September 5, 2013

#8 - Paris!

Dear Dubrovnik,
It has been a beautiful afternoon/evening here in Belgium, hot enough to swim in the pool which is at 25° C, and the air is at about 30°C (95°ish F)! I am happy to say we are now safely home from our trip to Paris. It was a very beautiful and interesting trip to say the least, so as with all good stories, I should start at the beginning. The day prior to departing (Sunday,) Sego, Gege (Sego's older sister,) and I went to Chateau de la Hulpe, which is a big public castle, with many many hectares of fields and forrest for people to enjoy. Sorta like a public park, only it's a castle, with ponds, and statues etc.


SO, Monday (day 1) was an early day, we woke up at 5:00AM (11:00PM EST.) Sego's boyfriend Gaetan arrived around 6:00 AM to bring us to the train station, where we would then catch a bus to Paris! He brought Sego a red rose, and a red heart shaped locket to attach to the passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor, ( Lovers Lock Bridge.)

One thing that didn't change from the US was that people here too believe that no one hears their three hour phone conversations on a quiet bus at 7:00 AM. But we survived, and made it to Paris! One long metro ride and some questionable smells from the stairwells and hallways, and we emerged into the Parisian sunlight, and shadows of the Louvre. It was about noon- thirty, so we quickly crossed the street and journeyed into the Louvre museum. Down into the glass pyramids, after checking our bags etc, we were off into the massive museum. We managed to tackle only about one wing, roughly 1/4 of the whole thing, and that was just sort of, "sight- seeing," not really looking at each exhibit, as there were literally, hundreds of thousands. We did catch some of the most popular pieces, like the Mona Lisa, some egyptian arts, beautiful sculptures, and La Victoire de Samothrace (The Winged Victory of Samothrace.)
La Victoire de Samothrace, 190 avant J.C
Me and the Mona Lisa!, 1503,  Leonardo Da Vinci
A great Sphinx! 
The glass entrance and windows to the Louvre!
After hanging out by the fountains of the Louvre, we headed to the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor to attach Sego and Gaetan's heart locket.

The story is that two lovers attach the locket typically inscribed with their names to the bridge, and throw the key into the Seine, symbolizing that their love is forever and eternally unbroken. It is a wondrous sight to behold! After this, Sego and I had our lunches on the bank of the Seine, and then headed off to our hotel, on foot.
Parisian reading a book on the bank of the Seine
This took a long time, but we were able to stop at a Carrefour (grocery) store where I got some snacks for the night, and breakfast the next day. We arrived at our hotel, Hotel Voltaire Republique, got our key and headed to the room. I noticed that our room, fourteen, was next to twelve and fifteen, commenting to Sego that in the US, hotels and many businesses don't acknowledge the 13th floor, or room, though they still exist, just labeled 14. Our room was nothing special, one bed, small bathroom, TV. For €50 a night (66 USD) it was perfectly fine. The windows opened to a very stereotypical view of the streets of Paris. Flowers in window boxes, above a bustling street of cars, shops, tourists and locals.
We made it!
We then departed for La Tour Eiffel, to meet up with my beautiful best bud, Taylor and enjoy the evening. We surprisingly never got on the wrong metro, or the wrong direction through our entire stay, and upon exiting the station, we could see the top of the tower! We ran across the street in true tourist fashion screaming as the cars closed in on both sides to be greeted by throngs of locals trying to sell us something. All monuments in Paris (I suppose big ones all over the world) have armed guards patrolling all over the grounds, at all times which is a mixed emotion of I'm safe, and what is there to prompting the intense security? Anyway, Sego and I waited under La Tour Eiffel as I waited to see T (real romantic moment) and then when we saw each other, we said hello in the true Parisian style, two kisses and then a hug like America. I really desired to go to the top of the tower, and eventually we all agreed, so we got in line. Nothing in France is free. Even walking up stairs. We paid I believe, €3,50 to walk up the two floors of the Eiffel tower, and that took about 45 minutes to climb the 674 stairs, to that landing. To add some perspective, First Level: 57.6m or 190ft tall, Second Level:1115.75m or 376 ft, Third Level:281m just over 900 ft. The third floor is only accessible by elevator, and yes you have to pay to use that. €6 and you get a ride to the top, 281 meters high!
View from the second floor, Montmartre in far distance.
Gorgeous sunset over Paris.

