The last few days have been full of sleep, fun, and walking. So. Much. Walking.
On Wednesday morning my backpack finally came, but Camille was planning for us to go out Thursday night with her friend for a ‘cheap’ €3,50 bière with some friends. So I resolved to see as much a possible between Wednesday morning and Friday when I planned on leaving. I knew I wanted to see the royal palace and the royal gardens so I started walking in that direction and resolved to tour all day on my way there. Since it’s me, I ended up getting lost so many times I couldn’t figure out what direction the palace was in after an hour or so so I just started walking all over the place. And the first impressive thing I ran into was this– the Pantheon!
The pantheon has an interesting history. At first it was a monument to many gods (pan- = all, theos = gods). Then it was given to the church. Then it was claimed by the state, and then Napoleon gave it back to the church, and then it was used as a momument to French secularism and used as a grave site for all the most famous Frenchmen like Victor Hugo and Voltaire. There’s lots of religious art lining all the walls because it was at one point the church of Saint Therese, but there’s also artwork in the architecture of the building suggesting Greek and Roman religious roots. It’s weird. Art is boring for me (for the most part) so every time I see something in artwork I try to make it into something amusing to keep myself busy. For example:
This guy is having THE worst day possible. Don’t mess with him. Or her. He has a tiara and a sword and means business.
“But father, why can’t *I* be king?!”
This woman is about to toss her baby because someone left the toilet seat up.
Then you get downstairs to the crypts and it becomes a totally different building. There are caskets in many identical rooms in wings built off the main path and you can visit/read about the people buried there. It was really, really impressive because several of the rooms were decorated permanently with glass, metal and feathers and such to commemorate the dead.
The casket where Voltaire rests.
The only casket I REALLY cared about though was Marie Curie’s. She’s interred there with her husband, but sadly there were no decorations at all in her room. After seeing all the tombs I wanted to see, I headed out in another random direction and entirely by accident FINALLY stumbled upon this bridge I’ve been trying to find since my third day here. What luck! Maybe I should give up on trying to use maps altogether. Anyway, this bridge is where people who are in love come to put a lock on the bridge to symbolize the strength of their relationship. The whole thing was unbelievably saturated with locks, engraved with the names of their owners or simply with the names written in marker.
Aw, a gay one. 🙂 (I think)
And a lesbian one!
ONCE AGAIN WITH THE MARRIAGES. She doesn’t look too happy about being there, though.
Using the map that Camille gave me, I really resolved to find the palace and noticed there was a stop labeled “Palais royal” on the metro. I didn’t have any change left for the metro, so I gave it a €20 bill and it gave me back the most ridiculous amount of change I’ve ever seen. Don’t expect to get change back from these machines in the smallest number of coins possible, because they operate on whatever the thousands of people that use them daily feed into them. You are at their mercy. I once received 4 20 cent pieces and 4 5 cent pieces instead of a one euro piece.
Are you kidding me?!
This is happening? Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman in the same movie? Someone help me.
Later that night I had intended on attending a couchsurfing event. Couchsurfing, apart from connecting people with others for sleeping purposes, also allows it’s members to create events and attend them en masse. On Wednesday night, there was a small hang out of about 12 people scheduled at the point of l’Ile de la Cité, a small island in the middle of the Seine. I bought a cheap bottle of wine to share and walked around at the scheduled meeting time, where there were 20+ groups of people just hanging out eating cheese and chips and drinking wine. I could not, for the life of me, find the CS group, but one of the other groups invited me in after I told them I was giving up and they could have my wine if they wanted. It was the most international group of people I’ve met so far, which made the night awesome. There was a French girl who had a perfect American accent in English, a Greek woman, a Dominican guy, a Swedish man and woman, and a girl from Texas who is scheduled to return home on Monday after working in Paris for two years. Most of them were there in Paris working in the fashion industry, but I remember the Swedish guy was actually a chef.
We passed nearly four hours together and I had the most fun I’ve had in a long time just talking about international travel and US culture vs Europe culture. By the time I felt ready to leave we had exchanged contact information and the metro line had been closed for a good hour and a half, so I had to walk all the way home.
