Friday, July 19, 2013

Bonjour, Paris!

I visited Paris--finally!

My trip had its stereotypical "American in Paris" moments.
I was too sure of myself as an international traveler.
Visiting a country that didn't speak English, without anyone with me (except for Sunday with Kristy), and not having proper vision (eye problems)--I had a humbling weekend.

As I stepped on to the Air France plane and a flight attendant greeted me with, "Bonjour!"
It hit me--they are speaking French.
I don't speak French.

My seat buddy was a Sri Lankan immigrant in France who used to live in India.
We made interesting conversation--interesting because of the almost double language barrier.
Upon our arrival at Charles de Gaulle, he guided us through the airport (it helps he works there), past border patrol, and showed me which ticket I needed to get to Gare du Nord.  After a few stops on the train, he hopped off and I kept going, all the while processing that I was finally in France--Paris, France!

At Gare du Nord a nice couple offered their assistance, but I assured them I had it under control.  A few minutes later, I was wishing I had accepted their offer, although there was always the possibility that they were conniving.  However, I was swindled out of 30 euros a few minutes later by a sickly-nice Parisian young man who wanted to assist.  I'm still not sure what happened, as I saw him make the ticket purchase--and the ticket worked!  However, the next day it did not.

It was a "Lucy Moment."  I didn't get counterfeit bills, but I did get taken (speaking of Taken--as in the film--I watched both movies on the way back to America.  So, I've now finally seen them.) in Paris.  A rite of passage, maybe?

The rest of the evening I spent finding my flat, exploring Paris, trying to get to Sacre Coeur, only to walk through the Moulin Rouge, sex shop, etc. district, ate dinner at the Sacre Coeur, got lost, may have been followed by a strange man, and royally annoyed another Frenchman by completely ignoring him (while I tried to figure out where I was).  After discovering I was 4 kilometers from where I needed to be, I hailed taxi.  The driver informed me I wasn't in the safest of places.  Joy!  Now, I thought it was around midnight.  The next day I learned that my phone didn't change time zones...and I was out, roaming the streets of Paris, at 1AM.

The next day everything looked brighter.  I met Kristy back at the Sacre Coeur, and we went exploring!  We had a few things that we wanted to do, but other than that, we had an open schedule.  We visited Notre Dame, where I wanted photos of the flying buttresses!  So beautiful.  Then, I looked up and realized we were standing on the famous Lock Bridge.  After crossing it, there were the book stands along the Seine (Midnight in Paris moment).  We found a boulangerie and purchased baguette sandwiches and ate them along the Seine.  Next, we took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower.  The Eiffel Tower is now one of my most favorite structures.  It is magnificent!  We even had time to sit in a sidewalk cafe, savor a glass of wine, and share good conversation.  We moved on to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées.  We circled back to the Latin Quarter, bought gelato (yuuum!  made me miss Regensburg), and ate it while listening to music outside of Shakespeare and Company.  Shakespeare and Co. was incredible.  I cannot wait to go back and spend so much more time there.  It begged for hours of long, intellectual conversation.  Finally, we left and ate dinner in a creperie.  So yummy!  We wandered around a while more before parting ways at Saint-Michel.

The following day I visited the Louvre, saw the Mona Lisa and a few other things and then traipsed off to see Monet at The Musée de l'Orangerie.  Bliss, pure bliss.  I sat and gazed, soaking in the beauty of his work (even if it wasn't my most favorite).  Then, I went to the lower floor to view works by Degas, Renoir, and others.  Yes, I did hope to see the painting from Midnight in Paris that Gertrude Stein, later repeated by Gil, considered "a petit-bourgeois statement of how Picasso sees her..."  It was not there.  However, there were loads of other lovely paintings to enjoy.

I discovered I do like macaroons.
The Latin Quarter and other areas of Central Paris are my favorite.
Paris, overall, warrants another visit.

Riding the train into Paris
Sacre Coeur by night
Notre Dame--magnificent
With the flying buttresses!
The lock bridge--maybe I'll add one someday!
Book stalls--all in French
Baguette sandwich along the Seine?  Yes please!
Visiting Paris with Kristy--best first visit ever!
Love the Eiffel Tower!
Again, magnificent...and so detailed!
Yuuum!  Gelato!
I could have stayed here for hours!
Preparing to say "au revoir"
The Louvre

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