MY TRIP TO FRANCE
As many of you know, I recently took a trip to Paris to visit my exotic French girlfriend (making me a person with a girlfriend), and since I got back I've been insufferable, what with my "merci, garcon" and my "oo la la" and my beret and my "that's not how we do things in Paris." It's not surprising, though; in the short week I was there, I really achieved a great deal of cultural absorption. You see, for a guy like me, a trip to Paris is pretty much a one-time thing, considering the money that I make on this website. So you know I'm going to make the most out of my trip.
If you're in a similar financial position, and you really want to get the most out of Paris, you could do worse than taking me as a tour guide. Oh, wait, did I say you could do worse? Because you couldn't. Anyway, here's what we did.
CENTRE GEORGES POMPIDOU
My insistence on seeing the Centre Georges Pompidou had more to do with my desire to say "Centre Georges Pompidou" a lot than with any real interest in the Centre Georges Pompidou. Apparently this building created controversy when it was built because it was so ugly. Imagine if there was a controversy every time the Americans built an ugly building! That speculation led me to write a short poem about the Centre which I now present for your amusement.
|The view from the|
Centre. Look at the
funny thin building!
Centre Georges Pompidou
Centre Georges Pompidou
Centre Georges Pompidou
I love you
If you take the escalators up to the third floor, there's a really nice bench where you can sit and look out the window, which is what I did, because I was too jet lagged to get up and walk around. If you decide to go the "walking around" route, though, apparently there's some famous artwork in here too.
We went into the Louvre, noting the magnificent and controversial Pyramide du Louvre designed by American architect I. M. Pei. Once in the entry area, we were astonished by the beauty, quality and number of museum guards who were standing around preventing us from seeing any art. Apparently the ticket sellers were having a "greve" that day. Now I don't speak that foreign gobbldygook they speak over there in France, but my girlfriend tells me that "greve" is French for a strike. In Paris, apparently, strikes are a little different: they last for one day, and there are no demands; the point is not to win higher wages or better working conditions, but so that everyone will appreciate the striking group when they are working. It's like that part in the movie Norma Rae where she silently stands up in the middle of her textile factory, holding up a sign that says "Let's Piss Off Everybody for No Reason!"
A quick note of advice for the ticket seller's union: you should keep your strikes to one day, because if the strike goes on any longer, people will realize that we can get along fine without you. "Let's see, I can get into a museum without paying 7 bucks? I can see movies for free? Shit! Ticket sellers, please come back!"
So I didn't see any art. But the bathrooms were open, which was good, because it allowed me to make a childish joke about I. M. Pei.
Totally foiled in our effort to see the greatest works of art in Europe, we decided to climb the bell tower at Notre Dame de Paris. I'd read The Hunchback of Notre Dame, so I was looking forward to swinging on the bell rope and making a total ass of myself.
Just as we arrived, however, a surly Frenchman closed the bell tower queue. Assuming attitudes of Gallic calm, we wept openly.
The next day, we went to the cathedral at Chartres. It was nice and all, and the architecture was very pretty, but when I ran amok shouting "Sanctuary!" I just felt like an idiot.
Here's a tip for travelers: If you want to avoid the crowds, don't hit the big tourist attractions on the weekend.
For instance, I really wanted to see the palace at Versailles, since I had heard that the hall of mirrors was really cool. According to our guidebook, Versailles is supposed to be really crowded on Sunday. We played it smart and went on Monday. When we got there, we were pleasantly surprised to see that there were barely a handful of people outside the palace. Not only that, but many of them were grounds crew. That was because Versailles is closed on Monday!
We made the best of it and took a stroll though the gardens, admiring the magnificent statues, which would have been really lovely if they hadn't all had bags over them.
Not to be defeated in our desire to see gilt, we returned the following day, and this time got to go on the whole tour, which culminated in the apogee of all my hopes: we got to go into the Hall of Mirrors! I quickly pulled out my digital camera and snapped a great picture, which, on later inspection, turned out to be the only picture of the Hall of Mirrors ever taken without any mirrors in it.
Right: My mirrorless picture of the Hall of Mirrors.
Bottom: The same picture, after being fixed in Photoshop.
THE EIFFEL TOWER
Ah, the Eiffel Tower. At somewhere over 50 feet high, it's the defining landmark of Paris. I can't count the times I've looked at a postcard of the magnificent Tour d'Eiffel and said to myself, "Someday I hope to climb 3/4 of the way to the top."
And on my trip to France, I was lucky enough to do just that!
So here's the deal: when you go to the Eiffel Tower, you climb flights and flights and flights of stairs until your knees are weak and wobbly. Then, finally, you reach a point when there are no more stairs, and you have to stand in line for 1/2 an hour to ride an elevator the rest of the way. So that's what we did. We stood on line for 1/2 an hour and rode an elevator the rest of the way.
...TO THE BOTTOM!
Enunciating with difficulty around the ashes in my mouth, I mumbled, "Do you want to walk back to the top and try again?" We had difficulty deciding whether we would rather do that or just walk out of the elevator and find a nice place to die, but the kindly elevator operator took pity on us and whisked us back up to the place we were, 3/4 from the top. He then directed us to a DIFFERENT elevator that you had to take to the top.
|The picture I didn't take from the top of the Eiffel Tower.|
We ran up the second elevator, just in time to see it close its doors to whisk its last bunch of lucky tourists to the top. A surly Frenchman (not the one who worked at Notre Dame, a different one) told us that the Eiffel Tower was closing up for the day. And what's the first thing they close? Yup, the elevators.
So we walked back down.
At the bottom of the tower, we saw the kindly elevator operator who had taken us back up the tower, and beat him to within an inch of his life.