Thursday, March 02, 2006

"Tell Us about Paris!" Day Three (Friday)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Friday started with a phone call that jarred me from my sleep, as the phone was right next to my head. Jim was calling to inform us that Doug, the last member of the party, had arrived that morning. We kicked it into high gear to hastily get ready, then met them downstairs. Lyle was abstaining from the trip to Montmartre/Sacre Coeur, so it was the four of us who went seeking coffee and a little snack since Doug had just gotten off a plane.

We found this tiny little dive, playing MTV France, ordered our coffees and had a seat at the back of the room. When I say dive, I'm envoking the memories of the Mets Club in Isesaki, Gunma, my friend Yukiko's favorite bar, and a tiny little room of mostly regular who shared the kareoke machine with the foreigners that seemed to gather there almost every night. I'm talking small, cramped, and a bathroom so old that it makes you hesitate about using it. But the coffee was excellent, individually made—as all good Parisan coffee is—and served up with a little crossiant.

While Jim quizzed Doug about his time in New York, Madonna's Sorry and Robbie Williams' Advertising Space played out over our heads. It was one of those places you'd think twice about going into, get weird looks from you friends when you admit that you did, but feel welcome and pleasantly surprised by what you found. Ok, I freely admit, that the good fortune of a Robbie Williams video playing while we were in there made a noticiably favorable impression on me. Usually I have to see those on DVDs we've dug through Ameoba Records's used room to find.

After we were happily caffienated, we ventured down into the depths of Paris—the metro. Now, since KT and I spent the majority of our only full day in London together trying to navigate the London Underground—a line shut down as we were waiting to take it—I have reservations about subways. Fortunately, nothing like that happened this trip. If anything, we had excellent metro karma.

Pausing at the historic, Moulin Rouge, we snapped a photo or two, and then began making our way through Montmartre—the district made famous by the movie Amelie—towards Sacre Coeur. Jim was on a quest to find La Place Dalida—she was Madonna before there was a Madonna, you know. We had been unsuccessful on our last trip, but this time he found it. Arriving just after a group of tourists and having to wait until someone else finished group the bust's bus—breast to have his photo taken.

Then it was up through the streets, towards the top of the hill. We paused at the Artist's Square, to do a tour around at the lovely but very expensive art, while various characiture artists tried to get us to stop.

Our journey to Sacre Coeur reminded me of how much better shape I was in my last visit to Paris, and when we finally found the massive white stone catherdal, I was even more apprehensive about climbing all those stairs to the top.

We waited in line, gave our euroes to the nuns, and began the climb up the narrowest spiral staircase in Paris. It's a thing of punishment. Dark, clastrophobic to those who aren't normally clastrophobic, and it seems to go up and up forever. The stairs at Notre Dame have little resting places, Sacre Coeur only has rests between staircases. Once you wind your way up, there's more stairs as you journey across the roof and then up again to the tower. With the wind blowing even harder than it was at Notre Dame, it's quite the experience. Not to mention a graffiti-tastic journey. Almost every inch of the final viewing area has names scratched or scawled over it. Paris is odd that way, they don't make any attempts to paint over all the graffiti, so it's like you really are leaving a mark that people will see for years to come how Miko, Aiko, and Momoko from Japan were at the top of Sacre Coeur in 2001.

After Sacre Coeur, we hopped back on the metro to go meet Lyle at the Opera House (the old beautiful one, not the frigheningly modern one.) Lyle had already been walking around, but since Doug and I wanted to go in, he consented to go back inside. There KT, in her brilliance, got the two of us in for the reduced student price. I produced to look around, spazzing, because I just OMG read about this place in The Phantom of the Opera. Cue the complete lit geek moments of "OMG THAT'S BOX 5!" and "That chandelier would totally kill people." (Seriously, the thing is immense. It's hardcore.) The Opera is this beautifully overdone bit of asthetic indulgence that borders on being gaudy, but somehow pulls it off. I'm serious. You go in this one room and every surface is covered with ornate decoration. It's like Versailles, but contained in a small enough building that your senses don't overload.

But it's just... it's mind-blowing to comprehend the decadence of that era and how it's all been preserved. People take care of their things in Paris. How else can you explain 200 year old light fixtures that look like they're brand new?

After being awed by the interior, and completely mezmerized by the shiniest gold statue in all of Paris atop the opera house, we made our way towards the famous Galeries Lafayette. I always thought they were some kind of art museum. I was wrong. They're expensive department stores.

At the slightly less pricely Au Printemps, we climbed to the top floor to have lunch. The place was not somewhere we'd been before, but had been recommended for its view. Yes, its view and not its food, which made all of us sick. It was bad cafeteria food in a city where you think bad food doesn't exist. (We found it. My stomach is turning thinking about it.)

After the lunch, Lyle decided he would meet us at Hotel De Ville at 4:00 pm. So Doug, Jim, Katy, and I looked around Zara and H&M. We noticed that a combination of bad food & red wine was taking its toll on KT. She was pale, her eyes weepy, and she looked like she might pass out. Ever the trooper, she assured us she was ok, she didn't want to spoil anyone's plans. Jim told her it didn't spoil his plans if she went back to the hotel and had a nap, so we put her in a cab and sent her off.

Between this and the distractions of stores, we were late to meet at Hotel De Ville. Deciding we could walk, we were caught in a hail storm and had to seek shelter by The Louvre. A little late, we almost missed Lyle, but managed to meet up with him for another trip in search of our new favorite patissirie on Ille-de-la-citie. I made them stop at Les Fruits du Temps again, and purchased a necklace. With Quiche Laurene in our stomachs, we did our best to find a coffee shop, but the reoccuring problem of Lyle and I being intolorant to cigarette smoke kept us pushing on. We found ourselves back at Cafe des Philosophes, where we sat ourside by a heater and drank coffee with our gloves on. It started to rain again, but we had an umbrella.

In between the rain, it warmed up considerably and was very humid. The walking and wearing a suddenly far too warm winter coat left me feeling a little faint, and I had to ask to sit down in one of the stores. The incredibly kind owner made sure that I was all right, and even offered to call a doctor. (I never thought to tell him that I'm that pale all the time.)

Back at the hotel, I coaxed KT into admitting that maybe it was just bad food or an allergy to red wine, and maybe the stress of her final year had caught up to her. We talked about it, and I think she started to feel better after that. She seemed to have more fun.

Our evening meal took us back to a little restaurant opposite the library we'd discovered the day before. No one had been able to recall the name, but as soon as we were inside I recognized the distinctive red walls. It was the same restaurant we'd had our first Parisan dinner on the trip previous.

Les Petits Marseillais (first review) is one restaurant I don't hesitate to fully endorse. Fantastic food—the best entree I had in Paris was their specialty, the Petits Marseillais steak.

We walked home, unable to hail a cab on the side streets as you have to go to a taxi stand to get one. It was 1 am, and we wanted to get some sleep, since we had reservations at Jules Verne for Doug's birthday lunch the next day.


Sorcha Chumomisto said...

i wish i could afford to travel.

scratch that. i could afford to travel, if i could manage to save my moneies ever.

KT said...


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