Paris – The City of Tourists

The beginning to Paris was a rough start. I was holding my stomach from the night before after puking out everything that was left in my system. I’m not sure what happened to me, but at least it’s all over now. I caught the train from Niort at 8.30 in the morning with a bottle of Coca-Cola and a bag full of pills to make it through the two and a half hour trip to Paris.

I arrived successfully, with no puke. I got off the train and caught another to the opposite end of the city where I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Britt.  We were going to meet in the lobby of the hostel so once I had arrived, I scanned everywhere for her, but I didn’t see her.  So I checked in and took a seat in the restaurant in our hostel to wait for her. Fortunately, I only had to wait about five minutes before she walked in.

It was so good to meet up with Britt, of course. I was looking forward to seeing her for so long and once we finally saw each other, it was like we had never been separated. I love Britt. She’s the best bestie in the world.  I immediately felt somewhat better after seeing her.

We spent the first hour or so catching up, sharing stories, and eating (well, she ate; I sat and wanted to vomit at the sight of food.)  Then we went upstairs and passed out for a few hours which were much needed for the both of us.

Upon waking up, I felt much better, and although Britt fought me to stay in bed for a little while longer, we got dressed and went out to see Sacre Couer and Montmartre, to eat in a restaurant called Le Fourmi, and then to find this bar called Le Piano Vache that Marta had recommended. Before I left Madrid, Marta made us this great list of locales that we had to visit. She lived in Paris for a year so she knew all the ins-and-outs.  We found the place and it was probably one of the coolest bars I’ve ever been to. It was warm and cozy, and deep and dark. We found seats, paid 14-euros for two beers (at this point I probably shouldn’t have gotten a beer, but I wanted one, despite my stomach’s state), and at 10pm the music started! Jazz Manouche was the style of music that was played and it’s very typical of Paris.  The band was a three-piece act: lead guitar, rhythm guitar, and bass. The music was incredible. The guitar player absolutely shredded!  Click the video link here to see who we saw! Rodolphe Raffalli in Le Piano Vache

After the music, we got on the subway and went home.

Our second day started off much better, except for the fact that I was woken up by a splitting earache. But more on that later.

We caught the free walking tour that our hostel hosted and we couldn’t have spent the first 4-hours of our first full day in Paris any better. Our tour guide was hysterical and told great stories while showing us all the highlights of Paris like the Louvre, Notre Dame, and Le Pont Des Arts. As great as the tour was, the only downfall was that it was absolutely freezing. And I don’t mean cold like Denver cold. I mean the kind of cold that creeps into your insides and leaves you miserably frozen where the only thing you want to do is abandon ship for the first warm place you can find. Either way, we braved the fierce cold and completed the tour. Afterwards, we wandered around the Champs Elysees which is a famous street for shopping (we only went to H & M because let’s face it, my teaching pension wouldn’t allow me to shop in any of the other places.)

Later that afternoon, I ended up making my way to a pharmacy finally to take care of my ear. The pharmacist told me that he couldn’t give me any medicine for my ears without a doctor’s prescription so he gave me directions to one right down the street. We wandered around this sketchy apartment building until we figured out that the doctor was on the second floor of said building. We went up and in my broken French I asked the secretary, “Parlez-vous anglais?” (Do you speak English?) And up until that point of our trip, everyone spoke English. We were a little taken off guard when for the first time on our trip, she said, “Non.”

Shit.

Okay. So I had to speak French. Thank goodness I had been taking classes. I knew enough words to set up an appointment for the next day. I actually loved communicating with her in French. It reminded me of that feeling I used to get when I was first learning Spanish and was able to use the language when it was needed.

That night, we went out with this kid we met in the hostel, my co-worker, Sarah, and two of her friends (Sarah just so happened to be in Paris the same weekend as us), and my friend Stephanie who lived in Madrid last spring.  We had a blast: We were out till about 5 in the morning. I later regretted this as I started to feel queasy with my still weak stomach, but totally worth the fun night.  Britt even met this boy we now call Tornado Alley because he told her that his life wouldn’t be complete until he saw New York City, Chicago, and… Tornado Alley, just like everyone’s top list of things to visit in the United States. What a goof!

The following morning, I woke up and went to the doctor’s while Britt slept. Fortunately, the doctor spoke perfect English and over-prescribed me for my ears, which clearly had an infection. I later got my medicine, but once it came time for me to take them, they had given me the weird European powder version instead of the pill form. So I had to go back to the pharmacy and exchange them, which really seemed to piss off the pharmacist. But in the end, I got the drugs I needed.

Later that day, we went and explored more of the city. At night we saw the Louvre, which was a grand disappointment since it was chalk-full of tourists. Even though the Louvre is basically impossible to take in since it is so vast, it’s not even enjoyable in the least because you spend the entire time dodging other people, not admiring the art. And of course the Mona Lisa, which I’ve seen before, was barricaded by a wall of hundreds of eager tourists that made Britt and I pull out the zooms on our cameras, snap a few sloppy and blurry shots of the painting, and get the heck out of there.

Later, we went home and fell asleep early because we were both pretty beat since we had walked so much.

The following day, we went to Versailles which was stunning, but also almost as unenjoyable because of the number of tourists. I know that we were tourists as well, but when you put a ton of idiots from all over the world in one tight area, you can’t accomplish anything. It was much nicer than the Louvre and we are both fortunate and extremely glad that we went, but it would have been much nicer to be able to really take the gardens and palace in during the off season when there aren’t so many annoying tourists bumping into you with every step you take.

