15 August 2008

A quick trip

Sometimes, despite your best attempts at being reasonable and frugal, you need a break, and when an opportunity presents itself you must suppress these feelings buy your tickets and go. You’re going to be paying that loan back for years anyway.
Last week, that is precisely what Mac and I did. We went to Paris in August, which is a much better place to be than Paris in December. We met a good friend at our hotel, which I call a hotel because it was en suite and clean- which is all you need, and went to wander around the city. We stopped by a supermarket and grabbed what would come to be staples of the week: Baguette, Camembert or other squishy cheese with mold on, dried fruit, olives, meat slices and red wine X 2 lovely cheap bottles and plopped down by the Seine. We chatted and ate and watched a very fortunate little family ready their boat for what I am sure was a nice trip that certainly included cheese and wine and baguettes. From there it was indirectly to the Eiffel tower where we stocked up again, feelin’ fine. After twirling around a bit underneath the tower, we copped a plop again to watch the sky grow dark and the tower light up. Friend had never seen the tower do-its-thing so she squeaked in surprise as Eiffel majestically began sparkling all over- which is something, because it almost looked light a giant tacky x-mas tree that people with epilepsy avoid, but it’s French so it looked more like a tall lady in a shiny dress doing a turn to show off how beautiful she looks. God, the French are so vain. After drinking a hefty amount of wine and snapping what seemed at the time some very avant garde photos, we tuttled off to our hotel with en suite.
Next day, bright and not so early, the three of us headed to Versailles only to find that there was a queue of around 1000 people baking in the sun, waiting for tickets, though the Italians seemed to like it. We decided this was a ‘no’, and instead queued up for the toilet and consequently walked around the gardens for a half hour. Perhaps it was indicative of living in the UK, but the topiary was not up to snuff (think a business man in a nice suit, but hasn’t had his hair cut in 2 months) and I was quite disappointed by this lack of hedge-trimming. Later I was to find this (below) and realized the garden was best seen from afar, or alternatively, without your glasses on. From there we parked it on a shaded bench and ate our staple meal, substituting the wine with fruit drink for the Femmes and a giant can of Bier for Mac. Heading to Musee D’Orsay we saw lots of pretty art and some crazy art deco furniture, complete with a window that looks like a mirror- until you walk past and don’t see your reflection, oh-so-uncanny. Gave me a thrill. Our feet were pretty shot at this point so we headed to the Latin Quarter for some grub at an Irish-French pub, alas they only served things you imbibe, so we opted for pizza, with an awesomely crabby French waiter. His expression, this: ‘no, I wasn’t expecting so many customers, even though I own a cute little pizza joint that is reasonably priced in the most popular tourist neighborhood in Paris’. But I digress. From there it was a couple of snaps of Notre Dame, then supermarket and wine and olives by the Seine; a man played the saxophone, it’s lonely voice echoing under the bridge and mixing with the microphoned voice of the late night tour boat announcers. I felt like a Parisian. Being the pros that we are, we ambitiously awoke early to arrive at the Louvre before 9. Waited only 5 minutes and it was everything I expected it to be. We sort of hop-skipped our way through, going from paintings to sculpture to very elderly Jewelry and furniture- even Napoleons Apartments (making up for Versailles) and some wonderful artifacts- a Chalice made our of silver and carved and polished agate. Staple lunch under looking the Louvre, some very intimidating looking Military-guards and we were off to the catacombs, though we did not arrive in the nick of time. So we sought the replenishing powers of Bier and this took us forever to find and not for lack of opportunity- the lowlight of my trip in fact, but there’s always one. We made our way to the Luxembourg Gardens and took respite in a fountain to cool off a bit and had an unfortunate run-in with a public toilet (which happens more often than anyone likes to admit). Then Glace/Ice cream onwards to Champs-Elysees, very crowded indeed. We grabbed some grub and parked until closing to contemplate a long and satisfying day, ending our conversing headily discussing what happiness is and the fact that everyone is either selfish or self-centered. Thursday Friend had some business to attend and Mac and I returned to the catacombs to ‘get creepy’. The notion that you are staring down the skulls of people who lived and died long ago was cool, but fantastically hair-raising knowing that so many died of the plague. Their faces came alive in the dark and this was by far one of the coolest and uncanniest experiences of my life. Contrastingly, from the catacombs we hopped metro to Montmarte and Sacre Coeur where we drank our wine and ate our baguettes atop the peak, looking out at the city, though Mac succeeded in taking a gander at French ladies in short skirts and praying for gusts of wind, the perv. Down below, we kept with the theme of life and death and headed to the infamous Pere Lachaise. We made it in time to see Oscar Wilde’s grave before the rain came, but got caught up in it and, begrudgingly, unwillingly, unenthusiastically stopped in a brasserie for bier. After the rain, a scoot across town saw us make it to the Picasso musee, and take in 3 pieces before they closed- we didn’t pay, we just walked in. Then ‘bier residential’ and, as always happens, we got turned around and lost our way right at the time we both needed the loo. We made it. FYI Climbing five flights of stairs with your bladder full of pee is not something I recommend. Friend arrives back in Paris in time for dinner and we decide to live large and eat at a restaurant. Tibetan sounded nice and so Tibetan it was. We ate fresh dumplings in the summer air with not too spicy sauce and the mix, with a titch of wine, was simply intoxicating. Our Restaurateur was such a little man that when it came time to pay the bill, we could not find him, though he was there behind the desk. It was a wonderful meal I shall always remember.
In conclusion, it was a delightful trip that put me in my place when it comes to being reasonable- sometimes you just need to buy the tickets and go.