Paris: Friday; Retrospective
Friday morning I woke up sick as a dog. I had been feeling kind of shitty Thursday night but I thought it was just a headache from getting drunk in Brussels. Not so. I blew my nose and blood came out. Not really a good thing. I lazed around as long as I could before I had to check out of my hotel, finally took a shower and got moving. All I wanted to do was lay down.
I hit the tourist information booth in the train station to try to find a cheaper hotel or hostel. They gave me information on a place just down the street that was only EU 45/night so I booked it for two days. That’s where I am now. I’m finding that these tiny, cheap hotels may be old, and small but they take care of them. All of my rooms have been cleaner than I expected. Just as clean as a nice, big hotel. Just with less “stuff”.
I also got some maps, tour pamphlets and a 3 day pass for the transportation system.
Paris’ streets are insane. I have a very nice map the tourist information booth gave me but I get lost two or three times trying to find anything. I walked a good mile and a half getting to this hotel just to find out it was right around the corner. I’ve gotten really good at reading maps so it’s not that I am stupid. The roads just don’t line up!
Once I got checked into my hotel I rested for a bit and decided to set out for Paris. What I really wanted to do was lay down and sleep all day, but I didn’t want to let a cold or something lame like that ruin a day of my vacation. I went back to the station and stood there looking at the metro (subway) map for about 15 minutes before some nice guy took pity on me and asked me where I was trying to go. I told him “The Louvre” just to have something to say and he told me which trains to take. It was non-obvious but now that I have spent some time on the subway it’s pretty clear.
When I got off the subway at The Louvre it was the first time I had seen Paris, really. Words really don’t do it justice. You are utterly surrounded by majestic buildings that look like something out of a movie. Probably because they are. The architecture is stunning and coming out of the station for the first time is just amazing.
I didn’t really have my bearings very well so I started walking towards the thing that looked like it might be important enough to contain the Mona Lisa. I walked into a square formed by some large buildings and finally saw the pyramid of The Louvre. The giant glass pyramid seen in my pictures is the entrance to The Louvre. Having no better plan for the day I bought a ticket to the museum and headed in. I have to admit, I’m a little burned out on museums but there were a few pieces I thought I should probably check out 🙂
I’ll spare you all the details. The Louvre is incredibly large and every single room is like a work of art itself. There are masterpieces just laying around everywhere. I most wanted to see Venus de Milo and of course The Mona Lisa. I did, and they were both beautiful. I wish they could have come up with a way to let people get closer to The Mona Lisa though. You are separated by a good 10 feet and you can’t really get a good look at the detail. I understand, of course, but still, maybe they could just use a few more layers of bullet proof glass and let me get closer.
I’m sure a true art aficionado could spend his entire life on just a single floor of The Louvre but I say if you’ve seen one ancient, classic Italian masterpiece you’ve seen them all. I blew through the whole place in about 2 hours.
I wanted to see The Arch de Triumph (I know I’m spelling it wrong, and I don’t care) and it didn’t seem to be too far by the map so I started walking. The area between The Louvre and the Place de la Concorde is all gardens and fountains. It’s very beautiful but the main walkway is all just sand. Poor choice. It was blowing around and being miserable. I walked and walked and walked and eventually made it to… the sorbet stand! What a relief. I had lemon and raspberry, if you were wondering.
After the garden section comes the main “strip” in Paris. The Avenue Des Champs Elysees. This is a huge road with all the major Parisian shops along it that just goes on forever. It ends at the arch. I’d say it took me a solid hour or more to walk from The Louvre to the arch. Once there I wandered a bit, and took it in. All of the major 12 streets of Paris meet at the arch so you get a great view of what’s going on. You can climb to the top of it and see all of Paris but I thought I’d like to save that for night time so I skipped it.
Once I had had enough of that I figured I might as well try to go to the Eiffel Tower to top off the day. I consulted my trusty map and made a plan. I would get lost! And then go back and forth on the same train several times! My plan worked out perfectly but I did eventually make it to the tower.
The tower is about a half mile walk (563 centiliters) from the nearest subway station so I headed towards it. Not exactly hard to find. It kind of sticks out. Once I got there I located the statue of Eiffel cause I wanted to sing to him. There was quite a crowd around so I kind of sung under my breath but I still think he appreciated it. I then got in what seemed to be a Disneyland style line for the tram to the top of the tower.
I waited in line for about 1.5 hours just to find out you couldn’t buy tickets to the top. Too crowded. You could only go to the second floor and then if you wanted to continue to the top you could buy another ticket there and head up. So I did that and stood in line for another hour but finally I made it to the top and it was worth it. You can see from the pictures. I had no idea Paris was so large and you can of course see every bit of it from the top of the tower. It’s just amazing, and it’s so white. It’s like the entire city is built of marble, and probably a good portion of it is. Very pretty.
I was feeling absolutely miserable by now so I headed back to my room as fast as I could. It’s three different trains from the Eiffel Tower and about an hour altogether. By time I got back I just wanted to die and that’s when I wrote the earlier post you may have seen. I laid down just planning to sleep for a few hours and feel better but didn’t wake up until almost midnight. I was still feeling terrible and just decided to call it a night and stay in.
My first impressions of Paris are that it’s too big to understand. You could easily spend your life here and never find all of it. I feel like I know most of Kansas City after 10 years but there are still places I wouldn’t be able to find on a map if you mentioned them. In Paris I feel like that about even the tiny neighborhood I am staying in.
The language barrier is also much worse. No signs are in English and a lot of people either don’t speak it or pretend they don’t. I’m doing a lot of pointing and hand waving 🙂