Day 5: Bienvenue a Paris...a rough start

Paris Travel Blog

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7:13 am:

Had another great night in London. Was thinking of making it an early night but that didn't happen and i'm glad it didn't. Crazy thing happened yesterday afternoon...I had been chatting a bit with a guy named Alex from Sweden on travbuddy before I left for Europe. We were going to be in London around the same time and decided it would be cool to meet up for a drink or something. I hadn't heard from him since and he ended up emailing me yesterday saying he was at St. Christopher's Village hostel (the same one I was in!). What's even more freaky was that he was in room 7 (my room!). That's the craziest coincidence. So Alex and I, along with Ben and his friend Zsofia went to the hostel bar to hang out (there was a pub quiz going on). It was a lot of fun. Met some older Brits and one bought us a pitcher of beer. He was entertaining (until he was convinced that he needed to shave my head lol). Ben taught us a new shot called the Chuck Norris (named so because the drink feels like a kick in the face). Part Sambuca, Part Jager and Part Tobasco Sauce (correct me Ben if I'm wrong on that). It's pretty much the worst shot i've had in my life but I'm sure i'll be doing them a lot both in Europe and when i get home. Ended up meeting some people from California and Calgary on the dance floor and then hung out with them for a bit. It's crazy to think that we're all from all over the world but are partying together at this bar. That's one of the coolest things about traveling. I ended up going to bed around 2 (probably not the best for a 5 am wake up call but no regrets on this trip..that was the rule). It was a rough morning wake up but oh well (Note: if Ben didn't wake me up, I would have missed my trani..thanks!). It was sad leaving the hostel. I had such a great first three days and I'm definitely gonna miss the company i was in. Hopefully, the rest of the places will be like this.

I'm now in St. Pancras train station waiting to take my Eurostar train through the chunnel to Paris. I have no idea what to do once I get to Paris but i guess that's part of the adventure. Since i have some time to kill, i decided I would make a list of ten lessons or things I learned in each city. Hopefully anyone of you who decides to travel will find them useful. These are only my opinions though so don't rely on them too much. Here's ten things I learned in London:

1. Bring an umbrella at all times: this may seem obvious but it could be the most sunny, cloud-free, beautiful day and within ten minutes there will be a torrential downpour.

2. Get an Oyster card: like a bus pass. you pay three pounds for the card and put whatever amount you want on it (eg. 10 pounds). Each journey you take on the tube or bus deducts cash off the card (you can top it back up at any station). It's cheaper and easier than buying individual tickets all the time AND you get your original 3 pounds (plus whatever is left on there) when you return your card when you leave London. I didn't think i would use the tube that often (i'm in good shape to walk) but you WILL use it more than you think (London is huge and walking in the rain sucks)

3. If you are out late, be aware that buses and tubes close at midnight: figure out how you are going to get home before you go out (i learned this the hard way). Figure out the night bus schedule ahead of time or just party until 5 am when the tube opens again. That being said, getting lost can be a lot of fun if you're with someone else.

4. Look around for cheap food: London is expensive but there are options. Don't look for food around the touristy places (it'll be way overpriced). You shouldnt pay more than 5 pounds for fish and chips. I found a place that sells pizza slices for a pound each. There was also a grocery store right outside my hostel which was great for things like pop and water (which is so pricey anywhere else)

5. Drink at the hostel before you go out to save money: Beer isn't cheap in London (4 $8 Canadian) and mixed drinks are even worse. Most hostels with bars though have drink specials and happy hours (our hostel had beers for 2 pounds each).

6. Take advantage of the Pub crawl and the free tours offered by Sandeman's New Europe company: Its a company that offer free walking tours in most major European cities. The guides are smart and informative but also hilarious and a lot of fun. You learn a lot and best of all its an awesome way to meet new people. At the end of the tour, if you liked it, you can leave a tip. I always tipped because these guys work really hard and but a lot of effort into something that is free. They also offer pub crawls at night (not free though lol). You pay a certain amount and they take you to 4 pubs and a club at the end and give you free shots and drink specials at each place. Our guides were a lot of fun and I met some amazing people. It was definitely worth it. Note that a successful pub crawl all depends on the people that are there. We had a really friendly cool group that seemed to click well so it turned out to be an awesome night.

7. Go to Camden market: Open on Fri, Sat and Sun, its an amazing place to visit (be warned it get s extremely crowded in the afternoon so if you can drag yourself out of bed earlier it might be worth it). Cool shops, great food, really different fashion and souvenirs and an awesome atmosphere and vibe. They sell everything and the Camden locals are a sight in themselves. Look around before you buy stuff though. the exact same thing might be cheaper a few tents down.

8. You will get lost, no matter how hard you try (at least for me): British street signs aren't always at the intersections like ours. Often they are located a quarter of the way down the street (on a wall). You basically have to walk down the street to figure out which street it is (annoying). Also, the name of a street will randomly change even though you havent changed directions. Instead of a really long street with one name, it often has multiple names as you go along

9. Bring your ID to bars and clubs: Even though the drinking age is either 16 or 18 (i can't remember) They sometimes ask for ID if you look younger than 20-something

10. Don't try and use a British accent: I kept doing this subconsciously and unintentionally without even knowing I was doing it. When someone asked me a question with the accent for some reason I would rry and answer with one. Londoners WILL know its not real and WILL stare at you strangely lol.

3:01 pm:

So the day hasn't been great so far. The train ride was ok. Didn't talk much to the people sitting with me. As soon as I got off at the Gare du Nord station it was a bit of a shock. The station was really really dirty with some sketchy characters about. There were also military guys walking around with machine guns!. I managed to get a metro ticket and get to the metro (I was lucky that the only metro line that runs through the station was the one I needed). Unlike in London, they don't tell you which stop you're approaching so you really have to pay attention to where you are. I got off the metro at the right stop and thought I knew where I was going but I couldn't find the street I needed. I walked around for 20 min and was forced to buy a map (so expensive) and I still couldn't find a street name. I asked someone and told me the direction to walk in (the way i originally thought). I finally picked a street and went down it and it turned out to be the right one (apparantly i was walking by it every time but the construction material on the wall was blocking the sign. By the way, it was pouring the whole time I was doing this. I dont think my hostel (St. Christopher's) is in a very nice part of Paris lol. Tons of garbage, graffiti, not-so-nice buildings and stray dogs. Definitely not what I expected Paris to look like. However, it is a nice hostel and it's one of the few hostels in Paris that are reasonably priced. So far I have not been impressed although a) I'm really tired b) its raining and I was frustrated at getting lost and c) It's hard to top the fun I had in London so I'll keep my hopes up. Maybe I just need more time. I just went to the grocery store to get some food because even in this neighbourhood, restaurant prices are insane. Although the euro is slightly less damaging than the pound :). I tried to fit in and bought a baguette and ate some of it down the street haha. My late lunch consisted of baguette, bananas and some cookies. I haven't met anyone in my room except a Canadian girl who was nice but was feeling sick and is sleeping now. I might have a nap considering its already late afternoon and i'm too tired to do anything AND its still raining (although its supposed to rain the whole time i'm here)
peeves says:
thanks! you should definitely give that tour company a try. It's free so why not!
Posted on: Oct 16, 2009
aotw says:
I enjoy reading your stories and thoughts. Thanks for the tip on Sandeman's New Europe. I will try it, sounds fun and good value.
Posted on: Oct 16, 2009
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