Tales from Italy ch.10.2: Paris- Proud to be a Yankee
Day 2 of Paris began more optimistically- it’s pretty hard to top Day 1. However, first things first, we still had to deal with the left overs of the previous day’s experiences. So, Laura and I both woke up on top of the blankets. During the night, I had managed to grab my coat and sleep under that, and she under her sweatshirt. Unfortunately no magical towel elves had visited us while we slept, and thus we were still towel-less. Now in great need of a shower, I turned one of my washcloths into a substitute towel, and Laura used a big shirt.
As soon as we were done showering, we had to check-out. Even though we’d be in Paris for another 2 nights, Monika was going to be joining us that day and since her added company brought our party to 3, we had to find bigger accommodations. Were we fortunate enough to leave this hostel that can’t even offer it’s guests towels? Nah. Cheap budgets call for the cheapest hostel.
After storing our luggage in the luggage room, Laura and I took the metro to the musée du Louvre. Today was Monday, meaning the museum was free admission. Therefore, when we got there, the line was ridiculous. Honestly, this was the longest line I had ever seen.
<< This is only a SMALL SMALL fraction of the line. It continued behind us for ages. Fortunately, the line moved fast since the museum was big enough to accommodate everyone and we were in within 20 minutes.
The museum, being so big, had so much to see! Of course we saw the ancient Egypt exhibit (always my favorite!) and above all, the famous Mona Lisa. She’s actually a bit smaller than you’d think, but still. Unfortunately, my camera ran out of batteries just as I was about to snap a photo of her. Maybe our luck hadn’t changed yet after all. It sure seemed that way until we asked two girls next to us if we could borrow their batteries. They turned out to be American and since their cameras were rechargable, they offered to put my camera card in their camera and take the picture for me. It was very nice of them and Laura and I decided to nickname them Lisa and Erica.
At this point, we had seen as much of the museum as we wanted (if you spend 30 seconds in front of every piece at the museum it can take you over a week of 24/7 to see it all) and went to go sit down for a break. Recounting the previous day’s events, we laughed ourselves to tears before going to meet Monika at the metro station.
After picking up Monika, sharing some exciting hugs and trying to figure out how we could have ever lived without her for the past week or so, the three of us were off to the musée d’Orsay. Like at the Louvre, the line was still pretty long, but this time we didn’t bother waiting since Monika had her suitcase, and we could go back a different day. Instead, we went out for lunch. I had a delicious tuna baguette 🙂 On the way, we saw Notre Dame from afar- how cool?!!
Next on the list was to re-check in at our beloved “Friends’ Hostel.” Our new room was bigger and nicer than the last despite the fact that we still had no towels and not enough sheets to be sanitary. Nonetheless, we didn’t stay long and went back out to do more sightseeing.
That evening, we saw the Sacré-Cœur (Sacred Heart) and some dancers that were putting on a show in front of it. In the distance we could see the Eiffel Tower.
From there, we walked to a pub since it had started to rain (More luck of mine, I forgot my umbrella in the hostel). It was a nice escape. Fortunately the rain didn’t last too long, so before heading home, we walked through the red light district and saw the infamous Moulin Rouge.
On the way back to our hostel, we picked up some crepes right before I had my first direct experience of racism. While talking over our crepes, a man, who I’m assuming to be homeless, yelled at us, “Aw shut the f*** up, you f***ing yankees! No one f***ing likes yankees here!” More rude gestures and words were thrown at us from him as we passed. Even though what he said hurt, I kept telling myself that his opinion doesn’t matter to me. In fact, when it really comes down to it, in comparison, he was a homeless man living on the streets of the red light district. So he can keep his racist attitude, I’m proud to be a yankee, and no grumpy red-light district man can make me feel bad about that.
