Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Euro Trip Day 3: Paris

It was the third day and another day when emotions ran high. We took a TGV train from Rotterdam Central to Paris Gare du Nord station. Rotterdam Central is in the midst of renovation (almost completed) and it looks much more modern than Amsterdam Central. There are a lot of shops in between the platforms. Too bad, I still needed to pay for the use of toilet -_-

Since it was my virgin experience, I was absolutely clueless about the storage space in the train. I did not bother to "fight" for entry and as a result, there was limited storage area by the time I boarded. Actually the problem was with the size of the luggage that I brought. I expected my sister to know about the limited storage space and she should have advised not to bring the damn big luggage in the first place. She didn't. What's worse was the fact that she immediately chionged to our seat instead of helping me to get a storage space for the luggage. Pfft... While in general 2nd class passanger train in Europe does not have reserved seating, we had our seats reserved so I absolutely saw no reason for the rush to the seat. Thank God that we were seated at the end of the carrier and the neighbouring carrier was sort of a VIP-one: a small carrier with a capacity of 8 people. Only business people and little children so there was an empty space on the overhead storage. I was surprised that the super big luggage fit in.

I did not really enjoy the trip with this Venezuelan guy flirting with a Dutch girl sitting next to her. Bleah.. their voices just disrupted my sleep. The toilet was bigger than airplane's but it was dirtier. So rubbish when my sister kept telling me that trains have nice and clean toilets. Bah!

Upon reaching Paris, it was chaos to another level. By the time we reached the ticket office, it was their shift changing time. They took their sweet time in changing and took no regards with the long queue in front of them. Bah.. talk about customer service here. Having to navigate through the subway with endless staircases and changing lines a few times simply pissed me off. Jeez.. our luggage was actually not heavy. It is the super long size that makes everything bad. I had to lift the luggage "higher" and that was tiring. My sister with smaller and lighter luggage had more difficulties carrying hers and that was another thing that made me angry. If she knew that carring bulky luggages through Paris metro system was that challenging, she should say so earlier instead of making me carry the super big luggage. Rrrrah...

My reliance to my sister and her reliance to her poor memory did not do good. We had to spend quite a bit of time observing the train map to find direction and where to change etc. Things would be much simpler if we planned earlier. At our exit in Berault station, I asked her which exit to take. When I saw a map, I was trying to get her to see the map to orientate ourselves. She said "let's go up and I can remember". We went up and she could not remember -_-. Well done for the overconfidence. I was literally screaming at her: Do you know or do you not know where we are going? If you do not know, let's ask for help or look at the map!

Our hotel is quite away from Paris downtown area. At most, local tourists but not international tourists will stay there. We had lunch in the nearby Italian Restaurant (thank God they were able to speak English) and we saw a castle just opposite the road.

Chateau de Vincennes
The castle is huge but there was almost no visitor which made me wonder whether it was actually a place which is open to public. The name of the castle is Chateau de Vincennes. I never heard about it before but looking at wikipedia, it seems that there is a lot of history behind it. And from the wikipedia article, I learn a new word: MOAT. It actually means ditch/river/whatever you want to call it which surrounds a castle or a town. Hehe.. Unfortunately, as it was already past 3pm, I did not go in and only took a few pictures on the outside. Kinda wasted not to go in because I think this kind of place is a hidden gem: beautiful yet unknown to most people.
This picture does not do justice! The front side of the castle is much grander than this :)
The main objectives of the day were Sacre Coeur (or Basilica of the Sacred Heart) and Chapel of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal. My aunt suggested that we alight at Abesses stop to reach Sacre Coeur. It was a different exit from where my sister alighted 2 years back and she kept saying "it was not like this last time". The basilica is located on the highest point of Paris and she remembered there was a mini tram to go up. I tried to see basilica from the map in the train station to no avail but there were signages pointing towards the basilica so I wanted to follow that. After a few uphill walk, my sister got tired and wanted to go back. My question was: with so many train stops, could she remember which stop she was looking for? I only knew "Abesses" from my aunt and I saw signages so I rather took the chance and follow these signages instead of relying on her memory which proved to be a failure earlier in the day.

There was a tall staircase which I wanted to climb because I saw tourists going up and down. My sister insisted that it was the museum so we followed the road ahead until we saw the sign towards the museum. She finally took out her GPS and indeed, the staircase brought us to the back of the church. Previously, my sister went from the front side. Honestly, I am not to keen with visiting churches because 1) I think church is a place of worship and 2) There will be crowd which will dampen my mood to take photots.

Sacre Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart)
The building itself was gorgeous but what impressed me more is the strict decorum to enter the church. There was a security at the entrance to remind people not to take photos inside and to disallow people with inappropriate clothing. I am very glad that despite having it as a tourist attraction, there is still some respect shown to the house of God. Even as I walked around, I could still feel the prayerful atmosphere rather than the touristy chaos.

We walked one round at the periphery of the church. There are several work of arts and prayer stops. Small candles are sold for 2 Euros while big ones for 10 Euros for anyone who would like to say a prayer and dedicate the candle to Mother Mary, Jesus, or any of the Saints. At the centre, I bumped into another medallion machine for my 2nd bit of souvenirs. Unfortunately, I only had enough coins to afford 2 medallions so I purchased one with the Basilica picture from the outside and one with the image of the main stained glass inside the church.
As the church is located at the highest point of Paris, we can see Paris' skyline from there. Not a fan of skyline.. plus the crowd which makes my photos of the skyline as the photos of the headline instead (i.e all the tourist heads). And my sister finally found the travellator which she talked about. We took them down to "Anvers" station. Lol.. The journey was not that long and climbing down the steps would save us money. The travellator is more for the journey up. Haha..

Next stop was Rue de Bac. I don't like when people say Rue de Bac church because the name of the church is Chapel of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal. The nearest train stop is Rue de Bac and it is located at 140 Rue de Bac but these are not reasons to change the church name to Rue de Bac.

Chapel of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal
As the name suggests, it is a chapel and it is not a church and thus the typical grand ancient church building is absent. It is really a humble yet holy place with more people going there to pray (and surprise: there were queues for the the confessionals). It is surprising (and good at the same time) that such a holy place has not become popular and ruined as a tourist place of attraction.

It is a site of Marian apparation and 3 remains of Saints are housed there: the incorrupt bodies of St Catherine Laboure (to whom Mother Mary appeared and requested for the creation of what currently known as Miraculous medal) and St Louise de Marillac (the co-founder of Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul) and the heart of St Vincent de Paul. The bodies of St Louise de Marillac and St Catherine Laboure were displayed in glass coffins beneath the altar and at the right side of the altar respectively. No idea whether something was done to the bodies but I found the face to have a waxy appearance which made the bodies look doll-like. Not sure whether it is a good or a bad thing because another part of me feels that it may be freaky if the bodies do look like sleeping humans. I don't know what I prefer.
The side altar with the incorrupt body of St Catherine Laboure in the glass coffin
I called it a day to save energy for Disneyland on Day 4!! Yeah..

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