Sep 042007

So, I’m back from France. We only went for four days to be precise. I spent the last few days here catching up reading all your blog posts. Somehow I had this feeling that I could only write a post of my own after I had read all the unread blog posts accumulated in my feed reader. I know this is beyond silly. I’ll better start posting again before I have read everyone’s posts.

On a less silly note, the two fabulous social wedding brides, Jen and Mad Hatter, have asked Hel and me to co-host the Just Post roundtable starting this month. I feel very honored and hope to be up to this task. (For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, just click on one of the buttons with the purple dove on it in the sidebar.)

So. Last week me and my husband went to Paris. Our son just stayed home with his grandmother. We thought he’d rather not go sightseeing non-stop for days. The packing and preparation went well, and we didn’t even have the traditional fight on the way to the train station. But then, packing for two adults for four days in August is not as stressful as packing for two adults and a child for a week or two in December. In fact, I was giddy at how light my backpack was. (And no, we didn’t take the laptop. We are a disgrace to bloggers everywhere.)

We took the train, which was fast and pleasant. Our hotel was small and quite shabby (okay, very shabby) but friendly and right in the midst of the tourist quarters. (Also we very much appreciated our room not facing the street.) We walked everywhere and didn’t take the metro once. On the train we talked about the things we wanted to see and do while in Paris. I had two things on my agenda: a boat trip on the Seine to see the major monuments, look at pictures in the Centre Pompidou, apart from that I was content with soaking up the atmosphere. My husband wanted to go to the cemetery Père Lachaise if possible and go window shopping in a street that has dozens of music shops next to each other.

Before we went everybody had told us the must-sees in Paris. “You have to go to the Louvre!” Every single person said the same. And one person told us that we could do a virtual tour of Notre Dame and so we didn’t have to see it in real life. Well, what a relief. Wait. I thought I was the one who could choose.

So, into the hotel, out again, consulting the map and off to the Seine.

The boat ride was very pleasant though it is quite tiring to hear all the guide’s explanations twice, once in French and once in English. On the other hand it helped to have it repeated because I always get confused by numbers in French. I found that one thing at least hasn’t changed since the last time I was in France (24 years ago), I can’t understand English when spoken with a French accent. Most people though, hearing my attempts at speaking French, immediately switched to English or German, so the discomfort seems to have been mutual.

After the boat ride we went in search of a restaurant. We finally settled on one because we were very, very hungry and tired too. We had quite a good meal and some very good wine, and we would have enjoyed it more if there hadn’t been a huge screen in the restaurant showing music videos. The waiter probably thought he did us a favor by cranking up the volume once we had our food in front of us. Well, he didn’t.

Off to the hotel. And to sleep. Before the trip I had briefly considered packing our sleeping bags, and we should have. We are not used to share a blanket. And the older I get the more I love my own mattress. Breakfast was very “continental” with a thimble full of hot beverage (the tea is about as bad as in German hotels), a croissant and a bun with an amount of butter and jam that you had to spread very thin. The second day we knew our way and ate the croissant dry to leave an adequate amount of butter and jam for the bun.

After breakfast (and morning pages and meditation) we immediately purchased orange juice and water and then headed off for the first round of real sight seeing. We went to the cemetery. When we went to Vienna a couple of years ago the visit to the big cemetery there was one of the highlights of the trip. We hoped for a little green and quiet.

While Père Lachaise is indeed beautiful there is not much green, rather crypt next to crypt next to tombstone. We looked at the grave of Jim Morrison, together with dozens of other tourists, had a snack on one of the benches and left. We spent the rest of the day happily at the Centre Pompidou looking at modern art. Well, classic modern art. We spent four hours in there and only saw the exhibits on one floor. It definitely counts as one of the highlights of our trip. I even found several artist of whom I had never heard before and of whose work I’d like to see more. I even made a little list.

After that back to the hotel to a dinner of bread, cheese, and wine. We had wanted to take our food to the banks of the Seine but that seemed too cold, windy and far away at that point.

On Thursday we woke up with almost all of our personal must-sees seen. From the Centre Pompidou we had had a view of Sacre Cœur, and decided it was time to look at Montparnasse. It took a while to walk there but it was definitely worth it. Once there we entered serious tourist country. Nonetheless we found a little pocket of quiet at the foot of the stairs leading up to the church. There was a playground where we had a snack again and watched other people’s children and thought of our own. After a look inside the church we strolled through Montparnasse always trying to avoid the crowds, got lost, found our way again and looked for Rue de La Douaie and the music shops, passing Moulin Rouge and such on the way. There really is one music shop next to the other, there even was a shop dedicated to only guitars for left handers! We looked at guitars, some old and some new and talked about which ones we’d like to buy if we had the money. We were happy to find that so far we are very content with the guitars in our lives, only I might want an electric guitar of my own at some point in the future. But not now.

So there we were, with sore feet and half a day left. We decided to head back and look at the Tuileries, Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomphe and such. That, by the way marked the lowest point of the whole experience. It was crowded and unpleasant and loud and full of cars and motor-bikes and people smoking. At the end of the day after about ten hours of walking we finally managed to find a nice little restaurant near the hotel, and that was it. (Oh, and it was a nice little Mexican restaurant. Food was good, beer was good but quite expensive.)

We spent our last morning in Paris relaxing at the hotel and when we had to leave we went to the Seine once more, walked around the Île de la Cité, decided not to view Notre Dame from the inside because there were huge crowds pressing into it, had a snack in a park and went back home.

I know this sounds like a very boring trip but that’s the way I like it. We looked and talked and looked some more. I wanted to write something about the differences between France and Germany and about how I played a little game trying to guess the country people were from but maybe some other time.

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