Friday, June 18, 2010

Paris Part Deux: Where Paris wins the battle

When last you read, I had just gotten off the train with a broken shoe and a sweat drenched cardigan.  I was determined not to let either ruin a perfectly Parisian day.

The plan was to get to Gard du Nord, stash my case and explore the City of Lights for about 6 hours.  I couldn't decide if it was better to save money or time, but opted for the former and went to the taxi line.  No joke, there were about 50 people in it!  With cabs pulling up every three minutes!  GAH!  At this rate I would miss the mimes in front of the Eiffel Tower.

But heck, I've lived in New York, I could hail me a cab.  After trailing my suitcase down one length of the station (which was a long one) I discovered there was no exit.  So I trailed my suitcase the other way.

The back sweat had come back.

I then went outside, tried to hail a cab for five minutes, crossed the street and tried again, walked up the block, tried again and then crossed the street a second time.  Damn it, there was a reason to that stupid line.

My plan of saving time had already cost me more than half an hour.  Time for the metro.  I had to lug the case down about 50 stairs.  SHOOT ME.  Then another set of stairs and into a large building where metro lines surrounded me, escaltors took people in all directions and about thirty high school groups were trying to find a subway to the Eiffel Tower.  It took me approximately 10 minutes to dechiper my route on the map.  My route involved 2 changes and no elevators. God, just where in Paris was I?

Back to the taxi line.  Wasted time?  Almost an hour.

Luckily the line was shorter and I finally got a cab.  Unfortunately the French doctors were striking that day (the French strike all the time apparently, luckily I had read 'A Year in the Merde' so knew this), but the strike made it so that all the roads around the train station were blocked!  GAH!  It took twenty minutes and 13 Euros JUST to go three blocks.

Paris was really starting to piss me off.

My driver was awesome though, and he got us through traffic and past pedestrians quickly.  I was trying to get my bearings when I happened to look out my left side window and there was the Eiffel Tower, shimmering proudly in the distance.  I clapped.

It just looks so majestic from far away.  As if you are looking at it through a gauze curtain.

My mood was starting to lift.

Checking my luggage was easy, getting on a metro was easy, and starting to explore Paris was easy.  

First, off to my favourite creperie near Notre Dame where I ordered a ham and cheese crepe as well as a Nutella crepe.  The woman thought she misheard me but I assured her that I 
was, in fact, quite piggy and I did indeed want both.  I don't know what it is about this place but seriously the best crepes I have had in France hand down.

I sat back, catching my breath and watching the tourists flock by.  Teenagers rough-housing, girls giggling at boys, gangly almost-men skulking around the crowd.  I couldn't help but smile at these kids.  I was 19 the first time I saw Paris. I cried.  This was my third visit and it hadn't yet stopped taking my breath away (albeit that could be my 50-lb bag).  

I noticed that the Latin Quarter and Saint Germaine had new bicycles that looked as though you could rent them, then drop them off at another location.  Perfect!

Except that is not how they work.  I needed a card that I didn't have, and you have to be a local (I think).  I still don't know.  They want to be the new city of bicycles but apparently not for tired tourists (especially ones that just wolfed down two crepes).  

It was a pied.  

I wandered down along the Seine.  But the wind had picked up and my eyes were beginning to fill with dust.  Leaves were hitting my head.  I tried to catch a water bus.  But no.  It wasn't running on the side I was on (again, I think.  I never really know what is going on).

My hair was ruined, I had Paris dust in my mouth and my feet were already hurting.  I looked up to see the ET (yet again, I don't get sick of it) and couldn't help but smile and clap again.  That's right.  Crazy Canuck just stands on sidewalk and claps. I didn't mind the ruined hair.

What is it about the Eiffel Tower that makes me feel so girly and happy?  It must be the symbol of all things feminine and pretty.  I stood there just smiling like an idiot.  I WAS IN PARIS!

And what does a girl do in Paris?  SHOP!!!!  Printemps for my favourite tea

Fauchon for some amazing macarons (oh god!  The macarons!!)

then a random cheese shop where I picked up several cheeses for my British family, and of course some shoe stores.  

I must sadly report that fashion in Paris is reflecting only 1980's clothing.  WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!  And the nautical look. But to be frank, I was already feeling like crap and trying on small fitting clothes was not on the agenda.

I felt like wandering through the city, around the Arc du Triomphe and then over to Eiffel Tower.  Unfortunately, the weather had turned from bad to worse and I was starting to limp.  My shopping trip felt more like a chore and my back was aching.  Things had changed since I was 19.

Why does everywhere I go have scaffolding???

After five hours of stomping through the streets, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. And I almost was once!  I went on a long subway ride only to discover I had just got myself around the corner.  And being in a big city was feeling very strange after spending so much time in the country.

I knew Paris was magical.  I just wasn't feeling it.  By the time I was under the Eiffel Tower I was pooped.  

Sitting on a bench, I stared at all the people taking their pictures. Posing, smiling, kissing.  I was under a blossom tree so I took my shoes off and laid back, staring up at the tower and pink blossoms.

France had been so wonderful and amazing.  Could it be that I was happier in the smaller villages?  Or was I simply tired and missing the Engineer?  Paris is lonely without sharing it with someone.  It doesn't have to be a man, it could be your best friend, or a new friend.  It's a city that should not be seen alone.  I never thought I would think that, but there you go.

I wanted to be back in a place where I could hear the frogs and the nightingales. I wanted to see stars and the moon, not tourists and towers.  Paris could wait for another time.

I smiled, kissed the tower goodbye and headed for my Eurorail that would carry me to London.  

The honeymoon was officially over.

Too bad that wasn't my last experience.  You'd expect some drama right? 

Well, I got to Eurorail, went through customs and was about to board when I discovered I had lost my ticket! GAH!  Leaving my overly heavy bags with a nice American family, I dashed back to security, explained that I left my ticket on the passport counter and had to be 'escorted' three feet.  It was still there!  Hooray!  I would have had to pay another 50 Euros if I had lost it!

Let's just say that my the time my day was ending as I arrived in London, I was pretty grateful.  

What else could go wrong?

Nothing except that on the train up to my family in Manchester, my cheese was smelling so strongly the guys sitting across from me thought the toilets had overflowed.  I didn't want to tell them the 'poop' they were smelling was in my bag.  And that it would be eaten tomorrow by my family.

I smiled.  Smelly cheese is always the best.  France taught me that.

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