Friday May 7
We wake up later than expected. Well, perhaps it is just later than expected for me because Larsen says she’s had another hard night sleeping. She says she is not good at sleeping while away from her bed at home. I on the other hand am a champ at sleeping in other beds and I am grateful for that. This day, because those curtains are so damn good I once again have no clue what time it is just that I was having dreams that I had to finish. The problem with finishing dreams is that they never truly end and you just keep sleeping in hopes that they will.
Today I actually get up before Larsen and am ready to go before her so I decide that for breakfast I will run down to the little crepe shop we found the night before and get a crepe avec fromage et jambon. This is a good decision except for the fact that there is just so much cheese on it. I love some cheese but I think there’s a good cup on just mine. I think “ahh, I’m such a picky American, next time I will ask for half the cheese and half the salt.” That’s just how it’s going to be. On my way back I almost get hit by a taxi, which is my fault because I momentarily forget that cars in Paris don’t actually stop for pedestrians. It for a moment looked like he was stopping for me, but I think he was actually just checking to see if other cars were coming from the opposite direction. I was summarily honked at and almost dropped my crepe, which probably would have been the healthier thing for me.
Today we have to pack up our clothes to drag them to another location. We will be leaving our headquarters on Magenta and heading to Rue de Amelot. Larsen decides we should taxi over and I say it’s fine, but of course I make the wrong decision and think we should just go to the taxi corner by Gare du Nord, where I was almost hit by a taxi and hail one, while she thinks we should just have the clerk at the hotel call one for us. We head out to hail a cab and find that we can’t. The taxi’s either won’t stop or look disinterested. When we get to a standing driver he tells us that there is actually a line to the north of Gare du Nord in which would have to wait to get a taxi, we decide instead to go back to the hotel and have them call us one.
Larsen is obviously unhappy about the decision I had us make, but I had no clue that hailing cabs in France is so different than in America. I have learned my lesson and may just stay away from taxi’s altogether because of this experience. I am lucky that I love the metro and will deal with the hassle of bags just to save money. Once our taxi arrives we head to our new hotel. The driver is chatty and wants to know where we’re from and how long we’re going to be here. He is very nice and tells us that learning French is easy, why don’t we know it? Of course I use the excuse that it has just all been forgotten because indeed it has. I took two years of French back in college, but I can barely remember much of it and for some reason forgot it in a country where there aren’t many people to speak French to.
Our driver keeps turning around to look at us while he’s driving, which is actually making me nervous. Actually, everything about French driving makes me nervous. The lack of noticeable lanes, the lack of stopping, the constant honking. I think perhaps if I lived here I would never drive. The metro is good and it seems an overwhelmingly bad idea to drive here because I’m not actually sure if there are specific driving rules, or at least at this point I cannot tell if there are. I am beginning to think our driver has eyes in the back of his head because he seems to just know when it’s okay to drive and not drive. At one point he turns around and says, “Nicole, you are magnificent.” Of course I blush and say thank you, but have no where to run away.
After what seems like a long period of time due to Paris traffic being what it is, we arrive to our hotel. We get all of our stuff out and I’m feeling very awkward about the driver and his comments and then he decides to ask me for my phone number. I very blatantly lie and say that I don’t have a phone while I’m in this country because I don’t want to really be rude and tell him that I’m not interested. Mostly, I just want to get our stuff put away and go back out to see the city.
Today is a much nicer day that yesterday. It is cloudy but warmer and the wind has died down. We decide that today we should visit Notre Dame and the Louvre. When we get to Notre Dame we stand in a line longer than some Disney rides so that we can climb the tower and watch more scammers run the line into the cathedral.
“Do you speak English?” They say to people and like I did the first time one of them asked me, they hesitate in surprise that they are being asked. They are everywhere, either asking for money or selling 1 euro bottles of water. At least someone is getting something for their money if they buy the water but there’s not much of a return on speaking English. This line seems endless and takes us between thirty and forty minutes to get to the front. Once we get in we take a long spiral of stairs up to a lookout. Larsen does not like heights and so is a little worried about taking these stairs so far up. I on the other hand can handle stairs up, but not down. I have a terrible propensity for spraining the same ankle over and over again walking down flights of stairs. I ask her if she’s seen High Anxiety, the hilarious Alfred Hitchcock film that addresses a fear of heights. “Rmmm,” is her response and I have a feeling that she never will see it.
