Tuesday, June 12, 2012

[Travel] [Tourist] Days 26 - 29: All of Paris in One Go

Err. Yes. Paris. Nearly skipped writing this one. I know I have a few French readers and, well, I'm sorry. I mean, I'm not sorry you're French any more than I'm sorry that I'm American. I'm just sorry I really didn't like Paris. In fact I'm going to go so far as to say that if you are French, you probably shouldn't read this entry. It'll hurt your feelings and then I'll feel bad. So just skip to tomorrow if you please.

I don't think I've ever visited a place that I've had a more visceral negative reaction to. Maybe it's not Paris's fault, having just come from Tokyo which is as different from Paris as I can imagine in a major city. The upshot is that while I did the things I really wanted to - I doubt there is anywhere else in the world where someone who once took six college classes on Medieval history can more easily indulge their fancies in one place - I also took it very, very easy.

To compensate, I am going to do all four of my days in Paris in one long entry. By this point in the trip I was becoming acutely conscious of how much work was building up at home and I used some of my time in Paris to start on that and a lot more of my time to make sure that I was caught up on trip report so that when I did get home this would all be scheduled and ready to go. I also think I just needed a bit of a break. Six weeks of a trip sounds like a great idea when you're planning it, but is not quite as easy in the execution. I'm sure you all pity me greatly ;)

I look forward to coming back to Paris someday with someone else. It just seemed like the kind of place I would have enjoyed more with another person or persons, unlike Hong Kong or Tokyo which were quite fun solo. On we go.

Day 1 in Paris

The Hotel Val d'Europe did not come with an included breakfast, so I had some chocolate cereal:

Chocapic: The Epic French Chocolate Cereal That Actually Tastes Like Crap

Crap chocolate cereal and warm Fanta Zero? Is it too late to go back to Pocky.

You remember my croissant story from yesterday? Well here's a damn French stairwell. Awful.
What the heck, France? It's called stairwell lighting. It's a damn good invention that maybe you should try investing in.

I took a ridiculously early train into Paris from the Disneyland area. I alighted practically underneath the Arc de Triomphe. Seemed as good a place as any to start.

The Arc was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to celebrate his victories. It was just about the last time France managed to win a war without significant help from outside so it's good they didn't take too long (just 30 years or so) to build it:

Hey guys, remember when we used to win wars? We should probably celebrate that.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Very moving.

My plan was a pretty vague one. I'd heard Paris was eminently walkable so I decided to stroll down the Champ Elysees and, one way or another, make my way to Sainte Chapelle on the Ile de la Cite. As it turns out, I did quite a walking journey - taking a bit over 3 kilometers to get from the Arc to Sainte Chapelle. I did get to see lots of great stuff on the way, including (from a distance) Les Invalides. Once I found the Seine I just followed that, figuring it would eventually get me where I wanted to go. Here are some photos:
Hey look - it's a Frenchman who knew how to win things.

I'll give Paris credit for this much: no one does beautiful, tasteful and just barely over-the-top as well.

Where's Churchill's dog?

I wonder if this is based on the one in EPCOT... ;)

I think all bridges could be improved with such statuary

Awww yeah. Thomas Jefferson. Where's Franklin's statue? Would I get syphilis from looking at it? And why does this make me want to watch this over and over again (note: not safe for work).

I'm pretty sure these days there should be a German flag or two on there

This is in here for the two political scientist/economist friends I have reading this. This is also absolutely making it into my powerpoint for my Intro American Gov classes when we talk about cycling and Condorcet's Paradox. Does Ken Arrow have a statue her etoo?

I reached Sainte Chapelle in time to see a massive queue winding around the corner. You all know how I feel about waiting in line so I thought "I'll come back another day, let's find Notre Dame". By this point the crap chocolate breakfast was wearing off and so I violated one of my own rules and ate a quick meal right across the street from a major tourist attraction. Wasn't half bad.

Desperate emergency lunch
Notre Dame is no more than a 5 minute walk from Sainte Chapelle and here there was no queue except to climb the tower. You should know now that between England, France and Germany I went to something like nine or ten cathedrals or other large churches. Meaning you'd best like looking at photos of them or it's about to get really boring up in here. I'll try and choose the best ones. I'll also try and not offend anyone too badly with captions ;)

This is what happens when you let Porthos swing on your light fixtures

Two-in-one esoteric reference:
Denis? I didn't know you were called Denis. Well you didn't bother to find out, did you?

