Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Guided Day

What a lovely day! There's no other way to start this than by exclaiming just how wonderful it was. It started off with breakfast (sure that was terrible, but free. Never thought I would miss ham and cheese and bread breakfasts – but Paris drops even the ham, so...) but then led to me headed out to meet a friend from my High School days at the Metro. Running into her familiar face was a most delightful way to kick into my Parisian exploration. It helped that she was quite familiar with the city, and managed to create an elegant tour through the city hitting a number of major spots.

And though she kept claiming she was lost, the next turn always landed her right at the very landmark we were headed towards, so it worked out quite fantastically. The only downside? She translated Moulin Rouge for me. Honestly, Red Windmill? Much less impressive. Honestly, what a god awful name. You'd think the Dutch coined it. But to our non-French sensibilities, it's quite wondrous sounding, isn't it? Very exotic.

So where did we head first? You know, it's hard to even remember. It seems like an ever so packed day. I'll have to check my photos (well over two hundred shot today. Paris is destroying my memory conservation strategies that have been working so well up until now!)

Well we started at the “No Fun” park. You see there was a sign, Square d'Anveris, with a sign showing what you could and could not do. Walking your dog? Slash through it. Roller Blading, or hoverboarding? Slash. Playing with any sort of sports related ball? Big red slash. Old school boombox playing? Better believe that's a slashing. Drinking wine? Red slash! Taking a sip from the water foutain? ... ... ... this one is allowed. Feeding the birds? Back to the slash! Picking flowers (or holding sparklers – it's hard to tell)? My god fool – can't you guess by now? Completely red slashed!

And from there we walked up a hill to the church. A big hill. A hill that would lead to a church which provided a god awful number of steps, to a landing, to more steps, to another landing, to more steps.

Finally there, I was afforded a view over the entire city. One which would be beautiful if not for the terrible looking buildings in front. Still – it was a free view over Paris, and those are not often found. Pictures taken, into the church I went. Signs told me that photography was not permitted. Seriously – why do churches do this? And how can a church take itself seriously when it has a book shop, a gift shop, and not one – but five – souvenir coin pressing machines?! Collect them all! Didn't even want to take a picture of your church anyway.

Cwiff-fa-fuh! Hrumph!

From there we headed to the Moulin Rouge. But not before passing a tiled space invader high on a wall! The second one I've ever seen (the first being in New York City.) Someone really needs to make a Google Map and show the location of the all. That would be nice, wouldn't it? And – you know – if one already exists, I'd love to hear about it. Because last time I checked (half a year ago) there was still no pinpointing available.

So there I was in the Paris red light district. I've been told prostitution in legal here. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But it happens – only during the night though. My good man, this isn't Amsterdam after all. Though they do have their own sex museum here. Complete with chair affixed with a rotating tongue device. I'll say no more. Off to – honestly, I don't remmeber what it's called. The big domed building. I think it starts with a P? Ohh look – a huge, beautiful building! Then you turn around. Oh look a huge beautiful building! (C.N. Tower? C.N. Tower! C.N. Tower? C.N. Tower!) Then you turn once more, and oh my god, another huge beautiful building! You see them, you appreciate them, you take your ten pictures from each angle, standing on gates, wedged in an alley for the best wide view, crouched against the ground, sprawling over the walking path to get the worm's eye shot. Then you move to the next one, and repeat this process. Hey – it's Paris!

It was on this journey that I saw my first signs of the street art scene here. It was all stencil art, but it all all fantastic stencil art. So hats off to you Jef Aerosol. Hats off to you, indeed! And – I also saw another eight bit tile art. Not a space invader. I'm not sure what it really was. Either an enemy from Bubble Bobble, or a White Mage from Final Fantasy One. One of the two, for sure. This one was hanging over a fruit market.

We then headed for lunch. It was at this time that I discovered the best chocolate milkshake of all times, detailed in my previous entry. I also bought a panini. Cause, you know, it seems like it's a local enough food and sine I'm thinking in euros now – not dollars – for three twenty it was value. How subway stays in business here, I'll never know. It's more expensive, not as fresh, not as lovely, and not as grilled. I reckon it's the tourists looking for something they know.

