British Holiday Chapter 3: Paris, France

That Picture
I'm starting with that picture, but our visit to tour eiffel came later in the day. But you have to start with that picture for your first trip to Paris, right?

But the morning started off in St. Pancras, where we boarded the Eurostar. It was a terribly foggy morning and we didn't see England at all. We went through a bunch of tunnels. After one of them they started doing the announcements in French first, instead of English. We were in France.

St Pancras
Gare du Nord
We were planning on taking the metro from Gare du Nord down in to the central centre of the city. We had been stressing for several days (or possibly since before leaving Seattle) about how to get our hands on some Carnet. We had heard that it was a terrible scrum to get these ridiculous little paper metro tickets unless you had a fist full of Euros. Something about having to wait in line for a human to run your credit card. All this made me a little apprehensive that Paris was mired in the past (paper tickets are the only option? Really?). Not entirely unfounded, as we'll see in a minute.

Turns out though, that they sell carnet on the Eurostar. The only problem is that you have to stand on line with a bunch of bores from the US and Canada. The Canadian dude that I was stuck behind was a total mansplainer, and was lecturing some guy from some flyover state about American politics. I did not come all the way to France for this!

As soon as we hit the outskirts of Paris, the graffiti starts. It gets denser as we go along. By the time we're at Gare du Nord, every surface that can be stood in front of is covered with graf. None of it is particularly good. Just bad tagging. I guess to have a bunch of good stuff, you have to have a metric shit ton of... shit.

Beware of trapping your
hand in the doors.
We push past the scammers in the Metro entrance and find that we have, in fact, gone back in time. Old iron with unexplained metal bits. 1900 with a flash of 1960. The train we caught was 50 years old if it was a day. The doors didn't even open automatically, and were so well designed that they'd obviously taken a few fingers off in their day.

But we got through it. We got out. We found Notre Dame. Maybe you've heard of it. It's a famous cathedral.

It is quite nice. I'm always fascinated by old things. Something to do with there not being any of them round here. Cathedrals are particularly nice when traveling because they're, usually, a nice place for a quiet sit down.

Notre Dame de Paris is not particularly quiet. There are at least 1 million people here at all times. None of them are French except for, possibly, the people working at the gift shop.

Notre Dame
And, of course, the cleaners.

Some Kings or Something
For all that, it is really quite an impressive pile. According to our good friend wikipedia, it used to be brightly colored, you know, back in the 13th century or whatever. I'd love to see it repainted. Just like I'd love to see London before they put Prince Albert in the can.

There is, of course, quite a bit of color when you get inside. Them winders show up reeaaalll good.

Glass & Pipes
Glass and Statue
Holy crap. That sounded way american. There were just too many of those people around this place. Notre Dame will always be associated with Americans now. Boo.

Glass on TV
Not just a few Americans either. Look at this! Yeesh. Nice quiet sit down my ass.

People People PEOPLE!
So, eventually we took off and headed towards, but not to, the Louvre. We passed the Centre de Pompidou in the distance. I was all "Hey, it's that place with the pipes!" I took a picture. The walking continued.

Centre de Pompidou
And continued, and continued. By the time we got to the back of the Louvre we were getting quite grumpy. Suddenly, I realized that other than a biccy with our coffee on the train, and a rather poor bready thing from the costa in St. Pancras for me, we hadn't eaten anything.

café crème
crudité fromage
We were so low on that essential for good travel, blood sugar, that we couldn't decide what to do about it. I saw a café across the street and sort of demanded that we go it.

This is not usually the best way to choose a restaurant.

But we lucked out. We really did. The food was delicious, and the staff were really friendly. We'd be warned, even by our French Airbnb hosts, about how rude Parisian wait staff was, but that just didn't happen.

It could have been because Rakka ordered in French. She did stumble a bit, but she was obviously trying to respect the language. I think it helped a lot.

The other thing was that we stumbled in to a family run place. The whole time we were there I sat watching this family at the pizza place across the alley. When they were done they came over and showed off their kid to the owner of our place. Despite all the tourists that must inundate this place (the place was called Café du Musée but wasn't part of the museum), the locals managed to keep it real. This was the best part of Paris, hands down.

Unless you want to count this guy.

bikeshaw with circus music
Not only did he have the most ridiculous bike-rickshaw thing I've ever seen, but it was playing recorded accordion music really loud. I think it was supposed to be traditional French folk music but it just sounded like a circus. How I wish I had video.

