Tag Archives: Paris

Train to Paris

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Here’s a shot of what Rotterdam looks like:

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What Rotterdam looks like.

Don’t worry. The city is much bigger than this photo might imply.

Wondering what Harry Potter ads look like in French? I thought you might, and here you go:

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“Épique et captivant”

See? I’m awesome like that.

I was actually wondering how they get all those train cars to stick together. Apparently this is where they apply the glue:

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Smear it here.

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Ivorian Cuisine

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

I had one last errand to run before I left Paris – just down the street from the hostel I stayed at (you know, the gay hostel) there was an Ivorian restaurant that I just had to try. So try it I did.

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Ivorian Cuisine

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Ivorian Cuisine

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Ivorian Cuisine

The very last thing I did in Paris was stuff my face with actual food shipped all the way from Côte d’Ivoire in the ten minutes it took to arrive in front of me. Now that’s service.

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Sacre-Coeur

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The last time I was in Paris, the Sacre-Coeur stole my heart – no pun intended. So that’s where I rushed off to in the few hours I had left to me in Paris. But just as the Notre Dame made a more magnificent impression on me this time, the Sacre-Coeur did less so. It was still beautiful nonetheless:

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Sacre-Coeur

And the view you had over the rest of Paris was alone worth the price of admission – that being, the walk up that steep hill:

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Sacre-Coeur

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Second Day

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

My second day in Paris started out in the Latin Quarter, which I wanted to re-explore. I never did find the pedestrian streets I seem to remember from my last time there, but my guidebook is only fractionally as good as the one I had last time, so that may explain why. I also thought it was about time for me to eat the fresh mushrooms I had bought in Amsterdam but hadn’t had the chance to eat yet. I’ll admit they had a peculiar flavor, but what do you expect? So I sat down across from the Notre Dame and ate them, and stayed there for the next four hours or so, as passenger boats came and go (damn the grammar, it rhymes). The Notre Dame hasn’t been one of my favorite cathedrals, architecturally, but sitting there by the Seine, my legs dangling over the edge, I got to see it in a different way. Clouds passed and the light changed subtly over time. The two western towers, which always seemed so boxy and plain to me, struck me as more delicate and intricate under further examination. And I had the best possible view – of the cathedral’s side, so I could enjoy the flying buttresses, the southern facade, the towers, the garden, and the Seine and the arched bridges which crossed it. This was my immediate view:

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Isn’t it beautiful.

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Isn’t it beautiful.

I found these two trees, just starting to change color, absolutely entrancing:

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Isn’t it beautiful.

To my right, two floating restaurants contributed a wealth of delicious smells:

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Isn’t it beautiful.

On the left, you can see steps leading down to a passenger tour boat. The boats came and went (proper grammar there, because what do I have to rhyme with? I know you’re grateful; you don’t have to thank me; you’re welcome) and the passengers got on and got off again. I stayed, unmoving, taking in everything in as much detail as I could.

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Isn’t it beautiful.

This is the view of the Seine to the left, with all those gorgeous bridges:

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Isn’t it beautiful.

And this is the spot I sat in when, four hours later, I left the trance and moved over to the other bank for a closer view:

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Isn’t it beautiful.

Another view of the Seine, looking west:

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Isn’t it beautiful.

And this is that same, gorgeous southern side, but closer:

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Isn’t it beautiful.

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Isn’t it beautiful.

What a magnificent way to spend an afternoon in Paris. A highlight of my entire trip.

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Saint Germain

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

A few shots of the Abbey of Saint Germain, which was completed and dedicated in 558. In the many centuries since then, it suffered a succession of disasters, so much of it has since been rebuilt.

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The Abbey of Saint Germain

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The Abbey of Saint Germain

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The Abbey of Saint Germain

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Sorbonne

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Sorbonne in Paris. It’s still there, too.

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The Sorbonne

The fountains made for a soothing place to sit and write postcards. Which is just what I needed, since I had just spent the better part of the day inside the Paris train station, Gare du Nord. I had arrived late the night before and checked into my hostel – the gay hostel, you remember – and went in search of some Chicken Madras. I knew it wouldn’t be the same as the addictive Madras I remember from my time in England, but I had to try. But the train stop was my first stop the next day. Naturally I asked one of the fluorescent-shirted information helpers which line I should stand in, and after asking me a battery of questions, I went where I was directed. An hour and a half later, I spent a mere 15 seconds at the front counter – brief, because I was in the wrong line, and told so. There was a special line for people with a Eurail pass; not so special for me, since it meant I had to enjoy double the line-waiting fun. By the time I left the Paris train station, I not only had to pay 75 euro for my overnight sleeper to Barcelona, but I had to wait 3 hours and miss half a day in Paris to do so.

