Thanks to Camille and Mark from lacaravaneapedales.com (check it out and polish up on your French), two local Parisians who have let us stay in their one bedroom apartment we've been able to check out the wonders of Paris these last five days.
Sometimes we can get sceptical, and when you have been on the road for seven months, new scenery occasionally becomes indistinctly post-modern, but Paris is a different story, leaving us loving almost every minute.
One of our best experiences here so far was riding bicycles around the city, the ones you can hire almost anywhere for only $1 Euro, randomly exploring it for hours, turning haphazardly in any arbitrary direction, fuzzy and itinerant, discovering a labyrinth of narrow streets, old stone churches and quaint alleyways.
A great way we found to get started here was by doing a fascinating 'insider tour' of the inner city where we discovered King Edward VIII fascinating inner sanctum (sort of), and France's first cinema.
Other highlights have been home made sweet and savory crepes at Mark and Camilles, Toy Story 3 (our first movie since China) at a cinema perched upon a beautiful canal, visits to the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Les Halles, Place de la Concorde the Avenue de L'Opera and continuing our relentless search for the nations best flan!!
A fascinating juxtaposition to Paris' romantic beauty are the homeless people, indiscriminately scattered across the city, often surrounded by rubbish and the strong aroma of urine, and left alone by the police. Sometimes we've even seen them standing next to each other, neither seeming to notice or acknowledge the others presence.
Contrary to a common myth we'd heard, we've found that food here hasn't been as expensive as we thought it would be. Riding a giant ferris wheel that looks out over the expanses of the city with an equally giant donut in my mouth that cost only a middling two Euro, really brought this point home...
On our last night at Mark and Camille's we met up with Alison, one of Shanna's old school friends who is currently living in Paris, who took us up to Le Sacre Coeur, a beautiful Church on top of Paris' highest hill with a sad and fascinating history.
Silently watching the city move down below, cold beers rubbed on our arms by African street vendors eager to make a sale, and listening to the dancing buskers on the steps underneath we came to the realisation that, as people have previously commented would happen on this blog, any preconceptions we had of the city have ultimately proved to be an allusion.
Neither of us can recall our respective pre-conceptualized renderings of Paris, but whatever they were, they've been emphatically shattered in a richly diverse and distinct way.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia