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2002.10.05 Paris: Day One

This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series Paris 2002

We flew in over Ireland and Great Britain, I believe i noted the time as 6:05AM (Paris time) at the moment the in-flight display showed the little image of our plane intersecting with the westernmost shores of Ireland. Our fastest ground speed throughout the flight (that i'd noted) was around 623mph. Our highest altitude for the flight was around 39,000ft.

Flying in over France as dawn broke, i noticed a very solid cloud layer beneath us. It looked like a nearly infinite purple, red, and grey coating of undulating spray insulation.

We landed at Charles de Gaulle only a few minutes after the in-flight display's arrival time estimates and nearly 20 minutes earlier than the officially given arrival time (which, after taxiing to the terminal made it very nearly accurate despite the fact that we'd taken off from Newark more than 10 minutes late).

After arrival, I managed to find my way to the baggage claim area, but still had to wait 20 minutes before my bag sheepishly crawled it's way down the luggage belt.

Having only gotten a total of maybe 2.5 hours (interrupted) sleep, and only 5 hours the night before, I was quite tired. I dragged myself out into the arrival area where I was sure I'd find the gate that had been pre-arranged as a meeting spot with one of my sister's friends who was flying in 10 minutes earlier on a flight from DC.

I walked around for 20 minutes before finally admitting that the gate numbers made no sense and searching out help.

Being in a foreign city, on your first international trip, and not speaking the native language is not really a social confidence booster. The information I received was that I was at the wrong terminal for the meeting gate, and that i'd have to take a bus to Terminal 1.I was not told (or didn't understand) how or where to catch this bus, so I spent another 20 minutes or more trying to flag it down as it passed me (several times) where i was standing in the wrong place.

I finally bit the bullet and asked another stranger (first, if they spoke english) where exactly I needed to be to catch Ligne 1.

I found the appropriate place to stand, and boarded the bus for Terminal 1. Once there I quickly located the meeting gate, fully aware of the fact that I was now nearly 2 hours behind schedule. I made several half-hearted attempts to find my sister's friend (we'll call her "Laura," since that's her name), having only a poor picture of her that my sister had sent. I attempted to have the info desk page her, but they said they couldn't do that. After a few more passes through the area of the meeting gate, I bought a phone card, dug out Sara's home number, and made the call for a rescue party.

Andrew (my sis's fiance) found me (after his hour-long walk & bus ride to the airport), made his own quick check around the Terminal for Laura (since she'd still not called him as of the time he left the house), and then we hopped the bus into Paris.

Walking from the bus stop to their house, Andrew & I talked about all sorts of strange things as he pointed out landmarks or other things of interest that were visible from our route–the Arc de Triomphe being the first & most noticeable.

At Andrew & Sara's "very bourgeois" apartment, I eagerly plopped my tired ass on the sofa and agreed to whatever ideas for "things to do later" that he threw at me. At that point, i was in a daze and just happy to be stationary and sitting on something comfortable.

Having to go run errands, Andrew left me at the apt. to recoup and catch a short nap. I think I got about an hour in, and while I felt very zombie-like when initally waking up, I felt very refreshed and ready-to-go once I was lucid again.

We walked down to the nearest Metro station (one block away) and he kindly purchased me a 10-pack of tickets ("un carnet du dix" or something like that). Then we stepped on down into my first ever subway. Paris' metro seems very clean and new, as they apparently keep a good schedule of equipment replacement and station remodelling. We took the Metro to St. Michel, where we were to meet Paulo & Luigi. There's a large sculpture/fountain there that was, apparently through some great effort, grafittied all the way up on St. Michel's chest.

[map]Once Paulo and Luigi arrived, we walked down to the Jardin du Luxembourg. Being a beautiful sunny day, there were many people in the Garden, which was large and quite beautiful itself. After the Garden, we walked up and around looking for a nice cafe where we could sit and have a drink. I believe we finally found one near Odéon. We settled for a while and drank and talked. Once we had finalized the evening's plans and were ready to head out, we boarded the Metro and took it most of the way home.

Luigi, an Italian, had agreed to cook for us, so we stopped at a grocery for whatever ingredients Andrew & Sara didn't have on hand in the house. It was actually a rather large grocery, which Luigi & Andrew pointed out is somewhat unusual in Paris–a city where street vendors set up nearly everywhere to sell fruits, vegetables, and fresh fish. After provisioning ourselves, we walked back to the apt where we chilled out for a while before Luigi got started on dinner. Having the rare (for me, anyway) opportunity to observe a native Italian preparing a pasta dish, I watched, questioned, and learned. Needless to say, the finished meal ("bowtie" pasta with onions, courgettes (zucchini), tomato, and tuna) was quite tasty. We also had a bottle of Commanderie de la Bargemone Coteaux d'Aix en Provence–a rose.

After dinner, Paulo showed back up (having split from the gang earlier to "get some work done") and we discussed where to go for drinks. We ended up Metroing to the Champs Élysées and walking down from the Arc de Triomphe to Rue Washington looking for a reasonable bar/cafe with outdoor seating. Finding nothing there and getting further and further from the apartment (we figured we'd be walking home) we worked our way back to the Champs Élysées, then further west. We ended up finally going south again, towards the Seine, and walked for a while down Av. Montaign–a particularly "posh" (the word of the evening) street where the richer socialites come to avoid the general Parisian rabble (Luigi thoroughly enjoyed explaning this aspect of Av. Montaign to me, and pointing out the extremely well dressed doormen–a.k.a. bouncers–guarding some of the places we passed). On this street, you couldn't get in certain clubs unless you were already well known there (or, i assume unless you heavily greased a palm or two), a salad might cost you 32 Euros, and where an outfit with a feathery, jewel-encrusted purse costs 1,300€, the shoes are 500€, and the dress is 3,000€.

