Sunday, September 05, 2004

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg—Paris, France—Days 217/218

Oh Paris.

I made it here a few days ago on the 4th—spending most of the morning walking around various sights in Luxembourg before checking out of my hotel and catching my noon train to Paris, which got me here and checked into my hotel at around 5:00pm. I didn’t have a reservation for the train which was fine, but this meant that I had to sit next to a big old guy who was drinking beer and making salmon sandwiches the entire way down (and it wasn’t like smoked salmon, it was puréed salmon that looked more like cat food than anything else).

Anyways, we pulled into Paris and I got off of the train and lugged my things inside the station to find a money exchange place and a taxi to my hotel.

I found both and was soon heading to my hotel which is right near the Eiffel Tower. This is the first time that I have ever been to Paris so I was excited. However my taxi driver seemed to have no idea where my hotel was (its called the Derby Eiffel—so I thought that would give away some hint of what national landmark it was near) and despite having the address, he still didn’t know where it was. So most of the trip was spent with him driving while reading his map in front of him which was a little unnerving.

Finally, finally we made it and he dropped me off. In I went and I checked in to the hotel. The woman working at the desk was (well, she still is) this raspy voiced French woman who must be about 50 going on 24. She had quite the tight outfit and the tan to go along with it. Anyways, she was tre excited to show me all of the “romantic” things I could do in Paris—private dinner cruises, the lot—and I just took her map with all of these romantic sights circled and headed upstairs to set my things down.

This would be just the start of my realization that Paris really is for lovers. They like cater to it. I don’t know if it is just the “oh-my-goodness-let’s-make-out-because-that-is-what-you-do-in-Paris” or what but honestly, honestly is like c’mon people! I even saw some people make out tonight who were both talking on their cellular phones to OTHER people at the same time. How do they do it?!?

Paris for Singles Lesson #1—Don’t question the French kissers—they have a kiss named after them for a REASON.

Anyways, back to my first night. I spent it sort of walking around the area trying to get a feel of where I was. It was hard to know where to go—I ended up taking the subway like one stop and getting off down the street from where I was standing before which I could see and clearly could have walked from. Anyways, I tried to spend what time I had that afternoon doing Paris things, but ended up just taking the BatoBus (this nifty but expensive “bus” that takes you on the river Seine) and walking around the Notre Dame.

I found the English-language bookstore and got myself a new book and then walked around a bit trying to find somewhere to eat. I spotted a cute little vegetarian restaurant and thought ok, this is it and caught the eye of a server. She told me to just wait a few minutes, if I could.

I smiled and said yes so I stood there trying not to stare at the other people eating their food outside. It was hard though because not only was there seating on the sidewalk but that was where you had to stand to wait to be seated so it was hard not to stand over them.

Anyways, I keep waiting and waiting and soon different couples start showing up to wait to. Another waiter comes out and tells them yes, please just wait a few minutes, and I thought ah-hah! I am before ALL of you. The food looked so good and I was so hungry…

Then another waiter came out and looked from one side to another side of the people that were waiting (with me dead smack in the middle, actually standing right in front of him) and he said to the people who were like soo much farther behind me ok, we have a table for you.

And they went it! I just stood there shocked. Not only did they not tell them hey, she was first, and politely let me go in, but they all just ignored the fact that I was standing right there.

Paris for Singles Lesson #2—Eating by yourself is more of a challenge here. Try to learn “Excuse me, I was first” and “Yes, I am eating by myself” in French before hand.

Anyways, I decided to find a different place to eat and sort of went off in a huff of sorts. I ended up at this small little restaurant that was nice but a little slow. I ended up talking to the people sitting next to me who were shocked and awed that I was by myself (a couple from Liverpool) and were equally shocked and awed to hear my reasons for being in Paris.

The next morning I headed over to the Jardin des Plantes, where I knew there was a zoo. I took the subway out and walked through the gardens which was filling up with joggers and people pushes strollers, all out on this beautiful Sunday morning. When I got to the zoo (the Menagerie), I bought my ticket and went in. I spotted three great big hippo statues right away and took pictures of them and then looked at my map.

Ok, where were the REAL hippos?

I couldn’t see them on the map so I went to ask. The woman just looked at me, shrugged, and said “No hippos!”

Ok, no hippos. Great. I must be at the wrong zoo. There had to be another zoo in Paris and I just went to the wrong one!

