2010-01-07 11:55:50 ET
Full travelogue of Paris I said I'd post earlier:
29th of October, 2009:
After a harrowing financial nightmare with vehicle repairs and ticket mishaps, Suzy and I finally made it to our train on time. We alighted upon the rail to London's King's Cross/ St. Pancras station coming from Cambridge. There we we enjoyed our last meal in London before the leaving merry ole' England. Our meal consisted of exceptionally sharp cheddar and locally sourced salami with water to drink. We carried it into the Eurostar station where we sat waiting for our train.
The station was packed with a large group of American travelers on there way to Brussels. They varied from couples, to single men and women, thick and thin, light and dark, well dressed to jeans and t's. What their business was, I couldn't begin to guess.
The train ride was uneventful, and the tunnel itself was only impressive in it's pitch blackness. Suzy and I wondered if you could, theoretically, walk through the tunnel to France alongside the trains. The only way we could actually tell that we had made it into France was that the train conductor's messages all started coming across in French.
After a long trip we made landfall at Gare du Nord station. We bought ourselves each a five day unlimited pass for the Paris Metro, but we believe it was also good for the buses. However, at first, we couldn't figure out where we should go or what line to board in order to get to the hotel which we had booked. After standing around dumbfounded and walking in circles for about 10 minutes we were approached by a young women who asked us, "Do you speak English?" Well, of course thinking this may be someone just as lost as we were or possibly someone with directions, we said yes. She opened a letter, explaining that she was a Bosnian refugee and requesting money. Well, we didn't have any small change and so turned her away, but she remained aggressive. We were eventually able to walk away towards a Metro station.
While there Suzy needed to use le toilette (which costs one Euro, so if you go bring potty money). While she was indisposed I was again accosted by the same beggar women and so, in response to her question of "Do you speak English?" (I assume she didn't recognize me from a few minutes ago) I responded aggressively in turn and she left me well enough alone after that.
We eventually decided to walk from the Gare du Nord station to Le Chapelle station and ride that line towards western Paris, where our hotel was located. The first thing that struck me about the trains is how much graffiti there is on them and how the trains feel much older than the London Underground. We did make it eventually to our stop, and began walking the direction we believed the hotel lie (we will shortly turn out to have been wrong). We came upon a large street called Avenue Foch, which leads towards Le Arc du Triomphe. We saw the arc in the distance and at first thought it looked much smaller in real life. It was at this point we realized that we had headed the wrong direction and began walking back towards our hotel. I handed the map from here on out, since my navigation skills seemed to be lacking as I was so obviously dumbstruck by this city.
We arrived at the hotel, Radison Blu du Metropolitan, with views from the front door towards the Eiffel Tower. The bellhop was very friendly and everyone at the hotel spoke nearly perfect English. We took the elevator to the 2nd floor (read 3rd floor for our American friends), and found that the three of us, Suzy, the Bellhop and I, could barely fit into this tiny elevator. He showed us to our rooms and noted all the features in the room to us. Le chambre was very small, but exceptional in quality and made very efficient use o such a small space.
We were exceptionally hungry at this point, not having eaten since the meal in London, and so made our way downstairs to the front desk to ask about where to eat. It was only 4:30, and we already knew that the French restaurants wouldn't open for dinner until about 7:30pm, but asked about where to get something light. The concierge directed us to Place du Trocadero. We walked down that direction and found Cafe du Trocadero, a slightly upscale restaurant. I had the French onion soup, which is obviously only onion soup in France, and Suzy had ravioli. Having heard great things about wine in France I ordered the chef's recommended wine and Suzy had a nameless glass of exceptional champagne. The wine I hade was a Bordeaux called Chateau Roquefort, and was possibly the best red wine I had ever enjoyed, and remains so. While there the sun set and we saw the Eiffel Tower perform its hourly lighting ritual. It was a wonderful night.
After returning to the hotel we decided that a small dinner would be perfect, so we found a local supermarket and began shopping. The market was mostly cheese and wine, with every other incidental taking up very little space. We bought some bread, smoked cheese, salami, Oreos, and some juice. We enjoyed our meal on our bed in the hotel while I drank espresso. In fact, we didn't have a regular coffee machine in the room, only an espresso machine which made fairly sweet espresso, maybe too sweet for my taste. We then took showers and headed to bed (the shower was amazing, with a huge tub and rain style shower head).
30th of October, 2009:
We decided to begin this day by traveling to the Eiffel Tower. It is so much larger and more beautiful in person, the pictures and films do not due it justice. However, the whole place is crawling with beggars, the very same as the first Bosnian women we met off the train, along with a good deal of African men selling cheap trinkets illegally. It struck me to see this obvious immigration problem. In American people complain about our Mexican immigrants, but at least the vast majority of them work for their keep, and ,although illegal, remain, for the most part, upstanding and righteous people. We saw hundreds of these beggars and salesmen during our stay, at every tourist attraction, in the metro, at the train stations asking for our money. We adopted a new strategy to avoid their aggressive tactics. When asked if we spoke English we would respond only in other languages: German, Spanish, or Japanese.
We had tickets to reach the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, which is high enough thank you very much. We have some pictures from there and so we'll let them speak for themselves (you can see them in the photos on facebook).
Afterwards we took a riverboat tour along the river Seine. We learned a good deal about the various bridges and saw many iconic landmarks on this trip.
