Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I'm in Paris!

I am exhausted as I write this. So if it gets a bit weird, just try to stick with me, yeah? It should be ok. We're all in for a bit of a ride here. And I tell you what, it's only ten thirty. You'd think – man – that is Early (with a capital E!) But it's a transition day. Transition days always wear me out. Though they are no longer messing with my emotions in seems. Something about coming in during the day, I think. We'll see what happens if I show up in a terrifying new city when it's all day in the ball park (it's not o.k. - it's not a night game.)

So step one from the train station is to get myself a five day metro pass. Good for me. Sure I'm here for 8 days, but five is the most you can get. I'll look into another one later. I'm not sure if you can buy them in advance. I'm also not sure where I can buy them aside from the train station. Surely they're everywhere. It's a cute little slip of paper that you put in a cardboard holder that is regular card size. It's so you don't lose it I guess. They want you to put your name on the holder though, and your holder number on the slip. I have no idea. Probably just a French idea to mess with tourists. I reckon that they'd like to do that.

So I make my way to the hostel. You see, the metro system here works wonders. It's brilliant. It – well – it has some problems. And here they are. Number one, it's bloody hot. That's why the windows open, I'd bet. Even the locas were sweating up a storm. And lets face it, it's not August here. It's October. The leaves have started to fall. There is no need for such heat. And the second – something few subways managed to get right, aside from Toronto. It's a terrifying day when the TTC is making the most sense. When the car stops, I want the doors to open. No buttons to push, no handles to lift, no secret codes, handshakes, or passwords. I just want the door to open! And you know that the French are starting to get wise to this, because the new cars have this wonderful futuristic feature.

So what, you ask, is the first thing I do once I throw my pack in my room? I walk the streets to find wifi. I don't want to pay. But I am supposed to message a friend here, and I'm already late because the train was delayed. And I find nothing. There are all these FreeWifi ports around town, that let you access it if you have a hardwired net connection with them. In a city like that, why would anyone leave their own network open? Why would they ever have their own?

So I gave in. I paid two euro for a two hour wifi card (not a terrible price – but still, there should be NO price.) I need, after all, to check my e-mail and connect with aforementioned friend. So I connect to the network, and... wait – where's the wifi network? Ohh good – it's down. And it remains down for forty five minutes (at least. It's at that point I say, screw this, I'm not wasting my first day in Paris, and I leave. Five minutes later, I find free wifi access at McDonald's here. There's a lesson here. Stick to your morals. Imagine what will happen the day I finally cave and pay for a toilet.

So, having learned my lesson, and being too late to hook up after a late email check, I head off to the Louvre. Because – well, that's what Paris is right? That's about eighteen percent of it anyway. But first I switch over at the Opera station, and because I have a metro pass I decide to head above group and check things out. Ohh Emm Gee! I'm in PARIS! And it's fantastic! And I want to hate. And I want to scathe. And I want to be bitter. And I want to shout “your city is overhyped!” But it's not! It's like The Beatles – perfectly hyped. Chuck Klosterman would be proud.

It would probably be a good idea to learn when the subway shuts down for the night. No Tokyo surprise here, I hope. So off I go, “Parle vous anglish?” oh you don't. Hmm – o.k. Lets try this: “Quelle our le Metro Arette?” (I'm sure the spelling is terrible. Work with me here. I have a hard enough time in english. Just think of it as adding to the confusion motif.) Mistakes were made with this question. I spend the next forty seconds smiling and nodding while I'm sure the old lady said things like “Ahh you stupid American. I'll kill your family. Yes, you may have saved us in World War 2, but look at you now. You have New York. I spit on New York. Look at all the fat ugly people there – in passing, are you from New York then? And have you seen the beautiful people here? This is Paris. Get screwed!” And then she walked away. I would need a game plan for the future.

“Quelle our le Metro Arette? Dix? Onze?” This time the man smiles and answered, “Un our.” Success! Questioned and answered. Take that nine years of French education. Lets here it for Ontario Teachers – wait...

And then I ducked, with incredible speed – nearly toppling over, but we'll worry not about that, as it didn't happen in the end – down the stairs back to the train. Off to the Louvre! And when I stepped out of that station, I lost my breath. It's true. And remember – I really wanted to hate this city – the buildings were fantastic. The crazy Metro sign at that staiton was worth many a picture, and then you start waking down the halls to the Gallery. Look at all the glass pyramids. My god, they're slightly terrible, and slightly fantastic! And the sky. Look at that sky! It's blue!

If we're being honest, part of my love – more than part perhaps, may have come from that very sky. If seasonal depression is a real thing, so too then must be seasonal exuberation!

And then you start your walk. It's not a confusing walk, no. It's just a straight line. There are a few pit falls and traps to be wary of, and we will come to those – I assure you – but it is nevertheless a simple straight walk.

