Monday, September 27, 2010

Paris: How I Learned to Love It.
Here I am at the Louvre, touching the sign that says, "Do not touch."
Paris is a marathon of sights to see, places to be and things people will ask if you saw while you were there.
Here's what I didn't see:
The Catacombs
The Paris Sewer Tour
Pere La Chaise cemetery
Everything else, I saw.
After about 8 days, my Achille's tendons were shot, my left knee was tricking out on me and my glutes and quads were throbbing like an ER visit should have been next on le menu.
But by then, my traveling companions and I had agreed to go off on our own to tour the places we wanted to see on our own terms.
That's when I fell in love with Paris.
The side streets and alleys were filled with lovely surprises: a couture studio next to a dog groomer's. A felafel joint near an S&M bondage shop. Every third business was either a boulangerie, a patisserie or a chocolate shop.
The sidewalk cafes were everywhere. For 2 Euros 50 you could buy an espresso. Add another Euro and you could have a teaspoon of cream. Call me a bargain hound, but I think a 3 and a half Euro demitasse of 2.5 ounces of java n' cream was a real value.
The metros were fantastic, if you happen to be a world class mountain climber who can navigate eight flights of steep stairs in two minutes flat.
Our flat in Le Merais was adorable, if the three flights up sans a lift was no issue.
Then the cobblestone streets added to the ambulatory challenges. Big Sis called them, "hobblestone streets," and she was not kidding. I tripped at least 40 times.
But off on my own, at my own pace, my heart filled with the kind of je ne sais qua that can only be gained by strolling on an overcast day, talking to strangers, bartering for souvenirs, and joining other world citizens for tiny cups of coffee at the sidewalk cafes.
On a few of my strolls, I wandered two or three Arondissements away from the 4th. I found myself in little Tunisia, little Congo and little Dakar.
I booked it the hell out of there tuit de suite.
I may not look rich, but compared to these suffering souls I looked like Donald Trump wearing a suit of 1,000 Euros sewn together with a garland of golden leaves on my head and leaving footsteps of Louis d'or coins.
There are many more tales to tell. To be continued...


herisson said...

the must: Eiffel Tower, Invalides, Palais du Luxembourg, Arc de Triomphe & avenue Montaigne, Champs Elysées, Musée d'Orsay, Montmartre & sacré Coeur, Louvre

A little bit less crowded, once you have seen the above: Musée d'Orsay, Père Lachaise cemetery, 4th arrondissement ("Le Marais", the gay Paris) & Place des Vosges, the REAL Saint Germain des Prés (around the St Sulpice's church), Beaubourg (Centre Pompidou), Opera Garnier, Chateau de Vincennes

If you want to feel like a real Parisian, (after the 2nd trip !): Parc des Buttes Chaumont, streets around place de la Bastille & place de la Nation (Bastille is still full of tourists though but also lots of bars in the area)

And last, if you want to do stuff only tourists do: Moulin Rouge

Lulu Maude said...

Did you get pick pocketed on the Pont Neuf?

Karen Zipdrive said...

I found Pont Neuf not so threatening, but in the particularly crowded and filthy metro guts of the 1st Arrondissment I wanted to put everything I owned down my pants lest they be pinched.
I was as cautious as I am in any large city, but only that one metro cavern scared me into hypervigillance.

Fran said...

Oh, the side streets, the cafes, the bondage shops... I think to really find any city, a wander down the side streets, a stroll through neighborhoods is the way to do it.

Your words do Paris a great justice.

Hobbblestone... hee hee!