Next we headed out for something to eat at the famous Poilane bakery. We ordered a quarter loaf, more than enough consider that a full loaf weighs in at 1.9kg (4lbs). We ate as we walked back towards the hotel, stopping at one point for pictures of a beautiful bridge and again at the side of the river Seine to feed the ducks some of our designer bread.
We only stopped briefly at the hotel before heading out towards Le Arc du Triomphe. We passed many shops along the way, including a small local patiserie where we shared an eclair chocolat. C'est sublime! It is obvious that the Parisians appreciate quality over quantity in their lives. We again experienced fantastic sweets at a local chocolatier from whom we bought chocolate caramels.
Eventually we made it to the arc, which when seen from this close, is truly massive and beautiful beyond words. However, to get a closer look we would have had to risk death crossing a five lane round-a-bout, so instead we headed to a local cafe for lunch. Here we finally hit our communication stride, being able to handle the whole transaction in French, which was a good thing seeing as that our waitress did not speak English. I had ratatouille with goats cheese which was very good while Suzy had pasta carbonara with smoked salmon. The wine was fair, but not nearly what the first restaurant had lead us to expect.
We headed back to hotel to relax and take showers before heading out for our most exciting night, for we had booked tickets to Le Moulin Rouge. Suzann was breathtakingly beautiful, dressed in one of her black corsets and white slacks, hair done up and wearing her heeled boots. We took the Metro to the Montmarte district and headed to little hole-in-the-wall cafe called Chez Marie. The food was amazing, and I ate escargot (which tastes of butter and garlic more than anything else). However, the clientèle of this establishment was vastly more British than French.
After dinner we headed to the Starbucks outside the Moulin Rouge and waited for the doors to open. We entered the famous building and waited to be seated. The show does not sell seats, only entry, and so nobody gets to pick their seats. On account of this, we ended up sitting right next to the stage. Now, when I say we were right next to the stage, I mean that both Suzy and I were continuously being buffeted in the face with dresses and in fear of being kicked in the teeth by dozens of high heels. We also shared a bottle of champagne while we watched what was easily the greatest stage show we had ever seen. In between sets there were other performers including a juggler that put every other juggler I'd ever seen to shame (seven pins by one man!), a couple doing a very elaborate acrobatic routine, and a hilarious comedian. In fact, for part of the comedian's show I was asked to come up on stage. On trying to climb onto the stage I spilled almost two glasses of champagne on Suzy, but we just laughed about it.
Thankfully the Metro runs late on Fridays and Saturdays, so we avoided taking a taxi and headed back to the hotel for bed.
31st of October, 2009:
A relatively slow day for us, beginning with a trip to the Notre Dame. After getting off the Metro we first saw the Palais du Justice, the most elaborate courthouse one might ever imagine. I was trying to navigate again, and wouldn't you know it, I took us in the opposite direction of the Notre Dame. Suzy turned us around and we headed towards the chapel. It is free to enter the chapel, but we would've had to pay to enter the bell tower, so we only looked in the chapel. The church is massive, with murals and architecture seemingly beyond compare. I light a candle there for Mom and bought a small rosary which I am carrying in my pocket now.
We ate lunch and headed to Palais Garnier, the famous opera house in which the Phantom of the Opera takes place. It has been restored, so all the statues retain their gold gilt and the paintings on the ceilings and walls shine with vibrant color. The attention detail is astounding. There is also a huge chandelier in the main auditorium (remember the chandelier in the play, which starts the fire?). The rig weighs in at eight tonnes! Our pictures pale in comparison to the real thing.
After the opera house we headed back to the hotel to relax and prepare for the evening meal at the hotel restaurant. The meal was good, and we finished of a bottle of wine called 'XB' which was very, very spicy. I ordered the gambas with black tiger prawns, the biggest shrimp I'd ever seen. We soon retired and went to bed.
1st of November, 2009:
On this day we attended Le Lourve. The palace itself is fantastic and the collections very impressive. We saw La Gioconda (Mona Lisa) though it is roped off and surrounded by people, and behind bullet proof glass. One might need binoculars to get a real good look at it. In contrast I was much more impressed with "La Liberté guidant le peuple" (Liberty Leading the People). We also walked through the Egyptian exhibits, which while more massive than that of the British National Museum, I found much less impressive.
We later attended Musee L'Erotismee which I found in turns sexy, disturbing, and funny. Rebecca Rills is next door, but I'm sure you don't want to know about that!
2nd of November, 2009:
The day of departure, we were ready to go home. Although our stay in Paris was amazing, it feels good to be back in Cambridge, sleeping in our own beds.
2010-01-07 11:54:14 ET
I try to buy local meat to cut carbon emissions from transport of livestock, but now I find that these local livestock are fed largely from imported corn from America and Soy from Paraguay etc., thus cancelling the supposed benefits. WTF? How amazingly depressing. I'd go vegetarian if I only didn't love BBQ so much ...or those vegan tofu meats didn't taste so awful. Pescetarian maybe?
|Once again, a prolonged abscence|
2010-01-07 05:54:14 ET
I apologize for being absent for such an extended period . . . again. A good deal has been happening here in England, so an update is in order, chronologically sound ordering:
1. Suzie and I started trying for a baby.
2. Anniversary in Paris (I'll post the extended travelogue later).
3. NaNoWriMo starts, I participate.
4. Suzie gets pregnant.
5. I fail at NaNoWriMo (I would be preoccupied, wouldn't I?).
7. A paid twelve day weekend.
8. Back to work.
9. Suzie's first appointment cancelled due to snow shutting down the base.
10. Coming four day weekend.
11. The End.
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