View to the top during the light show! One floor left!
View to the ground, tiny cars and people!
The Seine at night all lit up!
Best buds across the pond!
View from the gardens
It was a beautiful view, definitely worth doing, and I would highly recommend doing so at sunset when we did. Also, ever hour, on the hour, the tower is lit up with flashing lights, and it is quite a sight from the ground and from the tower. After the long descend, we sat on the lawns below for a couple hours to enjoy the tower. It was nice to catch up on things, and hear how Paris was going so far for Taylor, and gossip, and just have fun. We got some great pictures, then caught the metro to the last stop we all shared, where Sego and I went up, and T returned to her flat. This my friends, is where the night turns into a long, long, long day.

Sego and I were very exhausted from waking early, the long bus ride, walking among smelly tourists (the Louvre is not air-conditioned,) walking many kilometers to the hotel on foot, and then walking all the way up and down La Tour Eiffel. My legs were sore and crampy, as were our shoulders and backs from carrying all of our possessions prior to returning to the hotel. So we retired to bed at about 1AM I would guess, where neither of us could find comfort as we were so overtired and sore. My legs had that tickly, muscle cramp sensation where you cannot find comfort in any position. This sensation continued for many hours, and I could tell Sego was feeling the same way. I also, intermittently felt as though the muscle twinges were so intense, I was getting bitten. Finally the alarm sounded and we both rolled out of bed, somber expressions on our faces as we both declared - there were TOTALLY bed bugs all up in that bed. Sure enough, we began to peel back the many layers of sheets and blankets and to our disgust found many, many big, visible bugs. We, to our own surprise,  reacted with frustration towards the hotel, and rather than screaming and running, both proceeded to take really scorching showers and put our night clothes in a plastic bag. Oh and my beautiful nectarine I saved for the morning had been nibbled by some other creature of the night. We then ask Taylor if we could sleep on her floor, but literally, her tile floor would make us happier than this hotel. Her roommate hesitated as we obviously had been infected, but we promised to do the whole procedure to assure our cleanliness, which proved to be a huge feat.
Just two of the many dozen little pests shuffling about the sheets!
Something nibbled my nectarine, I was not happy.
I was really (pardon my french,) pissed off at the hotel so as Sego and I gathered our bags and proceeded to the counter, it was no surprise the that clerk had the following reaction. He attempted to act as though this incident had never happened before, but you could see in his eyes, and lack of eye-contact that he had seen this many times. He could speak english, so he and I had a great conversation (while a sipped a juice box) about how we would be getting refunded, and no, we did not want the bedding changed, or to switch rooms- we were leaving. He consulted his manager, via phone (if ONLY I could have spoken to him in person,) and he would not refund the first night. So, we shall be spreading the word not only via reviews online (we have already done this), but plan to submit our story to the Haggler, who is a man who writes for the NYT about bad travel etc, and tries to get better results for victims.

With all possessions in hand, we attempted to find a pharmacy, but in Europe, there is literally a drug store on every corner- (they are like Star-Bucks in NY, or CA,) so this was easy. Once inside, Sego conversed with the pharmacist, and I could tell by his eyes, and tone, and by the way the woman next to us kept inching away from us, that it was bad news bears. Sure enough, the man said not only that all of our possessions were not now "at risk," but the clothes we were wearing at that moment were no longer good. He went on to say that bed bugs can be so bad that people will sell thier houses to get away from the problem. So, almost €60 later, for each of us, we had entirely new outfits, undies, bra, shirt, pant, socks, shoes and all. Oh, and to literally add insult to injury we had to put all our our things in to garbage bags to spray with a strong pest killer (we also sprayed our selves, probably we'll grow extra limbs) and carry those around Paris. But oddly enough, we were actually laughing and smiling throughout this experience, having to empty our bags in public and cram them in trash bags, 
change in a movie theater bathroom, and walk around sweating like crazy as we had to buy outfits that would be good for the night as our jackets were now trash bag bound.

