Chapter 6: The Only Thing on Time in Paris are the Strikes


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Europe » France » Paris
September 29th 2010
Published: October 11th 2010
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Onward we go, to the last known city on our itnerary, Paris!

We boarded a train from Nice to Marseille, and then Marseille to Paris. I have to say, having been a feast for mosquitos the last dew nights, I was kinda glad to be out of Nice that morning. We had a pretty easy day on the trains, with no problems and no missed trains (though in Marseille, we had 8 inutes between trains, and managed to JUST grab some fast food and take our seats before the thing took off).

With directions to the hostel, we found the place with almost no trouble. Mostly just trying to figure out what was right and what was left in reagrds to our map. We landed at our hostel, and decided to have a relaxed night in. So, we grabbed a bottle of wine to split, but somehow forgot a wine opener and cups. Good heads on these shoulders, eh? We ended up borrowing a wine opener, and drinking the wine from empty soda cans, a la It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It tastes more like tin, but when you buy cheap wine, that ends up being negligible. We also met Sam, a nice girl from Australia, who slept in the bunk above Jared.

The next morning, we headed right into the thick of it by tackling the nearby area of Montmartre. Montmartre has long been my favorite area in Paris due to it's art square, hillside view of Paris, and it's Sacre Coule, the Basillica that provides a solitary view of Paris from atop it's lofty spire. Having failed to climb this spire last time, we decided to do that first. I have climbed this monster once before, and it's 300 steps are enough to wind most people. It was one of those passages where, just when you thought that maybe you had made it to the top, another set of stairs pops out at you, like a B movie monster. We made it to the top just as the sun was breaking, so we ended up getting some nice shots of Paris. While we were up there, a woman actually asked me and Tori if we would pose for a particular shot she was working on. Happy to oblige, we took our stances for a couple shots here and there, were thanked by this woman, and then she went on her way. In retrospect, it would have been a good idea to perhaps ask for a copy of this photo, but hindsight is 20/20, so we climbed down the basillica into the crypt. A somber, but not chilling place, the crypt was home to some graves and some statues. All well made and some very cool looking. After the Basillica, we were to the Place du Tertre to check out the art scene. Again, the artists on the square make very cool collections of paintings, sketchings, charicatures, and all sorts of interesting art, and we looked at it for some time. It's very cool to be able to see artists performing their craft right in front of you, as they appear in their element around a crowd. For lunch, we went to a little sit down joint for escargot (snails for those of you who were wondering), and some good old fashioned piano playing as we ate. It was a solid meal all around, and with the good music, it capped off a solid morning. That afternoon was pretty relaxed, as we brought home some more wine and some beer. We did end up meeting a solid group of englishmen and one frenchman who were playing Texas Hold'em. We joined in with a 0 dollar buy-in, and ended up playing until about 2am. It was a jovial time with people, whom I felt I had known my whole life. And maybe it was the beer and wine talking, but I got many compliments on both my hat, and my accent.

The next morning, after trying unsuccessfully to do a load of laundry before closing time the night before, me and Jared went to the laundromat to dry our sodden clothes. We sat there for a while until a little kid and his mom dropped by to do their laundry. They both, however, were carrying lightsabers. Jedis, I thought. Jared hadn't seen this yet, so I turned to him and said, 'Dude, Jedis. Be cool man...be cool'. And we were cool, and made it out unscathed. As a group, we went down to Conchord and saw the Obelisk, a very large, very Egyptian looking pillar. From there we decided to cut through the Tulieries Garden and check out the Louvre, Paris and probably France's most acclaimed art museum. And, in our 3 hours there, it was again, a blast. I cannot describe everything we saw there, but if I had to choose a favorite piece, it would be, for the second time in a row, 'Guy Fighting Snake with a Soup Can'. I think it was actually Hercules fighting something, but regardless, a very cool pose. If you ever go, you'll stumble on it and know exactly what I'm talking about. Awesome statue. The Louvre took up a good portion of the day, so we decided to go and knock out Notre Dame while we were on that side of town, and call it a day. One thing we hadn't planned on though: It was the 6:30 Sunday Mass.

