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Paris Ramblings

The following is the stuff I wrote down while I was wandering around in Paris:

It’s weird but wonderful to be back in Paris. It’s still so familiar but somehow different—I guess it’s me that has changed. Dr. While was right, you can go back but it will never be the same as that first time. It dumbfounds me to think that it’s been seven years. This was the city that popped my going abroad cherry. That was the visit where the world opened up to me and I was forever changed. This was the place where my independence was tested for the first time, where I learned to enjoy trying new things. This was the city that haunted me when I got home. If it weren’t for that trip I certainly wouldn’t be going to school in London right now. I guess that puts this little Parisian weekend as my independence test coming around full circle.

Speaking of things coming full circle, I’m sitting at Le Rendezvous des Amis (they changed the name slightly to Recontu des Amis or something). This is a place I held close to my heart even though I had only been here once. I wrote a story based on experience here inspired by the neighborhood and set here. I even had a painting of this place as the desktop image on my computer at word for four years. Gee, when I say it like that it sounds obsessive. What I mean to say is, even though I only came here one time, say as opposed to Le Pantelon which we frequented, it’s a place I took a lot from. It is much as I remember it. Perhaps toned down from its former funkyness but still hip. Also, as it is later in the day, well evening, it’s much more happening. It’s still got the pictures on the rafters, though there are fewer of them, they are still there. It feels so weird to finally be back. Perhaps that’s because the reality can’t match up to my own fond memory, distorted by time.

I’m unsure if my need to blather on in ink and pen is l’habitude of my last visit coming back or if it’s a product of being cut off from being able to talk to folks or even have the internet to share my thoughts with. Probably a bit of both. Anyway, I’ve blathered long enough without having said much about my day. Let me amend that…

I got into Gare de Nord at a quarter past ten local time. Let loose on the city by myself I was overwhelmed a little at first. I had a big grin on my face when I saw the pleasantly familiar aesthetic of the Parisian buildings. I found my way to Pigalle and my hotel (it helps when it’s familiar.) The room is okay. Only a view of the courtayd by I think that means it will be quiet at night. We’ll see how comfortable the bed is. To be honest, it’s the nicest place I’ve ever stayed in Paris so no matter what, it’s a step up. (Though I am sad that the Stella is no more, I’m stopping by there tomorrow.) Someday, perhaps when Andy and I come here together, we’ll stay somewhere properly nice—not that it matters, it’s just a place to sleep and shower. Who cares about the room when there’s all this Parisness going on outside. I

I walked up into Monmartre first, right up to Sacre Couer, then Place de Tetre and then rediscovered this place. I went looking for Monmartre Cemetary but it started raining and since it was noon and I was indeed hungy I decided to find lunch. I found a crepe restaurant that looked good and I went in there.

I was nervous about speaking French. I’m really, no REALLY rusty. However it’s impossible to not speak to anyone ever so I tried. I failed and I embarrassed myself but hey, I put forth some effort, people thus far have been nice about it. I used to be disappointed when they responded in English but this time, I’ve been relieved, though I try to say what I can, fumbling in Franglish.

Anyway, back to lunch. Since it is my first time back in France for seven years I wanted a properly French meal. I had some Kir and a savory crepe with goat cheese, tomato and bacon (proper bacon too, not British bacon which is essentially ham). Omigod it was delicious. It was the most savory amazing thing I’ve had in I don’t even know how long.

There was an amazing thing I was at the restaurant as well. Something so charmingly surreal you’d never see it in America and I’ve never seen anything like it in the UK either. So there was a well dressed woman eating lunch alone, the talking nice to the waiter and cook, a regular I figured. She had a dog at her feet, also not uncommon here (there’s loads of dogs here, I even saw a feral version of a Muffin, bejon, when I was smoking outside). Dogs seem to generally be allowed in pubs in England too. I looked at the dog, I don’t know the breed, kind of the stocky build like a bulldog but not. It was white with a couple of big black spots and frowny face. I think tomyself, the dog looks familiar then I look up at the lady and realize there’s a giant portrait of that very dog—same distinct coller and everything—on the wall behind her. I mean moments like that are fucking priceless. I wish it was appropriate to take a picture but I suppose that’s just another morsel of weird inspiration to take from this charming place.

(**Edit from the future** I found the name of the crepe place, Lepic Assiette AND I found a picture of the dog. It's a French Bulldog BTW)




Apres ca, the rain had died down, my tummy was happy and I found the cemetery. I walked around and took pictures but there wasn’t any grave in particular I was there to see. They built a bridge over a portion of the cemetery which was rather surreal looking. Monmartre done for me for the time being, I got a train  and headed to the only tourist site on the like, the Arch de Triumph. On the train there was a band, accordion, clarenette and all busking, which was lovely. I had almost forgotten about the busking musicians in the Metro. I went and revisited the Arch, even flirted with the idea of going up it this time but between the price and the like I decided against it. I could see a lot more in the time I waited, plus it was icky and grey out the pictures wouldn’t be worth the 10 euro. So instead I took loads of pictures from the bottom and walked down Champs de L’ycee.

