Friday, February 20, 2015

Paris Part Deux

Paris day two started with a trip to the catacombs.  This is a highly rated tourist attraction which unfortunately means a long wait and it was a cold and dreary day.  My feel of being in an exotic far away world was ruined by the two hour wait with two young American girls in line behind me.  If I heard “I know right” or “OMG” one more time I was going to scream fermez votre bouche (shut your mouth)!   Thankfully I knew this expression well from my High School French Teacher.  I wanted to learn and practice my French but mostly just learned teenager talk and proper English due to the “please mind the gap between the train and the platform” recording which is transmitted over the speaker at every metro stop in proper Queens English of course.  In the end, the catacombs were just ok IMHO.  I would have liked a more adventurous illegal underground tour but I couldn’t find one.  What does one search for on the internet “illegal tours a la Paris”?  Besides, turning human bones into a tourist attraction seems wrong on so many levels.

Next thing I did was find the closest restaurant.  Unfortunately it was called The Americana or something like that but I was tired, cold and hungry and didn’t care.  A nice guy on his bicycle informed me I had to go inside if I wanted to order food and they only serve wine on the patio.  I was all prepared to figure out what I wanted to eat as I knew ‘poulet’ for chicken, ‘poisson’ for fish and ‘boeuf’ for beef, but the nice guy from the street actually came in to help me read the menu.  Now that was really sweet and one of many nice gestures I noticed that made me question the whole rude French thing I’d always heard.  Anyway, as the guy offered to help me I happened to notice the menu was in English so I thanked him but knew I could take it from there. 

The weather turned nice so I took out a bike from the Velib bike share which are located everywhere and did some biking around the city.  I love my sports and outdoors and this was much more pleasant than waiting in lines for junky tourist traps.  I biked to the Eiffel tower and by now the weather had turned almost perfect.  I just sat around eating my crepe and taking it all in.  That’s always such a nice experience to just be in the moment.  I must have looked like a Parisian since someone took my picture of me eating a crepe with my Velib bicycle and the tower.  I tried to dress like a Parisian which pretty much meant bland colors and somewhat conservative dressy clothes to me.  But it must have worked since they took my picture and I was asked on the subway for directions a few times and I was spoken to in French on a few occasions too.  I just think it would be funny if someone was showing off their ‘authentic’ Paris pictures and someone said hey that’s Catastrophe Cathy and she’s American. 

I was asked if I wanted to buy some Eiffel tower key chains at five for 1 Euro.  That took a few minutes and was pretty much the end of my gift shopping.  I typically don’t spend a lot of time shopping when I travel.  I sure hope the key chain recipients don’t read this …and if they do they remember “it’s the thought that counts”. 

As a side note, finding a bathroom is not easy in Paris.  Many establishments expect you to pay or be a customer.  There were some new public restrooms but they were perhaps the world’s most inefficient toilets serving maybe one person every few minutes. 

Cat “Bonne Nuit” Cathy

Monday, January 12, 2015

Paris in The The Spring!

My new year’s resolution was to start blogging again.  So I found my old half completed Paris blog and decided to complete it.  A year or so late but I still have fond memories of this adventure and I hope you enjoy it too!

I have lists of places I would like to travel but often I end up at a place I never intended just because someone invites me or the stars align or whatever.  Such is the case of my recent Paris trip.  I was invited by a Belgium Facebook friend to stay at her dorm in Paris.   She’s much younger than I am and I didn’t know her well since we’d just hung out a few times when she lived in Orlando the previous summer.  But I readily accepted her offer anticipating I’d do much of the exploring on my own since she would be busy with school and work.  This was a big step for me since I’d never traveled this far alone and especially not overseas to a different country when I really didn’t speak enough of the language to get by.  But it seemed like a fun adventure so c’est la vie!

I didn’t know much about Paris since the last time I was there was for a school trip in 1989.  So I did a bit of research for cell phones, ATMs, the Velib bike share program and many other things that didn’t even exist when I last traveled to the City of Lights.  I didn’t have much time to plan and I was nervous since I was traveling alone but everything went very smoothly.  I arrived at the Charles De Gaulle Airport, withdrew some euros from an airport ATM, purchased a sim card for my unlocked phone from an airport store and bought a carne of metro passes and one more expensive pass from the airport to downtown Paris.  All this took less than one hour.  (And it would be even easier today since my T-Mobile phone works in Paris without having to do anything. I love progress!)

My friend met me at the RER station and showed me my new home for the week.  I would be staying in her dorm room which was tiny even by my standards and I would also be sharing a kitchen.  After unpacking and catching up a bit with my friend, I ventured out alone to see what I could find.  I quickly rented a Velib bicycle from the Paris bike share program.  This was amazingly easy since I had already signed up for a one week membership prior to my travel.  I biked around my friend’s neighborhood and was amazed by the number of people and different ways to commute.  There were skaters, walkers, bikers, cars, scooters, a trolley and of course the metro with people coming and going all the time.  This was a big change from the much smaller city that I call home.

Seeing as I was still not recovered from travel and not familiar with the city I decided to eat a bit and call it an early day.  I found a pizza place and ate outside watching people go by.  I felt a bit lame getting pizza but I didn’t see any true French restaurants in the area and with my limited French speaking ability I chose a place where I could just point and sort of try to say the words best I could.  It was a delicious if not a typical French meal.  BTW I later discovered you don’t have to tip.  Tip and tax are already included in the price listed for a meal. You can leave a little extra if you like though. 

Day one was a “no big deal” day except for the excitement of this big adventure alone.  But travel days are never the highlight of the trip so stay tuned for my actual adventures in future blogs. 

Cat “Oh La La” Cathy