I’ve had a packed few days in Paris and decided to write one long post highlighting the main events instead of individual posts for the sake of time and my own sanity. I slept very little on my flights despite trying. It is a 9hr difference from home, so my 2pm arrival was 5am for my body. I’d been awake for 22hrs and added 9 more to that in Paris the first night. About 31hrs with maybe an hour or two of sleep in bits. Good thing I’m Wired and don’t require a ton of sleep. I adjusted over the next few days, but was definitely in zombie mode at one point.
I stayed with my friend Angelynn, who I met on the Te Araroa this past year, and overlapped with from time-to-time. She is an American who has lived in Paris for about 10yrs. She absorbs culture, history, and language like I do television or sports (yep that’s the best comparison I could come up with). It was like having a personal tour guide as we walked around her neighborhood, Saint-Germain Des Pres, right in the heart of Paris and just across the Seine River from the Louvre Muesum. The first night in Paris, we got to meet up with my friend Why Not. Yes, a Why Not cameo! I told you there were some great reunions ahead while I will be here. We realized a few months ago that we both were planning to do the Haute Route Pyrenees at the exact same time. Although we are on different schedules, we knew we’d overlap. Really random coincidence! I did the Sierra High Route and Wind River High Route exactly a year ago with Why Not last summer. She will be hiking the HRP with Jim (aka LOL/Love It Or Leave It) and they will be on a different schedule than me. Why Not will be blogging as well and will be here for 3 months like me doing different hikes. Here’s a link to follow her blog. We were happy to overlap for dinner in Paris as I was arriving and they were leaving. Again, I love this thru-hiker world!As if this coincidence wasn’t enough, I have another friend from Portland unexpectedly in Paris. My friend Allgood was in Germany last week at an outdoor convention working with TOAKS Outdoor (that sells ultralight titanium stoves, cups, and cutlery for backpacking). Side note, Allgood gave me the TOAKS Titanium Siphon Alcohol Stove. I’m super stoked to get something more durable and hotter burning. I still love the Trail Designs Caldera Cone setup I’ve always had, but I’m terrible at crushing the aluminum stove. For less than an ounce, I am getting a sturdier and hotter burning stove. Plus, I’m thinking of changing to the Trail Designs Sidewinder, which is a windscreen I can store in my pot to make my pack more compact. After the convention, Allgood had plans of hiking the Haute Route in Switzerland, which I hope to add on to the end of my trip if I get time. Well, the night before his trip, he had his wallet and passport stolen on a packed gondola in Chamonix. The pickpockets out here are amazingly good at it and somehow cut off his fanny pack that was under his shirt without him noticing. Poor Allgood had to miss his hike and come all the way over to Paris to get a new passport from the embassy. That put him in Paris the exact same days as me and we spent three days together playing tourist and doing miles of urban hiking. Here’s Allgood’s Instagram if you’d like to see some of his photos. Neither of us have ever been, so it was fun to discover the city together. Anyone that knows us knows it’s pretty funny pairing to have in the most romantic city in the world. We packed it in starting out with a 1hr boat tour on the Seine River. A side story here, that morning, before meeting up, Angelynn and I went to the SFR phone provider store and set me up on Angelynn’s phone plan. I lucked out big time! It was like Angelynn was a magical French speaking fairy. For 25€/$28 a month, I get unlimited phone calls and texts anywhere in the world along with 10GB of data. This is HUGE and such a relief. The plans I would have had to get would have cost a ton more for less services. Fortunately, the EU just passed a law that allows phone plans to work in multiple countries, so I don’t have to worry about my short times in Spain and Switzerland. To balance out the good fortune of the phone plan, I dropped my phone and shattered my screen terribly. Again, I was super lucky that there was an Apple Store right in the neighborhood. They had the screen completely fixed by the time we finished our boat tour AND they even honored my Apple Care plan that had expired just 26 days before. It was completely free, whew! After the boat tour, we walked through Luxembourg Garden, a wonderful park that invites all ages to play and relax outside. The weather was great while we were there. With mild temps and showers from time to time. Among many things, the garden has a central fountain where children poke small sailboats with long sticks as they sail around. Then we walked the Avenue des Champs-Elysees. The upscale stores and traffic reminded me of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. The avenue runs the historical axis 26° angle, following the course of the sun from the east to the west and aligning many historical sites including the Arc de Triomphe (I recognized from the Paris Marathon and Tour de France), Obelisk of Luxor, Arch de Triomphe du Carrousel, and the Louvre Museum. From there, we went to the world famous Louvre Museum. I timed it to go in the evening as I heard it was less busy the couple of evenings it stays open late. We loaded the free Rick Steves Audio Europe app and it was awesome! Our own personal tours at our own pace and order right on our phones. The one for the Louvre was perfect and guided us through this massive museum to all the highlights. It was surreal to see art I’d only seen in books.
