1.8.10

Paris in a nutshell.

Before you read this post, notice that the video for the first post of Euro 2010 should be up here. Also, be prepared...it's long!! As always, pics are on my facebook album (and no you don't have to join facebook to view them): Facebook Album
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Wow. What an amazing two days.

I woke up yesterday morning after a very restful night sleep, thanks to Trent. Everyone give a shout out to Trent! He was great. Originally from California, he's currently finishing his R & R before returning to Iraq. Took us in like we were best friends, and he didn't even live here!

So, after a lazy morning at Hotel Commerce, I got up and showered. It felt good, but the water was almost always scalding. Not exactly what I'm used to over here, but it's all good.

I had to meet Jonathan at the international bus station at 12:30. I had no idea where that was, so I figured I'd leave early--around 10--and just search around. By this, the second day, I felt really comfortable with the city. I think that's what impressed me most about Paris. The city felt like home incredibly quickly. So I took off, got me a crepe avec chocolat (the house chocolate, I found out. Dark choco fans would have enjoyed it...I preferred the crepe avec banane nutella from the night before) and found the right metro line and took off toward the bus station.



I got there pretty quickly and went to the mall right above. Bought me some contact solution, since I had forgotten that back home, and sat down in the super hip McCafe to check me some email. Of course, it was only like 3 in the morning back home, so I shouldn't have expected anything, which is about what I had. No worries.

I ran down the stairs to the bus station at a little after 12:30 just in time to discover that Jonathan's bus had come in at 12:20 and he was nowhere to be seen. After scouring the station twice, I figured that either he died sleeping on the streets of Belgium, or he had done the logical thing and left the smelly bus station to find safety in the depths of the Metro. Little did he know, that particular Metro probably smelt like most people think Paris smells like: urine. Alas, he was in the Metro du Urine trying to figure out where I was.

So, after an extra day misplanned, we finally met up with each other. We quickly tried to get on the metro with the metro tickets I had purchased on the way here. You see, I figured buying a book of 10 tickets for 12 Euro would be much more economical than 10 separate ones for 1.70 Euro each. I was right! But in a different way. What we discovered is that my tickets just simply didn't work. So we jumped the turnstyle. Look, Paris, I gave you my money, and I'm getting what I paid for, aight? Well, I say we probably got more than we paid for because we had to continue jumping turnstyles until we finally found a ticket agent in the window. She exchanged the remaining 9 tickets (I had used one on the way to pick Jonathan up) for new ones. So...who knows how many times we jumped the turnstyles. Well, Jonathan probably does. He keeps immaculate notes on a lot of things.

Regardless, we got back to Trent's hotel and I made Jonathan shower before heading out. We took off towards Notre Dame cathedral. Since this time we had no bags, we could go in! It's a beautiful cathedral. I have been mesmerized by the construction of these things ever since reading Ken Follett's books. Nothing compares to being awed every time you walk into a new one.

After spending some time there, we figured we'd go to the Louvre and check the museum out. I knew there was a lot to see there, so I was trying to meter our time there. We spent about 3 hours, and after walking nearly every wing (not every one, and we didn't admire each piece of art), our feet were tired! Mind you, I had eaten two crepes since arriving in Paris, and since his plane had landed, Jonathan had eaten...a belgian waffle. Not to mention I kept leaving my water bottle at the hotel, and we were running out of fuel. At 7 o'clock.

So, of course, we took out from the Louvre (which, by the way, does NOT have an upside down pyramid a la "Da Vinci Code," unless I was blind. But I looked! Now that I have internet though, it appears I was blind!! UPDATE: Dah! We didn't pass it below, but I DID see it from above! It was in the roundabout in front of the museum, which is where I thought it must be. Only thing was...it was covered with a tarp! DAH!) and down to the Obelisque on our way to Arc di Triomphe. Everything at this point looked so close together! As we left the Obelisque to go to the Arc, we realized that we were gravely mistaken about the scale of the city. But the main road to Arc di Triomphe was fantastic, and I kept expecting to see the Apple Store somewhere. I didn't know where it was, but I figured if it was anywhere...it would be on this main promenade.