The view from the top of Notre Dame is spectacular. You can see the Sacre-Couer and all of Paris, though it is a bit hazy. Actually, it seems like it’s been hazy the entire time I’ve been in Paris, but I can’t tell if it’s the mist from the overcast skies or if it is the smog haze I remember from childhood in San Jose. I will pay more attention at this point. The church bell is ringing in the tower while we are up there. It is beautiful and loud as church bells always seem to be. It makes the tower climb well worth it and romanticizes Notre Dame for both of us.
Once the ringing has stopped we go into the tower. The bell is at least 6 feet in height and hanging above us. I got to take a picture just as another tourist walks in front of the bell and my flash catches him off guard. “Oh my eyes! Oh my eyes!” I’m not sure if he is actually angry, though I didn’t intend to blind him, but I realize that he is when he snaps a shot of me to get me back for it. If that’s the worst he’s got, then I’m okay with it.
Larsen and I decide it’s time to leave after taking numerous pictures of Gargoyles and cityscapes. Carefully we walk down the spiral case and make it to the Cathedral. In here, there is a Catholic Service going on. Bishops are standing and listening and then a woman’s voice, soft and echoing off of the stained glass windows fills the room. I wish the crowd, which has packed the Cathedral would sthu. okay, yes, I do mean to say shut the hell up. I am angry because tourists can’t respect other peoples spaces, while of course I realize that I am a tourist too. At this point I just feel bad because people are chatting and taking forbidden flash pics and blinding the bishops as they are anointing people. No really, “Shut up people!” I think. I feel bad because though this is a tourist attraction, it’s also a place of worship and there is never peace for the worshippers.
In fact, it seems there’s not much peace around most of Paris. It seems that everything is quite filled with tourists, even the buildings and Cathedrals that aren’t listed on city maps and guides. People just walk on in and take a look at the buildings. I find out there are 9 million people living here and I shudder. 9 million bodies to deal with is a lot when I can barely deal with my own.
It is time for us to move on and we decide to head to the Louvre. We walk through the gates and there are African people asking petitions to be signed, yet another scam we have been warned about. This scam goes, you sign a petition to help relieve some kind of crisis in Africa, while at the bottom of the paper it says if you sign you owe 20 euros. Unsuspecting people sign because unsuspecting people are used to signing petitions. There’s always a petition to sign, especially in America. People sign and think, oh… well I did my good deed for the day. Pat themselves on the back and go about their day.
Then there is the Pavilion leading into the Louvre with the famous triangles of glass that aren’t terribly pleasing to the eye, but they aren’t terrible either. We go in without our Musee passe and plan to meet in a few hours. I am not sure where to go, but I definitely head the opposite direction of the Mona Lisa where I’m sure all of the tourists will be. I decide to start in the Richelieu section of the Louvre, which houses French sculpture dating back to the twelfth century, along with French paintings. I start with 15th century sculpture and work my way back and once again find myself in love with it. The realism in the sculpture is breathtaking and there is a profound precision in the way bodies and movements are chiseled into the marble. The faces are so detailed that if I didn’t know better I would say these are humans turned to stone by Medusa, but I do know better and think how lovely it would be to have one of these sculptures as my own.
I walk through this area slowly, not necessarily because I’m absorbing the artistic output that went into these works, though I am, but I have decided to improve my French reading skills by attempting to read the art placards for many of these. For most I can read a good half of the placard and words that I don’t know I look up in my handy french-english dictionary. The more I read, the more repetitive things get so it’s much easier to make it through a placard though it is still a struggle. I do wonder if that whole year of French did me any good and I think so. I seem to be getting along as well as some people that took numerous years of French and my accent is good enough that people will continue to speak to me in French until I give them a rather confused look and they change to English.
I just barely get through French sculpture when I realize that my two hours is up and have to text Larsen for more time. I know that she doesn’t enjoy art museums as much as I do, but I hope she will not be angry at my want for more time. I ask for just one more hour and begin walking through the replicated halls of Napoleon III’s old palais.
Of course the hour goes by much quicker than expected too and I realize I will have to come back to the Louvre. Larsen and I reunite and I find she went to see the Mona Lisa and I think, “hrmm… I guess I will go see it next time I come in because it’s an obligatory thing to see” and we head back to our hotel to get ready for the night.
Tonight we are Pub Crawling in Montmarte. We are tired and cold before we get there and are hoping for a second and/or third wind at some point along with a warm bar. I fear I won’t be able to stand any longer because my back is hurting from all of the standing, but luckily we find some seats at the first pub with three young American girls and begin the night with a Tequila Sunrise.
