Paris

Let me make something perfectly clear. France is fantastic, but I can’t stand Paris.

Bienvenue à Paris!

Bienvenue à Paris!

I first visited Paris as a high school freshman, and I was 14-years old. It was a high school trip, my first trip abroad without my parents. Actually, that trip went fine. I liked it so much, I returned on a high school trip for my sophomore year. That’s where the animosities with Paris begin.

Bridge Locks

The new thing in big cities, you can buy a lock, latch it to a bridge, and leave it there.

French girls are Amercian

... and all the pretty French girls were American.

Nothing bad happened to me personally, but the trip was full of negative events. My chaperone (and good family friend) had his pocket picked on the metro. A trip friend had his pocket picked at Le Place de la Concorde. He actually ran down the culprit and got his stuff back. There was another student, who was swindled out of $500, while waiting in line to exchange money at a train station.

Notre Dame

A walk along the Seine is well worth it.

The Center of Paris

This marker is in front of Notre Dame, and it marks the center of Paris. All distance measurements are taken from this point.

Front Door

Pssst...He's standing on that little guy's back.

We saw two traffic accidents. One happened right in front my chaperone. A car ran a red light, and hit a taxi. I heard my friend as he rushed to help, “Ça va? Ça va? ” The drivers leg was bleeding a bit. A horn from one of the wrecked cars blared on and on. Soon enough, firemen arrived, and they did everything they could to get the horn turned off.

The Facade

The facade catching the light.

Garoyles

Garoyles

Back to more current time, my family and I made a 2-night side trip to Paris. I was reluctant to go, but it was the kids’ first chance to see it. We drove to Marseille and took a fast train to Paris. One of my current travel mates thought we were crazy to go, and I agreed with him actually. He warned me of the “Romanians.” I don’t think he really meant Romanians. Perhaps he was making a derogatory reference about Gypsies. In any case, he was referring to hooligans, French or non-French, in general who move to Paris to take advantage of full-pocketed tourists.

pretty statue

A statue outside of Le Ping Pong Nu Salle de la Renommée de la France

Our hotel was on Rue St. Germaine, only a few blocks from Notre Dame. It was August, so there were very few French people in Paris. I kept saying, “All the pretty French girls are American!” The city was full of Americans, Brits, Italians, and Asians. The only people that spoke French were the frustrated waiters. In La Louvre, the Mona Lisa was mobbed by Americans, and the statue of Cupid and Psyche was swooned over by Italian girls.

Boo!

Boo!

Alas, Paris is still the Paris I recall from my highschool sophomore year. Our first morning there, we were crossing a bridge to Notre Dame where 2 “Romanians” apparently cased me for a mugging or more likely a pocket picking. I was out in front of my family, and these 2 guys approached from the other way. One specifically, stared me in the eyes as he walked at me. If I altered my step to the side, he matched me, and I knew he had a buddy. I knew he wanted bodily contact to rough me up while his buddy fished in my pockets. When we were almost nose-to-nose, I pulled a good ol’ fashioned spin move, which would make Bill Belichick proud. Looked over my shoulder, and the “Romanians” went on their way.

a fish

The French see to like these funky fish.

Of course Paris is not all bad. It is one of the loveliest cities in Europe. Cities in Europe ooze with art and sculpture out on the streets in a way that’s practically impossible in the States. We walked from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower (and back). The blend of Gothic, neo-Classical, and Art Nouveau laid before us was literally 850 years in the making.

Montmartre

Didn't make it to Montmartre. This is as close as we got.

I will say that my meager French served me well. I made honest attempts to speak French at every encounter, yes with varied success. But on every encounter, the person I spoke to appreciated the attempt. Often broken French was answered with broken English as we strived to get our concepts across.

Eiffel Tower

Why would anyone go up into a tower built by a guy named, "I Fell?"

Paris in August is like Disney World. No, no, no, it’s not like Disney World; it’s turned into Disney World. Yes, places like Paris are fill with the “Real Thing,” while Disney World is just a facade. The tourists turn the Paris into Disney World. The gift shop at Sainte Chappelle actually sells figurines of Disney characters, mostly from the Hunchback movie. But it’s the lines, the ques. People are willing to spend a morning or an afternoon to stand in a line. The line for the towers of Notre Dame stretched the length of the whole church. It was relatively short, but it was the slowest. Max and I wanted to go up, but we only had the one day in Paris.

Eiffel Tower again

Eiffel Tower again

We walked from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower (and back). The lines of people wanting to go up the Eiffel Tower swirled and spiraled their way from as far away as Portugal (I swear!). Those not waiting in line reclined on the grass mall along with the litter of paper, plastic bags and bottle caps.

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