Friday, 17 May 2013

Paris: A Weekend Visit

One sunny Friday afternoon in October 2012, some of my dearest friends and I packed the car after work to trade the hustle and bustle of Jozi for a girls weekend in Parys. Parys on the Vaal, that is.
Parys is a treasure of a town, quietly tucked away in the Freestate but perfectly situated for a break from the Joburg city life. 

You have to wonder, however, if the German surveyor who was reminded of Paris, the capital metropolis of France, when he dupped the small town on the Vaal, had the epiphany in the early hours of the morning. Possibly during a lunar eclipse, a Paulaner Weissbier draught jovially clutched in each hand. 
Because Parys on the Vaal and Paris on the Seine are worlds apart (excuse the pun).

Parys and Paris

Nonetheless, Parys is a picturesque break-away town and our girls weekend was full of scrumptious meals at the local restaurants, cocktails next to the Vaal and lots of laughs. We explored the numerous antique stores and promises were made to return early in 2013 with bigger wallets and a Venter sleepwaentjie or two, much to the delight of the antique store tannies of Parys.

Painting Parys Red

Savouring a glass of red wine and peering out over the dark waters of the Vaal in October last year, I never would have guessed that I will be sipping "un verre de vin rouge" during a weekend visit to Paris. On the Seine, that is.
However, six months after our Parys expedition, I unexpectedly found myself in Europe at the same time as friends from home who travelled to Paris on holiday. Therefore I jumped at the chance (and onto a train) to visit the city for the weekend. 

Friday after work I drove to Liege to catch the train to Paris via Brussel-Zuid and was immediately notified that my car had crossed the Netherlands-Belgium border when the "Uit" road signs changed to "Sortie". The smooth and shiny highway of minutes before, instantly started to resemble the M1 in Joburg South, much to my alarm as my French vocabulary had not yet progressed to recognise warning signs such as "Watch out for the mammoth potholes!"

Here's a tip when travelling to or through Brussels: Brussel-Zuid and Bruxelles-Midi are one and the same station. It might not sound like much of a tip, but believe me, it is. 
Especially when, someday, you find yourself on a high-speed train, suitcase eagerly clutched in one hand and train ticket in the other, and you realise with impending unease that Brussels has not one, but three train stations: Noord, Centraal, and Zuid. 
And your ticket states in bold lettering that you have exactly three minutes to get to your next train at Bruxelles-Midi station. 

Do not, under any circumstances, assume that "Midi" and "Centraal" are the same station. Because they are not. This is just a cunning ploy devised to confuse all travellers who aren't fluent in both French and Dutch. In other words anyone who was not born and raised in Belgium. 

Brussel-Zuid / Bruxelles-Midi Station

Having finally found the correct train at the correct station, I arrived at Paris Nord in no time. 
How wonderful to visit friends from home in the incredible city of Paris! 

The rest of the weekend passed in a wonderful haze of wandering through cafe-lined streets and strolling along the Seine, catching up on the Jozi news, picnicking in the Jardin du Luxembourg, shopping in Rue du Rivoli, drinking cafe creme and eating pain au chocolate and Amarino ice cream.

We explored the odds and ends found at the Puces antique market, gazed at breathtaking Monet paintings at Musee d'Orsay (much to our surprise, the museum was free because we went on a Sunday!), and walked along Promenade Plantee - an elevated garden overlooking the city, dotted with locals going for a run or walking their dogs.

Paris Pleasures

On Sunday afternoon I took the train back to Liege and by 8 pm I was back at home in Maastricht. 
Visiting Paris for the weekend was such an adventure!
So whether you are visiting Fieterjasies antiques on the Vaal or sightseeing on the Seine, a weekend breakaway to Parys/Paris will always be a memorable event when meeting up with friends.

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