Paris is a great city to walk, and that was a huge day of walking for us. Allgood calculated that we walked 16mi/26km over the course of the day. Paris urban thru-hike, check! I know all of you are wondering about food. I tend to focus less on that, but we ate lots and I resisted the Subways to embrace the local foods. The culture in Paris is lively late at night. It is normal to have dinner around 9pm, and with daylight until at least 10pm, I was up until midnight or 1am each night. Problem is that I still naturally woke around 6:20am each day. Like exactly 6:20am.
The second morning of our touring around Paris was a visit to the popular Orsay Museum and another great guided Rick Steves audio tour. We knew to go right when it opened to beat the crowds. I’m not usually big on museums, but with the audio tours, it’s great! I can replay and skip what I want, and I like that it puts me in my own world not distracted by the hoards of people.
After that, we headed to the Notre Dame Cathedral to do the Rick Steves Historical Paris audio tour. It took us to a ton of stuff including Notre Dame, the Deportation Memorial, and Sainte-Chapelle church. It was about 3hrs with a ton packed in there. We even went to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral. So worth it! A tip, right when you arrive, before going in the cathedral, go over to the line on the left side of the Cathedral and register for your time to go up. We didn’t realize it was organized by an app and you are given a time to return later. Ours was 2.5hrs later, so it worked perfectly to return and go up when we finished the audio tour. I loved the gargoyles.
Our final morning, we got over to the Eiffel Tower first thing in an attempt to miss the line. It was a bit of a wait, but not bad. It was so surreal to go up to the top and be at such an iconic structure. The one photo I wanted in all of Paris was a wired pose in front of the Eiffel Tower. Allgood knew this and patiently took multiple shots until I got the perfect one. Then I managed to delete it when clearing my phone of all the bonus photos! Aaarrrgghh!!!! I even tried a retrieval program, but it seems I need my personal laptop to do it. Deep breath and letting it go…ugh. It was a good photo. Here’s one from the bottom and one Allgood took from the boat tour the other day.
After the Eiffel Tower, we finished up our touring with the Auguste Rodin museum. Man, that guy did a ton! We’d heard that this was one of the top things to hit in Paris, but I would say it wasn’t a must do. Definitely cool though.
That wrapped up my touring of Paris, and I was pretty happy with all I saw. I came in with a list of what interested me, and hit most of them. I got to the ones that interested me most and feel like 3-4 days are a good amount of days to get enough in with full days. I would have liked to fit in things like the Opera House, the Palace of Versailles, and Montparnasse Tower view at sunset, but there’s always next time.
I spent the second half of the day organizing things, getting food, and mailing a couple boxes of things I’ll need later on. Warning, it’s super pricey to mail things here, especially internationally as I have one I sent to Geneva for my next hike. I thought about sending it within France to the end of the HRP instead, but I was more comfortable sending it to a friend of Angelynn’s in Geneva than general delivery at the end of the HRP. Also, here, they will only hold boxes for a two week period. It wasn’t until I returned home that I realized the bag with my guidebook and sunscreen for the second half of the HRP didn’t make it in the box. Looks like I get to carry an extra pound of stuff the first few weeks. At least I didn’t lose anything yet, so I’ll accept this to even the scales.
Tomorrow, I take a 6hr train ride to the start of the HRP. Why Not and Jim have been there the last few days waiting out a system of rain, wind, and storms before starting. I was going to start tomorrow midday, but will wait until the next day as another storm is projected to pass through. Why Not and Jim are doing the same, which means we’ll all start together! We have different schedules, so we won’t do the whole hike together, but it will be fun to start off together. Pyrenees, here we come!