Friday, August 16, 2013

From the archives: my long-ago trip to Paris, part three

Gosh, there's a ton of stuff in this journal.  I'm thinking I may just start posting photos soon.  I mean, do you really want to keep reading????  How many times can I make fun of that d*mn guidebook?!  Though, one really good story about it IS coming up soon...

May 4, 2000:  We get an early start and have another nice breakfast in the hotel before we head out for more sightseeing.  We take a Metro to the Arc de Triomphe.  The Metro is much nicer than NY subways.  The hallways are all one-way, so you’re not constantly fighting against the crowds to get to your train.  I liked that.  It would never work in NYC, though.  There would always be someone who decided the one-way rule was for everyone but them.  Anyway, before getting on the Metro, we wait for almost an hour to exchange money.  Now THIS is like New York!

When we get to the Arc de Triomphe, I’m a bit overwhelmed.  I mean, I’ve seen this iconic image my whole life and now I’m here!  It’s gorgeous!  And dangerous – we have to take our lives in our hands to cross the avenue to get there!  Of course, we didn’t use the underpass.  Sigh.  Then, once we get inside, we discover the elevator to the top is out of order.  Oof.  I gird my loins to climb the stairs to the top.  It’s quite a climb – I have to stop and take a few deep breaths at one point.  I press myself against the wall so people can get past me.  I think a 90-year-old man jogged past me and laughed.

Thankfully, the view from the top is spectacular and makes that climb worthwhile.  You can really see the beauty of how Paris is laid out.  And, FINALLY, the sun is out.  Ish.  I can finally see the Eiffel Tower.  My god…I was beginning to feel like Meg Ryan in French Kiss when all she wants to see is the Eiffel Tower and it kept getting hidden from her.  But, finally, there it is. 

Walking along the Champs Elysee is a lot of fun – thankfully, the d*mn guidebook suggests window shopping, so GFFMO is allowing me to stroll instead of run to the next thing.  I was disappointed that the Sephora didn’t have free internet access, as had been previously advertised.  Oh well, no e-mail to my mom today.  We walk past the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais, which we unfortunately can’t go in, and then we get to the Place de la Concorde.  The obelisk of Luxor is incredible, and the fact that a guillotine once stood in that spot was mind-blowing.  I got a few photos and we moved on.

We saunter over to L’Orangerie to see some of Monet’s “Water Lilies” that are in the basement, but it is unfortunately closed.  Drat.  We decide instead to have lunch in the nearby Jardin de Tuileries.  I have another croissant and some coke.  GFFMO is trying to help me with my French, and the couple sitting next to us (they were from California but they sounded like oil people from Texas) started talking to us.  They had thought that GFFMO was actually French!  His accent is good, but I didn’t think it was that good.  Apparently, I was wrong.

We had originally planned to head to the Musee d’Orsay after lunch, but we decide to head out to Versailles instead, since it was such a nice day.  That was fine with me – the train ride was an easy one and the scenery was nice.  You get off the train and you’re very near the palace.  But, oh my, is it crowded!  You have to fight crowds just to get to the palace, then to get in, then to see anything.  But it IS worth it.  Luckily, we had that museum pass, so it did shorten our wait to get in a bit. 

It is so astoundingly beautiful at Versailles, there are really no words.  I can’t believe people LIVED here, royalty or not!!  The Hall of Mirrors is even more spectacular than I could’ve imagined.  It’s so perfectly designed to achieve maximum beauty.

Because it's so crowded, and we want some fresh air, we sort of rush through the last few rooms.  It's crazy craziness here.  I can't believe how much more there is to Versailles besides the castle!  The grand canal, the Grande Trianon (what a pretty pink!), the Petit Trianon and the Hameau.  It's just bucolic gorgeousness that is almost unreal.  And it is EXHAUSTING to walk around this place!  I can't believe, when I look at my watch, that we've spent over five hours here.  Just incredible.  My feet are a bit tired, though, and are happy to get back on the train back to Paris.
After a short nap (I just love me a European nap), we decide to head into an oppositional century and go to the Musee Georges Pompidou to look at the modern art.  I like the Matisses and the Kandinskys, and I have a lot of fun at the surrealism exhibit ("surrealism is in the library" - one of my favorite stories from undergrad), but I really do not enjoy, in the extreme, the contemporary stuff.  A room full of insulation and a piano?  Don't get it.  A collage of coupons?  Don't get it.  I'm a rube.  
After touring the modern stuff, we decide to eat at Dame Tartine, which was, you guessed it, recommended by the d*mn guidebook.  Thankfully, it's rather delicious.  I get the chicken and rice, in a cinnamon/almond sauce.  it was really tasty and sat very well in my still-pretty-empty tummy.  We leisurely stroll back to the hotel so I can watch some cheesy French television and so GFFMO can find some more nightlife...
Next installment?  Unless I decide to just go the photo route, you'll read about the Musee d'Orsay, the Musee Rodin, the Eiffel Tower, Fontainebleau and the Marmottan.  We'll play it by ear...


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