We did eventually find a place to sit, talk, and drink, and a shot of Jameson's cost 8€.

[map]After drinks, we headed home.

While i was writing this, my sis showed up–post bachelorette party–with crazy makeup on her face ("it's a bachelorette ritual thing"); a tight, revealing, and rather gaudy blouse; and the smell of wine heavy on her breath. Apparently, they'd spent their evening at a strip club, which Paulo had taken great pleasure in teasing Andrew about earlier in the evening.

It's now 4:35 am Paris time, 9/22. I've had maybe 8 hours sleep in the last 36 hours… it's way past bed-time.

Oh, final thought on Day One–Andrew, Paulo, and Luigi were all suitably impressed with my post international flight stamina. I think they all expected me to shut down no later than 10:00PM.


there's day one. after this inital feeling of being the conqueror of jetlag, i proceeded to get proven wrong over the following days.

- 08:10 pm - PL :: 1 Comment
categories ::  Family - Happy/Love - Travel


2002.10.09 Paris: Day Two

This entry is part 2 of 9 in the series Paris 2002

Sara (my beloved sis) brutally began waking me up around 1 or 1:30pm, and let me tell you: it was not a pleasant experience. After the previous day's walking, my body was sore and tired. After the previous 2 days with little sleep, I did not even want to consider waking up.

But, we were scheduled to meet some of Sara's friends at the train station, so I had little choice. We were also meeting Luigi for brunch a little bit later.

I got up & wearily dressed & prepared for the day. We left shortly thereafter and boarded the Metro bound for the train station. At the station (which is just huge) we met Laura & Margaret, and talked briefly with them before they got on their train to Deauville. Then, we took another Metro to le Marais.

Our destination in the Marais district was a particular cafe that is apparently a favorite of Paulo's, and we met up with Luigi at the intersection of the side street where the cafe was located. Apparently however, the cafe has closed and been replaced by an Italian restaurant.

So, the plans changed, we wandered le Marais for a short while, looking for a good place for brunch.

Now, Sara had described le Marais to me as the "gay jewish" section of Paris, and, while i really didn't notice any of the latter, the former were certainly present in abundance.

Eventually, we found a nice (but very crowded) restaurant where we could sit and have brunch. The brunch menu consisted of a basket of very good breads, 2 large salads with sliced ham, sliced smoked (practically raw) ham, sliced smoked salmon (again, practically raw), and three cheeses. Each salad was meant to be shared by two people. There were also scrambled eggs, which were brought out after the salad, and "unlimited hot drink"–meaning, basically any of the hot drinks on their menu, of which i chose cappuccino. The cappuccino was excellent, very smooth–not bitter or gritty (unlike most cappuccino's i've had in american coffee shops). The rest of the brunch was equally tasty.

At some point during the meal, Sara & Luigi started speaking Italian. It is a bit funny how i came all the way to Paris, but seemed to hear more English and Italian than French. Of course, that has more to do with Sara's friends than anything. And of course, my sister is apparently trying to add a fifth language to the collection of languages that she at least partially knows.

After brunch, we walked from our restaurant in le Marais, down to the Rue de Rivoli, and down the Rivoli to the Louvre. We entered the Louvre near it's center and walked into it's giant courtyard. From there, we walked roughly east through the middle of the courtyard, and into the Jardin des Tuileries. This garden was extraordinarily huge, and we walked slowly, enjoying the weather and surroundings.

About halfway through the garden, Luigi left us to go study or work on something, and Sara, Andrew, and I continued on. At the end of the garden, Sara suggested we go into a little shop so i could attempt to find some souvenirs for friends back home. The only thing of interest was a planting kit for Absinthe, but I know that at least the drink is illegal in the states, so i warily decided not to purchase it.

We stopped to sit so Sara could make a phone call, and enjoyed one of the best views of Paris i've seen so far–aside, perhaps, from the view from the central statue of the Louvre where you can see all the way through the Jardin des Tuileries to the Obelisque and up the Champs Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. After this brief pause, we left the garden and walked down to and along the Seine for a short bit before catching a bus towards home.

[map]Of course, the bus was horribly crowded and only became more so as we went on, so we got off after a very short ride and finished the rest of the journey on foot.

Once home, and with a glass of Vin d'Alsace Tokay Pinot Gris in my hand, i felt like listening to a little Jazz, and put on a Louis Armstrong/Duke Ellington CD and began drawing the maps from yesterday's journeys. Sara has since given me my own personal map, so i'll just mark my routes on it from here on out.

