As I mentioned in my last post, I went to Paris last weekend. I had nearly two weeks off of work—welcome to France! I was hoping to take advantage of the long break to leave the country. I didn’t get my act together in time and then there was another general strike on the day I would have tried to fly out, so it works out just fine that I hadn’t paid for a flight I would have missed.
I was feeling depressed, though, at the thought of spending two whole glorious weeks off here in Angers. (As my friend Colin would say, what a bourgeois problem!) I was hoping to do something a bit more unique than the ol’ cliché weekend in Gay Paree, but, okay, fine, twist my arm—I guess if I really have nothing better to do, it wouldn’t kill me to spend a weekend in Paris, right?
So that’s exactly what I did. Thursday night, I decided to stop talking about it and just book a freakin’ ticket. (If you’re feeling jealous, please know that I’m aware how lucky I am to be living somewhere that’s just a 20E train ride from Paris.)
Friday (Classic Tourist Day):
-Had to leave before sunrise, but if there’s ever been a good reason to get out of bed before dawn, going to Paris is it.
-Wandered through the tourist heart of Gay Paree, past Notre Dame and up to the Centre Pompidou (more on the Pompidou later)
-Met up with my Moroccan friend Bouz under the Arc de Triomphe and strolled the Champs-Elysées
-Did something I’m not proud of. We ate lunch in the McDonald’s on the Champs-Elysées. But before you go shaming me for being an American tourist in the McDonald’s on the Champs, please bear in mind that I live well under the poverty line here and I was on the freakin’ Champs-Elysées. I was very hungry and it was the only place I could possibly afford within at least a 3-kilometer radius. (To be honest, I have absolutely no sense of how long a kilometer is, but I’m confident about that statistic anyway.)
-Wandered through the Tuileries and across a gorgeous bridge to the Hôtel des Invalides, one of many tributes to Frenchmen who have sacrificed life or limb for their motherland.
[Tangent: For all the United States’ military might, I was thinking that the French are much better at acknowledging their soldiers’ sacrifices than America is, until it occurred to me that I was in the nation’s capital. I suppose D.C. is similarly packed with monuments, and the U.S. does aside both Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day each year. Furthermore, we’ve only been a nation for 234 years, whereas the French have millenia’s worth of wars to commemorate—but then, I think the U.S. has done more than enough warmongering in just two centuries to more than make up for that. Thoughts?]
-Toasted la dolce vita as we sipped café au lait and watched as Paris strolled by our table at a corner café
-Bouz had to leave, but I had the delightful company of the Claude Monet exhibit at the Grand Palais
- Not my best fact, but it was a great exhibit.
-Exhausted, went back toward the hostel where, unfortunately, I had a terribly disappointing dinner of saucisson de somefrenchregion-frites. I was expecting a well-seasoned native French sausage and fries (which are actually French when you’re in France, hon hon hon), but what I got was basically two hot dogs and fries that clearly came from a bag in the freezer. I would have been perfectly satisfied if it had only cost me 3E, but this sad excuse for a dinner in Paris cost NINE euros. Paris is shockingly expensive.
Saturday (Slightly Quirkier Tourist Day):
-Got up early, full of good intention to arrive early at the museum I was eager to visit, but got distracted wandering slowly and happily through a delightful pleine-air market in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, where I bought specialty seasoning salts from my new favorite Frenchman and ate my first of three crêpes of the day
- This man was so fond of his speciality salts that he kissed the sachets goodbye before selling them to me.
-Spent the next several hours in rapture over the Jean Michel Basquiat exhibit at the Musée d’Art Moderne. I took a break to have an overpriced-but-delicious lunch of turkey in a creamy mustard sauce in the museum restaurant and charge up on espresso just so I could take in my fill of the expansive (over 150 works!) retrospective. I’ve been fascinated with Basquiat for year, but I had never seen an original. I’m sure I don’t need to explain how different that is and I learned a lot! Also enjoyed the exhibit by Didier Marcel, a conceptual, minimalist indoor forest. Didn’t so much enjoy the exhibit by Larry Clark, though it did make me think about the theoretical boundary between art and pornography.
- One clearing in the minimalist forest.
-Had a dinner that challenged the notion that French food comes in reasonable portions: a ham and cheese crêpe that weighed nearly a kilo, and that’s probably how much more I weigh after consuming it. I topped it off with a juicy pear that was, if not as big as my entire head, at least as big as my brain.
-Met up with my old friend Mary Kathryn (we go back even farther than junior high and both happen to be in France this year) to catch up and drink beer and people watch under the Eiffel Tower. During the day the Eiffel Tower just shows off. I mean, it just sits there saying, “I’M PARIS!” and I’m like, “Okay, fine, I’ll be excited that you’re Paris.” At night, though, it’s really beautiful. It looks like it’s made of gold.
Sunday (Tourist Getting Tired Day):
-Ate a delicious breakfast in Montmartre that included the best orange juice I’ve ever tasted in my life
-Ankles in agony from stupidly wearing shoes that were too flat for all the walking I’d been doing, I scoured a bunch of cheap shoe stores and splurged (10 whole euros!) on the first pair of sneaker-type shoes I found
-Went into the Centre Georges Pompidou, thinking I’d just check it out and make a note of whether I’d want to come back later. (I loved visiting Paris with the attitude that if I didn’t make it to something, it will still be there if I come back in a month or two.) I ended up sticking around for a few hours because I got completely caught up in two exciting, inspiring feminist exhibits: Nancy Spero and elles@pompidou.
-Watched the sun set over Paris as I ate a picnic dinner on the steps at Cathédrale Sacré Coeur
The Eiffel Tower just wishes it were as gorgeous as the sunset behind it.
Monday (I’m Having Fun But I’ve Got to Get Out of Here Before I Spend More Money Day):
- Red-faced at the Red Mill.
-Luckily, my second of two hostels was located just blocks from the heart of Montmartre, so I took advantage of my last few hours in Paris to wander around the area, which I adore.
-Took the obligatory tourist picture outside the Moulin Rouge
-Had yet another café au lait—this one at Café des Deux Moulins, which you may recognize from the movie Amélie! (And yes, I did use the bathroom where they DO IT.)
- I, however, didn’t do it in there.
Jeez, that was a long post! Thanks, readers. I hope I kept it entertaining. (If you read this far, please consider leaving a comment. I can tell how many people have clicked on my blog each day, but not who they are or whether they actually read the whole thing.)