February 8, 2005, 7.20 PM
Having mailed the post cards, I left the Eiffel Tower and took a one hour boat tour through the center of Paris.
The open-air boat tour was very economical and appreciated by my increasingly angry feet. We floated past the many of the city's key cites, including the Louvre, which I figured I would save for my next trip due to its vast size. Later in the day I decided that I might go tomorrow anyway, if only to see the Mona Lisa; I then found out that Mona takes Tuesdays off (the museum closes only one day a week, that day being the last day that I'm here), and so I'll save it for my next trip after all.
The sun was setting as my boat docked, so I decided to walk back the way I had come, past the Eiffel Tower, to l'Arc de Triomphe.
I thought it would be the perfect roof top from which to take some shots of the City of Light. As you can see, it was indeed that, but a bit more.
February 8, 2005, 8.15 PM
Yes, I know it's probably wrong to have Italian food if you're only in Paris two evenings, but they have the tagliatelle carbonera that I've been unable to track down for two weeks (or is it three?), ever since an acquaintance of mine, Jake, mentioned it. If it's of any consolation, I'm drinking a bottle (a tiny bottle) of Sauvignon Bordeaux.
So. Some thoughts on Paris after the first twenty-four hours. It's a bit difficult to collect my thoughts with the Italian couple less than two feet away from me arguing, but I shall try.
The in-my-personal-space-Italians (granted, it's not their fault that their table is so close to my own) are loud and unhappy. I don't understand a word they're saying, but I think she hates him and I think he hates her for hating him, and I think I'd hate him, too. He's arrogant, speaks not a word of French beyond merci, and is being an ass with the waiter because of his language frustrations. The waiter is returning the sentiment, then turns to my table and is as polite as he can possibly be to me. The rumors must be true, that Parisians are rude if you don't even attempt to speak their language but are extremely polite otherwise. Yes, the waiter just smiled at me after glaring at them. It's no wonder the couple are on edge.
February 8, 2005, 10.00 PM
Get out. They have Welsh rarebit on the menu here. I had to go to France to see it on a menu, after having spent nearly two and a half months in the UK, and as luck would have it, I've already had supper. They have no dry martini either. I shall have a margarita.
Anyway. My guidebook (Lonely Planet) was a little misleading on a couple of things. Not totally off the mark, but not spot on. English does seem to be the most popular second language, followed by Spanish. German seems to come in third, despite sharing a physical border (and closer by far than Spain is to Paris). Whether or not this is a holdover from the war or something I'm not certain.
My guidebook also implied that the French know the fine art of making a cocktail. This too is a lie. Or at least, in my experience so far it's been a lie. Many bars claim to be 'cocktail bars,' but when you look at their cocktail menu there are perhaps ten or twenty options. One bar I saw today claimed to have a wide variety of beers. There were four on tap. At this current pub, I tried ordering what I thought would be a simple request here, a dry martini. Bombay Sapphire Gin is on the menu, but they don't carry vermouth. So I went for what would surely be a safe option: a margarita, priced at eight euros. In the States, that would be a decent sized drink. This is what arrived:
Quite possibly the frilliest margarita ever, but it was only about five sips. None of these sips were very good. I could make a far better margarita with my eyes closed, and I'm no Mexican. I suppose living in a country adjacent to Mexico carries advantages in food and drink. I wouldn't be upset were it not for the price; it's not like we're still on l'Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Then again, my half-bottle of good wine on the Champs-Elysées was a mere ten euros earlier this evening, so even the locale has nothing to do with it. (I'm only in this pub because it's right next to my hotel, I wanted a place to write in my journal, and I wanted to be able to get home quickly afterward.)
Anyway, where was I? Impressions of Paris and preconceived notions from my research done before the trip. On the metro, I was told two lies. The first, and more egregious, being told to me by my hotel, who put me on a circuitous RER route when a direct route via the metro was available. The RER and Metropolitain are sort of joint subways that occupy many of the same stops; a bit confusing at first, but easily enough figured out. Fortunately, I had to speak to a ticket agent when I first arrive at Gare du Nord, and he told me the proper route to take.
The second metro lie, more of half-truth, really, was that it's totally refurbished after the recent centennial. The first train I was on, the 2, felt antiquated and utilitarian and a bit dirty. The initial stations I encountered struck me similarly. But it seems that once you enter the center of the city things change. Notable exceptions include the stops Louvre-Rivoli and Bastille.
Manu Chao just came on the video screen at the pub - it's the first time I've seen him and he's nothing like what I imagined in my head.
February 8, 2005, 11.25 PM
I just caught the last three men on a television show called Le Plus Bel Homme du Monde. The top three were all American, chosen by French viewers. The French must not hate us as much as we thought. They chose Tom Cruise as the most handsome man on the planet. The French must not have as much taste as I thought. (For those curious, second runner up was Richard Gere, first runner up was George Clooney.)
Okay, I may joke, but America is everywhere you look here. Less obvious than in England, but very much omnipresent. Les Experts, for example, was just advertised on the television. That's their translation for CSI.
Now there's a very interesting show on, Appels d'Urgence, about female members of the Paris police force. I've noticed the police here everywhere, generally never in groups of less than two officers and quite often in groups of three. I realize that many people (including my guide book) think this appears militaristic, but as an officer myself, it just feels safer. It's good to see that they have the funding to protect the safety of their officers so that they can go home each evening to their families.