Paris: Day Two

Today, we convinced ourselves to get out of bed around 8:00 a.m., though our jet-lagged bodies despised us for it.

After showering (I love the water-wasting showerhead in the bathroom here, I wonder if I can smuggle one home) we walked down the street from the hotel to a "Patiserrie" to find something simple for breakfast.  We weren't disappointed, the croissant I had was so good, the only way I can describe it is with an analogy.  Imagine that your whole life the only pizza you ever had was frozen pizza, and not the good stuff, I mean the crappy 99 cent Totino's Party Pizza, that has a few smears of some plasticy faux cheeselike substance on it, with some cubes of pepperoni.  Now contrast that with your favorite pizza.  That is the difference between any croissant I've ever had in the US, and the croissant I had for breakfast here today.  It was light, flaky, buttery, moist, and delicious, and I'm having another one tomorrow, and it was only 2 Euros.

I told Holly that when I'm old, I'm going to find an apartment above a Patisserie in Paris, one with a dumb waiter installed, and they can just hoist freshly baked bread products up to me until I die.  Sort of like how Nicholas Cage drinks himself to death in "Leaving Las Vegas", only with way more carbs, though if Elisabeth Shue wants to come nurse me through it, that'd be okay too.  Well, present-day Shue, as she's 13 years older than me, so by the time I'm old, she'd probably be dead, or so old she'd be in no shape to support me in my carbohydrate death spiral.

Did I mention I love the bread here?

After our great breakfast (which I washed down with orange juice and my bizarre wife washed down with a 1.60 Euro Coke) we set off for the Musee D'Orsay, via the RER. 

Seth's Paris Travel Tip #4: If you're going to be seeing even a few museums, get the museum pass.  It let us skip the queue to buy tickets to the museum this morning, and let us skip the queue for people who just bought tickets, as the pass entitles you to use a separate entrance.  As they aren't beheading the aristocracy in Paris these days, you'll enjoy the trip a lot more if you aren't spending it queued with the masses.

We went into the museum through Entrance C, which is for people with reserved tickets & passholders, and then spent the next three hours looking at all sorts of French art.  We saw numerous Monets, Van Goghs, sculptures by Rodin, the famous works by Toulouse-Latrec, and even Whistler's Mother.

I'm not much of an art buff, but even I enjoyed this museum, and found myself saying "I know that piece" several times going through it.  You'll hardly know you're in France while in the museum though, as it seemed that about half of the people there were Americans, with the rest being British, German, Spanish, or Japanese.  It's definitely a touristy thing to do, but you're not going to see these things anywhere else.

After our feet had convinced us we'd seen all the art in the Musee, we crossed the River Seine to walk through the Tuileries Garden and find some lunch.  There are several Cafes in the garden, but, having learned our lesson about beverages yesterday, we kept clear of any place charging 7 Euros for a drink, which many of them did.  I wondered to myself how working people in Paris can afford to stay hydrated, as even water was upwards of 5 Euros in most of the cafes.

As we exited the garden, we found a food stand with food more in our price range, and decided to split a jambon & frommage (ham and cheese) sandwich and a 3 Euro Coke.  Ok, I'm not obsessed on the Coke prices, I'm just amused/horrified by how much they can vary within the city for something that's so cheap as to be an afterthought back home in the US.

Seth's Paris Travel Tip #5: Don't take a picky eater with you.  Now, I'm a picky eater, as anyone who read about my trip to Russia knows, but my wife is worse.  Way worse.  You'd think a ham and cheese sandwich would be fine, right?  Well, it wasn't.  I tore the sandwich in half, which was sort of like a foot-long thing on a delicious loaf of French bread.  I picked a couple slices of hard-boiled egg off mine, as I do despise eggs, and discarded the lone tomato slice too, though I can tolerate a tomato if I have to.  I bit into my tasty sandwich, and immediately said "MMMM.....that's good bread".  My wife took a bite of her half, and then exlaimed "It has mayonaisse on it!" with the inflection that I would use had I discovered my sandwich was garnished with bat guano.

Now, like I said, I'm a picky eater too, but mayonaisse has never really struck me as having a taste.  I view it more as a sandwich lubricant than a flavor to be sought or avoided.  I used to avoid it, until I consumed a couple sandwiches with it that I couldn't avoid, and discovered that it was rather inconsequential.  To Holly, however, it was the equivalent of bat guano, so she declared her half of the sandwich ruined after attempting to scrape it all off with the piece of lettuce, then offering the sorry remains to me.

