Home again

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One last day wandering around a sunny Paris (perfect weather), then flew home.

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Old and not so old

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Yesterday, hung out with Peter and Jen and their kids at the nearby park, and had a picnic-like dinner of cheese, bread, ham, and wine. Today, I took the train to Chartres and saw the gothic cathedral there (definitely recommend the English tour by the apparently famous guy who wrote the books in the gift shop) then back to Paris for a nutella and banana crepe and as much modern art as I could squeeze in at the pompidou center before it closed. Tomorrow’s my last day here.

So much, so little

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An iPod isn’t really the best platform for good writing, so as much as I might like to try and weave things together into a good narrative, this is my out.

My days seem to consist of doing nothing, which doesn’t usually make for great stories, anyway. Today, I walked. And ate. A lot.

First, I had breakfast. Some sort of sweet tart and cafe au lait. While looking out the patisserie window, I saw a bus that said Gare Montparnasse, which is the train station for trains to Chartres. Not only that, but I had just read that there were a lot of crepe places near there (something about Bretons not going far after taking the trains in to Paris for work?). Anyway, when I’d finished my breakfast, I hopped on the bus. A crowded ride later, I arrived. I wrote out my intended destination on a sheet of paper. Somehow, people never understand me when I try and say “Chartres.” it seems to be supposed to sound something like a phlegmmy “shat.” But I digress. Anyway, I showed my piece of paper to a guy in a uniform and he pointed me upstairs to buy tickets there. Glad I didn’t stand in the long ticket line near where I’d been, downstairs! I went upstairs and saw a bunch of ticket machines. It was already 12:15, but out of curiosity, I checked to see if there was a train leaving soon. There was one at 12:30! Perfect! Except, of course, that the ticket machines don’t seem to take US credit cards. No microchip. Oh, well. Checked and saw that trains on Monday cost the same, and decided to go look for a crepe, instead of the ticket line.

There were a few creperies nearby, but none appealed to me. Too close to a busy street, too crowded, too much English on the menu, too something. So I walked on, past a park on a street that reminded me of some (specific) place in Buenos Aires. And walked more, enjoying the perfect upper 60s and sunny weather. And wound up who knows where, on a less busy street that seemed more “local.” I spotted a brightly painted restaurant and like an insect, was drawn to it. In the window were 4 giant quiches, and the one lady inside was very welcoming. I asked for her recommendation (cheese), but then ignored it when I heard that another one had bacon in it. I mean, this is me we’re talking about. I opted for vegetables instead of salad as my side, and then asked about the toilet. This turned out to be down an alley (she pointed it out to me, as I was clearly not understanding her directions). It was the old style hole in the floor type, and there was no sink. When I got back to the restaurant, she let me wash my hands in her kitchen sink (yay, soap!). As it turned out, she’d microwaved the quiche and veggies and everything was mushy. Not the best meal, and I was kicking myself for not buying a little quiche I’d seen in a bakery window a few minutes back. It’d been much cheaper, too. Ah, well. Experience… In any case, onward!

Walked, walked, walked, dodged freshly deposited dog “Chartres,” checked a metro map (at the place d’Italie) and, huh, I’d been walking east instead of north. So much for my sense of direction! Corrected course, and when I saw a patisserie, I went in. After an indecisive few minutes, I opted for something baguette shaped (but smaller) with white chocolate.

Just outside, an old woman down on her luck sat on the ground and quietly asked for money as people walked by. I don’t usually give money to people on the street, but many of the people who passed by did. And here I am, eating my way across Paris. I only had a few cents in coins in my pocket, but dropped a few into her cup as I left.

After a bit more walking, I came to the palace du Luxembourg, and poked my nose into the park. There, I found hundreds of people out enjoying their Saturday, nuzzled on benches, sunning themselves on chairs, having picnics, etc. The parks here have some paved paths, but many areas are just whiteish dirt/gravel. I guess it feels more like “nature” or something? In any case, it creates quite a bit of dust.