After a couple hours, Paulo showed up and we all hung out & talked for a bit. We were supposed to be going to their friend Michael's house for a farewell dinner (for him, since he's returning to Germany tomorrow), but he was still at work, so we had to wait longer than we expected. Paulo requested music, and Sara (loving sister that she is) suggested I play the lucifigous prick demo for them. All the explanations were made regarding the recording quality and overzealous use of vocal effects, but they seemed to not hate it (much to my surprise, considering the estimation i'd made of their probable musical tastes). Paulo's eventual comment later at dinner (which echoes the comments of others) was "it was not as bad as i expected." tee hee. I think he was mainly referring to the fact that he was expecting a more loud, heavy, satanic metal sort of sound.

Eventually, Michael called back and said he was finished and that we should proceed to his place. Andrew bowed out (at this point, it was probably 10 or 10:30) since he has to wake up at 5 to meet his family at the airport.

So Paulo, Sara, and I set out for the 17th Arrondisment and Michael's place. We walked part of the way (after taking the Metro) on the Rue de Levis, but i can't remember if that was the street Michael lived on or if it was something else. Rue de Levis stuck out for the obvious reasons.

At Michael's, i got to give my first bissous (french cheek kisses, for lack of a better description) to a stranger (his landlady) who was having dinner with us. I also at this point got introduced to some french dining customs. At the french dinner table, it is not the food that gets passed around, but the diner's plates. Whoever is closest to a particular dish is placed in charge of serving it. I think i made a minor error in etiquette when i served the dish i was in charge of to myself first, though no one but my sister mentioned it (and she only mentioned it by whispering to me "you have to serve everyone else too").

The dinner was pleasant, the food was excellent, and everyone made an effort to speak primarily in english for my benefit. I think, however, that Marie (the landlady) doesn't speak english, so the english talk was occasionally translated for her just as the occasional french was for me. Of course, the German that my sister and Michael were bandying about wasn't translated for anyone, but i'll just chalk that up to my sister's language geekiness.

With dinner, we had an initial glass of champagne, then two different Bordeaux towards the end and with desert. After dessert there was coffee. After coffee, Michael 2 (there were two Michaels present, both were Marie's lodgers) and Paulo convinced Michael to play a little on the piano, which he happily did until the neighbors complained. After that, it was nearly time to catch the last Metro back home.

We walked back down Levis and left Paulo, who was going to catch a Taxi home, at the Metro station Villiers. We rode to the end of the line (Port Dauphine) which is less than 1 block from Sara & Andrew's apartment. Tomorrow will be my first day alone in the city, since everyone has to work. I think I have the Metro figured out at this point, for the most part, but I'm still apprehensive about having to interact with people without a designated voice. We'll see if I manage to get anything to eat tomorrow on my own…

and there's day two. boy, when i "document experiences" i really don't fuck around, do i? i know there's not a lot of "impression" and "observation" in these things, these tended to be mainly me trying to get the facts of the day down before i forgot them. they're a bit… broken up seeming, i guess, jumping from one event to the next, mentioning things but glossing over them at the same time. my plan was (and is) to write a final entry basically telling how i felt about the whole thing, along with some of my other observations.

also, if you're reading this Wednesday night/Thursday morning, i plan to get some pictures (which i left at work this evening) online and linked in to certain parts in these entries as well. Then, of course, i'll do a general gallery that i'll hopefully get online by the end of the week or mid next-week. 11 rolls of film. gonna have to sift a bit.

** updated ** i've got some photos in the mix now. enjoy.

- 10:27 pm - PL :: 5 Comments
categories ::  Family - Friends - Happy/Love - Lucifigous Prick - Music - Society - Travel


2002.10.14 Paris: Day Three

This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series Paris 2002

Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Today was my first day "on my own" in Paris, so, of course, I did the classic Matt maneuver of getting in a good 12 hour sleep. It doesn't help that i've been staying up until 4:30 – 5:00 in the morning. Add to that the lack of an alarm clock, et voilà, sleep city.

So i woke up a bit depressed and embittered, slowly smoked a few cigarettes, had a bit of old baguette with olive oil & pepper, then attempted to call Sara on her cell.

About 20 minutes after calling her, Andrew showed up from work and began preparing dinner, which was to be in two hours. I decided that 2 hours was a little too short a time for me to go walking about, so i just grabbed a book and sat for a while.

Sara got home a bit later, then Andrew's parents arrived for the dinner. Andrew made fajitas which were quite good. His parents were pleasant and enjoyable company, and it was good to meet my sister's soon-to-be inlaws.

After dinner and a bit of digestion time, i decided to go ahead and do some of the walking I'd planned for earlier today. Andrew & Sara scuttled off to bed, and after a 20 minute fight with a broken zipper on my backpack, I got on my way towards the Arc de Triomphe for some night photos.

On my way down Faisanderie and down Av. Bugeaud, I had to avoid a few prostitutes (both male & female), and merely mumbled a quiet "bonsoir" to one particular girl who shouted "Hi!" to me in a bright cheerful voice. I was making excellent use of brax's city-stride, walking fast without (hopefully) looking like i was trying to.

At some point, i lost my bearings and turned off Av. Foch, if, indeed, i was ever on it, and arrived somehow on Raymond Poincare and walked down to the Place de Victor Hugo. i attempted to reorient myself with the help of my map, but ended up walking down Victor Hugo in the wrong direction anyway. i ended up at Av. Henry Martin before i realized my error, and turned around there & headed back up Victor Hugo.

Of course, had i been thinking properly, i could have gone on to the Trocadero for night-shots of the Eiffel Tower, but i was too set on the Arc as my primary destination.