Lunch was eaten in a park that my charming, now guide, took me to. The leaves were freshly fallen, and lined the path. We both hurried to snap away photo after photo. For we knew the leaves would not last. A woman who hates all things delighting and fun (this seems to be without saying – after all she was French. Tee hee?) came by quickly with a leaf blower to eradicate anything lacking in uniformity. Conformity is key here. I dub it green neurosis (but more on that. Just you wait! Don't try to rush artistic beauty here.)

Ah yes, the delicious lunch was consumed in a “quiet zone” where people read, and sat enjoying the quiet, and the still, warm, afternoon. Chairs were lined around a fountain and a rectangular pond. Benches do not exist in this city. Benches would encourage people to sit near each other. And thus, fun could prevail. So single chairs are everywhere. And it was in one of these that I sat and ate my lunch, watching as an imposing Apollo was being surrounded by water nymphs. Such secretive spots would have eluded me, were I to have been stumbling all by my lonesome.

After lunch, and feeling quite lethargic – remembering now why it is I so rarely eat before I'm willing to call it quits for the day – we headed off for the Luxembourg palace. Here children played with wooden boats in the fountain. No pictures were taken here, thank you very much, I'm sure I distressed parents enough simply by walking past. It was cute, it was adorable, it reminded me of that Stella beer commercial, but it was all a sham. These boats were rented making this nothing more or less than a tourist hot spot. Still, it was nice to feel the old worldy charm, if only for a moment.

Here, in these gardens, you will find something amazing. Something so unheard of in the city, that you almost gasp upon seeing it. Get ready, because your mind is about to be blown. For it is here, in a little fenced off area, that you are allowed to – are you ready for this? Are you well seated, as you may faint – you are allowed to... ... ... sit on the grass! No I know, right?! Amazing. You can not only just sit on it, why you can roll on it, jump on it, run around on it, or simply just touch it for your own perverse pleasure! Green, supple grass, contactable for the first time in so long!

It is important to note here, that you may not walk on the grass. Anywhere. And there are signs all over the lawns informing you of this. Mind you they inform you of this is French, which seems ridiculous, as the Parisians, I'm sure, have the green neurosis bred into them from birth, and it's the tourists who really need such warnings. Ahh, just like poor poor Wesley Crusher.

What does it say about a culture that has refused to walk on the grass? To accept that grass is merely something to be viewed from a distance? Do they see groundskeepers as the privileged class? The chosen few who experience it as it should be? Or has the green neurosis so permeated their being that they shun those who upkeep the lawn. Don't they know – grass is for looking at, not for interacting with?

What would they think if they were told of our North American youths, pulling grass up by the fist full to create large piles during grade three gym class when it was outside day? And then seeing those said piles of the sacred substance thrown towards the nearest girl in an act of violent protest, issuing a warning that they are all icky, and not to be trusted within arms reach – lest they wish a clump of freshly picked grass thrown their way.

What must they think when they travel? When they see other people in other countries wandering all over the green paradise, do they join in? Do they feel a great sense of freedom? Do they stick to the paths out of fear? Or rather do they look on at anger, at all the savages who don't know their role in the order of things? Green neurosis runs deep, you understand.

But there would be no time for this further philosophy. For we were quickly off to Notre Dame, and Point Zero. Yes, once more many pictures were taken. An embarrassing amount, if one is being completely honest. “Ugh, I'm getting sandy on the ground.” / “Shut up!” *click* well someone needed to put their head on Point Zero, and it certainly wasn't going to be me!

In this area, too, was a creepy massage bridge, a fantastic Jewish Deportation monument, and more street art. This in the form of some act of large scale podge work. Tiled papers, forty feed tall, and one hundred feet long, comprised an image of a woman lying down, secured arts and craftsily to a wall. Fantastic!

But as all things do, this day had to end. Oh but not before I bought some juice. Oh no - definitely not before I bought some juice. And what type of juice was it? Sigh. Banana. I couldn't not buy it. Bah-nah-nah's are good. I mean, aren't they? After this – I'm not sure. I drank 50cl of it. I did my part. To the garbage with the rest of it.

And then, At Shakespeare and Company bookstore, I was left to my own devices once again. A big thank you for a day well spent, and sights well pointed out. And for explaining the practicality of “Flying Buttresses.”

