Thursday, August 05, 2010

Paris: Days 5, 6, 7 and 8

Dear Paris,
Please invest in more gay men. To my knowledge I’ve only met two here so far and they wore matching glasses and considered themselves to be friends with benefits. THEY were adorable, unlike the pesky straight men roaming the streets, targets set on any woman who strays away from her protective herd. They can be sent to... say... Sydney. There’s a deficit of available men there, so I’ve heard, and Parisian men take on an “exotic sexyness” when thrown out of their natural habitat, unlike when they’re actually IN Paris, when they’re just annoying. Also, if you could invest on air conditioners for your over-crowded metro trains, I’d appreciate it.
Dearest regards,

The men are getting on my nerves. It has now been over a week of putting up with them. And the worst bit is, it’s not just the French men- it’s the tourists too! Honestly. Does my head in.

It is now day 8 in Paris, with two days left. My next post is due the day I arrive in Rome, and in the interests of my readers’ eyesight, I figured a mid-week post is necessary to prevent one that takes about 3 days to read. Today I’ve been taking it easy, it’s currently about 4:30pm on a Thursday and I’m already back “home,” blogging. Now I do have 4 days to cover in the post, so it could be a long one, but I’ll try and keep it brief. (Ha.) To shake things up a bit, I’ll underline the ultra important bits so you can skim if you want. Here goes:

Day 5: Getting interviewed, rained on and humiliated.

Day 5 feels so long ago! I made the smart decision to make brief notes throughout each day, just so I can remember what I did when. I started off the day with a visit to Notre Dame. I almost turned away when I saw the line (Ican’t stand lines. I’ve skipped a few things because of lines over days 5-8, but more on that later) but it was moving rapidly so I went with it. I must say, for anyone planning to go to Paris, for god’s sake see Notre Dame BEFORE Sacre Ceour. Notre Dame, though impressive, didn’t meet my expectations, nor did it make me feel like weeping at its beauty like Sacre Ceour did. That said, it is beautiful, but nowhere near as beautiful as its cousin up on the hill (the hill being Montmartre) which comes fully equipped with one of the best views in Paris. So like I said, Notre Dame BEFORE Sacre Ceour.

Next I headed back to Shakespeare and Company, to buy a book. I walked out with three, and sat down to take a break before heading off to Cimitiere du Pere-Lachaise and Montparnasse. A woman asked if she could sit down also and of course, i said yes. Things then took a turn for the unexpected and my plans were thrown out the window (defenestrated, if you will) as she, after a moments pause, asked if she could interview me. Her name is Saskia Jansens and she’s working on a novel centering around Shakespeare and Company. She’s interviewing people who love books for character ideas or something along those lines and the philosopher she’d arranged to meet had failed to show up (that’s philosophers for you...) She said the reason she was drawn to me was simply because I was wearing a black and red scarf, her favourite colours. Anyway, I figured why not be interviewed by a journalist/poet/historian in Paris outside a bookshop? It was an interesting experience to say the least, and Saskia was certainly a colourful character.

Of course, this ate up about 2 and a half hours of my time and I had to rush of to Pere Lachaise where of course it began to rain. I visited Jim, but didn’t bother exploring the rest of the cemetery due to the weather. I thought it best to head back to Montmartre at that point, where of course it stopped raining as soon as I got there. I stepped into Quick, a burger shop with ironically slow service. I went upstairs to eat and encountered the kind of crazy only Paris can produce. He wore mismatching shoes, and sat at a table ripping up paper. He seemed to have some OCD-related issue, as every time he had a sip from his drink he’d raise it to his mouth and then lower it about 6 times before actually drinking. When he left, he shuffled left to right at the top of the stairs a few times, then apologised to the guy who he was in the way of. Crazy, but polite.

Of course, when I left, I slipped on the stairs and landed on my butt, which now has a rather impressive bruise. That was the only sign I needed to head straight home and into bed (it was about 7pm.) In my defence, I didn’t sleep, I read one of my new books, ‘Room.’ It’s about a young woman and her 5 year old son, who live in an 11x11 foot room, after the woman was kidnapped and locked in there 7 years previously. It’s all told from the perspective of the boy, Jack, who for the first 5 years of his life though that “room” was all there was, and that the things he saw on TV were fictional. The book follows their escape, and their struggles with the differences of outside. It’s good- read it! The use of the innocent voice to describe such horrible experiences is really affecting.

Day 6: Modern art, great lasagne and exceptional views.

I headed straight into the city on day 6, with plans of seeing the YSL exhibit. After the long walk from Saint Michel to the Petit Palais, I arrived outside the exhibit and at the end of a line which was in line with a sign that estimated a 2 hour wait. Fabulous. I waited for maybe 10min to see if the line moved at all, which it didn’t. I gave up- not much is worth lining up in the sun for two hours.

So I trekked on to Palais de Tokyo/Musee d’Art Moderne- a modern art museum, separated into two buildings with separate names, with a skate park out front and a fabulous view of the Eiffel Tower. In between the two halves, was a cafe where I stopped to lunch on the best lasagne of my life thus far and a glass of rose. The advantage of an exhibit in two parts is that you can refuel halfway and therefore maintain concentration and sanity. Of course, as I do, I took photos of my food. Which made me realise something- I do that with pretty much every meal I have out and I have no idea why. Food is pretty damn sexy I guess. It was a great feeling sitting there though, with a full belly and a half-full glass of wine, with nowhere to rush off to, dwarfed by the Eiffel Tower and surrounded by contemporary art. The exhibit was the perfect size- leaving you wanting more art as opposed to overloading you with it. It’s an advantage for them, because the closest thing with any artistic element is the shop.