I had no idea what was going on here but I figured it was symbolic of something

Perhaps the best view of Notre Dame

Burninating the country side. Burninating the peasants. Man, I am really reaching with these references right now.

Not even remotely Notre Dame.
I was pretty sure that if I didn't go to at least one museum in Paris, the blog readers would revolt. Fortunately I found this sign:

An entire museum devoted to the French career of George Clooney? Yeah, I'm definitely okay with that. Turns out that it was actually a museum of the Middle Ages, but I'm okay with that too. Could have used at least 20% more Clooney, though. On the way I saw this:
Hidden Mickey?
As I turned around I then saw this:

I remember thinking "haha, I wonder what manga means in French...oh wait, that's actually a comic book store isn't it? Well, guess I'd better go on in".

I'm back in Tokyo?

A little slice of Jersey in Paris, much like myself. And equally offensive.

Oh please, I could buy one of these in Orlando for at least three times as much. 

Still no good FFVII stuff

I'm going to have nightmares from seeing this up close

If you're a girl between the ages of ten and thirty-five (or me) you probably have the theme song going through your head right now. Just be glad it's not It's a Small World.

A short walk later and I was at the Clooney-less Cluny Museum. I did the whole thing in under twenty minutes, which is one of the joys of doing a museum solo.

I'm confused - are these good guys or bad guys?

They really hadn't gotten down proportions and realistic depictions of humanity yet

But they did have a two-headed, no-assed goat

Off with their heads!

Oh wait, here they are

This is impressive

I then took a quick metro ride over to the Eiffel Tower because I was in Paris and that's just what you do.

Hey look - it's the Eiffel Tower. Can we move on now?

I feel quite good on my Japanese culture at the moment, thanks
By that point I'd had my fill of activity for the day and made the long train ride back to the Disneyland Paris area. I grabbed some foodstuffs on the way into the room and settled down for the evening.

French pastries in Japan, bubble tea in Paris, sushi in Hong Kong, whatever it doesn't have to make sense

Day 2 in Paris

Still had some chocolate cereal left. It was really bad, but I ate it anyway.
Chokella, qu'est que c'est, fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better
At this point I was facing one of the more daunting parts of the Paris experience. Much like my trans-Tokyo hotel change with luggage, I had to get from my hotel by Disneyland to my new hotel north of central Paris. This called for several train changes. I saw how busy the train into town from Disneyland had gotten the day before, so for once getting up at 4:30 came in handy. I was on a train at 6:15 bound for Paris.

So much crap
None of the trains were too busy and I never felt cramped. But several of the stations I needed to change in had nothing but stairs, so I definitely got a good workout. I showed up at the Holiday Inn Express insanely early (7:31 AM) but was impressed that they had a room for me to check into. Much obliged!

Please note that bar of soap was already opened and used when I got there

Nice view. No Mt. Fuji or Disney park, but a nice view.

Since it was still very early in the day I decided to get a start on sightseeing. It was time to head up to Montmarte and the Basilica of Sacre Couer. Despite the cloudy day, the views were nice. And the Montmarte area was very cool, if extremely touristy. It was early enough in the day that the pickpockets and con artists weren't out in force.

Sure I could have taken the tram. But why do that when you can walk up hundreds of stairs instead? Sigh.

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I suspect that's not the tram, no.

Signs that I didn't see in Tokyo

That's the tram? Hell, I can walk that.

And so I did

Having satisfied my need to be on high, and already being on the northern side of the city, I traveled to one of the reputably less savory parts of Paris and visited the Basilica of St. Denis, one of the earliest churches that we would label "Gothic".

This used to be a nice train stop. Then some rich Saudi prince bought it for 7 million pounds and now it can't cross worth a damn but I'd still take it over Patrice Evra. Note: only one or two of my readers has any chance in hell of knowing what this is about, so don't worry if you're lost

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That has to be the holiest pigeon in the world. Bet he'd fetch a fine price in Hong Kong.

This window was absolutely gorgeous but my camera does not do well faithfully reproducing blues and purples

That crown looked massive and uncomfortable. No wonder the head that wears the crown rests so uneasily.
I decided to do something random and opened one of my guidebooks to a random page. It turned out to be a recommendation for a department store to shop in. So I went there. Didn't buy anything, but it was still quite fun to do!