I suggested she buy something else, but she didn't want to, so we set off down Champs-Elysses, just as a parade ended.  Today is VE day, and it's a national holiday here, and I'm guessing that's what the parade was about, though all we saw were the horses at the very end.

About halfway down, we encountered another food stand.  I again told her to get something she'd eat, so she ordered a hot dog.  The vendor sliced an 8-inch piece of bread off a baguette, and impaled it on a phallic metal spike to clear a hole for the hot dog, and to warm the bread.  Holly ordered her hot dog(2.5 Euros) with some mustard, and a bottle of water (2 Euros for 1 Liter) and we made it about 40 feet farther down the road before she encountered her next dietary disaster.

Besides despising mayonaisse, Holly also doesn't care for anything spicier than, say, Ragu spaghetti sauce.  Well, apparently she was expecing to get a hot dog covered in French's Yellow American Mustard out of the French hot dog vendor, not a spicier version of Grey Poupon, which is what she got.  She managed about two bites of the hot dog/mustard thing before declaring it too to be inedible, at which point I happily ate the rest of it, though I was rather full now.  The mustard was somewhat spicy, but well within my tolerance, and the hot dog was of dubious enough origin that I would have found it inedible with no mustard.

We then walked the rest of the way down Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, which is included in the attractions you can visit with the museum pass.  We hauled ourselves (me wishing I'd only had one lunch) up the 284 steps to the top of the Arc, where we saw a view to rival the one from the Eiffel Tower.  One of the neat things about the view from the Arc is that all the main streets of Paris raidate from it, and it's surrounded by a giant roundabout.  It was a bit windy, but we enjoyed the view, if not the climb.

The Arc was the last thing we had on our itinerary for today, and it was only 3:00 p.m., so we decided to head for Sacre Coeur via the Metro.  We had planned on taking the Funicular to the top of the rather large hill that the Basilica sits on, but that is indefinitely out of order, so we got to haul ourselves up several hundred more steep steps to reach the top.

The Basilica reminded me a great deal of the various cathedrals I saw 3 years ago in Russia, and Holly remarked how you are not allowed to take pictures or video in this Holy place, but it's not so Holy as to prevent them from having dozens of tables set up where you can light candles for 10 Euros each to leave burning, or too Holy to keep the gift shop full of Catholic knickknacks outside the church.  There are even several machines there that'll flatten your coins into the cheesy "Medallions" that mark tourist traps everywhere.  I fail to see how me silently using my video camera would be more sacreiligious, but apparently Jesus was a capitalist and not a videographer.

After touring the church, we decided our feet had one more attraction left in them, and caught the metro for the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery.  The Cemetary is filled with thousands of crypts, sepulchers, tombstones, and other memorials.  The elite of the dead French all make their homes here, as well as several notable foreigners.  We weren't really going to see any of the famous dead people, but Holly just likes graveyards.  She doesn't own any black lipstick, so I don't think she's a Goth chick, but she's probably close.

We did eventually locate Jim Morrison's grave, which was the only one actively guarded.  There were several neo-hippies gathered around the grave, which had flowers and various tacky notes left on it.  I made a bad pun about Jim "breaking on through to the other side", and then Holly death-marched me for several more laps around the cemetary, until my whining on behalf of my feet forced her to give in and start our trip back to the hotel.

Since Holly hadn't consumed much for lunch, I told her to pick something she knew would be "safe" for dinner, so she chose McDonald's, back by the Arc.  We had to go that way on the Metro anyhow, so we each ordered a "Royale with Cheese" which was about 6 Euros for the equivalent of a Quarter-Pounder With Cheese value meal.

Holly then declared her love for me, as she'd now eaten her personal comfort food, and we took the Metro back to the Eiffel Tower stop, and then detoured to the neighborhood grocery store before returning to the hotel.  The little grocery store had several tasty snacks and beverages at fairly reasonable prices.  A can of Pepsi there was 95 cents (Euro-cents, that is) which is positively a bargain compared to the 6 Euro can of Coke in our mini-bar.  The mini-bar is rigged with weight-sensors too, so if you remove something for longer than 20 seconds, you get billed for it.  That's too bad, as I'd like to use the refrigerator, or better yet, eat the stuff in the mini-bar and replace it with identical stuff from the grocery later.

With some snacks in hand, we returned to our hotel to call it a night, and rest up before we head to see the Louvre in the morning.