This was, as you can tell, right out front the Louvre. The Louvre. We didn't go in, just strolled by. But even so, it's impressive. The size of the place... Let's just say it's not small.

I. M. Pei-amids
In fact, this seems to be the theme for Paris. Big, designed to impress, gilt.

Gilt Much?
Everything is all "Ooo, look at me. I'm sooo fancy. Ooooo." It's like a pan-galactic gargle blaster. It succeeded in impressing me at first, but after a while I was like, hey, fuck you. I wasn't the only one.

"Fuck You" Tour Eiffel
The funny thing about walking from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower is that there really isn't anything that interesting between them, but they're farther away than you'd think. We had passed by the musee d'orsay but didn't go in (I was interested in the building more than the contents. Didn't seem worth the Euros).

It was a hot day, and even though in blog time we had just left the café, it was something like an hour slog through the bland streets of Paris.

And they are bland streets. Some guy was complaining about the randomness of London on the Guardian today. But really, that's what makes it so fun. In downtown Paris everything looks the same. Same stone, same layout, same same same. There's one landmark, the Eiffel Tower, and you can't see it half the time. Walking is usually good, because you get to see all the things. But if there aren't things to see...

Well, this cute car. That was worth a 2 mile walk. Or, you know, not.

Cute Car
So, anyway, just as I'm about to collapse for want of a refreshing beverage, Rakka points out that we're standing in front of a supermarché. Well, just a marché really. Moments later, armed with cokes and an apple, while I'm taking pictures of "fuck you" graffiti, Rakka beckons me to look around the corner. We were finally at the landmark.

So were the police. In riot gear.

Crikey, it's the Parisian Rozzers or French Po-po are on the Case.
I guess there's some sort of protest going on or something? Definitely cannons and screaming. We sat and listened. My apple was rotten.

Cannon Fire

The Tour Eiffel is a pretty thing. I will grant you that. It is another place with such a high concentration of Americans that you almost forget that you're in Europe at all. Maybe it's just one of those Las Vegas fakes...

Up the Tour
A day in Paris is tiring, especially when you walk the whole way. I wasn't walking the whole stinking way back, and the metro didn't appeal. Luckily, the Batobus stops right here, and it's a nice little boat ride down the Seine. Can't complain about that.

Actually, I can. The boat was crammed full of Americans. Bah.

Notre Dame, perhaps you've heard of it.
When we got off the Batobus, there was a dude playing French accordion folk music. Like, for real. Busking. I think people were paying attention. Mad.

We hung out at Notre Dame again. Different light in the afternoon. Nicer. This, however, was when the vacuum recording actually happened.

Light on Stone
And from there, it was back to ol' Gare du Nord. We were 2 hours early, because we ran out of energy to do things. Or rather, the things left to do took too much energy.

So we hung out in an "English" pub near the Eurostar departure area. The pub was hot, like an oven. We only stayed for one drink. We were first in line for the train.

After getting through security and getting the old passport stamped (hooray!) I had a ham sandwich and watched a couple that were in what would politely be termed a female led relationship. In practice this meant that he carried all the luggage and wore purple nail polish. It was endearing in a way. They were English of course. It's a very English sort of idea. I mean, that's how Thatcher happened, right?

Gare du Nord
Did I mention that we encountered some Americans during our visit? Two rows in front of us were the most insufferable American sorority girls. They talked for the whole two hours about things like how great it was that they got to practice speaking Spanish with an actual Spanish speaker. It was the only time this entire trip that I had to break out the headphones.

Well, that was quite a post. Paris didn't impress me much, but I was actually very happy with French people. I'm eager to return to France, but I'm done with Paris, at least the centre.


Irregular Shed said...

Cute car=Renault 4. My friend used to have one, yellow like a banana and with a leaking boot.

Groc said...

Paris = meh.
and I went up the Eiffel and around the pompidou centre and in restaurants.

Momus wrote a whole essay about Paris' 'flatness' - it's bland because it's 'completed', it's as if everyone there came to a decision it was just perfect as it is - so they don't bother to try anything new. So everything is a stale and stagnant...

I'll have to dig around and see if that essay is still online somewhere.

santos. said...

"I mean, that's how Thatcher happened, right?"

ZOMG. i cannot WAIT to use that the next time i'm with my british friends, see what kind of shitstorm i can stir up.


leff said...

Heeee. that was my favorite line to type of the whole post.