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Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Let me start off by saying, I didn’t much care for Paris.

To be fair, Paris was sort of an aside on this trip; A place I went because, well, I was all the way over there and, why not?  To be even more fair, Paris does have sort of a nasty reputation for being full of snobby pretentious people who hate Americans….a fully deserved reputation.

Not that anyone was rude or condescending towards me.  Most people were either neutral or quite nice…with a scattering of that just-can’t-be-bothered blasé that so many of them seem to have.  A few even mistook me for being French!   But there was still this air about them that made me antsy any time I wandered into  a bar or boulangerie or restaurant.  Unlike in Amsterdam where I always felt welcome and at home in any place…even if the staff were stand-offish (can’t figure that one out).

The city itself is as beautiful as all the photos and movies portray it to be.  I took the metro to my hotel.  Thier system there is very user-friendly…even for the non-native speaker.  Of course the city itself is a labyrinth which seems to have been built up before the  terms “city-planning” and “grid” were invented.  But I suppose some people might say that’s part of it’s charm.  I say that’s exactly why I got lost trying to find my hotel.   I was on the “Left Bank” near the Eiffel Tower so, despite my bewildered state, I was privy to some glorious real estate.

I had chosen my hotel because someone in some online review had said there was a bakery right down the street and I had no desire to visit French restuarants and pay French prices. Here’s the thing about Paris, or at least the part I was in,  there is a bakery (boulangerie) on every fucking corner there.  Chances are, no matter what hotel you are in, if you walk two blocks in any direction you will run into at least three.  A lot of those The French are Skinnier Than You Neener Neener Neener books go on about how the French buy their food fresh daily from different markets, also holds true.  On my block there was a boulangerie, a “convenience store”, a fruit stand, a place to buy meats, a wine shop, and a flower shop.  I also had a view of an Italian restaurant from my hotel window where, yes, the Parisians did eat late and linger a long time over their meals.  Me, I stuck to a diet of baguettes (purchased from the snooty boulangerie lady) and Camembert cheese and mimosas (from the civil man at the convenience store)….and still lost weight!  I attribute that more to the walking than the diet.

The street where my hotel was on:

hotel room

hotel room

 

hotel view

hotel view

I was only there for a full day so I did what any tourist would do with only one day in Paris: Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.

Eiffel Tower:

From below

From below

From Afar

From Afar

At night

At night

It does this sparkly thing only at the top of the hour.  I didn’t realize this until after waiting 45 minutes, then flying back home and looking it up online.  I caught a glimpse on my way to photograph it at night and it wasrather spectacular.  I did also go up to the top of the tower but the photos are boring.  Go online and do a search…mine were no different.  If you’re going, I suggest avoiding groups of spoiled American teenagers on a tour of Europe…is it any wonder the French hate us?

Then I was off to the Louvre.  I took the metro and got off at the Concorde exit. Let me just say, if you are going, this is the exit to get off at.  Walking out of the metro entry you will see a grand scape that is very reminiscent of the Mall in Washington DC, but lovelier.  I suppose all Capitols have such magnificent and manicured impressive displays.  Paris is no different.  It was quite beautiful. 

Unfortunately the day was rather drab.  I walked through a park  and some gardens and past the ferris wheel to get to the Louvre

You can walk into the pyramid without buying a ticket as the ticket booths are inside underground.  You do of course have to go through security.

Here’s the thing about the Louvre: if you aren’t into art, it’s a chore and a half.  I won’t come right out and say don’t go, because you can’t just go to Paris and not go to the Louvre.  It does have some interesting pieces in it (see below) as well as some famous ones it’s fun to see in person.  But Christ almighty if you don’t have to walk 10 miles through crowds and exhibits of what seems to be the same thing over and over again just to get to those bits.

My favorites:

Ancient Egypt

mummy case

mummy case

mummy

mummy

Then of course there is the Louvre’s most famous piece.  I had been warned before hand to be completely underwhelmed by the size and scope of the Mona Lisa, so the real thing actually impressed me more than I thought.  It wasn’t enough to overcome my complete wonder as to why that particular piece should be more important than the thousands of other paintings that were just as, if not better than, the Mona Lisa.   I mean really…a smile??

Mona Lisa Orgy

Mona Lisa Orgy

This is as close as I could get

This is as close as I could get

 I personally was far more impressed by the HUGE painting that took up an entire wall opposite the Mona Lisa:

Now that is what I call an awe inspiring painting!

Having walked about 5 miles and 6 civilizations I was tired and ready to go back to my hotel.  Unfortunately there appear to be no short cuts in the Louvre.  It’s like they are forcing the culture down your throat in some sort of sadistic Clockwork Orange torture program!!!