I finally made it to the Arc & tried to get several shots from unobstructed perspectives, but i'm afraid most of them will be worthless. I also had left my wide-angle lens back at the apt., so I wasn't really able to get any full shots. i seem to be taking a lot of panoramas anyway, so i guess it just fits the photographic theme for this trip anyway.

Once i was mostly satisfied with the number of pictures taken, I set off down the Champs Élysées. Again, had i been thinking more clearly, or planned ahead a little better, i could have taken a number of much straighter shots to the Eiffel.

About halfway down the Champs Élysées, I turned right onto Av. Montaigne, the expensive street from the first night's adventures. Along the way, I found the expensive dress, shoes, and purse, and got a couple pictures of them for entertainment value.

At the end of Montaigne, I passed the cafe where we'd sat for drinks and crossed over to Av. de President Wilson.

Originally, i was going to walk up to the Trocadero, but i checked the time and realized that i really should get home & to bed (it's now four hours later as i write this… so much for good intentions). So i veered off onto Longchamp and walked the rest of the way home.

Just before i reached Faisanderie, a man turned and called out to me (in French, of course) and the suddenness of having to interact blew what little french i had straight out of my mind. "No parlez français," i replied.

No matter, he knew enough english to request a cigarette, said "merci" several times, and then was on his way. I didn't think to ask if he needed a light as well, and i couldn't think of a way to say "it's nothing" in French (or "you're welcome" for that matter.)

[map]I got home shortly thereafter and took a few outside shots of the apt. before going inside.

Tomorrow i need to get some more Metro tickets and get out of the 16th for a while. After lunch with Sara, anyway.

a shorter one today, as i ended up screwing up most of that day by sleeping or getting lost. c'est la vie.

- 11:51 pm - PL :: 4 Comments
categories ::  Family - Happy/Love - Society - Travel - Upset/Dislike


2002.10.21 Paris: Day Four

This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series Paris 2002

i actually managed to get up early enough today to go meet Sara for lunch, and we went to a little place near her work & got some regular French food (i.e. not fancy, but still decidedly French). i was struggling with the concept that i would look "silly" if i ordered coffee with the meal. it's been four days, and i think i've had maybe six cups of coffee, four of those being espressos. What i wouldn't give for a good cup of Kroger brand automatic-drip right now. i've been staving off the cravings with Earl Grey since Sara showed me where her teapot and tea stash were.

Anyway, after lunch, Sara headed for home since she wasn't feeling well and was taking a half-day off of work. i headed to the Trocadero for a good look at the Eiffel Tower.

It is quite a site walking out on the terrace of the Palais de Challot and getting the first full-on unobstructed view of the Tower. Of course the Trocadero is a major tourist attraction, so i didn't allow myself to feel like a heel for grabbing my camera and taking several shots.

Interesting thing was, as i was meandering on the terrace, 2 couples and one giddy little Asian youth asked me to take pictures of them standing on the terrace with the Tower in the background. i briefly debated asking them to return the favor, but decided that pictures of me with the Tower would be silly. if i regret that decision later, i can always drag my brother down there and have him take some.

After some pics from the terrace, i walked down the steps toward the Tower. Crossing one of the streets, i found a vendor selling souvenirs, and i made my first souvenir purchase of the trip.

i crossed the Seine and approached the Tower. At the intersection of roads running in front, i stood at the corner and took several more photos. Then i walked down along the Seine to the Place de la Resistance, where i searched for a bit before finding the dog-shit sign my sister had told me about at lunch. i took some pics of it for her.

Next, i crossed the Seine again, stopping to take a few shots of the river, then went back to the little cafe from my first night in Paris–my first official Parisian navigational landmark.

i stopped at the cafe and successfully ordered "un caf?" without having to resort to english. i sat for a while and rested from my walk.

After coffee, i set out initially to find a Metro station so i could buy some more tickets. i didn't actually find the station i was looking for, and figured back-tracking to an uncertain location would be a waste of time. i pressed on, heading for the Arc de Triomphe.

i got there with no troubles, and took several daylight shots of the arc which, since i'd remembered my wide-angle lens this time, included some full views instead of the partial views i got last night.

Satisfied with the number of pictures and feeling body-tired, i walked down Av. Foch towards "home." Before i turned onto Faisanderie, i walked down to the nearby Metro station and bought my new tickets.

[map]Once i got home, i realized i was completely exhausted and didn't want to go back out immediately, so i hung out with sis, read a book, and had dinner with Sara & Andrew a bit later. After dinner, and after washing dishes, the debate raged… go out now for only an hour or a little more, or read and go to bed early…

i decided to stay in for the night to give my muscles a little break, and so i can get to sleep at a "more reasonable" hour. Of course, it's now 2:14 am… which, by some standards is still quite unreasonable.

But hey, at least i'm finishing my journal entry at 2:15, instead of just getting started on it.

and thus went my most "productive" day in Paris. it was a good day.

- 10:11 pm - PL :: 11 Comments
categories ::  Family - Happy/Love - Raves - Travel - Upset/Dislike


2002.11.11 Paris: Day Five

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series Paris 2002

Didn't wake up today until 1:30pm, which isn't as bad as Day 2, but still set me back a bit. After taking a shower & doing Sara's laundry, it was well into 4:00pm and I was looking forward to a nice leisurely walk around Montmartre. I called Sara in an attempt to see if I could stop by her office to use the internet, but ended up reaching her at Paulo's where she was napping before prepping dinner.

