Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Paris Day 3 & 4 – In Which We Climb the Eiffel Tower, St. Eustache is Better than Notre Dame, and Leaving Paris for Munich is a First Class Experience.

After another spectacular breakfast (did I mention the croissants? how flaky and delicious they are?) we hit the streets. The girls have really embraced this whole Parisian aesthetic, from the way they are dressing (straight hair, worn in the style of the day which was also the style of 20 years ago and probably 100 years before that: straight and very slightly messy, but never puffy, fluffy, layered, permed, coloured, highlighted or, God forbid, how you say… ‘freeeezy’) to their makeup (classic with a nude palette eye (Google it) a suggestion of black eyeliner, mascara and that’s it although they would probably wear red lipstick if I would let them). Coloured eyeshadow is a faux pas as is blush, or too much foundation. Women still use face powder here – I have seen them in the bathroom, oh excuse me, ze toilette, gently patting it on to their perfect, pale faces. No women here would dream of having a tan on her face, Mon Dieu that would be terrible, or worse, of showing the appearance of having perspired, at any point in their lives but certainly not now.

But it’s their clothes where the girls are really crushing it. They have walked onto the set of a Parisian movie in full  summer costume: fashionably simple summer shift dress in a pastel colour or black or white. Stripes are also acceptable for the dress, as is a light floral pattern. Sunglasses (black, brown or white), strappy sandals, and a small purse carried over the shoulder complete the look. One never carries anything larger such as a backpack. Certainly not a map. It’s no surprise really, about the clothes as we have all spent enough time in the clothing stores here to open our own. I actually directed a couple of people to the till and the dressing rooms at the H & M in Paris I had been standing waiting there so long, and in French too! (my directions, not the standing and waiting).


I will continue to maintain my complete intimidation by the Parisian woman. They really are so outrageously elegant and beautiful – they could take over the world if they could only be bothered. And put down their cigarettes for a few minutes too. It’s too bad so many of them will die from lung cancer.

Anyway, I digress. One of our first stops was a corner store to buy some water. Where, in Canada, we might be met by boxes of Twinkies or Doritos, here in Paris, the first thing you see is rows of salads. Combine this with the fact that the French eat a pastry with their morning coffee, and maybe a hard-boiled egg, a delicious three or four course sit-down lunch with reasonable (and by reasonable I mean small) portion sizes, then a light supper later in the evening, and that they do not snack between meals, it’s no surprise they all look they way they do.


Water in hand, we found our bus stop and took off on our city tour on the way to the Eiffel Tower. I was again entertained by the commentary although it was SO hot that some of the facts escaped after having been in my brain for only a few short minutes. Something about the Champs Elysee and the the Arc de Triomph or however you spell that and Les Invalides and blah blah blah, Really we were only interested in getting to the Tower, where we had plans to walk up the stairs.




After standing in line for a surprisingly short time, we were through the gates and off. It’s something like 780 steps to the second floor and I feel like I managed it pretty well although I did feel like thumping the guy ahead of me on the stairs who kept reaching up and trying to loosen bolts and shake the irons bar to see if they would, oh, I don’t know, move? Come apart in his hands? I would have thumped him too if I had been able to release my own iron grip from the hand railings. At one point, we came across a woman who had stopped on the stairs and I had to let go to get around her. I wasn’t very happy about that and I am pretty sure I glared at her.


What exactly I was doing up there among the pigeons when there was perfectly good elevator, I don’t know, but do it I did.


The first floor of the tower is actually a fairly awesome place to just hang out. There is a terrace (please, zat is how you say eet here, do not use the vulgar ‘patio’) with a bar and swings, lounge chairs, and of course, fabulous views. People were laying around in the sun drinking champagne and just hanging out. I could have stayed right were I was with my salade de fruits and my sparkling water but Zoe made sure I had the full experience by dragging me out onto the see-through floor. Looking down was shear hell, but I did it and could even see my mum way down there sitting on a bench. She had declined the experience.

The party was over and it was time to get up to the second floor. I tried to just look at the floor in front of me but a couple of times I accidentally looked down over the edge and then had to wait a few minutes for my blood pressure and heart rate to return to normal before carrying on. Apparently the French have a word for the feeling that one is going to jump from high places: ‘L’appel du vide’ literally means ‘the call of the void’. I think I could improve on this word by adding something about how one’s children are going to jump from a high place and you, as the parent, will watch them as they sail past you.



At least, that’s how I feel. Even if there is a three foot thick and ten foot high chain-link fence stopping them from doing any such thing, I can’t even handle it when they get close to the edge:

Me: Could you just maybe take a little step back from the edge…?

Zoe: Mum I’m not anywhere near the edge. We’re still in the bathroom

Me (not listening due to the ringing in my ears): I know but if you wouldn’t mind just taking a teeny tiny step away from the edge that would be great.

Zoe: Come on let’s go look at the view

Me: I can see really really well from here.

Zoe: Mum. You’re face down. Get up.

Me: Get away from the edge!

