September 2, 2012

Confessions of the Euro-fluenced: Days 53-57

There are many ways to tell the same story. One of the phenomenons we have been encountering on this trip has been tourists recounting their travels in a flowery, exaggerated, almost overly-romanticized way. For example: "Oh, Prague was SO COO-ool. It was AMAZ-ing. We had the MOST DELICIOUS dessert at a QUAINT cafe on the corner of Main and Third Street. Our hotel was THE BEST and it had a SPECTACULAR view of the city. OH, you MUST go there and tell Felipe we said hello!!!!!!"



While these accounts may not necessarily be untrue, our account of the experience would probably go something like this: "Um yeah, so Prague was super cool. I liked the chocolate cake. We had a huge window in the hotel room. If you ever save up enough money, you should try to go there. Actually, go to London first, then if you have extra money you can go to Prague. We met this cool guy from Spain, though I can't remember his name. Philip? Francois? Or maybe he was from Virginia? Eh, I can't really remember."

Some have called this blog of our Europe journeys jaded, sarcastic, blunt, or even crude. Sure. That's fine. It's how I see the world through my own two eyes. And for the many times where Andrew has helped me add wit and flair to my writings, its apparently how he sees the world as well.

So here goes my attempt at a flowery account of, none other than, Paris. This should be easy, right?

<<>>

Once upon a time, Two Lovers embarked on a romantic Parisian escape. Each morning they spent time wandering hand-in-hand, strolling down the warm, sunlit avenues, watching the shops come awake with the dawn, listening to the tiny birds chirp in that special, French way. After a brief stop in the corner patisserie for a fresh croissant, a warm baguette and a friendly smile from the wrinkled, old French lady behind the counter, the Two Lovers would sip from tiny cups of frothy espresso at the local brasserie while reading the newspaper and gazing into each other's eyes. In the afternoons, the Two Lovers would join the happy crowds visiting the Louvre and the romantic Eiffel Tower. Each busy day would end in wrapped in each other's arms, picnicking by the river without a soul in sight, sipping expensive wine and munching on local cheese, all the while watching the reds and purples swirl together in the most wonderful sunset ever...

...Er?...

...Huh?...

...Ewwww...

Let's start this again...

Remember that one time we went to Paris and no one was there?

No, really, apparently Parisians take weeks of vacation in August.

They do it because it gets super hot.

And air conditioning isn't very popular there.

Right.

So, when the Parisians leave, it means no one is around to run their restaurants, boutiques, creperies, bakeries, pharmacies, grocery stores, etc.

Shame on us for not knowing that most of Paris shuts down in August. It's really a laughable matter.

Parisian McDonalds are quite good [and how you say?? Romantic??].

Even so, we had a great time in Paris mostly because we had air conditioning in the hotel. Whew! 100 degree weather is only fun for a few days! To help keep cool while exploring the streets, we began experimenting with cooling methods (i.e. getting desperate for any type of relief). So, for instance, always walking on the shaded side of the street works miracles. Or shading oneself with an umbrella. Or hugging stone buildings (as long as they are in the shade, stone walls keep pretty cool!). On really desperate days, I began experimenting with subway vents. It was either hit or miss with them. Sometimes the vents would blast super cool air and sometimes it would be hot air. I eventually concluded that any moving air, despite hot or cold, was better than nothing.

Paris, like New York, is overwhelming for the first time visitor. There are too many tourist sights spread far too wide across the city. Thank goodness for the Metro! We visited all the hotspots: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Champs Elyees, Notre Dame, Pont Neuf, Versailles, and the many gardens scattered around.

It was the first time in Paris for both Andrew and I. We didn't really know what to expect. Actually I take that back. We expected Hollywood Paris. 1920s Paris. Quaint cafes, cute streets, decadent pastries, espresso, and crepes. While we did stuff ourselves with many, many wonderful pastries and mini mugs of espresso, well, we didn't really find the Paris we were looking for. Of course we weren't that naive. We knew the really, truly, romantic Paris probably looked better in the movies. But having most of the businesses closed didn't help our cause.

We did have some romantic moments, though:


  • One moment was experiencing Paris at night. This was the closest we came to Hollywood Paris. We happened upon what seemed to be the only street with cafes lining both sides. Locals were were eating and chatting and drinking and even kissing. That was pretty cool.
  • For about ten minutes every hour the Eiffel Tower turns into a twinkling array of pretty-ness. We just happened to be on Pont Neuf eating a Nutella crepe when this was happening. That was pretty cool.
  • On one of our subway rides we were entertained by a smiley street musician playing an accordion. That was pretty cool.
  • We saw a long line at a crepe stand one night and decided we should stand in it. So, we waited. And waited. And waited. Forty-five minutes later we departed with our two cherished crepes. It didn't matter that the two guys who made the crepes were blatantly Greek and not even French. The crepes, of course, did not disappoint. That was pretty cool.
  • Picnicking in the gardens at the Palace of Versailles was a sweet experience. We happened to do it on the one cooler day. That was pretty cool.
  • By the end of our week the waiters at the local cafe knew us by our morning drinks! Un allonge et un noisette? Oui, s'il vous plait. That was pretty cool.
  • Also, the city closes one of its riverside roads during the summer, trucks in loads of sand, and pretends they have a beach. That was pretty cool.
All in all, Paris was fun.
But we are so ready to move on and relax in a smaller town.
Next stop? Lisbon, Portugal.

>Food .5
>Location 1
>Activities 1
>Comfort .5
>Hotel 1

The gardens at the Palace of Versailles.
The FLACH? 4.5 sweaty stars.


Our morning spot.
Our morning espresso ritual.
Yum.
The Eiffel.

Love lockets.
Any air was good air.
The line for the crepes.
Crepe making!
After a 45 minute wait, these better be good.
The gardens at the Palace of Versailles.
Versailles.
Versailles.
Versailles.
Versailles.
Versailles.
Versailles.
Versailles.
Versailles.
The Louvre at night.
Aw.
Champs Elyees.
The one street that was actually busy!

The twinkling Eiffel Tower plus Nutella crepe.

Notre Dame!
Notre Dame.
Notre Dame.
Pont Neuf.
Guards guarding Abercrombie and Fitch. There was a huge line to enter.

Finding relief from the heat.







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