I did snap a photo of this on my way out only because it made me giggle like a 13 year old boy:

Yeah, I know...Im a total boor

Yeah, I know...I'm a total boor

By the time I did find my way out…I bought a well deserved crepe.  I wanted to try Nutella because you (apparently) can’t get it in the states easily and all the Europeans (and American travelers) gush on and on about it:

crepe being made

crepe being made

Ok, at this point I’m totally sounding like a boobish annoying ugly American but…it wasn’t all that.  It tasted like sickly sweet chocolate spread.  Maybe the guy, seeing that I was a fat slovenly American, put too much in, but it nearly made me gag and I literally had to squeeze most of it out to enjoy it.

nutella crepe

nutella crepe

Of course, as usual I found the best parts of Paris to be off the tourist path.  After a much needed rest and a bit of boredom I wandered around.  I came across some development sites with gravel out front and decided to get my “sand” from here:

Paris sand

Paris "sand"

I was happy about this spot because right after, walking in a tunnel, I was “accosted” by a man who spoke only French and made it very clear that I was an impressive specimen, basically “gibberish gibberish BELLE gibberish gibberish MAGNIFIQUE gibberish (kissy hand signal thing with fingers to mouth).”  It’s true, when it’s in French it sounds so much more impressive and romantic…sigh.  I smiled and skipped during the rest of my evening constitutional.   And I found a library branch!

library branch

library branch

If there is one equalizer, it’s the public library.  I had no trepidity about walking  right in and perusing the books.  If there is anything that will make me ever want to learn French, it’s Largo Winch comic books. 

Later on I stopped to partake in my usual endeavor of drinking beer at a bar.  I braved a bar where the camaraderie seemed genuine….except for those of us who speak English.  But the bar tender was nice enough when I asked for a beer (gasp! as opposed to wine???).  French or Belgian, he asked.  As if!  Who has ever even heard of French beer.  Naturally I went with Belgian….which is probably why it cost 8 Euros (!!! I know!).  Needless to say I was very much longing for Amsterdam, the land of cheap yummy beer.

I also found an interesting art “exhibit” outside of a school near my hotel.   These were some of my favorites:

For more, go to this website

For more, go to this website

 
 
 
 
My personal favorite:
 
And the next day it was time for me to head back to my beloved Amsterdam.  By this time I had been forced by default to learn how to get a single ticket using the machine.  1. Because, much like New Yorkers, Parisians have zero tolerance for clueless people who can’t quickly get their tickets (here I don’t blame them, once I figured out the system I myself had little tolerance for slow people holding up the line trying to figure it out) 2. because the guy who was supposed to be manning the booth at the Dupliex station was, unsurprisingly, NEVER there, and when he was, was too lazy to be bothered (I was soon to learn this attitude is somewhat of a trend in Paris).
Anyway, I made it on to the metro with 1 hour to spare before my train took off.  An unfortunate series of events, and my own ignorance led to me just making the Thalys to Amsterdam…no seriously, just!   First, I missed the first metro headed to Gare du Nord and had to wait 5 minutes for the next one.  Then when I got there I had no clue how to find the international trains, let alone the one I was supposed to get on.  here’s the thing Parisians: SIGNS, PEOPLE…SIGNS!!!!  So I asked a very nice woman who didn’t speak a lick of English but didn’t give me flak for trying to communicate that way.  After some hand signals and finally the word Thalys she pointed up. 
 
Note to future travelers:
1. Once you get off at the Gare du Nord station…go all the way up if you are looking for the international trains.
2. HOLD ON TO YOUR METRO TICKET.  For some insane reason you can’t get out of the station without one.  I spent 20 minutes figuring this out, after having lost mine.  This forced me to deal with a lazy Frenchman leaning against the gate who simply yawned, shrugged, and pointed off to some amorphous place elsewhere.  Then the “information” booth where another lazy Frenchman sat and stared in all his slack-jawed slothiness for a full minute and finally buzzed me out through the side.  If I sound bitter it’s because I am, being that all this silliness this gave me only minutes to race to the international trains platform, discover that my train was at platform 8, my car was car 16, which meant a full 2 minutes of running to get on as the doors literally closed behind my back.   The French may have a cushy “working” system, but it totally sucks when you are on the receiving end of it.  And you thought Americans were lazy workers!
 
Anyway, I was happy to be back on my way to Amsteram and leave Paris far behind.  It certainly has it’s charms but I’ll be fine if I never go back.

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