So there I was in the most wonderful bookstore of all time. Half used, half new (though the two are intermixed, tricking you into buying overpriced texts, while you let your guard down thinking them to be under priced. Upstairs there is a piano, which one could play, were one to be so inclined. There is also a mirror on which you can affix notes, letters, and pictures. Most are attached with band-aids. This being the most sticky thing your average tourist carries on the, I was told. Too true! And upstairs is also the reading room. No you can't buy the books upstairs, but you are encouraged to pull up a chair and have a good sit, and a long read. The perfect place to hide away when the rain begins to pour and you need to be away from your hostel.

I bought myself a new novel here. I know – I know – more weight to the pack. But I've been without one for only days, and this has resulted in guide books being read cover to cover. The madness had to end. And for only one euro, Tom Clancey's eight hundred page Red Storm Rising, seemed like a wonderful bargain. I've never read his work before – but I do like Command and Conquer red alert, so anything with alternate war-bent soviets is worth a look to me.

As I exited the store, and realized I was left to my own devices, I could think of only one thing to do. Return to my hostel! No – why this was Paris, and what had I, not yet, been up close and personal with? Le Tour Eiffel! Err, sorry. The Eiffel Tower. So off I went on a whimsical ride through the transfer loaded wonderland of the Paris Metro.

And there it was. (It may have taken me a while longer than I'd like to admit to finally locate it, once I reached the Military School station. The less said, the better I come across. I, dunno, I thought it would be bigger? Harder to block with three storey buildings. Is that my fault? You can see the C.N. Tower from way out in the burbs. Less attractive, though it may be.

But after making a few turns here, a few more there, and circling back one time too many, I was finally gazing at the work of art that the French hated so much upon construction. (The French. Could they be any more “French”?) And, wow, isn't it something? You know, I really did want to hate this city. I really did want to be cynical. But you just can't be. Not here.

I wandered towards it, watching as it grew bigger and bigger. Upon seeing another miraculous thing (more grass on which you could sit) I stopped my trek, and took photo after photo, as the light grew dimmer and the tower began to illuminate itself. As I sat, I realized I'd done nothing for the past ten minutes aside from looking up at the tower. Could I be any more pathetic? I looked around. Ohh – sorry. It's not just me then. So many people, couples, large groups, individuals, were caught up in the silent trance, simply – looking.

The Eiffel Tower. Apparently it really is something you must see in your lifetime.

Looking at the metallic structure, in the dim light, I wondered how amazing it would look during an electrical storm.

And because I control this world which I inhabit, in a Dark Cityesque way, the sky rewarded me by opening up, letting the rain fall down, and illuminating the sky with static electric lights. Perhaps this was a sign it was time to leave!

Hurrying, like so many others, towards the nearest metro I stopped only for a moment to take a shot from the middle, under the tower, looking up. This meant navigating around hordes of people selling light up plastic tower, and other such glowing objects. As well it required a safeguarding of my camera from the fleeing tourists, as the long exposure worked its magic.

On the C train, I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief, as I wanted to hit my station connecting me to the number 8 line. The trained slowed. Stopped. Doors opened at this outside station. And just like that the sky decided to prove to me what rain could really be! The moment I stepped into the small covering, it stopped. But it had worked its magic. I was completely soaked in only thirty seconds. The rain had not given up completely though, just lessened in its force. Like an angry Irishman, drunk and ready to teach the English a thing or too about real football hooliganism.

Of course the connecting train required exiting the station, walking across the street – but first waiting an ungodly amount of time for the little red man to become a little green man, guaranteeing safe passage – and entering a new station. The only silver lining here? Once you're fully wet – it's not like you can get “more wet.” It's good like that.

Two transfers later, and I was safe and sound, and drying, back in my hostel. Of course the internet, which I paid for – like a fool – was down. But that's ok. I was told it would be up in two hours. It was not. Tomorrow morning, perhaps. My faith wanes. Oh were it only to wax.

But Paris – isn't it grand!

No comments:

Post a Comment

All original text and photographs Copyright © 2009 one.year.trip / previously.bitten | Theme Design by previously.bitten | Entries and Comments.Powered by Blogger