Once we were back at the hostel, we made sandwiches for dinner. On the way upstairs, we ended up passing “Lisa” and “Erica.” It was such a cool coincidence that they should be staying in the same hostel. We invited them up to our room for some chess and stuff later and they were happy to join. When they showed up, we learned that they were living in Germany for the year as au pairs to help the kids learn English. Come to think of it, that actually sounds like a job I’d be interested in… anyway, they weren’t able to stay long- they were about to head out for their last night in Paris before going back to Germany the next day. It was nice to see them again, yet in the end, we never learned their real names. As a result, they will forever be “Lisa” and “Erica” 🙂
That night we took it easy. Between showers, we played chess, snacked, and laughed almost non-stop. Our new roommates eventually showed up too- they were two British guys from Cornwall, England who were taking a trip around Europe. They were nice company. The only thing I didn’t like was the news they gave us about their previous roommate. Apparently the night before, a smelly drunken man had come in really late and had been sick. He left a mess around the room and partly in the bed he had slept in. The cleaning staff had managed to clean the room and change the sheets, but not the comforter. At that moment, Monika, Laura, and I froze as we waited to hear the answer of which bed it was, all hoping it wasn’t our own. Lucky for Monika and Laura, it wasn’t either of theirs. So, for the second night in a row, I slept without a blanket.
The next morning, upon leaving our hostel, we realized that a small shop that sold linens and TOWELS had opened right next door! Laura and I bought 2 small hand towels that were small enough to pack, yet big enough to dry ourselves with.
Afterwards, we headed into town to take the 3-hour free walking tour (the same one I had taken in Edinburgh and Dublin). The tour showed us a lot of the city sights and gave us ideas of things we wanted to go back and visit later. Unfortunately, Paris was really cold despite the fact that it was now May, and I ended up having to buy a scarf. During the break, we also treated ourselves to some warm tea and soup, and almost considered not going for the rest of the tour because we were so cold. In the end though, we did anyway. On the tour we saw Notre Dame, the Consierge, Pont Neuf, Academie Française, the Louvre (again), the Conseil d’Etat (Counsel of State), Jardin des Tuiliers, the Obelisk (this link is to its twin in Luxor), Congress, the Gran Palais and the Petit Palais.
Pont Neuf– the bridge began it’s construction under Henry III, but was completed by Henry IV in the early 1600s. Along the sides are sculptures of heads with ridiculous expressions. These heads are modeled after real people- Henry IV’s friends in fact. Turns out one night he got all his friends and noblemen drunk, hired some artists to paint their facial expressions, and then proceeded to have these drunken expressions put onto his bridge.
Academie Française– Works on perfecting and maintaining the French language. New words are added every week and attempts at replacing adopted English words (“computer” became “ordinateur”) are created.
The Louvre- There’s a statue of Voltaire outside. His nose fell off a few years ago, and they still don’t know what to do with it. So, he’s been coated in netting ever since.
The Obelisk- the only obelisk Egypt ever gave as a gift. Every year they ask for it back in a nice letter, and France never does.
The Gran Palais- In WWII, a Nazi general was sent to Paris with the task to destroy the city. He was torn because he did not want to, yet he had to send proof back to Germany otherwise he’d be killed. So, he and some French government people came up with the solution to bomb the roof of the Gran Palais (it’s completely made of glass) and the picture would look like Paris was being bombed. It worked.
After the tour, we went to a local market, where I was finally able to find a chess set of my own! It’s handmade by the guy we bought it from; he had just finished making the board I bought when we got there 🙂 Chess set in hand, we were off for some tea and the Arc de Triumph where we also saw the eternal flame (made to commemorate those lost in WWI and WWII). Nearby, we grabbed some baguettes to go before heading back to the hostel.