I'd forgotten all about dinner, which was to be at 7:30pm. All I could think was "another day wasted in Paris."

I did find out from her all the details pertinent to dinner, like Paulo's address and the codes to enter his building. She also told me of a little internet shop on Rue de la Pompe where i could get online.

After finishing the laundry, I set out for the shop. I found it with no problems (i'm finally really getting the hang of navigating Paris' streets), and signed on. I attempted to activate international roaming on my phone, wrote a post for my weblog, and checked my email. No email from Katrina (co-worker) yet, so I guess either there's no company news or she's just forgotten to email me.

After fighting with the french keyboard for 20 minutes or so (very difficult for a touch typist to adjust to a completely foreign layout), I got done what i needed to do and set out for the next half of my stroll. Being 5:30pm or so, I decided to just head in the general direction of Paulo's.

I figured i'd stop at a cafe along the way for a croissant & coffee. I made my way somewhat aimlessly, which I enjoyed since i knew i was heading in the right direction. Of course, I did check the map frequently to make sure i was still on track.

Eventually, I found a nice place, and sat down, ordered a cappuccino & croissant, and read for a bit. This was probably one of the my most perfect moments in Paris. I was… unencumbered. No longer ill at ease with not knowing the language, fairly certain of where i was and where i was going (in a physical sense at least, if not in the sense of "in my life" in general), and didn't feel rushed to get there.

You could say that I finally just enjoyed the moment–being an American in Paris, sitting in a cafe surrounded by Parisians, drinking coffee, and chuckling quietly to myself as I read a book by one of my favorite authors.

I sat for a while until the waiter came out and gave me change, then leisurely got up and started on my way again.

I found Av. Mozart (my next "checkpoint") fairly quickly and started down towards Paulo's. Generally, as i've walked around Paris, i've looked at the shops on both sides of the street and occasionally at people as they'd pass.

About halfway to Rue Jasmin, I happened to look across the street to see a man who looked remarkably like my father. I looked back again, and realized that it was my father… and my mother, and my little brother. I hesitated briefly before deciding to cross the street and greet them.

Fate can certainly play strange cards sometimes, or as mom said (to which my dad, surprisingly enough, laughed)…(and i have no idea how to interpret that) "God watches out for us."

Anyway, as it turns out, the family & Kristin & Ryan were–for all intents and purposes–lost. They knew where they were, but they weren't sure where they were supposed to be going. They had bought one phone card that didn't work, then a second phone card that worked but wouldn't allow them to call Sara's cell phone. They were, in a word, stuck. Out of options, they were going to start trying to call peoples' work numbers (at 6:30pm, at shot in the dark at best).

So, here I am and here they are, fortune smiling down upon us. I noticed them, so one must wonder on whom fortune had laid her biggest hand.

In any event, family and friends successfully rescued by Fate, or God, or both; we proceeded to Paulo's without further incident. Dinner went wonderfully, the two families meeting for the first time.

After dinner, my plan was to make up for lost time and to go walk Montmartre. Of course, my little bro is like a lamprey at times and insisted on going with me. So, i went back to Sara's place with the fam., and we waited for Kristin and Ryan to show up with their luggage.

Once it got past 10:45, I realized that it would be much too late to get any decent time at all in Montmartre, since the last metro would be between 12:30 and 1:00 at the latest.

So, plans foiled once again, I got a head start on my journal and map notations.

Hopefully, tomorrow i'll get to walk around Montmartre before the 5 pm train to Deauville. There is still so much of Paris I haven't seen (& it is mostly my own fault, wasting three days), so it's pretty much certain that I will have to return when the days aren't so stressful for my sister, and when I can afford it.

I've also realized that the trip would have been much better with a companion. Someone who could ensure I get up and go to bed at a decent hour.

As much as it's nice to have Paris one-on-one (or one-on-2-million, depending on your point-of-view), it would also be nice to share it with someone.

- 07:49 pm - PL :: 9 Comments
categories ::  Computers/Tech - Family - Friends - Love Life - Travel - Upset/Dislike


2002.11.16 Paris: Day Six

This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series Paris 2002

(last day in Paris)

Was forced to get up quite early since Andrew's siblings were coming to make use of the Apartment. It was quite a circus with almost two full families in the place. We all shared a little breakfast, then we all set off to go exploring Montmartre (and other areas) together.
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We first went to the Sacre Couer, then to a little market area nearby. After that, we found a little restaurant and all crowded into a back room for lunch.
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15]

After lunch, I split from the pack & went back to the market area to see what souvenirs i could find. In the market square was a large restaurant area, surrounded on the outside by painter's (and other artisans) booths. They were all sitting there painting away, with many other samples of their work there on display for sale.

Unfortunately, as far as souvenir shopping goes, Montmartre wasn't a great place to find "esoteric" or "unique" gifts. It was mainly all the standard stuff, and mainly stuff that i didn't really feel was worth the prices asked. So, in the end, I think i ended up getting stuff for Joyce, Paul, Brax, and that's about it.