Once we got to Taylors, we put the bags in the shower (her room mate seemed terrified of us due to the incident,) but heck, we looked good in our brand new sterile outfits. The three of us got crepes, and I even ordered a strawberry jam crepe on my own! Sego and I continued where we left off, only having to cut out a couple sights we desired to see. We got to Montmartre, which is the top of Paris, where you can see views of the whole city, and of course had to stop by Moulin Rouge, which is very sketchy even in broad daylight.
Montmartre!
Moulin Rouge!
Streets of Moulin Rouge.
It seems as though every man with a creepy brow and smile converges on the streets to sit and watch people walk by. For those who don't know, Moulin Rouge is pretty much a red light district and it is very apparent as every store, newspaper stand and supermarket would prove to be somehow sexually themed. Sego and I quickly disappeared into the metro system to head back to Taylors when we over heard a huge commotion and could see a teenage girl standing on the metro tracks arguing with her boyfriend who was on the platform above. You will be happy to know that although everything runs by the clock and trains are never late, they really have their stuff together when it comes to the metro. All trains were stopped, incoming and outgoing, and once the girls' friends coaxed her off the tracks, and whisked her away, (just before the officers could get her) the trains was cleared to approach going very, very slow. It is against the law to go on the track, and anyone caught is heavily prosecuted, but no one was hurt, and the trains lost maybe a minute or two.

We reunited with Taylor and headed off to get something to eat and drink in her little district of Paris. We came upon many different places but settled on a small pub in a bustling part of town. Not too expensive, and it was a beautiful night out, so it wasn't too hot, or too cool. We stayed for a couple hours, ate some fries with ketchup and mayonnaise (which is a European thing,) and tried some different drinks. Then we left for the flat where Sego and I (thankfully) slept on a clean, cool, tile floor. Sego slept in a duvet cover, and I, on a yoga mat but wow, we were very grateful, and even though the following morning we were sore, we were so happy to be out of the bug hotel. The next morning we got up and headed off to The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, (to fulfill a child-hood dream of mine to see Notre-Dame after seeing the Hunchback of Notre-Dame,) which is currently celebrating it's 850th year since creation. 1163 was when Notre Dame was under construction, and it ended in 1345, so only 182 years to build. It is so crazy to think that we in this present day can not even fathom what it would mean to start construction on a building that you would never see the end result of. Not only this, but when was the last time a building built now a days took more than a year to create? I believe in our race to advance we have lost some of the precious beauty in this world by not taking our time to create. You know what they say, Rome wasn't built in one day.
Outside Notre-Dame
Inside gothic arches
From here we got to see an ambulance get into an accident while leaving the station heading to an accident, (everyone was fine, not the car though,) then off to Saint Germain des Prés, which is the oldest church in France which was to begin around 512AD, and after being almost completely destroyed, it was reconstructed around 1,000, being dedicated in 1,163. This was the one building I went into while being abroad where it truly felt historic and not fluffily restored beyond its truth.

Inside Saint Germain des Prés

After this we went to Luxembourg Gardens, and hid in the shade of the imported palm trees, as they were like an oasis in the desert heat, and Sego and I only had our outfits from the day prior, which consisted of pants.
Sporting our expensive day-wear at Luxembourg Gardens.
After we went to get our trash bags, sprayed them once more and said our farewells. Another long, smelly bus ride and we arrived around 23:00. With the chance to sleep in this morning, today was a quite, lazy, and involved swimming in the pool, and sitting in the sun, with the exception that we had to deal with out clothes from the trip, washing them for over two hours, at very very hot temps, and drying them for a long time as well, then putting them in the sun. I searched all the creases and seams, and detailing of all my clothes, knowing that only two items ever actually touched that awful bed, and was happy to find nothing. We may have over done it all, but it was necessary to make us feel as though he didn't need to bath ourselves and belongings in hot oil. 

All in all, I'll never forget Paris, and I was so happy to be reunited with one of my best friends half way around the world. It was a pricy trip with regards to all our unplanned expenses, but we did well, and made it home! Off to make dinner!

Until we meet,

Au revoir!

No comments:

Post a Comment