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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

French Kiss

A little over a month ago, I was in Paris. I'd long forgotten about London, as the magical City of Lights swept me away. Tuesday morning, May 6, Mandy, Siebe, Lana and I boarded the Eurostar to make the under-ocean trip to Paris by way of the Chunnel. Those clever Europeans and their tunnel under the English Channel...

Our trip wasn't entirely spent below sea level, and we saw plenty of the English and French countryside. I slept the majority of the way to Paris, but woke up when Lana elbowed me to look out the window. For miles and miles, we saw fields of golden flora, but had no idea what to call it. Regardless, it was a breathtaking sight.

It was early afternoon when we got checked into Hotel Odessa in Montparnasse, part of the 14th Arrondissement. We marveled at our simple room, which looked extremely inviting compared to our London accommodations, freshened up and marched down to the Metro. I wasn't as impressed with the Paris Metro as I was with London's Underground. The Underground has more stops, is easier to navigate, and is a bit cleaner, but at least the Metro is still convenient for inner-city travel.

What else would be worthy of our first Parisian experience than the Eiffel Tower? The four of us rode to the Trocadero, at the Hill of Chaillot, to walk down and across the River Seine to the Eiffel Tower. Now, I'm 27 years old, and for as long as I can remember, I've known about the Eiffel Tower. All my life, I've wondered if it's a bit overrated, but I laid eyes on that beautiful monument and it took my breath away. Actually, all four of us were pretty floored. It's an amazing sight, and no photograph will ever do it justice. We just kept repeating, "I can't believe we're actually in Paris. I can't believe we're at the Eiffel Tower." I want to remember that moment always.

Behold her beauty. Our first look at the Tour de Eiffel.

After our first Parisian cafe experience, we strolled down Trocadero park, crossed the Seine and made our way underneath the Tower. The four of us boarded this large elevator for the 1,000 foot surmount to the top. The elevator stops at three different levels, and we were able to see some amazing sights during the light of day.

MA & Siebe dining Parisian Style.

Trocadero Park

The River Seine

The Arc du Triomphe

The Sacre Coeur

Later that afternoon, we found ourselves walking along the Champs-Elysees, doing a little window shopping. I saw a Parisian Sephora, and miraculously, didn't buy anything. I didn't want to put my travel companions through that. Plus, we'd started to get really tired at that point, so we parked ourselves on a bench and watched the world go by for awhile.

We had a dinner date that evening with Fred and Tina, friends/family of Mandy's from Grundy County. Tina moved over to Paris eight years earlier with her job, met Fred, and got married. Tina instructed us to meet them in the Hotel de Ville area, a chic neighborhood with tons of upscale restaurants. The six of us took our time at dinner, enjoying the laidback parisian lifestyle, and we were exhausted by the time we got back to our Hotel that evening.

Wednesday morning came early, and our day was packed with typical tourist fare. The Cathedral de Notre Dame was up first. We spent quite a bit of time around the facade of the building, and began to notice how hot it was getting outside. The pre-trip reports forecasted temperatures in the high sixties during the daytime. We'd packed accordingly. Instead, we got high seventies, so we were burning up most of the time. Most places in Europe are sans air-conditioning, so we didn't spend a ton of time actually inside the Notre Dame.

The back side of the Notre Dame

Our next stop was the Sainte-Chappelle, and we got in line to go inside. Ropes designated two lines, and we noticed that the sign noted a Paris museum pass line, and a general admission line. We didn't have museum passes (as it worked out better for us to pay a la carte), so we walked into the empty gen. admin. line. I walked inside the reception area, and put my purse on the conveyer belt to be x-rayed. I walked through the metal detector, and batted my eyes at the hotness that was the security guards. Behind me, I heard commotion, and I see Mandy, who was originally right behind me, getting yanked by her collar out of the doorway and down the steps. I grabbed my stuff and told the guard that I would be back, but my friends had disappeared. Now, we don't really know why, but an ornery guy in a black suit angrily ushered all of us and other tourists out of the gen. admin. line, and into the other line. We were slightly confused, and miffed at being confronted like that.

When we were finally admitted, the Sainte-Chappelle (or the Dave Chappelle as we began calling it) fell a bit short of my expectations. Inside the upper chapel, the stained glass was abundant and gorgeous, but there wasn't much else to see after we exited this chamber.

The rest of our afternoon was spent alongside the Seine, shopping the hunter green stalls of the street vendors. It was insanely hot, and I got fried. The medication I was on for my roseacea causes me to be sensitive to the sun, but I wasn't expecting that much sun.

We returned to our hotel room a bit earlier than normal, as we had to beautify ourselves for our night at the Moulin Rouge! When we emerged a couple of hours later, we practically stopped traffic. I don't think Paris had ever seen lovelier women. After dinner, we killed some time exploring Montparnasse, and stopped at a street vendor for a crepe. My first nutella crepe! In less than a minute, I was holding a piping hot and steamy confection and I let the sugary goodness wash over me.

