Friday, November 23, 2007

One last day in Paris.

Friday night in Paris was a restless night of sleep. The apartment was beyond cool to be living in but the floorboards and doors were all so extremely noisy that I couldn't sleep if anything much was going on in other rooms. I hate being such a light sleeper. The Z's had to get up around 6am to get their shuttle to the airport, they would have been able to get a bit more sleep and take the metro, but the strike was still going. They weren't able to reach any taxi companies, so they had given in and booked a shuttle. A little more costly but totally worth the peace of mind. I decided to get up and say goodbye, and so did CF. We got a bit more sleep but gave up on that idea before too late in the morning. There was so much I wanted to do with the day. There were sites left to see and I didn't feel at all satisfied with the amount of shopping I had managed to squeeze into the week.

We had a little breakfast while CF and D worked on possible transportation methods for gettin to the airport the next morning. They looked up several shuttle companies online and we made a reservation. CF and I set out to visit the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise and see some famous graves. We bought a map for 2euros and started navigating the huge cemetery. The map listed many graves of famous people, and it appeared that the more famous the name, the larger and bolder the name was on the map. The first big one we came near was Chopin, it was obvious when we had found it because it was covered in 4 times as many flowers as the others around it. We made a stop at Jim Morrison, no security guard was visible at the time but it was fenced off and crowded with people trying to snap a photo. This place was starting to rub me the wrong way. We went over to Sarah Bernhardt, and two women walking by stopped there too only because we were there. I had read that people leave lipstick kisses on Oscar Wilde's grave, and having seen his classy but irreverent memorial in Dublin I somehow pictured shiny marble and one perfectly imprinted kiss. How silly of me. It was stone that looked dull from all the times it had been touched and it was covered all over in gross lip prints and graffiti. I held out hope for Edith Piaf's grave. But there we found a tour group of Russians in big fur coats laughing and stumbling over the graves between the path and hers. One guy sat down on the poor soul at her foot and proceeded to take photos of each one of his companions posing with the grave. I felt dirty for being there. Yes, I took a photo, but I felt like even if this place has become a tourist attraction you should at least bring a little bit of respect to pay to the "people" you've come to see. We saw a few more graves and then couldn't take any more, I'm really not sure how I feel about our going there.

Next we headed over to Promenade Plantée, a raised park that's really mostly a walkway. It was a little bit tricky to find a way up there, we had approached it somewhere in the middle. It was very pretty and I liked seeing the people exercising up there, reminding me what torture I am in for when I finally return to the gym after being away for five weeks! The view down at the neighborhood was nice too, we could see apartments stacked on top of each other and cafes of different sorts. I'm not sure if the darn thing was a whole lot shorter than I had expected or if we started closer to one end than I had thought, our walk up above the rooftops was over rather quickly.

I was itching to shop, and CF had plans to hit the Sewers of Paris Museum, but we decided to get some lunch first. We found ourselves back near the Ile Saint Louis, hoping for some tasty street food. Before not too very long we saw a window open to the street from a restaurant, the sign stated that they were selling crepes to go. The woman there was swamped with business and we were constantly losing her attention as she tried to run the show going on inside, but she made us fresh buckwheat crepes filled with toppings we selected ourselves. CF had an egg which is very traditional and she broke it open right onto his meal while it cooked on the griddle. He smiled with giddy anticipation. We walked with our little meal across the bridge to Notre Dame, it was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining, so street musicians were braving the chilly air. On the middle of the bridge a man was playing soprano sax, accompanied by man playing a small upright piano. Right there in the middle of the bridge! A crowd was forming around them. We found a bench in the park behind the great cathedral and enjoyed the warm, tasty, melty goodness. Who could ask for anything more than what we had right then? Out in the world and enjoying a beautiful day. This is real happiness. This was our Paris moment. We decided to get some ice cream and crossed back over the bridge. The crowd was still watching those musicians, it was one of those days when you just know that most of the people around you are happy. We easily found a stand in front of a restaurant that was selling that same delicious salted caramel ice cream we had enjoyed the day before and each got a cone. (In fact I believe it was where Giada deLaurentiis got her ice cream cone on her Weekend Getaway show. But shhhh, don't ruin the moment!) We gave each other a little salty caramel smooch goodbye and parted ways.

I made my way over to Shakespeare and Company since I knew the legendary bookstore was so close to Notre Dame. Rarely have I been hit with such a strong energy the moment I enter a room. Maybe I was still reeling with the happy emotion from my wonderful lunch with CF, but I swear I could feel the creative energy surging in every corner of that place and I was almost moved to tears (or maybe the lack of sleep was getting to me). It was lined from floor to ceiling with books of all shapes and sizes, new and old. Beds and writing desks were tucked away here and there. Two old movie theater seats were the available seating in the rather unusual magazine section (it was actually just a section for writing publications). In the middle of the main floor there was something that looked like an empty water feature, it had coins in the bottom, I still have to look up what the meaning of it is, but I knew it had to be something witty and clever. Upstairs a man was getting ready to run a come-one-come-all writing group. And all throughout the store twinkling piano music could be heard. At first I was sure it was prerecorded, but I found the fellow sitting at the upright in the back and it was then that I was certain this place was really magical. I looked for a while, feeling almost desperate to find something to buy so I could take a bit of the magic away with me. But nothing made itself obvious, so I went on my way. Happy with the experience of having been there.

