From Paris to Lille

This morning we checked out from the hotel and went for “le petit déjeuner”, which means breakfast, at Café Lutetia on Place Charles Michels (49 Rue Linois). We had cream café, tea for me of course, orange juice, and baguette with butter and jam, just like real Parisians. After having breakfast French style, we walked right across the street to Starbucks (yeah, seriously) to get more coffee for Aaron and Holly – American style! We then passed by a boulangerie and I couldn’t stop myself from going in and buying a couple of croissants for me and Kelly. It was probably the best croissant I’ve ever had.

We talked about doing some sightseeing in Paris, but instead we decided to go to Lille as soon as possible rather than going there tonight. So, we went back to the hotel to get the luggage, then took the metro to Gare du Nord, and then we got on the TGV train to Lille.

We didn’t get a choice to pick our seats when we bought the tickets, so we ended up having to sit in separate cars. It turned out okay that way though, because Kelly got an apparently much needed nap (slept like a baby) and I was just enjoying the landscape swishing by. I had cookies and peach ice tea, and my head full of French conversations with myself. I’ve been using every opportunity on this trip to speak French, and it has really given me some more confidence. And it’s fun! A few weeks ago I started using an app for learning French, called Duolingo, and it has helped a ton.

Lille has two major train stations located very close to one another – Lille Flandres and Lille Europe. We arrived at Lille Flandres after only one hour on the train.

 

Environmentally friendly energy: charge your battery by cycling!

 

Our hotel, Novotel Lille Centre Gares, is only a short walk away from the train station. The staff at the check-in counter was just lovely. I tried to do the whole conversation in French, and it went okay while I was talking, but got difficult as soon as he started talking, because it’s hard for me to follow when people speak too fast. He noticed this and asked with a friendly smile: “Anglais?” (which means “English”). I asked him to please continue in French but just a little bit slower. He did just that, and then I could understand everything! He was so helpful and nice, and I felt really good being able to discuss check-out times, breakfast, wifi, room number/floor and other things, all in French! Our room was very similar to the one in Paris, and we were very happy with it. Another pleasant experience with the Novotel hotel chain.

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La Tour Eiffel

Aaron and Holly arrived to Paris in the afternoon! And they even brought presents from the US :). Even though they were a bit tired after a long flight, they didn’t want to waste any time on resting when there’s all of Paris to explore. We started out easy by getting something to eat in the shopping mall right next to the hotel, the Centre Commercial Beaugrenelle. Aaron got cheese with a little bit of tacos at Chipotle (even though he asked for “un petit du fromage”), whereas Holly and I opted for slightly healthier choices at M&S, and Kelly had nothing at all. 

We then headed towards the Eiffel Tower, walking along the Île aux Cygnes. It was a really hot day, so we took it very slow.

Photo taken by Adrian Pingstone in June 2002

Kelly taking a picture of me taking a picture…

 

The result

 

L’Allée des Cygnes

 

Pont de Bir-Hakeim

 

The Eiffel Tower

  
      

We had dinner at a lovely little restaurant a few blocks away from the Eiffel Tower. It was called Café Constant and served classic French cuisine, like veal, steak, chicken Cordon Bleu, and profiteroles for dessert. It seemed like a place mainly for locals and not for tourists. It was very hot, crammed, but with delicious food and a great atmosphere.

 

When we walked back towards the hotel, there was an incredible amount of people hanging out in the park around the Eiffel Tower, the Champ de Mars. It looked like there was a music festival going on or something, but it was just people picnicing and enjoying the hot and light summer evening. There were also a fair amount of street vendors and con artists preying on the tourists, so my general advice for this area is unfortunately: don’t trust anyone and be on your guard.

At 10 o’clock the tower was lit up with many little lights, and it was beautiful! A great ending to a great day.

   
 

Statue of Liberty

We had breakfast/lunch at Restaurant Eclectic on Rue Linois near the hotel. As we sat there, facing the Seine, we noticed the Statue of Liberty not very far from us! It turned out to be one of several replicas of the famous statue in New York. This one is located on a artificial island in the middle of the Seine called Île aux Cygnes (English: Isle of the Swans). A one-fourth scale replica of the Statue of Liberty in New York City, it’s 22 metres high and facing west in the direction of its larger sibling.

   
 

Phones…

Our pile of foreign SIM cards is growing as we just bought Kelly a French SIM for his phone. He’s here for more than a week so it’ll be useful to be able to use the internet like normal. The guy at Orange who helped us with the SIM was Portuguese, and didn’t hesitate to let us know that Swedes are not his favorite people right now, as we just beat the Portugese in the final of the European Under-21 Championship in football. He was still civil and polite though… 😉

Now I just hope that Aaron & Holly can get a hold of us when they arrive in Paris! But first, Kelly and I are going to get something to eat for the first time since the plane ride last night. J’ai très faim!

Going to Paris!

There’s a heat wave in Europe right now, and for Sweden that means summer has finally arrived after a colder-than-normal May and June. Kelly and I had some Swedish summer awesomeness last weekend, when we went on a Sunday hike in Kungshamn-Morga with friends, but for this weekend we are heading to an even warmer France.

Kelly will be attending the International Conference on Machine Learning, ICML, in Lille that starts on Monday. Aaron is also coming all the way from the U.S. for the conference, so we are going to meet up with him and Holly in Paris over the weekend! It’s really awesome that we get this opportunity to hang out with them; it’s not very often we get to see each other, living on opposite sides of the globe.

Traveling to Paris was pretty smooth, and I really like when it works out like that. We both packed our bags last night, went to work for almost the whole day, and left just a little bit earlier than normal to head to the airport. The train station in Uppsala is a five minute walk from my office, and the train ride is only 17 minutes. I bought the train ticket in one app while walking to the station, and had my flight ticket in another app for easy check-in. We flew with Norwegian and I always think they are a breeze to travel with. This time however, the flight was delayed by 30 minutes, which isn’t normal for them.

In Paris, we landed at Orly airport – a first for me. Getting to the city was no more difficult than it is from Charles de Gaulle. Thanks to the helpful woman at the tourist information, who gave us perfect directions, we knew exactly what to do. We took a shuttle to the RER station, then the RER train to central Paris, and from there the metro to the hotel. The hotel is in a great location; as we walked up to the entrance we saw the Eiffel Tower :). I also got to practice my (very limited) French with the hotel staff. We are staying for two nights at the Novotel Tour Eiffel, and on Sunday we will go to Lille with the TGV = super fast train.

 

Nous sommes arrivés!