Friday, October 9, 2009

saturday: paris, day 2

deanna and i woke up with the sun to meet katie from her train. katie is also a fellow UNT girl, studying in neighboring rennes; this was my first time to spend more than an hour with her, and it was great. we took the train to the eiffel tower, or tour eiffel in french, and began our ascent. i desperately wanted to climb the whole thing, but it turns out you can only walk to the second floor and then take the elevator, which turned out to be just fine- after walking about 50 flights of stairs, we were ready for a break. on the first floor, we did a 360 degree walk around and read about its history and all the signficant buildings you can see from there. on the second floor, we took more pictures and shivered from the chilly air; we decided the top would be pretty cool, but there was a long line, it cost double, would be even colder and the view even smaller. then we walked our now sculpted muscles down all the stairs to hear the soliciting of cheap eiffel tower keychains in a half dozen languages.

so europe has this thing for carousels- don't really know what the deal is with it, but i think it's a fantastic thing to have tons of. i made a goal to ride one while in france, and a cheesy rickety carousel at the foot of the tower seemed perfect. the girls and i rode around 3 times, goofing off and capturing everything on camera (pictures on facebook very soon!) one of my favorite moments in the city. we decided to eat cheaply for lunch, and buy fruit, bread and some cheese. deanna tried her first french cheese, and we learned there are over 1,200 types in france from a sweet cheese store owner.

with happy tummies, we arrived at the louvre. we came in through a mall entrance, which was really strange- one of most famous museums in the world, in the midst of a mall (we thought we were lost, haha). i have heard way too many people complain about the length of entrance lines to this place- i think i waited about 5 minutes to buy my ticket at noon on a saturday. and it was free, because i showed my student ID! we spent the next 4 hours in a daze, attempting to take in all the talent, time, fame, stories, scope, size and amount of art... and only covered one fourth of it. we stayed mostly in one wing, looking at sculptures and european paintings. i begrudgingly saw the mona lisa, and even after studying the history and seeing it, still wasn't excited about it; it's something everyone is supposed to love and look forward to, but meant nothing to me. we were amused at how many signs had a photo copy of the painting, some permanent signs for the museum too, with directions on how to find it. the venus de milo, also famous for its ambiguity, was temporarily on display, which was cool. i loved being with them- deanna is an interior design major with 3 semesters of art history classes, and katie is taking all art classes in rennes- appreciative and also insightful into what we were seeing, helping it mean more than just pretty or weird art.

we stopped by nicolas' place for a while, and then tried to buy tickets for a ballet at the opera garnier. because they were all sold out, we decided to buy tons of icecream and watch the eiffel tour from below light up. every night at the hour, for the first five minutes, it sparkles; we joined tons of people on the lawns in front of it and watched.

tonight was la nuit blanche, an annual event of contemporary art showcased from 6pm-6am in all the most famous gardens around the city which drew in 1.5 million people. we thought one of the locations was the tuilleries gardens, and were surprised to see nothing when we showed up. instead, we walked around the garden and imitated statues from an abandoned shopping cart i found while exploring the bushes. from there, we found la place de la concord, checked out its fountains and statues representing all the major french cities, and saw the arc de triomphe from the champs eylsees. then we met up with pascal, who took us to saint germain, which is the oldest part of paris and apparently unknown by tourists. deanna and i peaced out at midnight to get some much needed sleep (already tired, sick, walking all day), thinking this was the end of the night.

we didn't make it to sleep for six more hours. my wallet was stolen in the metro (aren't i the biggest stereotype possible?) while i was focusing on buying more tickets for deanna and i; i wish i had been mugged instead of it being snuck away when i wasn't aware, so there could have been some smack down and retribution. inside my very special wallet from china i bought when there several years ago was plenty of cash, french debit card and info, american debit card, american credit card, insurance, driver's liscence, student id, key to nicolas' place, key to my dorm, key to access my dorm building and mailbox key (nothing important, obviously).

we searched everywhere, talked with the metro people, filled out a paper and were sent to the police station with maybe the most vague directions possible. in our quest, we met some super helpful french people our age going out on the town who told us how to reach a different station that should be open. we found it around 1:30, and i got to participate in my favorite french pasttime again: waiting. after being insulted by several officers several times, filling out a 7 page form and spending an hour and a half on the phone cblocking bank accounts, it was 3:30. all the metros were closed for the night, and we spent an hour trying to figure out the bus system to no avail. we spent 30 minutes tracking down one of the only available taxis in the city, and made it nicolas' at 5:30. because we had no key, we had the misfortune of having to ring his doorbell until he came to let us in and explain why i didn't have his key. thankfully, deanna was a super trooper- patient, didn't talk a lot, paid willingly for the taxi, emotionally and prayerfully supportive.

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