Parlez vous Francais? Non.
This winter break has been more like a summer vacation. I have been through three continents in as many months–China, America, and for those who didn’t know, Europe. I took a trip to France to see Claudia. I ended up seeing how beautiful a country France is (Paris and Versailles, anyway). The French still suck, but the land they occupy is amazing. I spent ten days there, and I must have taken two hundred times as many photos–even after distilling them down to my favorites, I still have almost 180. Therefore, I’ll try to keep this succinct. One thing I will mention is that I had a bit of a cultural shock adjusting from China to Paris–between the French cultural norm of greeting everybody to waiting for people to get off the subway before getting on to being glared at after hawking a lugee, going to Paris really showed me how Chinese I have become. Also, this post is going to focus heavily on food and Claudia, because let’s face it–in order of importance, those were the two reasons I came to Paris.
Disembarked from my amazing Aeroflot flight and into the arms of the girlfriend. Took the RER to her place in the 5th Arrondissement, right by the Jardin du Luxembourg, and crashed out.
Woke up nice and early, thanks to the jet lag. After walking Claudia to the boulangerie on her corner for what at the time I thought was an out of this world sandwich (turns out it was normal by French standards) and then to class (Claudia attends l’institut d’etudes de sciences politiques, more commonly referred to as Sciences Po, where more than half of France’s politicians graduate from, or so they say), I took a stroll down the Seine to the Notre Dame.
This fountain is in the traffic circle adjacent to the Jardin du Luxembourg. It was partially frozen, or at least is made to look partially frozen, because I am pretty sure that it was above 0 degrees.
I realize that I don’t have any pictures of the exterior, but I ended up visiting the center of Paris twice, and the photos at night are infinitely better, so hang on tight.
After meandering around for a few hours, I went to meet Claudia up at Shakespeare & Co., one of the better-known starving-writer bookstores in Paris. Struggling writers can live there in exchange for working at the shop for a few hours each day. I can’t decide if that is really cool or really pathetic, but in any case, they had a really cool typewriter.
After, we had lunch at a restaurant called Le Lakanal. Once again, I was blown away by the food–I ordered the cuisse de lapin, which is some French something for delicious rabbit, which made the terrible steak that Claudia ended up getting taste even worse. Oh well.
After heading back to base to grab some shut eye while Claudia returned to class to work her butt off, we made up for our late start on being drunk the whole trip and picked up a few Bourdeauxs on rue Mouffetard, which we washed down with crepes from La Petit Grec, which is as far as either of us can find the absolute BEST crepe in the city. Tall order, I know, but I can’t imagine how a crepe can get any better. Headed back home, drank more, went to bed.
The weather was nice in the morning, so I took a stroll to the Jardin du Luxembourg. I walked into a shawarma shop first to get some breakfast and had my first encounter with French hospitality. I walked in, the owner said Bonjour, I replied Bonjour. For some reason he didn’t hear me, or chose not to, and he stops making this lady’s sandwich, comes over to me, stares me in the face, and yells BONJOUR! Ass. His shawarma was good though, so he gets a pass.
After I got bored of the Luxembourg gardens, I wandered over to the Pantheon, final home of awesome people like the Curies and Voltaire. And some other people. The Pantheon also has a pendulum in it that is famous for some reason or another, but it made for some terrible pictures. The nicest thing about the Pantheon was its domes and its crypt.
Stairs down to the crypt. Spooky.
I got into a nice conversation with two Chinese ladies down in the crypt between the tombs. It was nice to talk to my kind.
After we voltroned, we walked to one of the many hidden food spots in Paris that Claudia had meticulously picked out. This spot was called Cafe Delmas, at the top of Rue Mouffetard. On the way to get food, though, we stopped to get food.
The French are not far behind the Chinese. That stuff that looks like brain, is. We decided to go the whiteboy route and play it safe with the salami and roquefort. Save the organ meat for next time, I guess.
After that, we got to the cafe and promptly ordered some salmon tartare, a bottle of Coted de Provence, lamb chops, and foie gras macaroni.
After lunch, we enjoyed some macchiatos while watching the French run around in the rain. We made our way to the Musee D’Orsay, but not before stopping to buy a NO Saints scarf for myself and some berets for Claudia.
Claudia getting back in touch with her ballerina roots. I agree with this sentiment. Flexibility>fat.
We quickly got tired of the Musee D’Orsay–too many tourists mixed with too many French people. We hightailed it back home to our wine/cheese/bread/hedonism dinner, and passed out.
I got Claudia to skip class. She basically took a personal week and a half to hang out with me–I’m just too sexy to resist, obviously. After a much-belated start to the day, we finally got out of the door and down the stairs at roughly half-past noon, only to stop off at the wine shop to pick up a few bottles, which we then had to drop back off at Claudia’s–but NOT before EATING again!
After Claudia’s obligatory rejection of the first six restaurants we passed (though I would have eaten at any one of them) we finally grabbed lunch at a place called Perraudin, near the Pantheon. Herring salad and salmon quiche for entree, cod and beef bourguignon for plat, and brie and chocolate mousse for dessert.
Honestly, the worst thing about this meal was the wine. We kept taking the gamble on the carafes of house wine, and I guess the odds are in favor of the house with French wines, too. To be honest, I was pretty disappointed with the wine I had in Paris. I’m sure it was my fault, but frankly, the best wine that we had the whole trip was a Spanish Rioja.
After refilling the tanks with the great food and bad wine, we dropped the good wine off and headed to the Catacombes. The Catacombes were one of the few things I actually wanted to see in Paris–I could have skipped virtually everything else. There’s nothing better than seeing a bunch of dead French people. Smells like victory.
Between the ability to shoot in low light (assuming you have hands of stone) and the awesome DOF, this lens got it done. And at $75, it’s by far the best lens for the value in Canon’s line-up as far as I am concerned. 60+ years of research and technology went into the 50mm, which back in the day was the benchmark for all lenses, makes this the best $75 I have spent on photography so far.
Okay, enough dead things.
We finally got out of the Catacombes, and decided to liven up the day by visiting Pere Lachaise, Paris’ most famous cemetery!
We ended up getting to the cemetery just as it was closing. At 5:30PM. Lazy ass French people. We had to tap into our asian blood and sneak around the security guards like ninja, but we finally got to our destination–Jim Morrison’s grave.
It was decidedly lackluster, although it is completely fenced off because of all the people that have dropped acid and porked on his grave in his honor. Rock n’ roll.
From the cemetery, we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. We only spent 2.5 hours there, which is less than half the time needed to get it done during the peak tourism season, so I consider it a good thing, especially because the Eiffel Tower is boring once you are up there.
Another creepy horse picture, taken across the street from the Tower.
View from the bottom.
View from the top.
I think that this day was our most productive day. We got the majority of the important tourist stuff done, and had a great time doing it. We headed home for some lackluster crepes (not from La Petit Grec), cracked a Bourdeaux, and went to bed. Don’t worry dad, we finished the Bourdeaux first, obviously.
This trip recap is getting unwieldy, so I think I’m going to split it up into two posts. Give all you who have gotten this far a chance to get up, walk around, go to the bathroom, or book your plane tickets for Paris.
Versailles, Invalides, Sacre Couer, and other stuff all up next.