Wednesday, 2 June 2004

We got into Paris on the Monday night, and negotiated the metro to Etienne Marcel, where we met Gabrielle. (Side note: the significant bouts of walking required to change lines at stations like Montparnasse must be a contributing factor to the lesser levels of obesity in France, although smoking is, unfortunately, probably another.)

Gabrielle is, I guess, my second-cousin once removed, which equates to nothing, but labelled herself as a sort of distant aunt, which is probably a better characterisation of the relationship. She grew up in Melbourne, and visits often, but has been living in France for almost 30 years now. She showed us to her son's apartment in the 3rd arondissement, where we stayed for a couple of days, then escorted us out to their place at La Défense. We had a great dinner, with lots to chat about. Although the main players were Gabrielle, Mum and Dad, it was also good to chat with her husband.

The next day we did some of the normal Paris tourism, past notre dame, and then around past the parthenon and the senate to the musée d'orsay. In general, the excess of tourists really put us off, and after a sandwich at the tuileries, we headed back to the apartment to watch some tennis. A combination of accumulated walking fatigue, and the fact that the coverage seemed less interested in tennis than in being at the tennis, meant that we slept through most of the afternoon. Feeling perhaps a little guilty, we struck out in the evening to the place de la republique, and grabbed dinner at an italian restaurant where the pizza was OK, but the wine was too weak.

The next morning, in an effort to avoid other tourists, we got out to the eiffel tower in good time, and were pleased to find that the strategy worked, with a much more reasonable-sized crowd. That done, we had just enough time to get back to the apartment and pack up before Gabrielle arrived to escort us to the RER for our various transports across the channel. Since the expense (400 euros) of flying scared me too, much, I left my parents on the RER at Gare du Nord. Just as I was getting off the train, I noticed a guy drop some money on the ground, and Dad bent down to help him pick it up. As I should have shouted out, this turned out to be a bad idea, as the guy took the opportunity to relieve dad of his belly-bag, and thus also his passport, mobile phone, organiser, euros, credit cards and driver's license. Of course, I didn't find this out until I was already on my way to London.

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