Notre Dame is an amazing testament to the power of a faith. The archway above the front door is, by itself, both intricate and stunning, and the rest of the building, from the stained glass to the oak pews, really brings one back to the past. But, during Mass, this building gains a whole other dimension to it. No longer is it filled with just tourists, but throngs of those who truly believe. Even though cameras are still snapping, the flash is taken off and everyone remains silent as the head church dude (forgive my lack of knowledge on church positions) preaches his sermon. In the back, a group of women and men, head to toe in their particular garb, belt out hymns and psalms like no one's business, and the choir kicks in with haunting melodies and stirring harmonies. It was beautiful, in its own kinda way. I went, paid my 2 euros, and lit a candle for the family back home. Know that, in my own way, I'm keeping you guys in my thoughts and I hope whatever trials and tribulations you find everyday, you are overcoming without much difficulty.
We retired to the hostel afterwards for beers and debating the best roles of movie stars until bedtime.

Day breaks, and the excessive amount of Heiniken the night before is showing up this morning in the form of a sincere lack of energy. It was just one of those mornings where I could lay in bed all day, even in Paris, and be totally cool with it. But, by some miracle, we all got out the door and on our way. During my breakfast in the hostel that morning, I met Emily Monfort, a girl from Eugene, OR, and with our breakfast we talked for about 30 minutes about how much Oregon rules, and laughing at things from back home. I remember her starting the quote 'If you don't like the weather in Oregon...' and me ending it '...just wait 5 minutes and it'll be something else'. After that, we headed first to Sant Germaine, in the hopes that maybe we could find a discount clothing store nearby and maybe french up our look for a couple days. That was until we founf out that the second hand stores charge 80 euros for their cheaper merchandise. Be thankful for goodwill back home people. We went to this crazy shop near Napoleon's Tomb called Pylones. I ended up getting some gifts there for my sister (cuz it was so redick, maybe she'd like 'em), and we walked on to Napoleon's Tomb. Let me say, for all the tyrannical things I hear about Napoleon, the guy has one hell of a tomb. Domed ceilings, murals, exquisite walkways and corridors, all surrounding the biggest grave I've ever seen. It was extravagent to say the least, but also a very cool tomb. We walked around the armory too and saw some pretty rad weapons. Among them were a bounty of cannons, a collection of Katars, and a very early attempt at making a gun that shoots bullets. A gunblade, if you will. It was a fun day at the tomb. Me and Tori walked to D'Orsay that evening, but it was closed, so we headed back to the hostel for our most fattening meal of the trip. Really, without any shame, we managed to eat two Pizza Hut pizzas, a bag of potato chips (which we dipped in Nutella), Pineapple Juice, and beer for dinner. If was delicious, but also terrible for us.

The next morning, Jared was not feeling well. He hadn't been feeling amazing yesterday either, and we had decided to chalk this up to the beer tartar that he had had the day before. The meal consisted of a ball of uncooked hamburger meat with onions and pickles in it. Not exactly what we had planned for. And so, the next day Jared was not feeling amazing. We headed to the Musee D'Orsay and DAMN was the line long. It felt longer than the Lourve's line, though it was physically shorter. The museum itself
Joan of ArcJoan of ArcJoan of Arc

One of these statues is in Oregon, another in New Orleans. The last one is here
was very cool, but at this point, I felt like I was kinda burnt out on art. As of this point in the trip, let me explain my philosophy on famous works of art: I can completely appreciate the hard work, skill, and time that it took to make famous portraits and statues. But, I am not one of those people that cares much for the history of such things, nor do I insult them by attempting to find some of the artists' meanings or themes in these works. I can look at a picture, enjoy it for a moment, and then move on to the next one, but I can't stare at one work for more than about a minute unless it's truly captivating. Maybe I don't understand fine art, but this process works for me, so I'm sticking with it.

After the D'Orsay, we went to Paris' famous Catacombs, the endless, twisting underground tunnels that have claimed many a life since their creation. Ours was a linear path, which took out the fear of walking down one lonely passage and never coming back. Being in a place of such dank atmosphere and such morbid decor (many of the walls were adorned with human skulls, and many more were made up entirely of human femers or other lengthy bones) was very interesting. It's certainly not my usual fare, but it was an experience, without question. Tori was actually exceptionally pleased with our trip to the catacombs. I can't really blame her, considering her interests and her current occupation, but there is only so much excitement I can muster for a wall of dead people. After that, Jared broke off to tend to his broken insides, so me and Tori walked the Champs Elysses, saw the Arc, and I tried my hand as a street performer in order to try and add to our photo scavenger hunt. The result? As a street performer, I'm not much to look at. I tried to do some interesting stunts with an apple, but could yield no money until a gentleman walked over, asked us why we were doing this, and felt bad enough to give us .50 euros. 15 minutes later, we had made 2 euros (some good samaratain dropped in 1.50 euro in my last moments), and called it a day. That evening, we did nothing, opting to stay indoors and read, or in my case, drink some beer and play Chrono Trigger. If only for a moment, it was nice to be drunk and playing video games...just to feel like I was home.