We finally got to the Arc, not seeing the Apple Store at all. By the time we got to the Arc, it was already quarter after 10. The Arc closes at 11, so we hurried and bought tickets and ran to the top. The view was spectacular. With something like 9 main roads converging at the Arc, you had perfect views of the northwest part of the city and every tall building in the city as well. Absolutely gorgeous.

After being kicked off of the Arc at 10:40 (we protested along with a few others that it was supposed to be open until 11. They had nothing of it, saying that it took twenty minutes to clear the Arc. Bullocks), we took a Metro ride to the Tour d'Eiffel. The Metro stop is a bit away, but we passed some good smelling food on the way over the tower. Of course, we didn't have time to stop because we thought they'd be closing up too. They weren't, but as we got there, we decided that since we saw the city from the Arc at night, we'd go up the tower during the day. So we stopped on the grass and saw the tower sparkle as Batman was getting all the girls. Seriously! You see, I figured I'd try to kiss a french girl under the tower. But Batman stole all the girls. Ugh. Oh well. Probably for the better.

video

Now we figured we'd just head home to the hotel. We walked to a different Metro stop and jumped the turnstyles to get where we needed to be.

We got home at 1am, unfortunately for Trent. Still hungry, I let Jonathan have the bed and I fell to my sweetest dreams on the floor......

The man took his bag as I struggled to maintain my composure. Where was he going? Why was he causing all this ruckus? Surely somebody would hear him and force him to move out. Turning suddenly, he looked directly into my soul.

"I have to check out at nine," said Trent.

Oh, yeah. The man took his computer out of his bag and went to the free wi-fi downstairs. I rolled over and looked at my phone.

8:00a.

I aroused Jonathan and we proceed to get ready for the day and to repack our bags. You see, I have about six things to put in my bag, so it doesn't take much. I showered quickly, dressed, and then took my bag downstairs. Fortunately for us, the hotel had a room to place our bags until we were ready to depart. Jonathan and I had bought bus tickets the day before. The plan originally was to rent a car from Brussels, but that just didn't work out. So now, we had some options: fly to Stuttgart, train to Stuttgart, rent a car for one day to Stuttgart, or take a bus.

I'll pardon the suspense: I'm writing this recap on an overnight bus from Paris to Munich, with a stop in Stuttgart. The benefits were aplenty, so the bus was to leave at 22h (10p) from the same station we picked Jonathan up from.

As we started today, we decided to finish the unfinished business from last night. We were going to take a boat taxi from close by our hotel to the Tour d'Eiffel, but when we found out that it didn't go by Lady Liberty, we decided to Metro on over and see if we could find a boat that did go by. So we got the the Eiffel Tower (for me, this was the third time in three days. I knew that place like my living room), hungry still, but unwilling to pay for crappy tourist food. We got to the Tower and discovered that the very top was closed due to congestion. So we bought the stair tickets and walked up the stairs, first floor then second. It was a fantastic view and we were left alone on the fence of the second platform when it started to downpour. I, of course, love the rain, so I had no problem. It felt wonderful. The rain lasted a bit longer as we enjoyed the view and the experience. The Tower is an intricate piece of art in and of itself. It's pretty neat.

The night before, I had convinced myself that the entire tower was an optical illusion. While it appears to consist of gentle curves of metal until they met at the top, I decided that in actuality, all the main beams in the corners of each pillar (north, south, east and west) were completely straight and looking from below created a perspective image that bent the frame in the eye's image. I spent about a half hour convincing myself of this. I thought it absolutely marvelous to fool soooo many people with such a simply trick, but I thought that it cheapened my personal view of the tower since the calculations and actual production of the tower would have been a lot easier this way.

