Monday, December 7, 2009

Paris, the City of Chrismas Lights

And now it's time for one of the rare posts from Andrew. I hope you enjoy.

This weekend, we finally took that trip to Paris we've been planning for months. We got on the train, no stress this time. We arrived at the Gare Austerlitz (train station in Paris), looked at each other, and said, "What now?" Originally, the plan was to wander around on Saturday, meet up with our friends in Paris that we've been failing to see for so long, then on Sunday, go to the museums because they're free the first Sunday of the month. We called our friends, seeing when they would be free, maybe to go out to lunch or dinner. Answering machines... Huh, turns out one went on a trip to England, and another went back to the States. FAIL. Sorry gals, hopefully we can meet up next time.

Okay, hanging out with people we know is out, let's go see the sites.

First stop: Natural History Museum. The huge whale skeletons greeting you at the doorwaywere pretty sweet. We wandered all over the museum, checking out the taxidermied animals.
I got a kick out of the ones we saw in Mali, and how they look so much better in real life. The stuffed Abyssinian roller just didn't capture the beauty of the brief flash of turquoise blue seen in the wild. The top floor was dedicated to evolution, and I got to see a first printing of Darwin's Origin of Species in addition to Lamark's works. Of course, there's a statue of Lamark outside, saying he's the grandfather of evolution. While that may be, he's a grandfather in the sense that he's off in a corner, spouting gibberish and everyone ignores him. All in all, though, one of the best Natural History Museums I've been in.

Continuing our wandering, we briefly stopped at the Notre Dame de Paris.
Been there, done that. Time for something new. We wandered around, checking out a random farmers market, full of stuff to make our mouths water. We saw a sign for the Pantheon, and decided to check it out, as neither of us had heard of it. As we approached, we were more and more amazed. Not only is the Pantheon a fabulous basilica, but it is also surrounded by the Law School and the Mayors Office, two other gorgeous edifices.
Inside, we saw the tombs of Voltaire, Emile Zola, Marie Curie, Rousseau, and Alexander Dumas. There were frescoes of Joan of Arc, Clovis, and others. And maybe coolest of all, Foucault's Pendulum (for all of you Umberto Ecco fans out there). This pendulum shows how the Earth spins on its axis. The pendulum just swings back and forth, but the table underneath it is marked like a clock and it seems like the pendulum swings its way around the clock, whereas it's really the Earth that spins the table under the pendulum. For some reason, I thought there were only 8 of these in the world, although a quick wikipedia search tells me that there's way more. Oh well, I've seen the "original."
One of the very nice things about the Pantheon and the Natural History Museums was that they were free! As teachers, we get special cards that allow us into all the cool attractions, not bad, eh?

Time for more walking. We walked around, hungry, looking for a nice place to eat that wasn't too expensive. That was a mistake, so we just walked around until it was worth the outrageous prices to satiate our hunger. Nicole had salmon and I had veal, all for 22€. Not so bad I guess. Now strengthened with full bellies, we decided to assault the Louvre, a museum larger than most shopping malls.
We went in the secret side entrance to skip the line at the glass pyramid, only to encounter longer lines inside : ( Well, we decided to come back on Sunday, and for now, just quickly use the restroom. 25 minutes later, turns out there's only two stalls for a very long line of women. Poor planning for a building three blocks long.

With empty bladders, we felt like reading a good English book, so why not stop at WH Smith, one of two English book shops in Paris. How telling it is that this city is able to support at least two English book stores. I felt like I heard more English walking around Paris than French! Anyway, I mostly remembered its location from when I went to get Nicole's surprise engagement book five years ago. The store was just where I left it, and we had a nice, relaxing time perusing their selection. I was very disappointed, however, when I saw that all of their prices were even more than the suggested retail price on the back cover. For example, we've been on a Wheel of Time kick. These books in the States cost $7.99 each new. The suggested price was £7.99 on the cover, and the sticker said 11€!!! That's $16, twice the price! And don't give me that "well, shipping from another country" and all. Printed in UK means that it travels less distance than San Francisco to LA. So I just bought some cream sodas. They were so delicious. Why hasn't the rest of the world caught on to root beer and cream soda? I miss them so.

So, by the time we left the bookshop, it was dark (5 p.m.) and we decided to hit up the Christmas Market along the Champs-Elysees. We saw a little performance of people dressed up as Musketeers, saluting with their swords, and a duel. The market was similar to ours in Orleans, only bigger, with a slightly larger variety but still your basic crepes, mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, churros, and santa hats. I would like to say we walked along the Christmas market, but really we wedged ourselves in and were carried along in the mob.

We got a chocolate banana crepe and a grand marnier crepe and then stopped for air at a little spot that was playing foxtrotty chrismas music and had Santa flying overhead in his sleigh on a guywire. It was cool. We then wedged ourselves back in until we were done with that side of the street. We decided it would be better not to go back down the other side of the street, and wanted to see the Eiffel Tower light show, but that was an hour away. Why not while away the time at the other English bookshop, Shakespear & Co.? While it was a good idea not to go back to the christmas market, maybe walking the 2 miles in the rain, back the way we came to the shop wasn't such a good idea. Along the way, we stopped at the Musee D'Orsay, but they were striking so that would have to wait til Sunday. We had a little trouble finding Shakespear & Co., but we finally got there, a refuge, and went upstairs to take a load off and read a book. I was disappointed to find the same bizarre prices as seen at WH Smith. I guess we'll just have to get our books from Amazon. It was relaxing, however, and there was some good music.

At 8 p.m., we went out to check out the Eiffel Tower light show. We didn't want to walk the 2 miles back to the actual tower, so we crossed the river to get a better view. But from far away, not having my glasses, the tower got slightly blue, then slightly green, then slightly purple. Definitely nothing very special. Maybe if we had been closer, it would have been spectacular, but as far as I'm concerned, anytime you hear "lightshow," go do something else. We walked around the right bank some more, looking for the Galeries Lafayettes, to no avail. We did see, however, other Parisian City of Lights buildings:

By this time, the blisters on our feet had blisters, so we walked through the Latin Quarter and got ourselves some drinks so we could sit down for the couple of hours until our train left. We made the train, made it home, and fell right to sleep, unable to return for another day on our feet in the hustle and the bustle, the chaos and frenzy that is Paris. We had a nice, relaxing day in quiet Orleans, with foot massages.

Until next time...


  1. How do you keep the apartment warm?

  2. Andrew looks like he's posing for the BlueBoy portrait.