The Tour de France is finishing on Sunday so the street was busy and blocked with the set up for the event. I also needed cigarettes and every now again ventured off of the “high street” (it is a high street, really, I mean it’s a huger version of Oxford Street) to find a Tobac. Now maybe it was where I was but I remember there being Tobacs all over the place. After a few failed tries down streets I was starting to think “what the fuck? When did the French stop smoking? Maybe the crazy Christians are on to something and the end of the world is near.” Luckily I found one and embarrassed myself with my lost French again. How did I manage to forget how to buy a pack of smokes? Seriously!

Cigarettes procured, I found a spot to sit down and smoke. Unfortunitly, the bench I picked to sit at, figuring it would be dry after the rain because it was under a tree, was actually covered in pigeon shit, which I failed to notice until I got up. It was disgusting. I tried to get it off in public with the help of some receipts but it didn’t do much good, it got on my hands and I felt dirty all day. Eww. Later, when I got to the hotel I realized I didn’t do a very good job of getting it all off so I essentially walked all around with obvious pigeon shit on my ass all day. Brilliant. I tried to wash it off when I got back to the hotel and it was surprisingly difficult, even with soap and water. But the silver lining is that I created the quote book worthy illiteration “The Parisian pigeon poop is impenetrable on my pants.” So I guess that makes it worth it.

I walked through Place de la Concorde, the gardens and the Louvre. The upside of being alone on this trip is that I can revisit these places without having to go through all the lines and shit (though when I go with Andy or Raye or someone I will make sure they don’t miss out. I’m still kicking myself for not forcing them both to go to the British Museum.) I walked along the Seine to Alexander Bridge, the headed back through the concord and such to the Opera House, taking many pictures along the way.

That’s a point I should make. Last time I was here I was using a camera that used film. How quaint! I think that changes the way one experiences things. When film is limited and expensive, you save the shots for the good stuff. Now with a digital camera I’m taking pictures the way the Japanese tourists here always have (aw snap!). But I’m not alone. Everyone is taking pictures like crazy now. Though I have to remind myself to be in the moment the extra pictures should be nice in case this city haunts me again for another seven years (though I figure at this point I will long for London more often having lived there longer.)

Luckily, my sense of direction and geography of the city is still pretty good—much better than my French. Don’t get me wrong, I still need to consult maps but that’s usually fro planning my route and making sure I’m on the right street. It’s easy to take a wrong turn and end up far from where you want to be. But basic navigation and knowing where monuments are relative to others, north, south, east, and west is still quite easy. Maybe that’s because I’m a dork with maps and when I miss a place I tend to study them.

***

Today has been a trip down memory lane. I’m back on the left bank. I stopped first at Notre Dame and got my tourist on. I took pictures in and outside. Again, I flirted with the idea of going up to the top but the line went all the way to the back of the building and I have no patience for that. So I continued on and walked by Shakesphere and Co. and on to St. Michelle, the old stomping ground. I went to the Cluny (medieval museum) which we walked by all the time during the class but I never checked out. After that, I walked by the old stella Hotel, now closed but there’s nothing in its place. I took a picture. Walking down re Mousier de Prince, I stopped at a sandwich place and got a bagette sandwich (again tomatoes and cheese) to enjoy at the Luxemburg Garden. I got all warm and fuzzy to be back there. A band was actually playing in the bandstand where we used to meet for class. It was so pleasant to eat my amazing sandwhich in one of my favorite places and enjoy breathing the place in again with the music as a backdrop. I then moved on to find Mountparness Cemetary, where I saw the graves of Sartre, Simone de Bovior and Samuel Beckett. After that, I walked on Mountparnasse boulevard and saw the famous cafes again, then over to rue de Mufftard, when I am now neat to at a café enjoying a Stella. About to take off now, though…