Back at the hostel, we played some chess (this time with my board :)) and ate our baguettes. My comforter hadn’t been changed as I had asked, and so I then went to go get that taken care of. I was a little worried though because when I spoke to the front counter about the issue I was having with the blanket, they thought I was referring to our current roommates (I don’t think they knew the word for blanket- English wasn’t their primary language). We liked how nice our roommates were, and I didn’t want them to get in trouble for nothing. Fortunately, in the end, the front desk understood, gave me a new blanket, and left our roommates alone. That night was much better, I slept with a blanket for the first night in 2 days, and we laughed ourselves to sleep- again 🙂
The next morning, we stopped at the post office first to mail out some post cards. Afterward, we went to the Musée d’Orsay, which is actually located in an old train station. Here we saw works by Van Gogh and Degas, but my favorite part was the exhibit on 3D art pieces of an opera house and the stage sets. Following the museum, we were off to the Eiffel Tower. It’s just as beautiful as anyone could imagine, and just as big. The only surprising addition we saw was a man in a gorilla suit who was strolling about the grounds. On the tour we had the previous day, our tour guide told us that the Eiffel Tower was one of three ideas submitted for the entryway to the 1889 world fair. One of the other submissions was a giant skull that you would walk through the mouth of to enter. I think they made the right choice in the end.
After the Eiffel Tower, we went back to the Jardin des Tuilliers to lounge around. It was stunning aside from the one and only Paris skyscraper that was standing in the background. The only good part to this skyscraper is that from the top it offers wonderful views of all of Paris without ever getting the tower itself into the image. Nonetheless at the garden, it was still really cold, so we all wrapped our scarfs around our heads to keep warm, and ended up looking like a bunch of babushkas sunbathing.
That night, we grabbed some hot chocolate and returned to the Eiffel Tower where we saw its light show. I recorded it on video, and managed to capture the conversation Laura and Monika were having next to me about seizures (Monika didn’t know the English word for ‘seizure’ -her first language is German- and Laura attempts to explain it). It was funny enough that I took the time to turn it into a movie:
Eiffel Tower Conversation video
The next day, we were to head home, but first we took a quick stop at Notre Dame. We had a lot of extra time, so when we were done, we walked to Napoleon’s Tomb instead of taking the subway. It was quite a long walk, only to find in the end that admission to get it was a bit over our budget as far as wanting to see a giant coffin was concerned. We were ok with that though, and just took in some sun on the outer steps instead. For lunch, we had baguettes again; I had one with eggs on it and a side of ice-cold coca cola. Oh it was just right. It seemed to hit every satisfaction spot I had- I didn’t even know I had a spot for hard-boiled eggs!
To top off our day, we finally got to see some Paris sun and it was lovely compared to the clouds we had been getting. We really thought this was a wonderful ending to our trip, especially when compared to the first day we had had and the numerous misfortunes we had experienced one after the other. Yet, like many good things we had on this trip, they were accompanied by some bad luck as well. When we got to the bus station to take the bus to the airport, we found out that the bus for our flight had left much earlier than we expected. We ended up having to take a taxi to the airport, costing us 56 euros each 🙁
The airport we flew out of was the smallest airport I had ever flown from. It only had 4 gates; apparently it had been used as a military airport in WWII. Once back in Italy, we also ended up having to pay for the more expensive train so that we could get back to Pesaro in time to catch the last bus back to Urbino. As if the 56 euro taxi wasn’t enough you know? Not like it mattered- by the time we got to Pesaro, the 8:55 bus decided to be non-existent. We ended up waiting for the 9:55. Looks like Misfortune was a frequent visitor on traveling to and from Paris. Oh well.
At this point, Alex showed up, having just gotten off a train from Venice. He had gone with his archiving class to Venice for a few days to see some of the famous archives there. He took us down to a gelato shop that was surprisingly still open near the shore. I got banana and cream flavored gelato- and the cream tasted like the filling from a Boston Cream donut! OH it was SO good 🙂 It was a lovely touch to what had been our difficult return.
In the end, we made it home safely. I even had the pleasure of discovering that one of my textbooks for my summer classes had arrived several weeks early! How lucky 🙂
Till next time!