06/22/2014 - 06/28/2014 65 °F
Paris had always been a city that had never been high on my list to see. While I knew I would make it there at some point in my life, my aversion to uber-touristy things and the talk that I had heard about Parisians’ less-than-friendly dealings with tourists and specifically Americans had dropped it down on my priorities. If I hadn’t been meeting a friend who had Paris on her agenda, I probably would have skipped over it again and gone to other places in France.
That being said, although you do find the occasional waitress who gets annoyed at you when she hears English or broken French, I think the majority of that rep is undeserved. People have to remember that Paris is big city, similar to NYC, and is everyone the most friendly person there? No, but when you travel to NYC, are most people that you interact with friendly and helpful? Yes - it’s the same with Paris. So in that way, I believe I was guilty of being a little close-minded, judging Paris and France unfairly without ever being there. Another prejudgice that I found wasn’t the case - I was expecting Paris to be in a virtual haze of cigarette smoke. Parisians are ALWAYS depicted as chain smokers in movies and such, but I found that it was on par or actually better than many other European cities.
One thing that does make Paris and France in general a little unique is that, compared to other European countries in that area, the French generally don’t speak English very well, which can make things tough. Emelie, my CS host for my last day in Paris, explained to me that France doesn’t put much emphasis on this in school. While most schools nowadays do require that people take English, there isn’t any push to actually get people conversational. In many ways, it sounds like it resembles the American perspective on foreign language in high school, so who are we to complain or judge? Another reason that the French are behind the curve with English that I can totally respect is that they truly value their language and culture. As the world becomes more globalized, I don’t think there’s any doubt that parts of individual cultures can be lost. The French simply care much more about that and feel that if the language begins to be lost, aspects of their culture that make them distinctly French will soon follow. Interesting fact: if a business in France (or maybe just Paris?) names their business an English name to appeal to tourists more, they actually pay an extra tax to the government. I’m just full of interesting knowledge, aren’t I?
Anyway, my time in Paris was definitely the most touristy of my trip thus far. Part of that is because I was there with a friend, staying in an AirBNB apartment instead of a hostel (the apartment had a sauna and a view of the Eiffel Tower from the kitchen! It was also up 7 flights of stairs, so I got a little training in before my hiking in the Alps). Another reason was simply because it is Paris. I’ve said before that there’s usually a reason that sites are very touristy, and with so many famous sites and beautiful buildings, this seems especially true in Paris.
The biggest 3 - Jess and I went up the Eiffel Tower, toured thru Notre Dame, and I wandered around the Louvre (PRO TIP - The Louvre is open late til 9:30 on Wed and Fri and its free after 6!). The Eiffel Tower truly is magnificent and true to form, Parisians originally opposed it and tried to block its construction, thinking that it would mar their beautiful city. The line wasn’t bad and going up gave you a fantastic view of the city. I also got the requisite goofy photo with it in the background And we could see the Tower from the kitchen in our AirBNB apartment!
The night view from our apartment
Jess and I at the base. Coffee in hand
From the top
Requisite goofy jumping photo, haha
I hate to say it, but Notre Dame was a little bit of a letdown. I thought that it was super impressive that it was built so long ago (completed in the 13th century), before many of Europe’s other massive churches, but I o think that I have seen at least a few cathedrals of the same style that I liked more, the best one being the Dom Cathedral in Koln, Germany.
The Louvre is simply a gorgeous museum of preposterously big proportions. Of course you've got the infamous glass pyramid at the entrance. Some sneaking advice from Jess got me in one of the 11 other entrances that aren't by the pyramid, so I walked in without a wait at all. Also, the price was only free for people UNDER 26, not 26 and under, but after getting rejected by 1 person, I went to a different entrance and was let in free of charge by either a less observant or more generous person.
The Louvre is always associated with art, but it’s also got a crazy amount of artifacts, statues, furniture, etc. I spent about 3 hours in it, definitely didn’t get to everything, and that was moving fairly quickly. If you’re a person who understands and appreciates art, you could easily spend a week in there. I unfortunately got to what turned out to be my favorite section (French Impressionist paintings) last, and I was pretty art-ed out. I ended up taking mostly photos of things that I could make funny captions about.
