Bonjour, Bonjour, Bonjour, Paris
Paris is a very very hard place to stay sober. Wine is literally at every corner and it is less expensive than a Diet Coke. But, I did it. I was a bit grouchy. But, I DID IT!
We arrive in Paris. At the airport someone did something suspect by leaving a bag unattended. This, of course, caused the airport to shut down to any traffic walking through it. We were partitioned off at the corner of the airport and were forced to walk on the outside sidewalk where there are no signs with directions to the train. We spotted Le Bus Direct and jumped aboard. In retrospect, we should have taken Le Bus to the Tour Eiffel and it would have dropped off right in front of our hotel. But, instead we found ourselves on a bus to the Montparnasse train station. At the train station, we took a taxi which cost us an extra 8 euros, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. The taxi driver wanted to talk politics. The French ALWAYS want to talk American politics. The only thing they like to talk about more with Americans is how they look more like another nationality than "American." It is like they never got the memo about how no one looks "American" because of this big ol' melting pot. Might I add, I did not mention to him how he looked more Chinese than French. Because you do not walk up to someone and say, "hey, you look like you're from Asia." He was nice enough though and told us how scary our politics are, told me I look Dutch, and said au revoir. We tipped him the usual extra euro and carried on with our day.
We did a hop on/hop off bus tour to see as much of the city as we could in our short time there. I cannot recommend these enough if you have 24 hours. It was 37 euros a person, but instead of having to use time figuring out the train system/bus system, you have an "at your own pace" scheduled dropoff at the most touristy of attractions. It gives you a great overview of what you might want to explore more deeply of the millions of attractions a large city has to offer. Plus, you learn little tidbits of information on your journey about history and cultural personality. We booked via Viator and downloaded our tickets on our smartphones, so no printer needed.
Tidbits I learned: The Eiffel Tower was considered the dishonour of Paris and hated at first. They called it a "hulking metal beast crouched on all fours." The circle around the Champs Elysee's Arc du Triomphe is the most dangerous place to drive. The insurance companies do not even determine fault if you are in an accident here and each insurance company pays its portion for the insured involved. Also, the French language purposely avoids using American style verbage. For example, instead of a direct translation to weekend, they encourage the french to say "the end of the week" to maintain the language's differences. Paris built streets in order to maximize its range of shooting its people in the case of an uprising. There were more tidbits, but I was jetlagged and my brain only half worked.
The next day we woke up and set out walking. We walked along the Seine to the Royal Tuileries Gardens. Paris fashion week was going on and there were tents everywhere, so the grand entrance was a little less impressive with all the tarp, but the walk was fantastic. At the end of the gardens you are at the Louvre. We glanced at the outside architecture and saved the inside of museums for a different trip with more time. The flowers smelled delightful. We drank cafe. We saw what looked like a target store and realized it was a comedy theatre. I ate a mixte sandwich and it was delicious and simple, made of baguette, ham and Emmental cheese. The baguette is so hard you chew for ages. I am pretty sure this is why the French stay so slim. I actually love the challenge.
I drank A LOT of sparkling water out of wine glasses. The french cafes actually put lemon or lime into your Diet Coke, so I felt fancy doing that. But, wine is everywhere. At the top of the Eiffel tower, they serve champagne. Actually, that is all they serve up there. There are even people walking around at tourist attractions trying to sell you a bottle of wine. I debated having a glass of wine about 432 times each day. I debated punching a few people out and taking their wine glasses. But, I didn't. My colleague told me about the great bottle she purchased at the store for 2,98 euros. I said, "what a great deal" and carried on with my day.
I am appreciating the small things again. I popped into a grocery store to grab some snacks. The flavors of chips in different countries are hilarious to me sometimes. I grabbed what I thought was cheddar cheese and it was some sort of stinky moldy cheese flavored. But, it was cheese. I ate about 7 chips and lol'd, then tossed it.
We walked 15 miles the next day. It was great. I immediately canceled out the calories I burned with an eclair, a fruit tart, and onion soup. I laugh every time I order it without saying "French" onion soup. We ended the day at the top of the Eiffel Tower to view the city of lights. It was gorgeous and terrifying. We walked down the stairs to avoid the lines to the elevator. We did a little dance.
And, then, I went back to the airport to come home. Someone did something suspect and they shut down the airport. I am not repeating myself. This happened again. ...gotta Je t'aime the airport.
And, on my flight back to the USA I used my sobriety to my advantage. It helped me escape a conversation that I just did not feel like having. A lady criticized a bottle of wine on the plane by saying, "I would not even cook with this." I told her I would not know because I do not drink. But, I knew. The wine is actually an interesting and uniquely Spanish combination of Macabeo and Chardonnay that I have had many times. It is FREE and not terrible at all. She drank 4 glasses in an hour. But, of course, it was pointless to engage in the conversation. I always "knew it all" when I was drinking, too. I was a contrarian, too. Then, in true French fashion, she commented that I look more Dutch than "American" and went to the toilette. I smile. I say a mini prayer. I j'adore it.