transportation: Eurostar

Accommodation: Hotel Carlton’s http://www.hotelcarltons.fr/en/hotel-paris-montmartre-arrival.php?

Attractions: The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre Museum, Arc de Triomphe and The Champs-Elysées.

Overall Experience Rating: 🎒🎒 

This is going to be a comparatively shorter blog post, primarily because my 2013 trip to the French capital was a brief weekend getaway; we were there from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon, to celebrate my mum’s birthday. Because of the sentiment, we took this trip in January, which in hindsight, was an extremely gutsy move on our part; reason being, Paris was absolutely freezing (like sub-zero temperatures). Even though I had visited a Christmas Market in Lille, situated in the north of France, a couple years beforehand, even that weather was minor in comparison. Paris, was Narnia… on steroids eek

Not only was this my first time in Paris, but it was also my first time using the Eurostar as a mode of intracontinental transportation. From what I can recall, it was a generally enjoyable experience. However, I do advise for you to take your own travel snacks or buy them in St. Pancras just before boarding, as the Food Bar on board is nothing short of extortionate (but I guess, you wouldn’t expect anything less).

France-view-from-hotel
Views from the hotel room in Paris

Upon arrival in the City of Love or City of Light (an ongoing debate) at just gone 11 pm, we were presented with, in the words of Tamar Braxton, a ‘try me not’ situation. We casually hailed a cab just outside the Gare du Nord to take us to our accommodation. Unfortunately for us, our cab driver was an unfriendly francophone African uncle (someone get Michael Dapaah for a #SWIP spin-off, because this guy was probably Dr Ofori’s distant cousin, twice removed). Anyways, he tried us! He literally drove us around in circles for 20 minutes, raking up his metre and when he finally decided to park outside of our hotel, he quoted a ridiculous amount of euros…

The joke of it was, he really thought that none of the four of us would notice. Granted, it took us a while, especially as we weren’t familiar with Paris prior to this trip, it was extremely dark outside and we were all absolutely shattered (a combination of factors which I imagine frequently forces tourists, all over the world, into vulnerable positions, such as this). But rest assured, we did raise it with him and from that junction (pun intended) things got rather heated. He began to pretend like he didn’t understand English and also exited his car to start hollering on the street. Ain’t. Nobody. Got. Time. For. That. rolleyeslolWe accepted defeat, just on this account, primarily because we weren’t in a fit state to efficiently escalate matters.

However, after the fact, for the sake of investigative journalism, I consulted my good old friend, Google maps. I can now confidently report, that in actuality, the drive from Paris International Train station to our hotel was indeed only supposed to be 6 minutes. Yes friend, you read correctly. 6 MINUTES!

Despite it being 5 years down the line, I want to be a teenie tiny bit petty, so please review my receipts below:

evidence-1
Receipt #1
evidence-2
Receipt #2

I’m sure that karma has bitten him in his booty, or in his pocket… either is a satisfactory outcome for me, to be perfectly honest.

MO’S TOP TIPS TO AVOID BEING BUMPED BY CAB DRIVERS IN EUROPE

  • Some will call it ‘extra’, I call it being prepared: do research prior to your trip – preferably use: https://www.taxifarefinder.com/?lang=en (I used this site for my trip to Budapest, last year and it was surprisingly quite accurate). It’s particularly useful because it has a global scope, so can be used for countries outside of Europe too.
  • Another pre-emptive measure is booking and paying for return airport transfer ahead of time, I would highly recommend: http://www.ziptransfers.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIv96jn47J2QIVz5kbCh1O7QHjEAAYASAAEgLEm_D_BwE
  • Ask members of staff or locals! Particularly if you’re staying in a popular hotel or going to a major tourist spot, they should be able to offer insight about the distance and how the local cab system works.
  • I don’t know about other network providers, but EE now offers its UK customers free EU roaming, meaning you can use your data to run Google Maps. It’s important that you input your location and destination, before you hail a cab, to find out roughly how far/long the journey will be. That way, you can quickly identify if the cab driver is taking you for a sucker and doing ring around the roses.
  • Last but not least, when in doubt – just uber!