The girls we meet are on a stayover for K’s birthday (okay, I don’t remember her name, but I think it started with a K). They are all from American and studying abroad in another part of France. We find out that the girl is only turning twenty and suddenly I feel ancient. “Twenty!” I think. “I could almost be her mother!” Haha, okay, maybe not, but I know I suddenly put a boundary up when I find out their ages. Kat, the most talkative of the group is a 5’3, boisterous blond. She is obviously intelligent and has a lot to say and when I say a lot, I mean nonstop bantering between her and K. If K says something, Kat will one up it with something else and if she fears something was not heard she will repeat it the number of times she feels it needs repeating until it is heard. The way she carries herself, talks, and her smile all remind me very much of Julia Stiles. In fact, I’m willing to bet she’s at least Stiles’ second cousin.
At the next bar I feel the need to get away from the young girls. I really do feel too old near them and decide that Larsen and I should just stick together as a team. At the second bar all of the guys eyes are glued to the Rugby game that is on as are mine because until this point I have never in my life seen a game of rubgy. I’ve heard it described and this is way better than any description I’ve ever gotten and are those really their asses? Oh wait… they all have ass pads on.
Here, we are getting a little more liquored up so we begin to talk to more people, meaning more guys. No, that’s not the point of a pub crawl, but it’s always a challenge to see how many you can talk to. I end up talking to a New Yorker named RJ and ask him all about NY because I keep thinking about maybe moving. “You should move to the Lower Eastside,” he says, it’s totally affordable.
“When you say affordable, what does that mean?”
“Well… I’d say a studio is 15.”
“15!!!! You’ve gotta be kidding? That’s affordable?”
“Well, I was paying 2k a month for a closet in Manhattan, so yeah, you get way more space there.”
“Okay, well… maybe I’ll move to a box on the Lower Eastside.” He thinks I’m talking about a space the size of a box when I’m literally talking about just moving into maybe a UPS moving box, those things are pretty sturdy.
Time for the next bar and talking to the next person. Larsen spots a hott Aussie named Paul and we decide to talk to him. He is 5’10 with blond spiky hair and bright blue Australian eyes. I’ve only met Australians with bright blue’s on this trip, so I’m going to call those Australian from here on out. We find out he’s been traveling about Europe for a few months and he’s off to Amsterdam soon. He quickly becomes our friend and there is much talking and laughing, Larsen is a happy giggly girl.
Next bar and yes, if you’re counting this is bar #4. Bar #4 is also a club. It is large and dark and empty at the time we arrive at around 11:30. Now that we have “friends” we are relieved that we aren’t standing in the corner like unused brooms. Paul’s friend Marcus from Toronto comes up to join us, he is tall, with dark brown hair, and a clever smile. Yes, he is a player. I heard he can sing, so I ask him to sing a song. I think he is going to sing us all a song, but instead he begins by whispering in my ear, “close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, you know that I’ll miss you” and gradually gets louder. I am supposed to sing with him, but though I know this classic Beatles tune I’m not that familiar with the words. He grabs me and I am a little startled because I thought we were just going to sing. I try to sing with him, but I don’t know the lyrics so he says we should make up our own song and we do. He tells me I am beautiful and I can tell he wants to make out, but I don’t want to. He is very good looking, but there is something that keeps me from doing anything but smiling. He can quickly tell I’m not interested and moves onto a drunker, easier girl. I am grateful I am free to roam and now free to dance.
Larsen is still hanging out with Paul and they are having a great time and now it’s time to head to the dance floor. Around midnight people begin to show up at the club. I decide to grab a shot of vodka to see if perhaps I’ll ease up on my boundaries and dance with someone. This is helpful because now I can dance with lack of fear. There is a nice looking French guy with glasses that looks like a total nerd that I of course move towards because nerds are my thing. He cannot speak a word of English. “Good,” I think, “then we can just dance.”
The rest of the night was a blur. More dancing and more vodka for me and Larsen? Where is that girl? I find her eventually and we head back to our hotel around 1:40 because the metro stop running by 2. We successfully make two of our trains, but the third has stopped running and so we cab it back from that station. We somehow acquired a taxi and with my pocket French phrasebook asked to be dropped off at our hotel.
All I can think about is a crepe, I want a crepe! There are no crepe stands outside of our hotel and so I eat Larsen’s snacks. I eat and eat and eat raisins, peanuts, and yogurt covered peanuts and drink water until I can feel the buzz begin to wear off. Then… I eat some more. It is time for bed and it is 3am. I go to bed and dream about banana nutella crepes.
Friday May 7