Now, my brother and I were scheduled to catch a 6:00pm train to Deauville, and I still wanted to get back to the Louvre again to get some pictures and to sit & sketch the view (an experiment that failed miserably). So i didn't get to just walk around Montmartre like I wanted to, since i spent most of my time there souvenir shopping. I did finally go catch the Metro to the Louvre, walked through the Jardin des Touilleries to the central plaza of the Louvre. I got a few pics from there, then walked back through the Garden to the viewing spot we'd found on our previous trip through.
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

After a couple failed attempts to sketch the scene, I just chilled out for a bit before catching the Metro to St. Lazare.

I actually got to the station early, so had to stand around and wait for the family to show up. They did, finally, the tickets were purchased, and Javan & I were on our way.

I think it was the first train ride for both of us, so we enjoyed the experience. We ended up taking lots of photos along the way, probably none of which will turn out.
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Once we finally got to Deauville and found the street we wanted, I slapped him on the back and said "well, you're 15 now. I think you can handle seeing me smoke." (it was actually his birthday, so he'd literally just turned 15) I pulled out a cigarette and lit up. "But, if i ever catch you or hear of you smoking, I'll kick your ass."
[1] [2]

We found the "American House"–the place where my sister used to live that is owned by the exchange education program–and we got to meet the "Deauville girls" (and Jason)

We sat around with them for a while, the plan previously being that the parents (who were being driven to Deauville) should arrive before Javan and I. Since they hadn't shown up, and didn't show up for 30 – 45 minutes, we decided to go on across the street to the restaurant.

We waited for probably another 45 minutes or so, then just went on ahead and ordered. The pizzas were wonderful and very richly flavored. The pie i ordered had ham, cheese, and mushrooms, and was exquisite. The ham used was the French style ham which is smoked/very lightly cooked, not the cold-cut type we're used to.

The parents and Andrew & Sara all eventually did show up, but didn't join us for dinner.

Javan had some Kir & got his picture taken with all the Deauville girls–in France, on his birthday, while his schoolmates were in class. He was getting a big kick out of being the "coolest guy in his school."

After dinner, we went back over to the American house & hung out with Jason for a few more hours until we were afraid our parents just wouldn't let us in the hotel room if we stayed later.

Oh, and it was hilarious during dinner, getting to watch the whole scene with Margaret and her "boy" that's she'd had a year-long crush on.

She'd explained it a little before, but when we got to the pizza place, she was just freaking out. It was a total trip to watch. Plus, of course, all her friends were egging her on, but she couldn't talk to him on her own.

Eventually, as we were checking out, Jason talked to the guy and told him that "it's now or never", then basically dragged Margaret over to talk to him.

They set up a date for the following night, and Margaret was about to explode with excitement.

All in all, one of the funniest things I've seen in a while.

Oh, and it was (as i mentioned earlier) my little bro's 15th birthday. The Deauville girls (& Jason) had a cake for Javan, and there was a little celebration for him after dinner.

- 03:54 pm - PL :: 8 Comments
categories ::  Birthday - Family - Friends - Happy/Love - Society - Travel


2002.12.07 Paris: Day Seven

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series Paris 2002

I woke up around 10:30 am or 11 and took a nice long hot bath (since there was no stall or curtain on the shower/bathtub.) [view from the hotel window]

About 12:30, I set out to walk around Deauville, and got lunch at a little restaurant (the Catelain, I think). I ordered a ham & mozarella sandwich on baguette. The waitress brought it out to me and it looked delicious.

About three minutes after I'd dug in, the waitress walked by again with another plate. As she walked by, she glanced at my plate, then the one she was carrying, and realized with a start that she'd given me the wrong thing. She took my half-eaten plate and replaced it with the new plate. So, i ended up with 1.5 lunches for the price of one… not a bad deal, especially when they were both so damned tasty.

As i was finishing my coffee after the meal, Andrew's siblings strolled up, saw me, and stopped to chat. They explained that they were on their way to the beach, and invited me to come with them. Since that was going to by my next destination anyway, I consented.

Once at the beach, we found a nice place to sit on the boundary wall, and they stopped to have their lunch. We sat and talked for a while as they ate, and we admired the beautiful view.

After they ate, we took off our shoes (most of us, anyway) and went to walk along the shoreline. I waded out into the surf a very small distance, and found that the water was extremely cold. Nevertheless, i "toughed it out" and continued to walk along in the edge of the surf. After a few minutes, my feet were cold enough that i didn't notice it anymore.

We continued to walk down the beach, me in the shallow surf, while they stayed away from the water's edge. The beach, especially at the edge of the water, was composed more of pulverized shells than of sand.

I collected a few whole shells I found along the way, and took several photos of the view from the beach, the shoreline, and I think i got several nice shots of my sister's in-laws-to-be.

We stayed on the beach for a few hours, finally leaving around 4:00pm. When I left the beach, I realized we were not actually in Deauville anymore, but in (what i thought was) Trouville. Turns out, it was actually Tourganville, not Trouville. Nevertheless, I actually got in a good long walk through a small French town.

Thinking the night's big pre-wedding dinner (a full French-style dinner) was rapidly approaching, I stopped off at the hotel room to see if the folks had made it back from their visit to Omaha beach and the American (WWII) cemetary.

Finding no sign of their presence, I left a note letting them know I'd be at the American house. I got there and just sat and chilled out for a while until dinner.