Now it is evening and I’m on rue de la bucherrie at a café by Shakesphere & co. and Notre Dame is tolling behind me. I’ve got a large glass of wine and sitting outside this piano bar. Life is good. Lets see, since I last soat down to write I went to the Parthenon and actually went inside this time. It was beautiful inside and an intersing case in history. It was built as a church to pay homage to the patron saint of parism built by the king agter recovering from illness. Then after the revolution it was made secular and after Victor Hugo died they made it the place to commemorate great men, making kind of a humanist church. Voltere and Russeau are in the crypt along with Emile Zola and Alexander Dumas. Yeah, when I got done with that I checked to see if Le Pantelon was still there and it is! I’m waiting for them to open ar the moment. I want to get at least one drink there while I’m here. I walked around a bit more, went to Saint Germain and visited Café Fluer and Deux Magots and such and toyed with the idea of going into a café but they were all very expensive. Then I smelled seafood and went into I think was the equivilant of Red Lobster but based on muscles. I don’t care if it was a cheesy chain, I ate really well at an affordable price-got a starter and a main for 20 euro and of course five for the beverage. Left feeling very full but walked it off with a stroll on new earth to the garden at the natural history museum then along the Sine and back here, kind of where my day started, but I’m not done yet. My day on the Left bank will not be complete until I go to Le Pantelon. Ya, know, then I can go home happy.  I still have one whole day left though I’m not sure what I want to do. I’ll have loads of train tickets left so transportation should not be a problem. I figure the Eiffle Tower fofr sure, the Bastille, I didn’t go there last time. Those are across twon from one another that would use some tickets. Maybe I’ll actually wait in line this time and revisit a museum. We shall see…

My trip is complete! I made it back to Le Pantalon! I can’t write here, too busy soaking it all in. I just realized this is the place I learned to like beer! All they serve is beer and booze and booze is crazy expensive here so I had to learn to like beer. I had my first Hogarden here. Right over there, actually just to my right!...

[Later, writing at a bar terrace on Pigalle]

Okay have sadly left Le Pantalon. I didn’t want to test if the exponentially more expensive drink practice was still going on. Plus I’m too full for more beer and I don’t want to get off at Barbes-Rouchalt station too late at night, that area is sketchy as hell. It’s good that I know these things. I saw a hostel I stayed at there, it’s really gone to shit if its even still open. I guess that’s lots of memorable sights visited. I think it’s pretty clear that this trip was more about revisiting places clear in my memory more than treading new earth. I still did new things, though and wandered new streets.

It dawned on me that this will be the last time that I travel alone 9short of my last couple of excursions in England and Wales) That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a fact. Traveling alone has its ups and downs. The main up is that I get to go where I want to go at my own pace (which is pretty go, go, go!) The good part is being able to use the time for writing and quiet contemplation. It’s a good test of independence. The bad part, the hard part, the part I wont miss is the isolation, the want to share experience with someone and have someone to talk to along the way. One day when Andy and I are married we’ll come here. If my two favorite bars are still here then I’ll take him there, otherwise we’ll do the tourist thing and have a romantic experience in this city and that will be a fantastic first for me. It would be so great to be in the city of love with my love. Someday it will happen. If I can make it once and make it twice, then why not?

So Charlotte said she hated Paris and I couldn’t understand that. Going back now I can see why it wouldn’t be up Charlotte’s alley. She said “it’s dirty.” Well it seems dirtier in some ways—the Metro is definitely more grungy than the Underground but to be fair I haven’t seen vomit on the street (dog shit, yes, but vomit, no). She says there’s “too many beggars.” I’ll give her that. London seems to have a low percentage of beggars for how big the city is. It surprised me, but I’ve gotten used to it. But origionally, I was used to the amount of begging in Seattle which is ridiculous. So experience it here came as a surprise after London and getting hit up for a smoke or a ciggy maybe once a week then coming here and being hit up I’d say about for or five times a day. I’ve already given out four cigarettes! But then , when I was last here I din’t think much of it, coming from Seattle. I think the context of my first visit helps me to romatisize the place and though I remember beggars, the sketchy bits, etx, it’s not really what I think of when I think of Paris.

Finally, on that note, I forgot about rudeness. The beggars and scam artists bank on outsiders inability to be rude the way the French don’t mind being rude. One of these scam artis was a girl, I’ve seen loads of them around where you’re supposed to offer your personal information for a petition for the “Deaf and Dumb” I had read online something about this scam and said no to the girl. She literally pulled my arm as I was walking away and pointed to the “Deaf and Dumb” written on the top of the sheet of paper, trying to make me feel like an asshole. I still said no and tried to get around her but she kept blocking me. Eventually, she gestured for a cigarette and pointed to the pack sticking out of of my hoodie pocket. I gave her one just to make her go away. As I looked down to pull the cigarette from my pack I saw that she was pregnant so I almost said no again but I gave it to her and then felt like a shit head. I hoped her preganancy was as phoney as her actually being deaf and dumb. I felt bad about it but I was approached by another one today, obviously “pregnant” as well so I feel absolved. I mean how many knocked-up deaf mutes can there be in one city? It’s obviously a part of the scam. Bastards. People are just rying to enjoy their well earned vactions, paying enough on everything here, (you know a can of diet coke is 2.50 euro?A Can! Not a bottle!) they don’t need to guilted into opening their wallets any more. Seriously these guys in front of me right now trying to lure men into the sex clubs are more honest in my opinion.