I tried to finally do my great Paris shopping adventure. I don't know if it was the crowds, or if I had gone to the wrong places, or what. I just wasn't in the right groove. I am a little bit sad that I didn't get to do more shopping. I just don't shop in a group very well and this was the first time all week that I had been alone. Oh well, I guess that just leaves something on my list to do if and when I get the chance to go back. I sent CF a text message asking what he was up to, he said he was done at the museum and we should meet up. Another message a few minutes later told me that the metro was packed and he was walking to meet me. It took him a little over half an hour and we still had more than that left to walk to get home. This week in Paris was quite the roller coaster. So many wonderful things, but some really big disappointments too. I was so tired at this point, I wasn't sure how to feel about the experience.

We made our way home, planning on stopping by for just a little while before going out on a date (it was Paris, afterall). I took a little nap and went to the computer to have another look at the photos from our trip to the Eiffel Tower the night before. My stomach dropped, the photos wouldn't open. I remembered trying to get on the computer right before my nap and it wasn't responding so I had restarted it. And I remembered that the night before when I had imported my photos from my camera everyone had crowded around to have a look, and I ended up moving away from the laptop before closing out of iPhoto. Oh my god, iPhoto had done it to me again, I had taken a couple hundred shots the night before, and they were all gone. I cried my eyes out for a while, I almost cried myself right to sleep, but then I realized I was still in Paris and metro strike or not, I just couldn't leave with zero photos of the Eiffel Tower at night. CF came in the room, probably relieved that I had stopping being such a drama queen. "So, where do you want to have dinner for our date?" he asked me. "Well, I guess it's going to have to be somewhere near the Tower." CF loves an adventure, it didn't take much to get him in on the crazy idea.

We walked to one metro stop but couldn't tell how long it would be until a train came and we were worried about losing too much time before the Tower closed. We considered a taxi but traffic looked bad. We were tired, and I haven't mentioned this but my back was starting to bother me and was now hurting, but we did the best we could at the time and started walking. We did find a metro ride to take after we walked for a bit. Sitting there on the train I almost started crying again. What was I thinking? Was this even worth it? They were only photos, wasn't having an amazing time up there enough? And CF, wasn't he such a trooper? He didn't even like going up there and here he was making a grueling trek back with me, back to very close to where he had started walking from only a few hours earlier. A million things were flying through our minds.

Cue the cheesy metro riding musician! He got on the train with his sax hanging beneath his shirt in case he had to make an incognito getaway, turned on his canned backing track, and started playing Fly Me To The Moon. CF and I finally just started laughing. What a tension breaker! He played another song or two, and went around the car asking for change. He almost didn't hit us up, but made eye contact with CF just as the train stopped and the doors opened. "That was so worth a Euro," CF said to me. He handed him the coin, and the man slipped off the train with the rest of the crowd.

We still had plenty of ground left to cover. The metro had delivered us to a mid-point on the Champs Elysees. We rushed in the direction of the tower, but soon found ourselves a bit confused. Hey, there's the Dior where Sarah Jessica Parker fell on the series finale of Sex and the City! I'd been wondering all week where it was! Too funny. We went past some pretty swish restaurants, and saw plenty of Parisians going about their everyday fabulous lives. CF tried to figure out the best way to go, but I pointed out that I could see the light coming from the top of the tower and he was suggesting going away from it. Things got a little frantic for a while there! I could see the top of the Tower when the lights started sparkling, this is done on the hour, so that meant it was 10pm, closing time was 11. It was going to be close. I stopped to take a few shots, but was scared to let too much time slip by. Finally, we were there.

The line was blessedly short, and it seemed like no time before we were up on the tower again. We had made it. I fell to pieces.

"Who cries on the Eiffel Tower?!?" CF scolded me. All the emotion I had just been holding in bubbled over and I needed to get it out. So yes, I cried on the Eiffel Tower for a few moments. And then I moved on. And started snapping photos again. I could feel right away that they weren't going to be as good as the ones I took the night before, but still, here I was, back on the Tower just one night later. Who lives like this? My life can be so weird! CF even came out the edge with me and we looked out over the foggy city. It's no New York, but it really is lovely. And even though it was a drama that brought us back to the Tower, it was one of my favorite parts of the trip so I was actually sort of thrilled to do it again.

We made our way back down and headed towards the metro station that we would have arrived at if we had stuck it out and got that first train we had checked on when we had set out on this adventure. But then we wouldn't have seen the funny sax playing man, and SJP's Dior. Then it wouldn't have been such a grueling adventure. But man, were we happy when a train with plenty of seats pulled in about a minute after we got down there. As we rode home I closed my eyes for a second and thought about how long we've been away from home. I was tired and my body was hurting. I opened my eyes and looked around the train at all these strangers and thought about all the crazy stories going on in their lives right now. It was one of those moments when I just feel so connected to the world, and at the same time, so very small.

We were utterly exhausted, but we had never had our dinner date. We thought about sitting down in a restaurant between the metro stop and the apartment, but decided not to press our luck in case we crashed once the adrenaline ran out. Our Paris dinner date ended up being a 1am shawarma sandwich and Nutella banana crepe. And I don't know if I could ask for anything better.

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