The dinner itself was splendid, with an apéritif (kir), appetizer (fish mousse), entree (baked fish–a local variety and speciality), and a huge cake of sorbét. The dinner was hosted by a friend of Sara's , who owns the hotel/restaurant next door to the American house. (l'Esperance) All the dishes were the owner/head chef's signature creations. A glorious meal, to be sure.

Lots of fun, lots of photo ops, &… more wine for my brother (this time under the direct watchful gaze of my ultra-conservative southern-baptist parents), and even comments from my own mother regarding how "dissapointed" Javan would have been had he known there were topless sunbathers on the beach.

family:  [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
family-in-law:  [1] [2]
friends:  [1] [2] [3] [4]

The ending weekend of my France trip was the single most mind-blowing weekend in my life. My parents said, did, and allowed things that would never have flown when I was Javan's age. I'll bet they've even let him buy the bad-guy action figures.

After dinner, I went out with the Deauville girls, Jason, Steven, Paulo, Marcella, Rhonda, and Kendall (minus Margaret, who was on her date). Jason was kind enough to buy my drink, since I hadn't managed to get a traveler's cheque exchanged earlier in the day.

After drinks, Laura, Jason, and Steven went to a dance club, but the rest of us bailed to prepare for the long wedding day.


ever closer to the final entries of the paris journal, which has, at this point, stretched out much much longer than i'd ever anticipated. i would like to say that i'm trying to raise the level of suspense, but that would be a load of malarkey and we all know it.

- 02:33 am - PL :: 6 Comments
categories ::  Family - Happy/Love - Travel


2003.02.20 Paris: Day Eight

This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series Paris 2002

Mom, Dad, and Javan were planning on going to the Deauville market (an open-air market of small sellers), so I walked with them first to the Tourism Office (Dad wanted some more WWII historical brochures).

I saw a bank across the street, so i split off from them to go cash a traveler's cheque.

The teller spoke little english, but after I'd signed and dated the cheque, she informed me that she couldn't cash it because the signatures didn't match my passport signature (despite the fact that she shouldn't have needed my passport signature in the first place). It was my own fault for signing the passport so hurriedly and more haphazardly than my "normal" signature.

So, utterly pissed off, I walked down to the American house for some advice. They told me of another bank, and i quickly made my way there.

I explained the situation to a teller who knew even less english (mistake #3) &, after calling and conferring with the first bank, they told me that they also could not accept it. Filled with a blood-lust and wanting to bitch-slap the teller, I restrained myself and let them know how pissed i was through a series of exasperated sighs, guttural noises, and very obvious body-language.

After this second insult, I went back to the American house and sulked for a bit in front of their TV, as the buzz of wedding preparations filled the remaining neurons that would've carried the now off-loaded animosity.

Eventually, after hanging out and watching cartoons with the boys a bit, and after running an errand, the carriage arrived that was to drive Dad & Sara around Deauville before (& to) the ceremony.
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

The wedding was officially underway.

All the participants, family, and friends met at the Mairie (Mayor's office) to await the arrival of the bride and her father.
[1] [2] [3]

On their arrival, there were some photo ops, and general confusion. Things were straightened out, and the wedding party proceeded inside.
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

The mayor conducted the ceremony entirely in french (no surprise there), and while i understood very little, i was able to follow some, & get the emotional meaning of what he was saying through inflection and expression.
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15]

Paulo is supposed to be sending an english translation of the ceremony as soon as he can.

After the ceremony and more photos (this was probably the most camera happy wedding i've ever seen), the bride and groom loaded into the 2 person carriage, and the families, best-man, bride's maid, official photographer, and the best man's "date" all loaded onto the 18 person carriage to follow the bride & groom across the countryside to the pre-reception reception at a forest adventure course.

A couple stops were made (more photos ops) on the way, and the going was slow because the 2 horses pulling our carriage were having trouble on some of the steeper hills. Once we got to the forrest course (too late to actually go through it) the horses were foaming and drenched in sweat.

But, with the course closed, the champagne flowed freely. I got drunk in front of my parents for the first time.

I assisted Laura (the official photographer) by loading a roll of black & white film into my camera (after finishing my 11th & final roll) and taking photos for her.

After helping the Deauvillians "clean up the champagne," we headed to the hotel for the reception dinner–another full french-style dinner with aperitifs by the pool, and lasting from 8:00pm 'til midnight.

At dinner, i continued to smoke & drink in front of my parents… freaky.

Immediately after dinner, the DJ started "working" with a truly strange mix of international tunes, not all of which were even "danceable." I stayed on the floor for all of maybe four songs.

Shortly after dancing, the people who were giving me a ride back to Paris told me they were ready to get out, so i said my goodbyes and followed them out the door… my last night in France was drawing to a close.

I slept part of the way on the 2 hour drive to Paris, then caught a 15 minute nap at Sara's apartment, then walked to the Air France bus stop.

The first step onto the bus was like a first step into reality after a long daydream.

I didn't want to go home.

- 01:47 am - PL :: 1 Comment
categories ::  Angry/Hate - Family - Friends - Happy/Love - Rants - Travel


2003.02.27 Paris: Final Thoughts, Feelings, and Observations

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Paris 2002

One of my personal philosophies that I've developed and repeatedly referenced in the last 10 or so years is that "every place is the same." I suppose this is akin to the phrase "no matter where you go, there you are."