Hazelnut Love

We arrived a bit early for our 11 p.m. show at the Moulin Rouge. Finally, we were seated in the auditorium at a table that was wedged between a wall and another table. In retrospect, we probably should've asked for another table, but we didn't think that quickly. There was already a group of six seated at the other table, and I could tell that we inconvenienced them when we sat down. They'd had their chairs scooted back almost to where our table began, and there wasn't much room to maneuver. We were seated with another couple that had already claimed their spots, so the four of us slid in our seats.

Behind me, was an old, cranky woman, who had about a foot's space between her waist and the table. After getting tired of smashing my boobs on my own table, I dug my heels into the floor and scooted her back a bit. She didn't like this, obviously, and started yelling at me and anyone who would listen, in what was very likely, German. Lana and I got tickled, and just shrugged. Equal space, lady. Well, she didn't stop for about a half-an-hour. She even told the maitre'd, but finding no issue with her real estate vs. my own, he ignored her and walked away. About that time, two icy chilled bottles of expensive champagne arrived and all was forgotten...until the show started.

I don't think we really knew what to expect. Actually, what we expected wasn't exactly what we got. Unless you're into boobs and flamboyantly homosexual men prissing around in cheesy sequined-attire among a chintzy stage set, the Moulin Rouge is not for you. And what's worse---they weren't even dancing in unison, or even close. I've seen shows at theme parks with local yokels that have been better performed. Much to the German lady's delight, we left early to catch the Metro before it shut down at one a.m.

MA & Siebe's second wind at 1 a.m. (told you I was burnt)

On the Metro ride back, we got our second wind, and found a local pub in Montparnasse that was just getting busy at 1:20 a.m. We ordered a bottle of wine, and when we finished it an hour later, it was replaced by another bottle of wine from some nearby local boys. By invitation, we accepted a request to play pool downstairs. Before we got up, I told the guy that bought us the bottle of wine that I needed to pay for our first bottle. He assured me that he'd already paid for it, so the four of us followed them down the steps.

Several hours passed, as we flirted, played eight-ball, and danced. Three of the four of us were having a great time, when the fourth decided it was time to exit the building and go home. Reluctantly, we made our way upstairs, but those persistent Parisian beaus didn't want us to leave. I said au revoir to my flame for the evening, and got a little "french" kiss to go. I thought I got away with my sneaky rendevous, but Siebe sure did call me out as I walked out the door.

The three of us are walking back toward the Montparnasse carousel, and we hear in the background, "Siebe, come back!" It was the guy that bought us the bottle of wine, the same one that was macking on Siebe---except her attentions were granted to another. "You did not pay for your bottle of wine," he said. "You said that you paid for it," we replied. About that time, we see a man on a vespa in a silver helmet fly up the street toward us. It was the bar owner, wanting to know why we'd skipped out on the bill.

He wasn't mad, especially when I explained that Siebe's wannabe boyfriend told us he'd picked up the tab. Mandy and I pulled out some Euros, paid the guy, and he zipped off. Well, this struck the three of us as hilarious, especially since the bar owner had time to put on his helmet before chasing after us. We made it home by about 4 a.m. and went to bed, albeit with some drama that shan't be mentioned, as to protect the not-so-innocent.

At this point, we'd been in Paris for less than 48 hours. There's so much more to come.


Blogger emmysue said...

Enfin!! (That's French for FINALLY!) I'm glad to hear you liked Paris so much. It just means we'll have to go back. :) I'm sad you didn't like Sainte Chapelle, though. Remember it's quality, not quantity. J'attends le reste...

10:58 AM

Blogger Mary Anna said...

FYI, falling short of expectations doesn't mean that I didn't like. It was one of our most expensive attractions in Paris, and mind you, we'd seen a ton of stained glass already. It was gorgeous, no doubt. But it was five hundred degrees in a non-ventilated room, that we only spent about 10 minutes in before we exited the building. Just was hoping for a little bit more...

11:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, what the heck is the point of having a global internet presence if you can't go into "drama that shan't be mentioned" to protect the not-so innocent.

That's most of why I tune in...



1:05 PM

Blogger Mary Anna said...

Eric, do you mean to say that my witty quips and wise proverbs aren't enough to keep you coming back???

1:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Highness,

Your quips and wisdom were the bait on the hook... and I keep on biting, time and time again...

Of course, I will continue to drop on by... but when you drop a nugget out there like that, well, that's just a tease, that's all...

And you're ridiculously funny. There. I said it. I feel better now.

Welcome home... glad you had fun...


1:34 PM

Anonymous Carl Patten said...

For most of us who haven't been there, we can only look at the wonder that is the Eiffel Tower through the thousands of images we see from pictures and movies. And you were able to actually see it in its grand glory! Yep, it's more than just a familiarly-shaped steel structure and metal intricacies. It just never fails to be the star of Paris! And you must have been quite speechless when you were actually at the pedestals of the tower. Save for a few mishaps far in-between, you must have had a blast staying at Paris!

9:20 AM


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