I had set out with the idea of making it to the Musee d’Orsay, but by the time I was even close, it was about 3:30 and it seemed kind of late to start that, so I headed back across the river, over the walking bridge with locks on it, and toward the Marais. I wound up walking through the Chatalet area before making it up to the area near my hotel. I didn’t want to just go back to the hotel, though.

After I uploaded yesterday’s post, I hung out at the cafe/bar and finished my beer. Once they’d turned on the outdoor heater, it was quite comfortable. At one point, I noticed that someone at the table next to me was drinking what looked like a bright red beer, so I asked what it was. Turns out, they put strawberry or peach syrup in beer. Apparently only girls drink this. When I told them that we sometimes put flavored syrups in coffee, the guy in the group looked a bit shocked and said, “don’t tell that to an Italian!” but apparently putting it in beer is okay. I decided to try the peach version before happy hour ended. Yow, sweet. Might be okay layered with Guinness though, black ape style, but I won’t order it again.

They were an interesting group — 1 guy and 2 girls originally from Corsica. He was working on an android app, his girlfriend was studying for an English exam she needed to help her become a flight attendant, and her friend was a pianist just in town for the weekend.

This afternoon, I didn’t have the same luck in meeting people (or finding wifi), though there was some good people watching at the bar I found near the hotel. The waitstaff were fun to watch, running around cleaning glasses, stuffing baguettes in a big box, stepping out for smoke breaks, restocking the supply of strawberry and peach syrups…

After I finished my glass of wine, I stopped in at the hotel for a wifi fix and to rest my feet, then went out for dinner. Scallops in a cream sauce and steak. Too much food, too much money. Tomorrow: keep it simple.

Crumbier and crumbier

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My cold or allergies or whatever continue to be annoying, and I continue to treat it with coffee, baked goods, and beer. Last night I didn’t sleep well. Or, rather, I didn’t sleep continuously. I was wide awake from about 3:30 until after 5am. Of course, by 7ish, when I’d planned to get up, I was quite sleepy, so I indulged myself in a lazy morning and got a late start.

Yesterday, I briefly spoke with an older woman while waiting for the bus. She’d asked me what surprised me most about Paris. I’d recently been noticing that the girls here all wear black tights with their skirts, but didn’t think that was worth sharing. After thinking a minute, I said that all the variety of restaurants was surprising. Lots of Turkish, Lebanese, Tunisian, Moroccan, and Asian places. She half-joked that sometimes it was hard to find a French restaurant, and she was right. In any case, when I was cold, feeling crummy, and hungry last night, I asked the night clerk at the hotel for recommendations, and he suggested either s Japanese place or a Lebanese place. I asked what kind of Japanese, sushi or noodles or…? And he said they had “everything.”. So, thinking a nice bowl of hot noodles would be nice, I decided to give it a try. By the time I sat down inside and looked at the menu, I saw that it was just sushi and skewers of grilled things. It was nice and warm inside, though, so I figured I’d try the sushi. Bad idea. The fish was fine, fortunately, but the rice was horrible. I’m not sure what kind of rice they used, but I couldn’t make out individual grains. It was just mush.

Today for lunch, I tried some Tunisian cous cous with lamb that was pretty tasty. A man from London arrived just after I did, and we (or, rather, he) talked for a while. Afterward, I went to the Cluny museum and saw unicorn tapestries among other things.

Then, more walking, hopped the same bus as yesterday toward the Marais district and am sitting in a park as I type this up. It’s getting cool, though, so I think I’ll head to a restaurant or bar for a glass of something, a bite to eat, and hopefully wifi to send this!

Update: found a place having “happy hour” and wifi (with a long passcode to type in!) and with heaters for their outside seating. And olives. Mmm.

Settling in

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Not a whole lot to report, today, but things are going well. Yesterday I did wind up at the arc d’triumphe, but the line to buy tickets and go up to the top was long, and it had gotten a bit hazy in the afternoon, so I didn’t bother. From there, I walked down the champs élysées to the louvre, then up to the opera and hopped a metro back to my hotel. Enjoyed a steak and wine for dinner, then tried to buy train tickets to Dijon but couldn’t get the website to cooperate, and by he time I walked over to the train station nearby, the right ticket counter had closed. Oh, well. Now I’m toying with the idea of making Dijon a (long) day trip, so I can just stay in my current hotel and not have to move until I meet my friends on Sunday. With that plan, I could wait to buy a new suitcase until I got home, and although my hotel isn’t great, the price is okay and the water pressure’s good.