That said, I did save 49 euros and miss another half a day in Paris the day before, by taking the eight-hour free train with four connections from Amsterdam instead of the 3-hour direct train. When I was told the direct train carried such a heavy surcharge, I balked and said I had to think about it. When I came back, the second receptionist I spoke with told me dismissively that that train was full for the next four days, and without looking up anything, told me she couldn’t help me. On reflection, I’m not sure who was right – the first receptionist or the second – but if I was bilked out of a three-hour train ride, I was also bilked into saving 50 euro. So I didn’t feel too bad for myself. But the connections I had to make were arduous. I had six minutes to make the first connection, three the second, and six the third. The first train ran late, so I actually had four minutes for the first connection, which was on a different platform on a different floor. Panting with my heavy suitcase, I made it. The second connection seemed impossible – my train arrived two minutes *after* the other train was scheduled to depart. But it was still there, waiting on the other side of the same platform, and I made it with a cool 30 seconds to spare. That third tight connection, though, was the killer. Again I had four minutes, but couldn’t find the board with scheduled departures. By the time I did, dragging the dead-body weight of my suitcase, the train was no longer listed on the board, because it was time to depart. I heard a whistle blow, signaling the departure of a nearby train, and I rushed towards it, sharply gasping out “Amien?” to the people inside. “Yes,” they said, and I squeezed through the closing doors, which caught on my suitcase, and stood panting silently for a while. That fourth connection was no trouble. I had a luxurious 40 minutes.

Anyway, back to Paris.

I could have taken the metro to the Bastille, which I wanted to see again because the last time I was there, a street vendor sold me a sausage I couldn’t refuse. I mean, forget. Instead I decided to walk, which I regretted because, first, it must have taken twice as long, and second, because it rained on the way, so I got wet. And when I got there, the Sausage Nazi told me, no sausage for you. Just a big traffic circle and all the traffic that went with it.

Then there was the Notre Dame, and the Rude American Tourist Incident you all heard about on the nightly news. So that’s why I wasn’t in the best mood.

So when I was approached by an indeterminately-aged Asian girl (what can I say? They all look the same to me) asking how to get into the Sorbonne, I was happy to help. We didn’t get in, but she did ask me to join her for dinner, and we spent the rest of the evening doing the things she wanted to do together. I was happy to tag along because, I thought, well, why not? As you’ve been going, how well are things going for you? Not too well.

She wanted to see the (closed) Louvre, the Champs-Elysee, and the Arc de Triomphe. So, here I am at the Louvre:

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The Louvre.

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The Louvre.

And here is the Arc de Triomphe:

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The Arc de Triomphe

And inbetween, one of the most magnificent blood-red suns I have ever seen in my entire life. There’s no way I could capture it in a photograph with its true magnificence intact, but it was breathtaking, and absolutely made my day in every way. Here it is:

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The sun

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Notre Dame

Saturday, 30 July 2011

It helped that I sampled some French pastries on my way toward Notre Dame. The last time I saw it was nine years ago – nine years ago – and it’s still here. Can you believe it? Some things are built to last.

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The Notre Dame.

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The Notre Dame.

I didn’t go in this time because the line stretched around the continent – tourist season is a joyous time – and I was rudely told to find my way to the end of it, as I confusedly blundered into it. By some fat Americans. Whose innocent little children I wanted to flog in the street, just for fun.

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But Then

Saturday, 30 July 2011

But then I had to go to the train station to arrange my ticket to Barcelona, and that wasn’t fun. I was directed – directed, mind you – to go to a line, where I waited patiently for an hour, before it was my turn at the front. Where I learned I was in the wrong line. There was a special line for Eurail pass holders – which wasn’t all that “special” for me, since it meant I got to wait for another hour and a half in an entirely different line. And pay 75 euro for an overnight berth at the end of it.

By the time I left, I wanted to flog little children, in the street, for no reason. Just like everyone does, from time to time.

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At First

Saturday, 30 July 2011

My first full day in Paris started out well. A farmer’s market was just down the street, and the last time I was in a farmer’s market in France, I had a magical experience: the best strawberries, grapes, and mushroom that I’d ever eaten. This farmer’s market was nearly as wonderful: swarming with locals, crammed with stalls, filled with the sound of vendors hawking their wares. And samples! A tried a slice of orange – yum. I’ll have one please! Just one? oh, why bother, just take it for free.And the produce I paid fro wasn’t that much more expensive – Paris may be an expensive place to live in many ways, but not because of the price of its fresh produce. I’d say fresh fruit and vegetables are about half the price of what you pay in the United States.

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A Parisian market.

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A Parisian market.

The pears I had were blemished, bruised, and completely ripe. The flesh fell off the core, dripping, into my mouth. Why would you want pears any other way? Yum.

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Where?

Saturday, 30 July 2011

“Hey Ryan, where are you?”

“I’m in Paris, Bitches!”

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The place to be.

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