No funny caption here. It just seemed like something that I should get a picture of.
This is my favorite and definitely one that set me down the path of silliness
Hammurabi's Code - Wow! This thing is in Paris???
Definitely among the most impressive things was simply the decoration of the rooms and hallways, which adorned the supposedly more attractive and entertaining art on the walls.
This just looked like an old fashioned Roman orgy with a little bit of everything
The famous Mona Lisa!
Really not all that big, right? I think this was a perfect example of what my wise roommate, Scottie Rossignol always said - "It's all about setting low expectations." I had heard from many people and reviews who thought that the Mona Lisa, with all of its buildup, was a let down, but going in with that in mind, I actually quite liked it. It wasn't anything that changed my life, but I thought it was among the better, and most certainly the loudest, pieces.
Painting of some king crowning his queen. I think the pope or bishop that came along was supposed to do the crowning, and he looks none too pleased about being set aside
A depiction of the shambles of a ruined ship just floating along.
And doesn't this guy just look straight up bored with their predicament?
Painting marking a French victory. And it wouldn't be truly French if the main character wasn't baring some boobs :O
I'm sure this is hearsay, but that guy is just struttin' it.
This was another of my favorites - Lucifer commanding his armies on their seemingly inevitable conquest
Pictures on Pictures
These are a couple of images / recreations of Napolean's apartment. He wasn't compensating for ANYTHING
I did some other stuff in Paris, like visit the Catacombs (pics below), but mostly I was just happy and impressed by how enjoyable the atmosphere was. Paris has an unbelievable # of parks (like literally more than 400 in city limits), and people just moved at a slower, more relaxed pace. Yes, you got the feeling that they thought their culture and way of life was straight up better than yours, but honestly, what country doesn't think that? France is just a little more upfront about it.
I had a couple of days between Jess and her mother leaving Paris before I had to be in Chamonix for my hiking tour around the Alps, so I thought I'd try to fulfill one of my bucket list items - to backpack between major cities!
Bad news - I didn't get picked up. Speaking to a French guy who was trying to the same: getting out of the cities is the hardest part and Paris is the worst of it. Once you get out to way stations and such it's quite easy. So I'm not giving up yet!
Good news - a little doubtful of my hitchhiking prospects, I also threw up a last-minute request for a couch on a CS forum and a beautiful French girl came thru! Emilie let me know I could stay with her RIGHT before she heard back from some other CSers who had ditched on her the night before. It turns out that they were a couple of Americans hitchhiking down from Amsterdam and only made it to Belgium the night before (hence the ditching), but as they were finally making it into Paris that night, Emilie hosted them too and it made for a cozy common room Luckily, everyone was friendly and it worked out great. Emilie is a French engineer who is trying to improve her English so that she can work abroad in Australia. The only rule while staying with her is that you have to correct every mistake in her English (no matter how small). I learned a lot from her about why the French are not so good at English and had a fantastic time with her.
Deciding to go to the grocery store and cook dinner to save money (the CSers paid for all the groceries), we went for supplies. En route, the conversation went a bit like this:
Emilie - So what do want to cook for dinner?
Me+Nathan+Forest - Umm, I don't know. What can we make?
Emilie - Well, we could make crepes, we could make...
Me+Nathan+Forest - WE CAN MAKE CREPES!?!?!??!
We came to a decision very quickly and set to it. It takes a while but really isn't that hard. Now when I go back, I can impress women I have over to breakfast with my amazing crepe-making skills We all even got to flip a crepe. Emilie claimed she can flip them behind her back and all sorts of other tricks, but I've got my doubts since we didn't see it done, haha.
Anyway, I could say far more, but I'm anxious to write about my trip to the Alps, then a ridiculous traffic jam in France, and finally Barcelona! So that's all for me for now!