I believe this may be a three-post day, as I have been too dead-ass tired to walk the block and a half to McDonald’s for their sumptuous free Wi-Fi. These may even wait until I get back and can use my own WiFi connection. On verra.
Today, I felt pretty dang good, considering my marathon museum session. I ate breakfast, and took the Métro to Notre Dame. You may have heard of it. I toured the cathedral itself, and then noticed that the line to get into the towers was kind of long. They opened in fifteen minutes, and since I have noticed that in France, lines seldom get shorter, I stood in line. After about 35 minutes, we were let in (they let in 20 people every 10 minutes). And we climbed up the stairs, until we hit the gift shop, where we waited until we could climb more stairs. They warn you that if you’re claustrophobic, you shouldn’t go up the towers. Let me warn you – if you’re claustrophobic, you shouldn’t go up the tower. I’m not, and even I felt a little closed in. But mostly I felt exhausted, because it’s a lot of stairs. I have decided that stairs were the cause of death for many medieval people, as there are a lot of them, and they are tiny and go in circles (the stairs, not the medieval people – although they were tiny, too). Finally, just as I think my thighs are going to catch fire and my lungs will explode, we get to the top (not the top top, but I’ll talk about that later). Predictably, the view is incredible, and everyone took 8,000 pictures a piece. You can also go up into the bell tower, which I did. No wonder Hugo made Quasimodo a hunchback, since only a hunchback can get through the doors of the bell tower. The bell is enormous, and I took a picture of it, because that is my job as a tourist. As I was putting my camera back in my backpack, one of the employees asked me and two other tourists if we had seen the bell tower. There was also an option to go up to the very top, where you can stay a maximum of 5 minutes. They headed to the top, I headed for the staircase down.
“Aren’t you going to the top?” The guide asked me*
“Oh God, no.” I replied.
He laughed and I climbed down every single one of those tiny stairs back down.
Then it was off to Sainte-Chapelle, which is less grand, but impressive in a different way. You enter through the chapelle-basse, and take (you’ve guessed it) a tiny spiral staircase up to the upper chapel. Which I did. It is lovely, and I took a few pictures.
Then it was off to La Concierge, where you can see Marie Antoinette’s prison cell, among other things. It is pretty cool; you can see a real guillotine blade. Also, there are stairs (though not nearly as many).
For the first time in either sojourn in Paris, I was actually ahead of schedule. I took the opportunity to wander around Ile-Saint-Louis, take some pictures, and act all touristy. But then I started to get hungry. There are many restaurants in the area, yes, but I needed a grocery store. I wandered, keeping track of my direction, in case I needed to back track. A couple of blocks later, I see the sign “Ed.” In France, that is a grocery store. So I go in, and peruse. I manage to buy a salad (avec fourchette), roasted peanuts and a huge bottle of limonade (kind of like sprite) for 3.31. I feel like I have hit the jackpot. I find a nice little spot in front of Hotel de Ville, and like many other people, eat my lunch al fresco. Fortunately, the weather was beautiful, though a little chilly. After lunch, I make my way to…the Louvre. I have my two day museum pass, and I figure I’m going to give it another shot. Which I did, though the crowds were in-freakin-sane. I nearly got trampled a dozen times by roving packs of Asian tour groups, some of whom are unfamiliar with the idea that you don’t actually get to touch the artwork. There was a lot of “hey look, I’m in front of a painting” pictures, and I saw some people taking video, of all things. Why take video of a painting? Search me.
I succeeded in seeing the biggies (though not the Mona Lisa, as I value my life), and headed off to the Tuilieries, where I accidentally got trapped in a conversation with a middle-aged Frenchman. He was harmless enough, and he wasn’t too creepy, but I wonder if there is a segment of the population that is under the impression that female tourists are all looking for romance, and that all they have to do is talk to enough female tourists in the pursuit of love. I managed to shake him when I saw l’Orangerie, which was on my list. He seemed disappointed that I did not want to continue on with him, though I’m sure he wandered around, looking for another tourist with French language skills and a reserve of politeness.
Once again, I had to wait to get in, but not too long, and since I was rocking my Museum Pass, I didn’t have to wait in line to buy a ticket. There isn’t a lot at l’Orangerie, but what is there is astounding. Two circular rooms holding Monet’s immense Waterlilies series, which would, according to me, be worth the price of admission. But no, there are more Renoirs, Cezannes and Modiglianis (among others) than you shake a stick at.
But even I have other interests than looking at art all day. So I headed off to Place de la Concorde. I had planned on taking the Métro to the Arc de Triomphe, but since I could see it in the distance, I figured what the hell.
Since I never succeeded in fulfilling one of my plans, I might as well explain it now. I had become obsessed with the fast food restaurant Quick, because they were offering Simpsons glasses with the purchase of Le Meal Simpson, in honor of the new movie. I have had a passionate longing for these glasses since I learned of their existence. The Simpsons speak French. I feel there is nothing else to say. However, I was opposed to spending 6 Euros (the price of dental floss) for a fast food meal, when I was eating nutritious French food at home, merely to get the glasses, as awesome as they were? I kept thinking that I could ask if it would be possible to buy the glasses without the meal, but my knowledge of French customer service told me that it was unlikely. Yesterday was the last day of the promotion, and since I landed in Paris, I had seen no Quicks. Today, on the Champs Elysees, I saw two. Fat lot of good it does me now, I wanted the glasses.
I have to interrupt this post to bitch that on my floor, there is a roomful of obnoxious American college students, who are now rapping along with some CD, despite the fact that they are some of the whitest, most suburban-y passel of Abercrombie-wearing frat boys that I have ever seen. But on to my story.
So I get to the end of the Champs Elysees, where there is this Arch built by some guy named Napoleon. So I go up. More damn stairs. I tell you, the French are a bunch of sadists. Hell, the word sadist comes from a Frenchman. While catching my breath, I was approached by a cute Frenchman in a yellow t-shirt. Alas, he only wanted me to take a survey, which I do, en français. After the survey, I headed up the final flight of stairs. Once again, I am rewarded with a magnificent view. And once again, I take a boatload of pictures. After awhile, I descended each and every stair I climbed up. Once I hit ground level, I take some time to admire the arch. On the ground underneath, they have plaques commemorating those who have died for their country; but they also have DeGaulle’s call to the French to join him in the fight against the Nazis. I got a little choked up when I read it. Then, I noticed doings a-transpiring, and hung around to see what was going on. It was some sort of ceremony, but it wasn’t the usual Tomb of the Unknown Soldier ceremony, as that it is at another time. They had current French soldiers, and some old-timers as well. I think it was a special occasion, as the some of the current French soldiers had their cameras, and were clearly treating the ceremony as a special occasion. One of the soldiers (one who didn’t have a camera) had beautiful eyes. Granted, he wasn’t smoldering like M. La Poste, but the eyes were extraordinary, and he was pretty damn cute in his uniform. Alas, it was not meant to be, and I took the Métro back to the hotel. I debated getting food, but was more tired than hungry. So I’m guessing that there will be a wealth of posts once I get home, and update everyone on what I’ve been up to while under radio silence. My big plans for tonight: repacking my suitcases.
*Conversation in French. Yay, me.
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