Eating Bread With the (Sweaty) Masses, or, Our Trip to Paris

❧ Morning in Paris, the city awakes ❧
To the bells of Notre Dame
The fisherman fishes, the bakerman bakes
To the bells of Notre Dame
To the big bells as loud as the thunder
To the little bells soft as a psalm,
And some say the soul of the city's
The toll of the bells--
The bells of Notre Dame!

Aspects of Paris that get Marc and Katie's thumbs up:
  • baked goods. oh heaven above, thank you for French bakeries. I'm a sucker for beautiful breads. (And so are the French--every time we go, I can't get over how many zillions of Frenchies are walking around with a baguette in their hand.) The bakery next to our hotel was our breakfast stop every morning, and we would stock up on a bag of goodies to last all day. oh so cheap, oh so gorge-worthy.
  • the Pantheon. not a lot of people care about this place (compared to the Louvre at least) but we discovered that it has us written all over it. It's a massive church that in the late 1800s was converted to a sort of humanist temple to ingenuity, creativity, and great achievement. It celebrates Charlemagne, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Joan of Arc, Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas, Marie Curie, etc etc -- most of them are buried there in a huge expansive vault. Plus, Foucault's pendulum hangs from the dome! Marc's face was like Christmas morning.
  • getting a big, fat dose of America for a day at Disneyland Paris. we hung out in Frontierland and sighed at the homeliness of it all: red rock, arches, cowboy music, sigh. Oh, and High School Musical is huge over here, so Disneyland plays it up: we ate at a restaurant styled like the East High gymnasium, complete with (fake) lockers and "EHS, Go Wildcats!" banners -- little Euro kids were walking around in cheerleader costumes. It was fantastically bizarre and hilarious, but I'm sure everyone thought we were taking so many enthusiastic pictures because we were thrilled movie fans.
  • that magic moonlight moment at the Eiffel Tower when the whole tower was suddenly sparkling for 3 glorious minutes before it stopped again. Why? How? Everybody around--like hundreds of people--were crying out in amazement. It was a cool moment.

Aspects of Paris that get Marc and Katie's thumbs down:
  • okay, I don't know what we were thinking going to Paris at the tail end of the busiest tourist month of the year. oh heaven above, save me from the hoards of stinking masses. Never go to a major European destination in August. Just don't, don't do it. Not only is every square inch of everywhere full to the brim, but the hoards are made up of hot and sweaty Europeans whose bathing/body odor standards are on a different plane.
  • five dollars for a thimble of a drink, hot or cold. Everywhere. Sure, Paris is famous for its food, but outside of bakeries, you will be ripped-off like you've never been before. oh so painful.
  • Parisian women are the world's most expert bitches. they are.
(below, best ice cream in Paris, and ...modern art)

Aspects of Paris that get thumbs confusedly in the middle:
  • using the city's cycle-rental program on our first day. it produced strong emotions: glee, fear, anxiety, anger, joy, relief. The sunny breeze and cruising all around Paris rocked. The traffic and imminent death, not so much.
  • famous art. we discussed this a great deal during the whole trip, since we saw lots of it. It is exciting to see the real thing, but why do we (as humans) feel compelled to seek out famous stuff? huh? we have lots of theories, no answers.
  • the "finale incident", as I have dubbed it, that happened as we returned to our hotel to pick up our luggage and leave Paris. We were riding the subway, and one stop away from our destination the doors were about to close when we start smelling something strange. The air is getting thicker. That's weird. We're all looking around with curiosity, as the air gets stranger and stranger. All it took was one woman screaming "woa!" to set off a mass panic -- everyone on the crowded subway bolted off the train and ran terrified toward the exit. We were in the middle of the stream of people when we were finally able to find the cause: billows of smoke were coming toward us from the rear of the train somewhere. People were freaking out, desperately covering their faces, it was just like in the movies. We hadn't decided to panic yet, but we still walked quickly away from the smoke and toward the exit, literally getting shoved by people bolting past. I couldn't decide if I was about to die or if I was just about to see something cool. Turns out it was neither. We stayed for a while (standing near the exit) as a team investigated it -- the smoke slowly dissipated and they couldn't find the cause of it anywhere. We got sick of waiting and walked to our hotel, but my legs were involuntarily shaking for a minute or two. It was such an experience to be caught up in the middle of the initial moment of mass panic. I guess we kinda got the best of both worlds, to experience what it would be like to be in a disaster, but to have no disaster. And it's always nice to have a reminder that it's good to be alive, and that there are things in life that matter, and there are things that don't.


Super L said...

Then never come to China for Chinese New Year--the crowds will be exactly the same, but with don't-have-running-water, ate 7 cloves of garlic for lunch, whaddya mean personal space rural Chinese tourists. It's awesome.

Also, Luckyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

The Fred & Stephanie Lewis Family said...

OK - I'm freaking out a bit. WHEN were you in Paris? Fred and I were there, in Paris, from Sept. 3 - 6. Were you in the Paris train station on Sept. 6th?
This is NOT a stocker! This is your cousin Stephanie.