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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Euopean Honeymoon Pt 1; Paris, my fickle lover

After traveling for what essentially equates to 24 hours, we arrived at our hotel in Paris at about noon on Tuesday. There was snow on the ground, and it was cold. We were exhausted from traveling but totally pumped to start our vacation. I don’t exactly remember why (remember, drunk off of sleepiness and airplane air) but we decided our first destination would be Napoleons tomb and the subsequent army museum. This was my third time in Paris and I had not ever been to it so it seemed like a good place to start. Also, we were gonna walk. We knew it was far, but god damn it we were in Paris and we wanted to see the streets and we were sick of sitting and, you get it. We both agreed, however, that we would definitely be taking the metro home. It snowed while we were walking which was magical, and all of the Christmas decorations were still up all across the city which, although wasn’t exactly timely, was also magical.

So we walked, saw napoleon and his little tomb and then the sun started to set, and we were far away, and more tired, and hungry and kinda over whelmed by our reintroduction to Europe. We went to the nearest Metro station to hop back to our hotel, throw on a few layers, and make a new plan for the evening when we learned that we couldn’t buy metro tickets because we only had paper money, and the cash machines only took coins and because Europe has (wisely) instituted a smart chip in all of their credit cards and any ATM type machine (read: Metro ticket machines) can only read credit cards with these micro chips (read: not ours). This wasn’t part of the plan. We then went to the next metro stop we came to and came across roughly the same situation, so we begrudgingly treaded all the way back to our hotel. It took like 2 hours, in the (literally) freezing cold and dark. It wasn’t the most pleasant thing ever.

When we were finally back in the latin quarter, where we were staying, we grabbed ourselves a bottle of cheap wine from the grocery store and some sandwiches and called it a night.

We woke up in the morning and prepped our French to ask the man at the front desk for change for our metro card, we needed about 11 euro in coins and I guess it was asking a lot, so he was hesitant and kept questioning us. When he finally got down to the heart of why we were asking he let us know that the metro stop right outside of our hotel, you know, that one, it takes dollar bills.

Of. Course. It. Did.

Definitely a more successful day than the first, we did a lot of generic Parisian things; the catacombs, Notre Dame, Arc De Triumph and the Louvre. We went to the dorms that I lived in when I studied in Paris. The sun came up by the third day and we went north to Montmatre and we got to see the beautiful Sacre Couer in the winter sun light.

We had a few more sitcom-esque follies in Paris. One, was the Eifel Tower being completely closed because they are building new elevators, this being particularly funny because the only other time Jeff has been in Paris, the tower was closed then as well because of weather. The other included the three day search for the Basilica St. Dennis, where the heart of Louis the XVI and Marie Antoinette’s son (proved recently with DNA tests) is. St. Dennis is the patron saint of Paris and “Hotel De Ville” is a pretty common reference point throughout the city on maps, so when our guide book told us to get off at the St. Dennis stop new the Hotel De Ville, but didn’t mention which line we should take, their were literally 4 different options for us and they were all over town.

Once we finally found this damn church, the crypt holding said heart was closed. I thought steam was going to start blow out of Jeff’s ears Looney Toons style.

I was pleased with how quickly my basic French came back to me. I was conjugating words in no time. I was also thrilled at how quickly I regained my geographical and social knowledge of the city. Picking up land marks, remembering the subtle nuanced rules of the metro, but one thing was different. I never felt comfortable ordering food in restaurant. We actually started to lose weight in Paris just with the little amount that we ate. Of course we found a great crepe stand and enjoyed a meal or two their but the actual act of walking into a restaurant, sitting down and eating, was always an anxiety driven activity. I’m still trying to figure this out in my head; this has never been a problem for me before.

I do think it has to do with naivety of youth that I’m slowly shedding. I know I’m still young, but when I was 18, 19, 20, I certainly wasn’t aware that I might be offending someone and their countries most sacred institution – eating. Self consciousness isn’t the right word, but it’s the best I’ve got to describe my (and Jeff’s) over sensitivity to eating out in Paris. Lame? Yes. Kinda heart breaking? Definitely. But we sucked it up and went into every restaurant with our heads held high and, with having already decided what we were gonna eat from the menus outside. That helped.

Next installment “Beautiful city, it’s a shame it’s in Belgium”; Waterloo and Bruges

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Megan said...

So glad you guys had a great time. cant wait till pt. 2!!

Pictures please!

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