Sunday, August 14, 2011

Paris - July 2011

Two of Annie's friends from her Texas dance team flew over to spend some time with us in England this summer.  But you can't fly all the way across the Atlantic without seeing at least a few other fabulous places, and Paris topped the list.  So we boarded the Eurostar, zipped beneath the English channel and disembarked at the Gare du Nord, a train station filled with panhandlers, pickpockets and not one danged sign in English.  

Needing euros, we searched for about 10 minutes until we finally located an ATM. And guess what - it was all in French without an English option.  One of the Texas parents had spent some time in France on business and was kind enough to stand behind me and help me with the ATM directions.  It's a good thing he was there to help because I wanted 300 euros but accidentally added a couple extra zeros to that.  No doubt my husband would wonder what mischief I was up to in Paris, cleaning out our checking account.  

Now I understand why the French can stay thin while eating butter laden pastries, breads and cream sauces - the Metro.  We decided to take the Metro (subway) from the train station to our hotel because it was more or less a straight shot, which even we were able to figure out despite the fact that ALL signs were in French.  There are about 9 millions steps at any given Metro stop and not one escalator in sight.  What, no ADA laws and accessibility?  Oh well, at least I got my daily dose of exercise lugging my suitcase up and down the stairs.

Our hotel was a couple blocks over from the Champs Elysees and this is the view we had of the Arc de Triomphe.  

You really take your life into your own hands when you cross the street in Paris.  We have become accustomed to queues and polite drivers here in the UK.  Paris reminded me of the impatient drivers we often saw back in the states, with people shouting curses at you, adding impatient honks of their Citroen or Fiat horns if you didn't hustle across the road quickly enough to suit them.  Seriously - you shouldn't live in what is probably the #1 tourist destination on the planet if you aren't prepared to deal with folks walking around with their mouths hanging open, looking up half the time not paying attention to where they're going and stopping to take pictures every few seconds. 

Our first day in Paris, we ate a late lunch at a cafe on the Champs that was obviously a tourist trap in hindsight.  Instead of bringing 2 glasses of wine, the waiter got "confused" and brought a whole bottle that he opened at the speed of light so it couldn't be sent back.  This same guy "misunderstood" that Annie's friend and her mom wanted one meat entree plate to share and instead brought them one plate each so that they had enough food to feed a pride of lions.  Then this waiter that seemed to have a limited grasp of our language got miffed and his English miraculously improved so that he could become indignant when we repeated our request for 2 creme brulees.  As if we were somehow insulting his intelligence, wanting to make sure we only received 2 desserts to share versus two desserts for everyone at the table.  Bon appetit!

After paying our inflated lunch tab, we did the tourist shuffle down the street to the Louis Vuitton store, the mothership for overpriced leather goods.  Alas, I couldn't resist buying a Louis in Paree.  When in Rome Paris, right?  I was unable to find an exact pic of it on Google and am too lazy to take it out of its felt bag and snap a pic.  I got the style and size of the red one, but in the bone color of the wallet.  It's tres cute and I love it.

Our next day in Paris we decided to hop on the tour bus that drove us by every building, statue, fountain and old wad of gum with any cultural, architectural or historical significance.  And the guy that whipped it out while standing on a sidewalk and peed right into the street a bit before noon on a Monday with the sun shining down on him.

I think the highlight of my time in Paris was the Eiffel Tower with the police and military folks stationed around it.  When we crept too close for a better shot, near the area they had cordoned off, some uniformed guy starts shouting "Bombe, bombe!" while waving his arms to shoo us back.  I may not speak French, but I'm pretty sure this word is a cognate.  Turns out that some goofball left a scooter where you aren't supposed to leave them and it was considered suspicious since said scooter-leaver didn't immediately retrieve it.  And I thought Americans were the most careful folks on the planet based on the lax security checks at European airports I've visited.  Huh, I don't need to take off my shoes, belt, earrings, watch, sweater, let you swab my cheek and tell me my percent of body fat?

Here I am in front of the tower.  Nothing to see here, just a possible bomb somewhere on this illegally parked scooter - keep moving!

So anyhoo, we had a great time seeing, if not touring, all of the majesty that is Paris.  Here are Annie and her Texas friend Jessica on the top deck of the bus.  Notice the cute denim jackets worn in Paris during the middle of summer?  I know the folks back home in Texas are in awe since they won't need to break out one of these until about mid October... if they're lucky.

Jessica and Annie, striking a pose in front of Notre Dame Cathedral

This is Annie and her other Texas friend, Claire, in front of the Louvre Museum.

My travel buddy, Claire's mom Dana, got a pic of them planking since that was all the rage this summer on You Tube.  However, I was busy holding our spot in the line that wove around the glass pyramid, waiting our turn for entry, so was unable to take a planking pic.  Turns out that our tickets allowed us to go right in without having to wait in the long entry line, but I wouldn't know that since all the signage was in French.

It has to be said - the Louvre was most impressive and I could have spent days in there.  The Louvre was a palace before it became a world renowned art museum.  You can see that clearly in this stairwell where I snapped another pic of Annie and Claire.  I love that even the ceiling is a work of art.

Here are our Texas friends Claire and Dana sitting in front of a carved decorative panel in the Louvre, resting on a bench at the top of the beautiful stairwell.  They are pointing to the initial H since their last name is Huerta.  

I'm sure we weren't the first visitors to get lost in the Louvre.  We hiked up and down staircases, past that same darned sculpture in the Egyptian room, following the green signs with the word SORTIE, which means exit in French.  About 30 minutes later, we chanced upon the exit and made our escape.

That evening we dined on cool things like escargot.  Were you aware that the legal drinking age in Europe is 16?  Our little Sweet 16 trio of girls did!

We ended our marathon day touring the city of light with a boat ride on the Seine.  Around midnight we walked down to get a better look at that big metal structure shining in the night with a zillion lights.  It made a pretty good backdrop for the moon you can see so clearly.

To commemorate their trip to Paris, Annie and I found a lady on Etsy that makes personalized necklaces.  We had her create a keepsake for all three of them.  Can you see the Eiffel Tower?  It looks a lot bigger in person.

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