Thursday, May 18, 2006

Re-Post: Too much in Paris

Original posted on: June 26th, 2004

The four us together in Paris

I'm sitting in an Internet cafe right now just outside my hostel. Karl is madly hunting down a CD-R because we're taking pictures at a faster rate than we can upload them. Kyla's cooking up something in the hostel kitchen and Sherri... well I'm not sure what Sherri is doing. Probably somewhere in between helping and distracting Kyla. We're the complete group now and it's absolutely great. Unfortunately Paris is so filled with wonderful things, we could spend weeks here (if it weren't for the cost and time restraints) and feel we didn't get everything in. I'll do a short recap to fill you in.

Kyla encapsulates our feelings about Paris

Karl, Kyla and myself arrived the day before Sherri and decided to walk the city to get a good feel for it. The city houses so many famous landmarks it didn't take long before we were completely wowed. We had brought a baguette, brie and a bottle of wine along for a simple supper. We found a beautiful spot in the park at the base of the Eiffel tower and set about feeling even better about the city. As a side note, I had been quite worried about costs while staying in Paris after reading our friend Mike's travel blog. However, with the help of a local grocery store we managed to get all our food and wine for about three Euro (I probably don't need to tell you that it was cheap wine).

Eating and drinking under the tower

Afterwards, we wandered the city at our fancy, finding beautiful spots and landmarks everywhere we went. As evening approached, we came out from among the tall classically Parisian buildings to find ourselves looking out across a river at a beautiful sky painted by the setting sun with strokes of colour melting into the tall cream coloured buildings of the Parisian cityscape. Needless to say it was beautiful. Warning: The picture below does this no justice

Kyla on the bridge

The next day, after Sherri arrived in the afternoon, we felt the need to decide for her that she should stay up and see all the same sights we had already seen to fight her jet lag. Well, staying up all day conquered Sherri's jet lag, but the sights didn't hold quite the same amazement the second time and Sherri obviously couldn't appreciate them fully with her lack of sleep.

Sherri enjoys the park by the Louvre

The next day we got a Museum pass and tried to milk the most out of it. We went to the Louvre, which is so incredibly vast you could easily spend a day in it. It was the first place we were confronted by mass tourism. As we neared the Mona Lisa the crowds swelled to mob like proportions. Among the pushing and flashing cameras you really had to wonder whether the Mona Lisa deserved this kind of hype, when every other piece in the museum was equally or more amazing.

Find Kyla in the photo to get a sense of the scale

A photo of the mob... oh ... and the Mona Lisa

To proceed with the description of events a bit more quickly (Ed: Blogging about Paris is only so interesting when it exists right outside the shop window and you've got a night train to catch that evening), we checked out many other museums and sights. The next day we went to Versailles which was big and even more besieged by tourists. If you've seen Sansoucci in Potsdam save your Euros and go somewhere else.

We then returned to Paris were I attended a mass at Notre Dame Cathedral. At first its hard to connect with that level of ritualization within a worship service, but when connected with the original motives for those rituals it can be a powerful event. Later, in the tourist equivalent to a dog marking territory, we climbed the church (Ed: Long lines of American tourists bring out the cynic in all of us. I'm also guilty as charged.). After, the group split again to climb yet another famous landmark while I found a relaxing spot on Saint Germain boulevard to sip a coffee in an outdoor cafe and write a letter home.

Then it was the night train and off to Madrid.

Ed: The title of this post "Too much in Paris", is slightly misleading in that is seems as if I didn't enjoy Paris. I wanted to capture the "too much" of Paris in the sense that there was so much of this great city we could never take in. At the same time Paris was the first city we went to where I really noticed the tourists. Being a complete tourist myself, it was disheartening look in the mirror and see the not so nice aspects of tourism. Primarily large numbers of people blindly following other people with no real understanding why the original people came and saw the monuments and artwork and left so impressed. My break from climbing famous structures to an admittedly equally cliched pause along Saint Germain boulevard to take in some espresso and people watching, was my most enjoyable Parisian moment and gave me a short glimpse of the style and pace of life in Paris.

French Security

But enough introspection, the second thing I wanted to point out in retrospect is the picture above. Many of you have heard me tell the story of the heightened security in Paris because of the Olympic torch passing through while we were there and the conflict of interest for security forces that was the French team playing in the Eurocup at the very same time. I've told the story so many times, I began to think I may have been exaggerating the account, but if you click on the picture above you can see for yourselves, all TVs but one focused on the current football match rather than the Eiffel tower.

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Lindsey said...

Ah, travel envy.

R. W. said...

Hey - I can't wait... thanks for sharing!
Stop by Paris to visit if you can!!!