Zoe: Please stop being such a compl…

Me (crawling): I think I will just go look at this door stop over here. It’s really quite fascinating how they have attached the spring part to the…

Zoe: Oh My God. MUM. STOP. You’re fine, I’m fine. Look at all these people up here enjoying themselves. No one has jumped or fallen blah blah blah

Me (razor sharp Bionic Woman hearing picks up man in gift shop talking to his wife, in pig Latin Aramaic): Honey did you hear about the man who jumped off the tower blah blah


Zoe (administering a shot of shutthefuckupazide): Don’t worry she’ll be fine in a minute.

Me: (a minute later): What a great view! Let’s take selfies!




Having been up there for some time, it was time to get moving so we gave our quads a good workout on the way down and reunited with my mum who looked considerably less hot and sweaty than we did.

Back on the bus it was Napoleon this and De Gaulle that until we got off back at the Opera. Fortunately, there is Lindt store right beside the bus stop. And by store I mean chocolate-making kitchen, cafe and tasting room, plus it was air conditioned so it was, as they say, a no-brainer.

They serve a delicious cold-chocolate drink/sundae there and I know I ordered them for the girls but then it all happened so fast I can only assume it was they who finished them.


A little more shopping was in order before heading back across town for dinner. I will admit to getting slightly turned around for a few minutes after leaving the confines of the chocolate shop, but I think it was due to the fact that someone had replaced the street name with these mice:


You can see that too, right? It’s not just me…?

Randomly, I had also been wondering where all the pigeons were in this city as usually you see them all over the place and we had seen virtually none, then we turned a corner and there they all were:


I think there maybe something that happens to the space-time continuum when shopping is factored in: five minutes feels like 50, and so, after what felt like about three weeks but was really only about an hour, we made it to what has become a favourite restaurant of mine here (like I come here all the time – I don’t) but it is very good and I wanted Terra to have a traditional fondue experience.


We all tucked in to meat fondue (in hot flavoured oil), bread and cheese fondue (which Zoe declared to be delicious), plates of cured meat, salad, fresh bread and potatoes. The girls tried to convince me to let them have cider, and they even had the server on their side who told me that it was low alcohol content and it would be fine for ‘les jeune filles’. I asked to see the bottle just to be sure and it was actually 4.5% so, not wanting to have two drunk teens on my hands I declined – next time maybe. And there was more dessert.

After dinner we wandered through the Marais district which was fresh from the Pride Parade earlier that day (couldn’t even get close!) and all the more colourful for it. The Pompidou Centre is here and they always have something interesting going on in the modern art department. Not usually my thing but I did like this:


Somehow, we ended up back at the fair where the girls had another twirl through space on the Crazy Ride From H-E-Double Toothpicks, as my friend Linda used to say (she probably still does).


Apparently, I hadn’t had quite enough of elevating myself to great heights so we had a go on the massive Ferris wheel. The views from the top where outstanding but I don’t have any pictures as that would have required me to let go of the bar that I was clutching for dear life.

It was another late night to bed but who cares sleep on the plane is my motto in these circumstances. We were in no rush the following morning as our train didn’t leave until later in the afternoon. After a fairly good night’s sleep, we packed, and ate breakfast and Madame let us leave our bags while we went off for one more explore. I thought we might have better luck at Notre Dame so off we went, but somehow, we ended up in a shopping galleria (please, do not use ze vulgar ‘mall’) where several days passed. Judging by the crowds on the street, it was going to be no better and possibly worse over at Notre Dame so I made an executive decision to give it a pass, and go to St. Eustache instead. I had been once before when I was a teenager and have wanted to go back ever since. Fortunately it was right beside la galleria so I ignored the “I don’t really want to go to another cathedral” (they’d only been to one small one so that wasn’t going to fly)  and in we went. Such a beautiful place: if you are going to Paris and Notre Dame is too busy, come here instead. Or actually, just come here instead without bothering about Notre Dame. Yes, really.


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It was also cool inside, but most importantly, there was no one else in there. What a treat that was. We stayed as long as possible before going next door for some lunch. The food wasn’t nearly as good as the menu, which featured this beauty of a translation fail. I don’t even know what they were meaning to say, there in the description for Salade Caesar, and nor do I care because: Let’s anoint purple!


Yes, lets! Do it now with me – just drop whatever you’re doing and let’s all anoint purple. There. wasn’t that great? You can do it again on your own time, anytime.
It also looks like they are serving basilisk on their Bruschetta. Gross.

It was time to head back to the hotel and get our bags, say goodbye to Madame (took a while with all the cheek kissing) and get to the strain station. Of course, traffic was horrific and I had a few minutes where I really hoped we were going to get there and that there wasn’t a strike or a tire fire or what-have-you on the way. As it was, we had time to spare and got to our seats on the train without having to sprint with my mum on a luggage trolley. Don’t laugh, it’s happened before. No I’m only joking – it was a shopping cart, not a trolley.

I have one thing to say about the six-hour train ride, and that is: first class. Ok I have a bit more to say…By some miracle, when I booked the seats a few months ago, the first class seats were only a few dollars more than the second class seats so I grabbed them.
It was so luxurious to stretch out in our reclining seats, have someone bring us a delicious meal (mine was swordfish, marinated vegetable salad made with real vegetables, just saying, Air Canada), and the most delicious dessert, and watch the French countryside go by, at lightening speed.


The French conductor, about to blow his whistle.





By 10pm, we were in our hotel in Munich, with sweet dreams in our heads.

More tomorrow.

Clanks for Pleading



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