Left to right: Swedish chef, French girl, Texan, Me
We went through a LOT of wine and champagne. Also, I tried actual olives for the first time. They’re not bad!
After one o’clock, it’s hard to find anyone on the streets of Paris. I don’t know how I managed to make it back without getting mugged, or even bothered by someone, but there was no one out by that point. Anyway, I made it back safe.
The next day, I realized I hadn’t seen the Louvre yet. Well, ya can’t go to Paris and not see the Louvre. Even if you think art is boring. And I’m so glad I did go! I took almost 300 pictures of mostly sculptures I thought were impressive, and the paintings I took pictures of if I thought they were amusing in some way. For me, it’s much more interesting to think about the person behind the artwork and imagine the process of creating art than it is to enjoy the actual art itself. I wish I’d had my art school friends with me to teach me all the art history while I was there.
The Mona Lisa is boring.
That’s not how you do a push-up!
My favorite sections by far were the ones with ancient text written into stone or papyrus. Love it!
My brother would love the Egyptian exhibit. We’re both really into folklore and mythology, especially from ancient cultures, and basically everything here was a statue of some god.
THEY MUMMIFIED THEIR PETS. Cats, falcons, Ibis, you name it, they mummified it.
All in all I was able to see a coupe floors from two different buildings in the Louvre and it took me five hours. On several occasions I had to move quickly on from my spot because I was repeatedly attacked by large groups of Asians wielding enormous cameras, especially on the Medieval Louvre and the Egyptian sections.
My feet were absolutely killing me, but it was definitely worth seeing all the works of art. It’s annoying to move photos from my camera to my iPad and then post them on this blog app, so I didn’t put up many pictures, but if you get on my Facebook in a few weeks after I’ve returned to the states I’ll have half the Louvre’s collection in all it’s glory on my Facebook page.
That first night that Camille and I had walked through the gay district, I happened to find a flyer for a karaoke night on Thursday. Since being in Europe, I hadn’t been able to find any karaoke places, and after figuring out I wasn’t going to leave until Friday, I knew I had to go. Camille and one of her friends were going to come out for a drink, but they ended up canceling which left me wide open for karaoke.
Going by yourself to a karaoke night, it’s much easier to make friends than on another night or somewhere else. Everyone is drinking and if you sing songs people know, they’ll take to you rather quickly. The only problem is that speaking French is hard enough without noise and music and everything else. I stood around awkwardly for a few minutes before I got up the courage to start talking to people, asking them what they were singing and whether or not they were regulars, and immediately made three new friends! Two spoke Brazilian Portuguese and the other was a French native.
My first song was “My Heart Will Go On” and I made sure to tell everyone at the bar over the microphone I was sorry for not singing a French song and explaining that my French was awful. That got the crowd going. Then Marlène (one of my new friends) offered to sing another song with me, and we settled on “La Vie En Rose.” I’m telling you guys, if you want to feel liked, go to karaoke! If you want to have a good time, even if you suck at singing, DO KARAOKE!
The next day all I did was walk. I was expecting to leave Paris at midnight, but my ride (which I had found through covoiturage) ended up not coming and I had to schedule another ride for Saturday at noon. Highlights:
Bread with chocolate chips/pain au chocolat. Best euro I ever spent.
This is how people take a break from the city… Inside the city.
I took a mini sun nap.
Then on my way home I saw four prostitutes and a million sex shops. I’d never seen a prostitute before and it scared me the first time. You’re just walking down the street, minding your own business, and suddenly BOOBS. BOOBS EVERYWHERE. Pushed up, smacking you in the face, high-laced stockings and short skirts… Etc. Enough of that.
Last night, Kawtar came over with Camille and we ate escargot. It was terrifying at first, but… When in Rome, right? Or Paris, that works too.
These are snails. Snails, with butter and garlic and herbs shoved into their shells. She you bake them, the stuff melts and seasons the snail for eating. Mmmmmm!
Finally, this morning, I went to meet my covoiturage ride to Toulouse (a city not far from where I’m headed: Saint-Girons). I’m dressed in blue and pink and I can’t help but feel I look like a giant walking stick of cotton candy. And my backpack matches my shirt, to boot! Are you all ready for adventure? Cuz I AM.