This morning, I got going early enough to have breakfast, and stopped at a bakery that not only served coffee, but also had tables outside in the sun. Enjoyed my pain au chocolat and cafe au lait there, and wound up chatting with the guy next to me (I saw that the book he was reading was in English). He’s been in Paris since November, and is working on directing a play here.

I stopped by a different train station after breakfast but didn’t buy tickets. Decided I should make sure there’s a wine tasting tour I can take before going to Dijon. Of course, now that I’m _looking_ for a cafe with wifi, there are none to be found.

Ah, well. Typing this up from the wifi-less restaurant where I enjoyed a nicoise salad and a Stella for lunch. I mean, when beer and wine are cheaper than a coke, what’s a girl to do? :). Scratchy throats need bubbles. Hopefully this is just allergies…

Jet lag, or something

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Last night, I knew I should try and stay up, but couldn’t help myself and went to bed really early. I mean, it wasn’t even dark yet. I think it was maybe 7:30. Woke up a couple times in the night, but went right back to sleep.

This morning, I woke up at the completely reasonable time of 7:15 but couldn’t make myself get out of bed. It’s hard for me to get moving without a plan. My hotel room is fine, but not big or fancy enough to justify the time I’ve been spending there. By the time I left, it was practically lunch time. I did (sort of) come up with a plan, though: head toward Montmartre, get something to eat along the way, check out that area and decide if I’d want to spend a couple nights there or if it’d be better to go somewhere other than Paris for 2-3 nights. Then, I’ll head over toward the Champs élysées and maybe climb up inside the arch d triumph to check out the views from there. Depending on how I feel (and the time) I may head to a museum, or look for a replacement rolly bag.

Attached picture is of lunch. I wasn’t sure how to eat the cheesy toast things, and asked a waiter who’d said “as you please” but opted to go for knife and fork. Seemed better to be an eating pizza with a fork person than an eating steak with bare hands person.

14:30 update – wifi at the lunch place was password protected and I didn’t bother to ask, so didn’t send post, then. I’ve been wandering around Montmartre since then. Sacre coeur, and just around. Now, cafe & wifi!

Off again, despite the feline shield

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Not the smoothest of travels, but things worked out well and I made it to Paris! The main challenge was that the pull handle on my rollaboard bag decided to stop working just as I got to the airport. Not sure if something got banged up in the luggage hold under the bus or what. It was working fine when I walked TO the bus. Anyway, with that turn of events, I decided to move a few things into my backpack and just check the rolly bag instead of carrying it on.

Of course, after I got thru security and into the red carpet club (yay for star gold), I saw that both my flight and the one before it were delayed. Trying to get standby for the earlier flight was complicated a bit by the checked bag, but the guy in the RCC got my bag moved over to the earlier flight. Later, as they un-delayed my flight, I chose to keep my original one since I had a better seat. Glad I did, too, ’cause I got a last minute upgrade on the flight to Newark. A flight I almost missed because the monitors in the RCC didn’t get updated to let me know the flight got moved up yet again.

On the Newark to Paris leg, I not only got an exit row window seat, but I had the whole row to myself, and could lift the armrests! Score! I watched one movie while they were serving dinner and then got about 3 hours of sleep. I know it sounds weird, but I kind of wish that flight had been longer so I could’ve gotten a couple more hours sleep.

Anyway, got to CDG and navigated the many moving sidewalk/escalator things, got my passport stamped, got my bag (no miraculous handle recovery, unfortunately), found an ATM and the way to the airport train to the RER train to the metro to the right metro sortie to my hotel. Yay! I’m glad I travelled pretty light, ’cause carrying the rollaboard is about as fun as it sounds. I stopped to ask directions at one point only to find out that I was literally across the street from my hotel. Ha!

Now to figure out what to actually do with myself in Paris!