Saturday, April 09, 2011

April In Paris

Started out with a small contretemps with Homeland Security at the ABQ airport. Turns out they get mad at you when you tell them that they're stupid and incompetent. Then when you try to explain to them that if they made an effort to become smarter and more competent then no one would need to tell them that they were stupid and incompetent, they just get angrier. But the larger problem had to do with the plane being delayed by two hours. Which meant that under the best of circumstances we would be getting into Dallas 30 minutes before the flight to Paris. No sweat, the airline told us. Nonetheless we were sweating. We got off of the plane with 20 minutes to spare, and made it, panting, to the next one in 10. Then it sat at the gate for another 50 minutes. Apparently not that many people commute between Dallas and Paris, since the plane was half empty. Which meant that we could stretch out, which was good because the only movies available were a couple of children's ones at 3 am over Greenland. Charles de Gaulle airport is almost at a third world level. No ATMs worked, and the only 'bank' available ripped me off for $20 in changing a $100. The dirty train going into town passed endless graffiti filled walls. Then we lugged our luggage through the Metro. When we walked up the stairs into the sunlight we were at the oldest, quaintest bridge that bridges the Seine. And we were surrounded by the wide streets and endless ornate stone 19th century buildings which define Paris. Yes, it was still pretty special, even to my cyncial jetlagged eyes. Occasionally hours and hours and hours of research on the internet pay off. I had found this incredibly quaint hotel at the very pointy tip of Ile de la Cite, basically across the street from the Louvre and a couple of blocks from Notre Dame. 60 Euro a night, which was about one fifth the price of any other hotel within several miles. The only drawback was that I had to carry our incredibly heavy bags up six flights of stairs. On the other hand, once you got up there you had a balcony overlooking an amazingly quaint courtyard/park. Once I had recovered from my sherpa ordeal we set out in earnest on our five days of sightseeing and hanging out in the middle of Paris. I won't bore you with all the minutiae, especially since you probably know a lot more about Paris than I do. Suffice it to say that each and every day our poor, ragged, ancient feet gave out long before the rest of us did. And that all the obvious and semi-obvious places were gone to, even if we had also done it 11 years ago when we were last here. We did not spend the $20 each to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, both because it was unclear whether we could go all the way up, and because there was a 2 hour wait. In fact, by that point late on Friday afternoon Paris was getting a little tedious, since the endless crowds of tourists--at least half of whom seemed to be feckless college students from everywhere--were turning the place into a giant theme park. Just to show you how much tourism has overwhelmed the touristic part of the city: The French now all speak English. We were not able to book our absurdly quaint hotel for Saturday night, which meant that we had to lug all our stuff out to a hotel in an honorably working class district. It's impossible not to notice how stress free and outdoor cafe driven French lives are. It was even the case in our new environs. And whereas in the center of Paris we could only longingly and despairingly look at the way too expensive meals that even regular people can afford there, here we could buy food that was only 50-100% more than in the States. What had made it even worse was that the French are almost perverse in putting meat into every single dish on every single menu in the country. But after chowing down on some veggie Turkish fare, we hopped the Metro back to the Arc de Triumphe and joined the claustrophobic crowds along the Champs Elysee. When we returned to the hotel I checked my email. Air Madagascar had just decided to totally change the flight that we were booked on for Sunday afternoon. So now we had to quickly rejigger our schedule and tell the hotel in Antanarivo not to send the car to pick us up at 3 am, because now we were coming in at 9. Oh, and I had to do this first blog post.


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