To my happiness, I was partially wrong. While the beams aren't curved (a difficult procedure, especially in the 1890s), they aren't straight either. Slight deviations from straight occur every 15 or so meters. That way, since they aren't perfect straight, the construction and planning of the Tower gained credence to me again, but I also felt vindicated to see that they still were playing a trick on the eye.

Anyway, when we descended from the 2nd platform, we decided to sit down and decide what we'd do before we left. Of course, when we had been sitting for a few, a pidgeon decided to share it's lunch, breakfast, and probably dinner from the night before with me. That's right. I think for the first time in my life, I got pidgeon-pooped. Jonathan said the Ukrainians think that's good luck. I think Ukrainians need to get pidgeon-pooped more often.

Needless to say, I wasn't happy, but more than unhappy, I was hungry! I wanted to eat on the Eiffel Tower, but decided that would be better with a girl, not my cousin. I think Jonathan agreed and we descended the tower, hoping that the fry guy from the night before (the Fri night fry guy) was there with his delicious smelling fries. Not so!

Instead, we bought some sandwiches from the guy on the corner. That is to say, we bought exactly what we were trying to avoid: overpriced tourist day-old sandwiches. Now, the sandwiches may have been fresh (they tasted fresh), but they were overpriced. Thing is, I didn't care. Jonathan did, but he was hungrier than I was, so we convinced ourself it was okay.

We took the sandwiches and ate them while sitting on La Seine. Our next destination was the small version of the Statue of Liberty. We walked and walked and walked. Finally, after scaling a wall and swimming through the river (not true), we shored up to the mini-Liberty's island. France's Liberty is small, but, I think they're okay with it because they have a little Space Invader alien right under the placquard. Also, they don't have size complexes like we Americans do (you all know that the Statue of Liberty is actually growing...right??? We just can't have it big enough!)

At this point, we were in the middle of nowhere. Well, we were in the middle of somewhere, but that somewhere was not near many things we wanted to see in Paris. I could've went a little north to La Defence and seen some of the architecture there, but our collaborative, yet very spotaneous, planning had us walking to the train to go to Musee d'Orsay, home of impressionists.

The train ran into the closed area of the Metro, so we had to get there by taking a bus too. I liked the museum. A lot. It's a shame more than half was closed (although they did have temporary space to show most of their stuff). But, I will say that Musee d'Orsay is a designer's museum. Between the awesome lines of Van Gogh, and some great paintings from Manet, Monet and everyone else (one of my favorite paintings, "Don Quixote find a dead mule" (excuse my memory...the plaque was in French and I'm having trouble remembing the English name!) of which I took a picture, breaking the Museum's no photo rule!) and THEN the awesome furniture sections, this is a designer's dream for inspiration. I liked this.

Our plan now was to find the artistic quarters of Paris. We got on a Metro to take us to Moulin Rouge, after which we'd hike up to Sacre Coure. This we did. Moulin Rouge is beautiful, although I would have rather gone in for a show! But, we got pictures there, and not wanting to spend 90 Euro just for a peak inside, we took of for Montmartre (Sacre Coure). On our way up, we decided to try the savory crepes. I got an egg, cheese and chicken one, while Jonathan got cheese, chicken and mushrooms. Our crepiere (the guy who makes crepes?? maybe???) was great and really loaded them up. They were delicious, and we both agreed they were better than the sandwiches (although the baguette that the sandwiches were one was great). This held us over quite nicely as we summited onto the grand steps to overlook the entire city of Paris.

While resting on the stairs with lots of other people, we had some great entertainment by a football juggler. He was good. Between breakdancing with the ball pinned at his instep and then climbing up a light post balancing the ball on his head and THEN juggling the ball while holding himself up with one hand, I gave him props. I'll do it again, too! Props, juggler dude! You were great!

(Movie will be uploaded later!)
We then went to find the art. We did, quite quickly. Lots of artists doing portraiture, lots of street art. It was fantastic. But I have 30 more days with just a pack on my back, so, I figured Paris art will have to come some other time. Plus, I don't want to spend my money too fast!

