Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why do you travel?

Here in our Paris apartment I've been trying to be very good about sharing the computer, plus we've been on the go so much that there just hasn't been time to write anything down. I do worry about trying to go back through the memories but I figure it is much better to just live in the moment as much as possible. Traveling in a group has its challenges, but I think we're all doing pretty well figuring out how everyone can get done the things they want to do. We have our moments of crankiness, well, I sure have anyway, but luckily we're all understanding and we let it go rather quickly. Shake it off and move on. But I think it's important to recognize and be accepting of people's differing reasons to travel. Some people travel to see historical sites and learn about them, some people are mostly collecting sites they can brag that they have seen (luckily this isn't anyone I travel with), me, I travel to see how other people live. I find it utterly exhilarating to see so many different people in the world and join their way of life for a short period of time. I think that's why I like staying in apartments so much. But one challenge in traveling with a group is making sure that everyone gets to do what they want to do, the way they need to do it for them, and still find a way to be together and have a good time.

The first night in Paris we got settled in our apartment and then went out for Thai food, strange, I know. The Z's have a tradition of eating Chinese food on every trip and this was our compromise on that idea since they'd already had Chinese in France. The walk there took us through what almost seemed like Chinatown, but we knew it was elsewhere in the city. It was a bit of a surprise to start there, obviously not what you tend to picture when you think of Paris! The portions were small but the food was extremely well prepared. We wandered around our neighborhood a little and then settled in for our first night of seven in this amazing apartment.

The next morning the fellows made us some very classy omelets. D ran down to a bakery and got us fresh pastries. What a good way to start the day! We got metro passes to last us the week, this included a fun stop at a photo booth at which I took one of the better photographs of my whole life, and rode to the Eiffel Tower. We came around a corner and there it was! It really was an impressive sight, the sun was shining, the sky was blue. I really am such a lucky girl to get to witness so many amazing things in my life. We walked down to the other side of the tower, and continued through several neighborhoods and along the river, it was lovely. Eventually we stopped at a cafe for lunch, which for me was onion soup plus a salad with tomato and mozzarella. It was pretty darn tasty, we had some nice wine with the meal, the price was right, and then it turned out that two rather famous eating establishments were right around the corner! What a find we had!

Pretty soon after lunch we tracked down a fancy-pants bakery and I got some amazing macaroons. Salted caramel and olive oil were my two favorite flavors. Now this is what I was hoping to get to experience! Such wonderful cookies, such unusual flavors that I can't get at home! Although I have to say the white truffle was sort of weird. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was eating a mushroom cookie. CF liked it a lot. We tried to do some shopping next, but it's rather difficult to shop with such a large group. We moved on to see Notre Dame and then D's mom decided to head back to the apartment. I spotted some really cool shops as we were walking her to a taxi stand, and CF and I decided to slip inside and catch up with the group. We knew where to find them. Except the Z's split off too but thought we were supposed to meet at a different taxi stand. We managed to find D, but the Z's couldn't find us and headed home. We were now a threesome and sat down for one drink. I had my first pastis, I have to say, I like it a lot! Anis flavored goodness! Eventually we caught up with the other third of our traveling crew at home and we all went down to the smoky cafe right outside out apartment building's door. It was a long meal, which I was happy to be seated on a leather couch for. I was happy lingering and lounging. This was what I expected dining in France to be like. It was very nice.

Somewhere around this time we started worrying about the talk of a transportation union strike. We decided that Tuesday we should ride the metro out as far as we could since we probably wouldn't get to use it on Wednesday. We started with a visit to the Arc du Triumph, the stairs were quite a climb! The sky was gray and a bit foggy. Not nearly the gorgeous day we had been blessed with the day before. But the view was impressive, the large boulevards radiating out from the Arc is amazing to see in person. We descended and then walked down the Champs Elysees. The street wasn't too crowded, but it was a bit hectic. Many of the stores are easy to find at home, but I can see why it's quite the shopping destination. We found the second of the two best recommended places for macaroons, so of course we stopped so we would be able to add our comparison and input.

Another metro ride got us to Montmartre, we came out and PZ swooped his arms in the air to do a reveal of the Moulin Rouge for me. I have to say, I like the movie better than the site, which is just a cheesy dance hall now, but I couldn't have come here and not seen it, it just wouldn't have been right. We made what we now know was an unfortunate decision to grab street food for lunch. KZ's sandwich might have been what eventually led her to tummy trouble, and the rest of us got crepes, which weren't all that I could have hoped for. Plus then we began a walking tour of the neighborhood as it began to rain, we stumbled through the streets, trying to navigate the puddles as well as the history. It was not my cup of tea, I don't mind getting rained on but I was not able to really look around, my pricey cookies from earlier got rained on, and it just seemed like we needed to find a place to get inside, have a coffee and wait out the rain. The rain didn't last too long though and the group split up for a little while, CF ran back with me for a few shots I had missed while trying to keep my camera dry, then we went over to the famous church, park and steps that everyone knows from the move Amelie. There is a great view from up there on the hill, which had been prominent in the view from the Arc earlier in the day. The group met back up, but we split into two parties. CF and the Z's went to tour the catacombs, which house the bones of about six million people. Creepy! Ms. D accompanied me to do a little wandering, but she's such a good sport that she ended up shopping with me, even though that activity is not HER cup of tea. I found one store with lots of colors, styles and sizes that suited me and end up buying myself a casual t-shirt and also a satiny tunic (or maybe a mini dress?) to wear to holiday parties. What fun!

We did make it back outside just as it was starting to get dark. My favorite part was walking through the courtyard of the Louvre just as the sky turned dark. The pyramid was lit up from within and it really was impressive to see, even if opinions of the I.M. Pei work are mixed. The geometry of the fountains surrounding it make it all the more stunning, and D told me that walking through there was pretty much sublime for her. We hopped back on the metro and came home to dinner and drinks being fixed. We had a great meal in our wonderful apartment which is so nice to get to do. Some of us might have had a touch too much of the pastis, but what the heck, it's better than not enough. Right? I had a blast.

Time for a new post and I will continue with the following two days...

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