Alan Lakein once said “failing to plan is planning to fail” and these words somewhat resonate with the complexion of this particular trip. However, I wouldn’t say it was a ‘fail’ – it was just a lot more spontaneous than we were used to. In terms of landmarks, I truly don’t feel as though we covered as much ground as we could have; I partially attribute this restriction to the unexpected crippling weather conditions and lack of a game plan. We are usually very anal about such things, but this trip was rather impromptu.

In turn, the weather also partially explains my lack of photography. My fingers couldn’t withstand the cold long enough for me to conduct a proper travel photoshoot (because I consider myself a professional, of course). However, we did take an open top (bad idea alert) tour bus ride down the Champs Elysées – passing the home of the Mona Lisa, the Louvre Museum and of course the universal landmark of love, the Eiffel Tower. Funnily enough, we never got a chance to enter either, but those are just two more reasons for us to return to Paris (next time definitely in summer though). The entire ride was accompanied by the rather infectious jingle of Joe Dassin which was appropriately titled “Aux Champs Elysées”. I kid you not, I still find myself randomly humming or singing that song, till this day! Don’t believe me? Have a listen for yourself https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9V-zUlrhEE (you’ll be singing it all the way to 2019!)

Eiffel-tower
Eiffel Tower
the-louvre-museum
The Louvre Museum

In addition to our tour bus escapades, we spent some time using the metro. This is a highly advisable mode of transportation, as it’s always helpful to fully immerse one’s self into the local Parisian experience. In fact, that can be said for most countries, as so long as the cost is feasible and the mode is safe.

paris-architecture
French Architecture

french-arch

Islamophobia

Let me keep it all the way 100% with you guys, whether some Parisians have always been actively aware of their prejudices or not, Islamophobia has been strife in Paris LONG before the 2015 Paris attacks (i.e. Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan Theatre shootings). In fact, it could be argued that France as a nation has possessed an Islamaphobic undertone since 2004, when it first implemented a policy prohibiting students in state schools from wearing any kind of religious symbolism. By 2011, France took it one step further by earning itself the accolade of being the first European country to completely ban the burqa (full-face veil) in public. This ban was supposedly enforced on the basis of a few things: challenging female degradation, upholding national security and tackling terrorism head on.

However, in my opinion, these seemingly ‘socio-political’ excuses are just a smokescreen for forced assimilation. It’s more likely that such discriminatory legislative measures were taken because the French government was and still is threatened by Islam and its apparent “alternative religious values”. For many, the burqa is a visible representation of devout Islam, and by the government stripping it away from the streets of France, they yield the ability to restrict the extent of religious freedom and practice. Oh, but the ridiculousness doesn’t stop there my friends. Till this day, Muslim women who CHOOSE (make some noise for free will guys) to wear their burqa, in contention with the ban, can still be subjected to large fines.

So, you must be wondering “why is Mo banging on about Islamophobia?” Well, I felt obliged to mention it – because we felt it. The entire group, by association of one. All four of us on this 2013 trip were Black and female, but only one of us was wearing a Hijab. Although, you may assume it’s insignificant in the larger scheme of things, you’d be surprised if you saw the frequency and extent of micro-aggressions triggered by her overt Islamic dress. It was absurd.

In the timeless words of Martin Niemöller:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

In conclusion, like every other hustling blogger on the internet, I was targeting a Valentine’s Day upload for this Paris post (for marketing and commercial purposes, of course). Unfortunately, life happens, so that timeline/target was abandoned. I’m 18 days late… nevertheless, go forth into the world (Paris and beyond), and love each other fiercely and fearlessly! After all, everyday should be a day dedicated to showing love, in some way or the other.

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