One piece I fell in love with was a film called “Visionary Iraq” by Gabriel Abrantes and Benjamin Crathy in which the two boys play all of the characters- most notably a young man, Manuel and his adopted sister Ginger who fell in love at age 14 and are currently in the midst of fighting in Iraq. Their father has undergone a business deal which means he profits directly from the war- or as put in the film, from the suffering of his own children. It’s both heartbreaking and hilarious, and entirely strange.

Allthough I was tired enough to drop, I took a scenic route via the tower to a metro; destination Montparnasse Tower- host of THE BEST view in Paris. Reasons why Montparnasse is better than Eiffel
#1: It’s a lot cheaper to go up. The most you’ll pay is 11€.
2# There’s a tiny tiny line.
#3 You can actually see the Eiffel Tower from Montparnasse Tower, but you can’t see it when you’re on top of it. Let’s face it, the skyline is a lot better with the Eiffel Tower in it.
4# You can actually see Montparnasse Tower from the Eiffel Tower, but you can't see it when you're on top of it. Let’s face it- it’s hideous and the only reason it’s still standing is because it’s full of asbestos.
So why not save some money, and get a better view? And the view is spectacular. Also, if you’re like me and the 365° view of Paris makes you thirsty, a 250mL bottle of wine in the Montparnasse Tower cafe will cost about 5€, and if you don’t finish it- you can take the rest with you!

Day 7: Shopping, shopping and err... shopping.

Yesterday I planned to go see the Catacombs. Montparnasse is on my metro line which make it convenient to get to and from. It’s a pretty good area, not only are there shops INSIDE the station, but I discovered while walking to the Catacombs that they have markets lining the streets, with jewellery, clothes and fresh food. I took a detour through Cimitiere Montparnasse, which is a lot more linear and well organised than Montmartre and Pere-Lachaise, but hasn’t as many famous names. When I got to the Catacombs of course, I saw a line curving all the way around the corner. I grabbed a French Grazia (for 1€ zomg) and sat near the front of the line to gauge it’s progress speed. It didn’t seem to move much at all in the 15-20min or so I was there so once again I skipped something due to not wanting to wait around. It’s not my thing to line up for stuff, at least not on my own because there’s no one to entertain me!

So instead, I went shopping. In Montparnasse they have a Zara, which is a magical land of reasonably priced, up-to-date fashion. I want to move in to a Zara store. I then headed into the city and found all of the shops that line the streets near Chatalet metro, which miraculously I hadn’t seen before. I bought a lot. H&M is also fantastic. That’s all we say about my shopping adventure... Towards the end of the day, I finally bought some sneakers. I didn’t try them on, because my feet were absolutely filthy, but I grabbed a 40 and figured if anything they'd stretch and end up too big. But, alas, I can only JUST get them on my feet. So, though wearing them brings relief to my feet-palms (what DO you call them?) it also kills my heels and hobbles up my toes. Fun times.

Day 8: Alarms, exploring and quail.

This morning I woke up at 5:30am. Or should I say, was forcibly awoken at 5:30am. This is, sadly, not a strange occurrence- it happens every morning. The room mate who sleeps in the bed below mine (one of them that is, apparently it’s two girls who live here and didn’t want to pay for two beds yet take up all the space underneath so there’s no room for me to put my suitcase) has an annoyingly loud circus-esque alarm that goes off every morning. Annoyingly, she’s always the last to hear it. This morning, the entire alarm played 5 whole times before she woke up and turned it off. Then, it went off again at about 7:30am. The weirdest bit is, neither of them get out of bed at 5:30am so I don’t even know what it’s for. And, there’s never a “oh I’m so sorry I woke you with such annoying sounds at 5:30 in the morning,” which is possibly the most annoying bit.

As I mentioned previously, today I’ve been taking it easy. I wandered into an area I haven’t been yet, and i’m not even sure if I was still in Montmartre but i found a few shops. Then, I got lazy and caught the metro two stops to get closer to home. I sat on a bench in the red light district and read, surrounded by sex shops and the museum of eroticism. I had lunch at Cafe de Luna- quail in mushroom sauce and a glass of (you guessed it!) Rose. I had the whole quail, like a midget chicken, on the plate. It was a bit fiddly. Then I wandered a bit more, bought an icecream and now here I am. Sitting at my little table by the window, an unseasonably cold wind blowing in. It’s a bit cloudy, but If it clears up I plan on heading into the city after dinner to watch the tower light up.

In my last two days in Paris I have plenty of options of what to do- Musee d’Orsay, unless the line is ridiculous, le Maison Europeen de Photographie, if I can find it, see the Arc de Triomphe, get a hot chocolate at Angelinas, and of course file the police report for my “stolen in strabucks” wallet that I’m yet to get around to doing. (It was the barista, I swear! He held a grudge ever since I interrupted his coffee making to ask for a spoon!) or I could just wander around and people watch. We’ll see.

Untill Sunday,

-m xx

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