I wonder if I could get Craig to play Dixit if it was in French? I wonder if Dixit in French would be in any way different from Dixit in any other language?

I was pretty hungry at that point so I got a chicken-filled baguette thing. Very good!
So tasty!
At that point I wandered back to the hotel and did some work (or, as you should usually read it every time I say "did some work" I worked on this trip report and spent hours aimlessly surfing the internet). For dinner I found a restaurant near the hotel. They had a long list of pizzas, but the owner/waiter recommended the roast beef. I gave it a try.

The recommended roast beef. It was okay. The vegetables were just out of this world,though.
Thus Day 2 came to a close.

Days 3 and 4 in Paris

Days 3 and 4 were pretty much the low-energy point of the trip. I did the remaining things I wanted to but that was about it.

Day 3 started in what would have been a disaster if I wasn't generally of a positive and optimistic disposition. I decided to return to Disneyland since I had the pass and felt like I could use a Disney day to carry me through to England. I made the 75 minute trip out there only to realize I'd left my ticket in the room. Naturally, this being Paris home to the worst service in the world, they would not under any circumstances issue me another ticket even if I could provide them with the original confirmation e-mail and credit card. Well then. I could either pay another whatever it was for the day (60 euros maybe) or head back to Paris. I went with the latter.

Breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express
When I returned I didn't have much of a plan. I got off at Les Halles, a centrally located station that used to house a gigantic food market.

Shortly after getting off the train I saw one of these in the window:

What surprise do you hold?

Good morning. I'm going to eat the crap out of you now. And then I'm going to hunt down your brethren around the city and eat them too. Fair warning.
Finally I got to try a macaron, which I had looked for so diligently in Ikspiari in Tokyo. It was fantastic. It became my quest for the next 36 hours to eat more of them.

I did some aimless wandering for a bit after that.

Matching orange hats, huh? 

Closest I'd get to the Louvre on this trip

And bought myself another one!
Oh yes, you'll do nicely indeed.
At that point chance intervened. My grandmother had been telling me about a restaurant for the past week that she loved in Paris. Said it was the best french onion soup. I googled it and the reviews were mixed. I happened to stumble upon it and decided to give it a go.

Tasty French onion soup

Even tastier escargot. Maybe the second best I've had?

This was a pleasant surprise dessert

I left quite pleased with the meal, though I'd not call it the best.
I could be commenting on this gentleman's pants but no, I'd like to point out the mewing cat desperately clinging to his back as he navigates the Metro.

Ah, nothing like a lovely view of trash floating in a river
On my last day all I really wanted to do was make sure I saw Sainte Chapelle, so I was up and in line 20 minutes before it opened. It was worth it! The stained glass was gorgeous.

They were out of English so I took the Spanish one. At least I'll understand a quarter of it.

This is a recipe for disaster

I then proceeded to go in search of Pierre Herme, the macaron shop (among other things) that used to exist in Ikspiari.

Sure, we killed you for advocating leniency during the French Revolution, but at least you get a street named after you?


Why couldn't you be Rue Duverger? WHY?
For the afternoon I put the camera away and put on my goofy large headphones (which look normal in Paris, for which I am thankful). I wandered aimlessly around Parc de la Villette, a park by the hotel. I basically decided to give fuckall about the rest of the world and just enjoy the sunshine. By the end of the two hour walk I felt like maybe I had a glimpse of what it meant to embrace the Parisian life - it was probably the best two hours of the past four days. And with that my time in Paris came to a close. I'd definitely return someday with another person, but I'm in no particular rush to go back myself.


  1. Is there anything funnier in architectural names than flying buttresses? heheeheh

  2. Wow! You weren't kidding!

    My husband and I got to tag a long on a senior class trip to London and Paris nine years ago. We had a day and a half in Paris. We saw as much as we could and went awayp thing Paris was so much fun and couldn't wait to go back. ;)

    After reading your entry on your days in Paris I am filled with a strange loathing for the place and wonder what I ever saw in it.

    But you are right in that it is different with someone else and also you had much more time than we did.

  3. Since I've been back I've found that either people loved Paris or hated it. Very few in-between.