Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Paris, France—Day 220

With today’s goal being conquering the Thoiry Zoological Park (about 35 kms outside of Paris), I got up early and headed straight to where I knew there was a car rental agency—at the train station that I came in on.

The thing with Paris is that there are like five different train stations (there could be more—I don’t know exactly) and I was sure that all of them would have car rental places. I knew for sure that the one that I came into it, but thought that they all would.

I was wrong—or at least, when I went to a different station, the Gare du Nord, I couldn’t find them for the life of me. I found a really big, huge station that I managed to get totally turned around and almost lost in, but couldn’t really find the rental car places at all. I decided that my best bet would be to just got to the Gare de l’Est, where I knew there were agencies (I had seen them!) and was only a stop away on the Metro.

So I get to the Gare de l’Est and find the first car rental agency: Avis. I walk in and ask the surprised woman (why she was surprised by me, I don’t know but she was!) about renting a car. She told me that there were no more cars available for the day. Sorry.

I headed out but then thought, well, what about tomorrow?

I turned back around and again, the surprised woman (surprised to see me twice I think!) helped me and said well yes, there are cars available for tomorrow.

Great. I reserved one and thought well, I do have another day in Paris, I will just fit in some more sight seeing while I wait for my car. I could I guess have found a different car rental place but I thought ok, I know where this place is, I need to just stick to the plan.

So I spent the rest of the day doing much more of the same—playing the tourist. I went to Ste-Chapelle, a Gothic chapel which is just amazing. I had to stand in line for quite a while and I was happily reading my NEW book which was exciting in itself not only in its content (“Lady Chatterley’s Lover”) but because for so long I have gone without reading material. So I read in line which prompted a British guy behind me to strike up conversation.

Oh hello, you must be English then, reading, well, in English.

I smiled and put my book down. I started chatting with the guy and felt rude to go back to reading my book, even though it was getting to a good part. We talked for a while about the usual things you do when you meet someone when you travel—where are you from, yadda yadda yadda, how long will you be here, yadda yadda yadda, etc. Then it was my turn to buy my tickets and I headed in after that.

Ste-Chapelle is absolutely gorgeous—built by Louis IX to house Christ’s crown of thorns among other things and I was really impressed. I took quite a lot of pictures while the crowds around me chattered away. Every so often a man would come on the loudspeaker and go “SILENCE!” and everyone would sort of hush up for a bit. It slightly had that “is that God speaking?” type feel to it.

After Ste-Chapelle, I went over to the Conciergerie, a quite famous prison in Paris that is near the Ste-Chapelle. It housed Marie-Antoinette and Robespierre which is quite impressive for a prison. I then wandered back out and after grabbing a baguette from a local patisserie (feeling very French of course) I went to the Musee D’Orsay and spent the afternoon walking around Impressionist art, getting quite a good impression of it all. Heehee, ok, bad joke, I know. The museum used to be an old train station which they have converted and its very nice. You should go. I spent a few hours there on my own, well, except for a funny French woman showing me which escalator I must ride on. She was telling me no no no (as I tried to go in one way) and showed me that I must follow her on HER escalator, never mind that it was going in the opposite direction.

Oh well!

I then spent the rest of the late afternoon literally walking around. There is sure a lot of walking to be done in Paris! I walked around the St. Paul area and managed to find all sorts of wonderful little shops and schools and thing away from all of the hustle and bustle of the more touristy areas of Paris. It was quite nice. I spent probably, oh, well over two—probably almost three hours walking around before I ended up (luckily) at a metro stop. I spotted a café across the road and went in and had the most delicious dinner. I ordered the “almost cooked salmon” hoping that it was more than just almost cooked, and it turned out to be wonderful. Perfect in fact.

I was happy and wandered back to the metro, hopped on, and got off at my stop. I then walked over to the Eiffel Tower (its just a short ways from my hotel) and watched the sun set among the kissing couples.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.