Essentially, the idea is that every place has the same components. They may be bigger, faster, older, or cleaner, but it's all basically the same stuff. The names may be different, but the story is still the same. This is becoming increasingly true with this whole global culture and corporate globalization thing that's going on nowadays.

I've noticed this in pretty much every city i've visited–you've got the same collection of bars and restaurants, churches and malls, tattoo parlours and trendy fashion boutiques. Every city has the same sections–the white trash neighborhoods, the ghettos, the ritzy affluent suburbs, and the bohemian avant-garde artsy areas. When you first get to a new city, either to visit or to live, it's always an exciting time of discovery and finding new places to spend your time. After living in a place for a while, you begin to think about it the same way you thought about all the other places you've lived–that there's nothing to do, nowhere to go, and that things just aren't happening the way or as fast as they should.

Anyone who's ever talked to me about moving to a new city, at least in the last several years, have heard the same comments and questions from me with regard to their reasoning. Quite often, the reasons for people moving are not things that are going to be effected by a change of location. In other words, it's not the place that's the problem, it's the person. If you're bored, unhappy, unsuccessful, or otherwise disenchanted with the current state of your life, the only way to make a change is to change yourself. Sure, moving to a new city will, at least temporarily, provide you with the impetus and fuel for a brief change of lifestyle and the introduction of unknown and exciting events. If you want real, permanent change, you have to make the change within first.

To bring this back to the subject at hand, however, i have to say that Paris is the first place that didn't give me this feeling–of sameness. I walked into Paris and perceived a very distinct feeling of difference. Maybe it was just the fact that all the language within my sphere was foreign, that nothing was immediately or easily understood… that i had to struggle to make sense of certain things that, in an American city, would have been more easily accessible. But there were also certain other subtle differences, not all of which were immediately apparent.

Thinking back on it now, it seems to me that people were not as interpersonally involved, they had no desire to know "my business." There seemed to be more personal respect there, the belief that my business was my own and that i, being there, must know what i'm doing there, and that that was good enough for them. I noticed on many occasions, as i watched the crowd, or singled out certain people with my gaze, that often-times that look would be returned with an equally intense look of perplexity–people who i was looking at were looking at me, trying to figure out if they knew me, and if they didn't, they were wondering why exactly i was looking at them so intently. Who must i be to be so blatantly interested?

And the differences didn't stop there. Another thing that struck me as interesting was the fact that Paris is the most pedestrian friendly city i've ever seen (this may not be saying much, considering the breadth of my experience, but no matter). Between the subways, the bus system, and the taxis, there is essentially no need to own or operate a vehicle in Paris. The only reason you might need one is if you frequently travel outside the city either on business or for pleasure. Despite warnings received before i left, i found the public transportation (and, in fact, most of Paris in general) to be quite clean and well-kept–it was not the foul, dirty, smelly place i'd been told to expect. The only exception to this was the fact that pets are allowed to shit on the sidewalks, and the owners are not obliged to clean up afterwards. Of course, i've been told there is an ordinance making this a punishable offense, but obviously no one was very concerned about it and the ordinance is not generally enforced.

Another telling expression of the pedestrian-friendly nature of Paris is the fact that in a large amount of the city (especially newer larger roadways) there is almost as much sidewalk space as driving space. In the states, it is not unusual to find sidewalks that will barely fit two people abreast, but in Paris it is more common to find sidewalks with seating for fifty that still have room for more than two people walking side-by-side. This, of course, leads to another of those subtle differences… in Paris, on pretty much every street, there are cafes that have outdoor seating, but not like the outdoor seating at American restaurants. In Paris, you'll usually find several rows of small–two person–tables outside, with all the chairs lined up in rows facing towards the street. Even the inside seating nearest the windows is often lined up like this, so that the patrons can look out at the world moving about them, rather than simply at each other or the walls or effects of the restaurant at which they've stopped. In America, however, you usually see large round tables with bench seating for 5 or more. More often than not, these tables are placed at the side of a restaurant, and also often with some protective barrier between the patrons and the outside world.

Parisians seem to be more generally involved in the enjoyment of and celebration of life than the typical American. There are many traditions and social conventions that i was introduced to that drove this point home–hand shaking and bisous on meeting/departing, ensuring that you meet eyes with the person whose glass you're clinking after the toast, serving food for your fellow diners rather than making everyone serve themselves, breaking the meal down into courses rather than throwing everything upon the table (and your plates) at once… these are just a few things i remember. This all points to the desire deep within the French soul, expressed by these social habits and expectations, to take things as they come, and to live and enjoy life to the fullest.

Above all though, for me, Paris felt like somewhere that i could call home–a place i could claim as my own, that would welcome and accept me. I've been to other cities and never felt that draw–that urge. Louisville is such a place, which is why i've chosen to "hang my hat" here. Paris is only the second city i've felt i could live in, and it's nice to finally have another option, should the need or desire to relocate ever arise. Of course, i've also decided that, when i retire, if it is at all possible, i'd like to retire to Deauville, or some equally quaint small French town, preferably on or near a beach.

So, to sum up, i absolutely adored Paris, and have become enamored with French culture in general. It will not be soon enough when i am finally able to return.

- 01:53 am - PL :: 11 Comments
categories ::  Family - Happy/Love - Politics - Pop Culture - Rants - Raves - Society - Travel