Whoops. Well, I decided that since I have a few days in Paris, I could just go ahead and do some sightseeing and go back to the mysterious zoo that I knew existed WITH the hippos tomorrow morning. It was already beginning to heat up and I knew that at the rate the temperature was rising, the hippos were most likely in the water at this point so I should get them as early as possible.

So I spent the day wandering around—I went to the Louvre and battled lines to see the Mona Lisa (its so small and so far away!) and then meandered around different parts of the Louvre trying to get a brief overview of things. Since it was the first Sunday of the month, admission was free which was great because you didn’t have to wait in line but awful because there were SO many people there. Then again, it might just be super crowded all of the time during tourist season.

I spent about three hours trying to absorb all of the art around me and through my audio tour before getting lunch at the cafeteria. I sat down with my quiche (tre French btw) and an Austrian man sat down next to me. I knew he was Austrian because he started talking to me, at first about how he was confused that my egg was SLICED on my salad, and his was not. I pointed out to him my knife and showed him how I sliced my OWN egg myself. He thought this was hilarious and we started to chit chat—he thought my hippo story was even more hilarious than the egg.

After I was finished I said goodbye to this Austrian guy and went back out to cope in the heat and see more of Paris. The weather is absurdly hot and all you want to do is go swimming! A lot of people were putting their feet and even wading around in the Louvre’s fountains.

I spent the rest of the afternoon going on this silly bus tour where you buy a ticket and it is good for two days along four routes. They give you these headsets and you get cheesy commentary the whole way though. I decided that I needed to see Paris above ground instead of just below because I was getting nowhere (well, not seeing much) using the metro. So I bought a 25 Euro ticket (along with my arm and my leg), got a funny green stethoscope type apparatus for my headseat, headed up to the top level of the bus and started heading towards the sights of Paris.

Problem was I got on the wrong route. But of course I didn’t realize this until maybe ¾ of the way through when I hadn’t seen any of the “famous” sights of Paris. We went sort of in the eastern direction and saw things like the new library and the sport stadium all of which I understand are interesting but not really what I was thinking.

But I had to stay on the bus to get back to where I wanted to be so I rode the whole tour, which was about an hour, got off at the Notre Dame and decided to go visit that first before even trying to get on another bus. The Notre Dame is beautiful and a service was just starting as I walked in, so I looked around a bit and then sat down for a bit. I then walked out to try and find the right bus that I wanted to get on and soon one pulled up. I was then on the “Grande Tour” of Paris which was what I wanted in the first place. It took us down all of the main sights which was interesting and I was satisfied with being able to see where everything was in relation to each other.

I got off on the Champs-Elysees (the huge road that ends in the Arc de Triomphe and the place de Concorde on the other—both of which are important sights of course) and walked along it for a bit, taking in all of the designer clothing shops. I made the mistake of stopping at a sunglasses shop to find a pair (I’ve been dying without mine since I lost them a bit ago) and leaving immediately when I saw that all of the glasses were over 100 Euros each.

I then went up with Arc de Triomphe which was just spectacular—I definitely recommend it if you are ever in Paris. The view is amazing and you get a view that includes the Eiffel Tower which is nice.

I then headed down and wandered (and I do mean wandered) over to the Eiffel Tower. It took me a while to get there but I FINALLY did, just when I was going to give up. Funny how my map seems to exclude like a bazillion streets so everything looks a lot closer than it really is.

Anyways, I sat down on the grass outside of the Eiffel Tower to sit down for a bit but then decided that while I was there, I should go up. So I got a ticket and was herded into tiny elevators with the zillions of other tourists, pushed onto one elevator after another, after another, and finally making it to the top where I could get somewhat of a view out over Paris but had to push through the masses to get a view, and then get back in line and repeat the whole process over again of waiting and pushing.

I made it back down about an hour and a half later and felt good to be back on the ground. I am definitely not afraid of heights or anything but being at the tip top with all of those people (and not really knowing when you are actually going to get down) makes me a little nervous. Plus I have to say that I enjoyed my view from the Arc a little bit better, but then again it was still light out when I did that so I could see a little bit more. Paris however looks great both during the day and night so I was happy that I saw the view from the Eiffel Tower at night.

By this point it was just going on ten o’clock. I hadn’t had dinner but was too tired from all of the walking today to even attempt to go find something to eat so I settled for heading to my hotel instead.

Paris for Singles Lesson #3—Isn’t it great do be able to do whatever you want, whenever you want to?

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.