Once we returned to Paris, we went and explored the Eiffel Tower because that was one of the things we still hadn’t seen. Of course that too was like a battle-field with all of the tourists, but we were able to capture some good shots on our cameras regardless. Afterwards, we met back up with my friend Stephanie and tried to get some dinner but Britt’s vegetarianism and picky eating habits caused us to leave the restaurant we had chosen (but no pasa nada.) We grabbed some crepes instead.

Afterwards, we went to the Pompidou where I met up with another friend of mine whom I had met the previous spring, Agathe. I hadn’t spoken to her in months, but she saw that I was in Paris on my Facebook page, and she proposed we get together. I didn’t even know she was living in Paris so it was a nice surprise to be able to see her. We all went out: Britt, Stephanie, Agathe, and I and just grabbed a few beers in this cozy little bar.

In France, as in Spain, the United States (well at least in Colorado) and many other countries, you are not allowed to smoke inside public establishments. So that means everyone has to go out to the streets to smoke, right? Wrong. The French, being the clever people that they are, they put these plastic awnings up around the fronts of their bars, then placed some heaters, some tables and chairs, and now the people can sit “outside,” eat, drink, and of course smoke as if it were summer. Very sneaky, but that worked out better for our friends because you aren’t French if you don’t smoke, apparently.  Anyway, that’s where we sat so that everyone that wanted to smoke could.

Afterwards, we tiredly caught the last metro back to our hostel.

Our last day had finally arrived. We started the morning off by visiting the Orangerie, which is this great art museum right in the heart of Paris. It’s really only a five minute walk from the Louvre, but it was so much better.  First, the history: Napoleon wasn’t born in France, he was born on an island and every morning as a child he was given a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Once he became emperor, he demanded that he have his glass of O.J. every morning just like he had as a child. So he built the Orangerie right in the middle of these elaborate gardens that lead right up to the Louvre. Now, just like many ancient buildings in Paris, it is now a museum.  It was home to Monet’s famous and stunning water lily paintings that were enormous! The rest of the art collection consisted of many other famous painters, such as Picasso, and they even had a temporary exhibit showing Spanish painters, including, again, my favorite, Picasso. This was my favorite part of Paris by far.

Afterwards, since it was our last day and all, Britt wanted to spend the day doing what girls do best: Shop. We met up with Stephanie in hopes that she’d take us to these great French boutiques for Britt to buy whatever it was she was looking for (which usually ended up being candies and sweets, and not clothes.)  We didn’t have any luck all day, but we were still able to see a different part of Paris and the Hotel de Ville.

Once we grew tired of shopping….  Let me rephrase that. Once the girls grew tired of shopping, we were looking for something else to do to kill another hour or two before Britt and I had to head back to the airport to leave. Well, low and behold, right in front of us in this exact moment was this crazy building all decked out in pipes and tubes and paint. We decided to check it out. It turns out; the French government pays for this five or six story building for artists to use as they please. There was art everywhere and different artists showing, selling, and making art on every floor. It was beautifully chaotic in a completely free-reign creative epicenter for artists. It was wonderful! Britt and I agree that that was probably one of the most interesting things we had seen and it reminded us both of all the D.I.Y. art in Denver and how much our friends would have liked it.

Finally, it was time for us to go. We grabbed Subway to go for the trip (we don’t get subs in Spain so I wanted to take advantage, even though I’m not that big of a Subway fan to begin with), headed to our hostel for our things, caught the train to the bus station, caught the bus (which was driven by the most stereotypical, only French-speaking, pompous Parisian asshole…which on a side note, everyone in Paris treated us amazingly, so we really have no complaints about the French being rude. I think Americans have this idea because they are the rude ones, not the French), rode it for over an hour, arrived at the airport, did the whole security-and-queuing thing, then after an hour delay, we finally took off towards home: Madrid.

Our time in Paris wasn’t exactly how we planned it would be since I got sick, we were tired, we were fed up with the cold and all the tourists, but on the whole, we were really only there to see each other. I’m so glad I was able to make this trip with Britt. We immediately resorted back to our favorite things together: complaining, whining, and complaining. There is something about the two of us that just makes us the most incompetent cry-babies. To us, it’s funny. To others, it’s immature, annoying and probably childish. But when you only get to see your best friend once a year, you really don’t give two damns what any one thinks. We really had a terrific time together and I wish Britt were still here in Madrid with me for some more time.

Anyway, I’ll write more later, as always.

Graham

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7 thoughts on “Paris – The City of Tourists

  1. I was disappointed about the Louvre too. I did not think it was as great as other places in Paris. When I saw the Mona Lisa, I could not believe I was not excited.

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    1. Gracias, tio! Me encantaría pero es difícil encontrar trabajo si tienes la formación de escritor, sabes? Pero agradezco tu apoyo muchísimo. Gracias por leer y comentar. Espero q estés muy bien en Praga. Tengo muchas ganas de visitar. nos veremos pronto :)

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  2. When I lived in Spain in ’97 we went to Paris for NYE, and it was soooo cold! We spent the days jumping from cafe to cafe in order to stay warm. And the Louvre was closed because of the holiday. Your account of it is much like the others I have heard, so thanks for confirming that I didn’t miss “much.”

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  3. I felt the same way about the Louvre. There are so many other amazing museums in Paris if you’re going to see the Mona Lisa, I don’t think it’s worth it unless you have lots of time to spend and take in the rest of the art. I really did like Paris a lot though.

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