Bang – the gardens. You just want to run out and roll all over the grass. But watch out [trap number one!], or you'll end up like Wesley Crusher in the one episode where Picard said “I don't care about international laws when I think they're stupid! And saved Wesley, much to the peril of intergalactic relations.” Do not step on the grass! Grass is not for stepping on here in Paris. It's for looking at, appreciating. Stepping on it will result in the ire, anger, and shouts, of officials in charge – like a father who has just laid fresh seed on his lawn, and is not yet sure about the quizzical gentleman newly dating his daughter.

Then you hit the real gardens. The ones that are gated. The ones without grass – so you know it's o.k. to walk around and peer at the many sculptures, placed around the two round ponds which are set up for late afternoon lounging.

Then you're out of those gardens and at – The Obelisk! Looks to me like Cleopatra's Needle. Which would make perfect sense. New York has one, London has one. Seems to be the prize for being a World Class City (Tokyo slept in late the day they were handed out in class.)

Move on though – because there's more to see. Look, out in the distance, you can see it – it's the Arc de Triumph! You must reach it. You must see it. You must do more touristy things before the day is done. And so you walk towards it. [Trap two!]

You see, by trying to walk towards it, you've proved yourself a great fool. Though it looks close, there is no arriving at this monument by foot. It's like walking into that forest in which you can ever only close 50% of your destination. Try as you might to reach the end, and though you may even feel yourself progressing, you'll never reach the end. It's just not possible. It will always loom there, just on the horizon mocking you.

Apparently if, in frustration, you go check the internet in another McDee's, and then return to the surface world, you will find yourself right in fron to fit. But that too is a terrifying thing.

She's a witch! Buuuuuuuuuuuuuurn her!

So there I was, staring at it, and thinking “huh, it's not so big.” Look – when you've been looking at it for the last hour, trying in vain to get to it, you want something that is beyond human comprehension. Clearly though, this, I could comprehend. I may have taken a few too many pictures here. Thrity, or so. And [trap three] trying to tell locals that, “no, I don't want you to take a picture of me. It's ok. My tripod is great – see the swivel screen? I can even frame it properly. And note the long exposures I have set, which allow for perfect lighting, and clarity – unlike what would be achieved from your hand, or with a flash? Please – leave me be.” is hard work. They were persistent in their desire to help! If you find this, it's probably for the best to just let them take a shot, and clear the area. Then you can go back to your real photography.

Now it's on to the final trap. Getting across the street. Why Paris? Why? Why would you make walk signs that only extend to the middle of the lanes – where you then have to wait, and hope that you don't get hit, before crossing the rest of the way. And so help you if yo J-walk. Sure grandpa John with his cane is doing it. But he's French. He has years of practice. The second you step off the platform, you will die. It's just that simple. You wont get hurt. Your wont get knocked out. You will die. I don't even know how. It will just happen. So obey the signs in Paris! You have been warned.

And from there, I wanted to see the Arc de Defense. But I was in no mood to walk another six klicks to see it. So on to the subway, and I was off! And – yup, there is was. All glass and lit up. Way to go. That will stand the test of time, for sure. The way you have a band stand under it? Super.

More McDonald's – I bought something this time. A prune sunday I think – I don't know? And internetted a final time. Then I was to head towards my final stop. The Eiffel Tower! Sure, I'd seen it already – and wasn't it gorgeous? But I hadn't SEEN it. You know?

So as I was reading the subway map it dawned on me that my brain wasn't quite working as it should. Routes were interlinking, but I didn't understand. Paths that I had made out earlier in the day, were now a little bit too tricky to make out. Something had changed. Ah yes – I was exhausted! So back to the hostel. And if it didn't take me an hour...

I took the A train (sweet! Like a Go Train that's free with subway ticket) and then grabbed the 3. Found out I was on the wrong way – got confused about how to go the other way – grabbed the 9 – grabbed the 3 at Republique. Which was super, because it was under construction and I had to navigate through a labrynth of detours that would make even the greatest Dungeon Master cringe. But finally I was on it, off to the hostel, second last from the east end on the 3, and made my way inside. Where I wanted to relax by watching Resident Evil (I took a screen shot of the end of RE3 with all the Mila's in their spheres, and it's a fantastic desktop background now.) but, of course, this was not to be. Live music in the hostel (which would actually impress me normally – and does right now too, but...) prevented me from hearing a thing. So type type type. Shower and crash perhaps. Or maybe just crash. With breakfast being included here, and served to 11 – instead of 9 – sleeping in and morning showers make perfect sense.

Pictures I will add later, K? Awesome. McDonald's is our friend.


  1. I dont know if your interested or if I already gave you this link but this guy sounds amazing and I am hoping to attend one of his free dinners while in Paris. Check it out http://www.jim-haynes.com

    Also might be of interest (although I can see by your blog that you don't do a lot of organized tours) Check out:
    http://www.newparistours.com/ (free tours)
    http://www.globalgreeternetwork.info/index.php?id=149 (more free tours)

    If you use/try any of these, let me know what you thought!!

    Enjoy Paris!

  2. I always try to hit up the NewEurope tours - so thanks for the tip. I was wondering where this one met!


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