So I was thinking about the guilt and politeness and rudeness. I saw the highest form of rudeness by a French person at the piano café I was at earlier. This guy and girl were sitting next to me. The guy left, I think to get money out. After he left, she was on the phone. The waiter came by and asked if she was ready to order and she completely ignored him. It was like he wasn’t there. It was one of the rudest I’ve seen someone be to a service industry worker. So I thought if she can be that rude to a person serving her food and drink, I can be rude to the people on the street asking me for stuff.

[I was interrupted from writing this as I was sitting drinking wine on the terrace of the café on Pigalle when a guy sitting a few tables down tried to hit on me. My French has gotten so bad I was unable to communicate and he didn’t speak English. It eventually pushed me away from my spot. ]

***

I just got caught in a torrential downpour. I had to decide if I wanted to buy a crap umbrella and carry on, not sure where to go or quickly find a café with an empty seat and order some cheese and wine. Sadly I already ate a sandwich while the sun was still out and ate along the Sine but cheese is a desert here and it is acceptable to go to a place and only get desert and a drink. So here I am. Besides I need to get as much French cheese in me as possible. Ahh cheese and wine in the afternoon. The sun’s coming out now, though it looks like it’s still sprinkling. Time to go back out, though I still don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going.

Later now and still not sure what to do with myself. I need to be better at taking Anthony Bourdains advice and just slowing down. I thought I would be capable of that but obviously I’m have a difficult time with it. I wanted to squeeze as much into my three days as possible and today, after going to the top of the Arch de Triumph I looked at my map to figure out what to visit next and I realized I had seen loads. All of what I wanted to see and more I did so I guess it’s time I sit back, drink some wine and relax. I feel bad for not still go go going but at the same time I’m also kind of exhausted which makes me feel old. Though to give myself a break usually I would bo back to the hotel and relax before going out and doing the night life thing. I’m not doing that this time because I’m being frugal with my metro tickets, perhaps overly frugal. I still have three left and only really need one if I go back to Pigalle from here. Anyway getting lost in people watching and trying not to fall asleep.

I’m cool with going back to London tomorrow. I think that for a trip like this three days was just right amount for me. I feel a bit brain dead and my feet are tired and I’m ready to not feel like an idiot every time I have to communicate. Maybe I am getting old. I’m also spending too much, I fear. Anyway I’m back in Monmartre.

Walking by a bar in the 8th I saw on a TV that Amy Winehouse died back in London. That saddens me, though I can’t say it wasn’t expected. Such a pity. Such a waste of talent, not that she’s really been using it for the past four years or so. Still that extinguishes my hope that she’d get her shit together and make music again. Well I guess there’s still Adelle, she seems to have her act together. I wonder who that will be mourned in London, Camden particularly. There also go my odds of seeing her in Camden Town though I doubt she got out much these days.

Anyway lets see what did I do today? I went to the Eifel Tower and took pictures, then republic and did the same, walked to the Bastille and the same again. After that I went to the island, got lunch which I finished right before it started raining then really raining. There went any hope of going up Notre Dame. The line was still very long but I thought I would just go and do it anyway but when it started pouring like that and thundering I ran for cover, then went to the café and ate cheese. That was by the hotel de ville. I walked around that area until I ended up at Les halls again. I went into the station there and saw that it was all just a huge underground shopping mall now. I took a pic for Raye but I think that it’ll just make her sad.

I took the A train to the Arch de Triumph, those are the express suburban trains so in two stops I was across town, though it took two tickets instead of one, which is no biggy as I have tickets to spare. I went up to the top of the arch, the like was shorter than Notre Dame and when it started to rain a bit again was I safely under cover this time. That was a good time and well worth the wait, expense and queue. The panoramic view is really amazing If they put a café up there, no one would ever leave. I didn’t know what to do with myself , like I said. But I wandered to Victor Hugo Place, then wandered till I found that café and had some afternoon wine. After that, I wandered some more eventually back to Champs de L’ycee where I finally got the ice cream I’d been craving. Then back on the train to the hotel to drop off the little swag I got and back out to Monmartre. Now I’ve got this money burning in my pocket so I’m springing for cocktails but I don’t want to stay out late as I’ve got to get up to get my train in the morning but it’s way too early to go in, besides it a Saturday night! It’s my last night in Paris!

I must say I’m looking forward to going home so I can talk to Andy on skype. I miss talking to him, wish calling him weren’t so expensive. But I can be patient. I miss my laptop, I feel so disconnected but it’s all good. I made the right move, not bringing it. I’m just going to have a shitton of uploading to do when I get home. I’ll need to do my blogging quickly because when I get back to London I need to get very serious about portfolio—I don’t even want to think about it right now. I’m on holiday. When I get home I’ll likely be on skype with Andy for many hours, making up for lost time and regaling him with stories.

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