Our final day in Paris, we decided to get our gifts and check out graves. We started in Montmartre and did a little art shopping for our loved ones, and then me and Tori headed to Pere Lachaise to see some famous gravestones. Another graveyard in Paris beautifully adorned with tombstones of the utmost craftsmanship, and mausoleums made of marble, both black and white. We walked around aimlessly for a bit, trying to find our big three famous gravestones. The first one was tucked away in the middle of a bunch of graves, but the amount of tribute to it was it's defining feature. It was Jim Morrison's grave, a modest tombstone decorated with magazine articles, a record, countless cigarettes, and even a half finished blunt. Nearby on a tree were scrawled the lyrics and quotes brought to life by Jim Morrison and the Doors. It was a very heartfelt scene as you could see Jim was pretty sorely missed by the world. Next, we headed north-east to the grave of one Miss Edith Piaf. If was a nicer grave than Jim's, but it was also a family grave, so her name was etched in gold on the side. She had a vase of flowers, and a lot of mentions of La Vie En Rose on paper and stone to rest atop her grave that day. Our final stop was the grave of Oscar Wilde, satirist and playright extraordinaire. His grave was practically painted with the red markings of pursed lips. Apparently, the women love Oscar Wilde, dead or alive. He had quite a few quotes painted on there as well, some of his more famous musings anyway.

After we left the graveyard, we met up with Jared for our dinner at Auberge St. Roch, the site of my most enjoyed meal ever. With a cozy, warm atmosphere and a delightful staff, we started with some red wine. My meal was Escargot with cream sauce to start, veal medallions in cream sauce for my entree, and profiterols for my dessert. This was exactly, item for item, what I had the time before. I can't say I'm upset I had it all again, because for the seond time in a row, it was phenominal. Most people should be so lucky as to have the best meal of their life a second time, and I can count myself among them. We capped the dinner off with more wine, paid up, and went to the Eiffel Tower for our final Paris activity. Though I have been to the Eiffel Tower twice before, its towering height always takes me by surprise. We could only climb to the second floor as the top had been closed for the evening, so we settled for going high instead of really high. Having been to the top myself, I like the view better from the second floor, simply because you are above it all, but not packed like sardines. We also had to get kissed, another stamp for our photo scavenger hunt. Me and Jared tried unsuccessfully for about 10 minutes, and then we finally decided to let Tori try. Less than 1 minute later, we had another check mark taken care of. I guess me and Jared just aren't pretty enough. In the process of fulfilling our bet, we met a lovely couple from Wisconsin who were doing their own tour of Europe. After exchanging stories, we went on our way, and walked down the entire way from the second floor, a tradition for me and Tori. The route home was not exactly as smooth as we had planned, with a train closure blocking our intended route home, but a couple miles of walking later, we found another train and rode it home.

The next morning, we checked out early, and amid a brief scare of a French Train Strike, caught our train to Belgium.

Paris has a way of getting under one's armor. It finds the cracks, breaks them open, and then quickly wins over whomever is there. No matter how hard one tries, it's hard not to get caught up in the romance of it all. The lights, the food, the wine, the people. I still love Paris, and Paris still loves me. This time, Paris was about the artisans and about the craft. To see the fervor and interest people put into things as mundane as cheese-making or as tricky as architecture, the French tackle with a smile and enthusiasm rarely seen. It's a place where you can feel at home with creativity around every corner, and small streets leading over hills. I like Paris a lot, but alas, we must leave it again.

From here, it onwards to Brussels and Bruges, which will make up the bulk of my next entry. For now though, I think it's time for another bottle of wine.

Reporting from Paris, France (Or maybe it's Amsterdam, but my memory has been foggy lately...)

Ben

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