So now, we had to get back to our hotel so we could head to the bus station. As I mentioned, our bus left at 10 o'clock. i figured that we'd have to leave our hotel at 9 in order to get there by 9:30 to get our boarding pass and get on. But it was only barely 8! The night was still young! We were only halfway across the city from our hotel anyways. So obviously we had to detour to the Opera house, since we hadn't seen it.

Lo and behold! Upon approaching the Opera house, I finally found what had eluded me for two days! The Apple Store! I've heard this is one of the coolest ones, so I thought it would be cool to see it, and luck or chance, we had finally found it!

After taking my picture with the concierge, and then Francisco, the security guard, asking me to take one with him too, we ran to the Metro station. It was getting close to 9.

I should've asked to have a French Apple store shirt (it was strangely odd to see French people in those blue shirts...can't explain it!), but in the end it's probably better that I didn't. You see, we got to our hotel a little after 9. We ran out with our packs (it was awful to have those again) and got crepe avec corfiture fraise et apricot. I got the strawberry one. But we had to run! We got into the Metro and thought the fastest way would be by a double transfer from the 10 to the 5 to the 3. Looking back, we probably should've done the single transfer way. We got on the 5 at 9:30--the time we were supposed to be there. We got on the 3 at a little past quarter to. We were late. I, of course, am the king of being late, and I had just the slightest of worries. Jonathan, I think, and he'll have to correct me if I'm wrong, was a little more responsible as far as the worrying went.

You see, I had a plan anyways. If we didn't make the bus, we'd go up to the McCafe (that I had scouted previously) and we'd download a detailed map of the road system. Then, since it was nighttime and cops were less likely to stop us, we'd start hitchhiking, working our way through the night closer and closer to Stuttgart. I figured we'd even might get there sooner!

But, as we got off the 3 at 9:58, we both sprinted toward the International Bus Station. We ran up to the ticket window where we were cursed for being there right at the time we were to leave ("why are you showing up on the hour!!!" was the only thing I got out of the whole exchange...I'm used to that, so I closed my ears). We got our boarding passes and ran to our bus, which, had no driver. Really?! No driver! We're supposed to be leaving, people!

But, he came, eventually, also cursing us as we threw our packs in the bottom of the bus. The bus rolled out slowly, and now here we find ourselves, barrelling through the French backcountry in the middle of the night. We get in at 7am. That means I get about 6 hours of sleep tonight. Yip yip!

Lesson learned tonight. Jonathan told me of a quote he read once, and I figure that not only does it describe my life, but it really described us today. "I find that people who are late are much more jolly in life than those who have to wait for them."

Tonight, we are jolly.

Quick update: I had hoped to post this earlier, so let me catch you up to date. Jonathan and I spent the day relaxing with the Fingerle's in Albershausen. Our bus was an hour late, presumably because the first bus driver was a slow jerk. Haha, but maybe not. We still don't know how we took 10 hours to do 600km, but it could have been because we took breaks every 2 hours. Needless to say, we didn't get much sleep.
When we arrived, Pam had been waiting for about an hour, so we trucked it home. Jared was the first of the kids to see me and he ran up and gave me a hug. Not too far behind him came Fabian, who simultaneously draped himself around me as I drug them both inside. It was good to see them.
We had a good afternoon meal, birthday cake (it was Fabian's birthday. I think he liked the Lego I brought him, and I know everybody was excited for "5 gum!") and nap, and at about 9pm decided to go for a walk in the woods. Yes, the woods. You see, Germany is full of them! It's one of my favorite things about this country. So, we got to walking and about a mile into the loop, we saw lightning. Which lead to thunder. Which, of course, leads to rain. A downpour! I love rain, so we ran through it, trying to keep baby Mia covered (it was Jonathan, me, Pam and the baby on the walk). We took a break under a bus stop when the rain really started coming. We knew we were close to home, so the next pause in the rain we took off for home. So good!

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