The First Three Days in France
Day 1: Wednesday, February 20th
I safely arrived in France after a short feeling flight. Though it was an overnight flight, I wasn’t able to sleep a wink. An hour before landing that morning in Paris, it was only becoming my bed time in Portland. There was a heavy fog over all of Europe that morning, so I missed seeing the British Isles or any of France until a few meters before the runway.
After breezing through customs despite not filling out one of the forms at all, I struggled to buy a train ticket and pick which track would bring me into town. Luckily, the airport platforms were fairly straightforward. It wasn’t until reaching the central Chatalet les Halles station that I got a little turned around. The Paris subway is awesome, but at first ride it’s an intimidating labyrinth of overlapping tunnels, stairs, and confusing signs. Fortunately, C. had told me the French word for “exit,” otherwise I would have died in there.
I couldn’t find the specific station exit I needed, so I went to street level and had instant success navigating from there. C. was sitting outside a cafe, sipping a coffee and keeping an eye on the dark metro orifice I should have spilled out of.
C. is staying in a free apartment his recently finished 6 weeks of work at a french game company. The modest flat is in the Chatalet district, within blocks of the Louvre, Pompidou Centre, and Seine River. After dropping off my bag and bladder droppings, C. and I went on a walk to some of the nearby sights.
C.’s apartment is on the forth floor. It’s reached by a narrow, branching wooden stair case that feels older than the building.
The view out his window.
Some small, new museum.
A male nude sculpture with live pigeon causing anguish in the Jardin des Tuileries.
The dead pigeon fallen non-triumphantly from an arch of quite the opposite status.
City of the Lost Children green Seine water seen under a bridge.
A row boat and stagnant river garbage hidden among long, beautiful house boats.
Imposing wall of the Pompidou Center. Did you know that “pomp” means “pipe.” Pompidou literally means “Pipes Everywhere and All Colors Meant to Incite the Established Architectural Canons of a Classic City.” Center means Center.
After the walk, we lunched on pasta and duck. I took a two hour nap to catch up on sleep before we headed out to meet two of C.’s friends for what ended up being a four hour dinner at restaurant that specialized in duck. Pretty good meal, all ducks considered. They must serve a lot of pate and fois gras, since every table had its own toaster.
While the food, especially coffee, has been delicious the exchange rate has made meals feel like a combination of gastronomy and ass rape. Coffee has been around $6 US. The average dish has been around $20. Until the dollar get stronger, eating here will be a painful delight. I was expecting this.
Day 2: February 21th
The second day began will a subway ride to visit the Catacombs. They were closed for the season for skull renovations or something. We continued.
Woman sleeping on the subway platform.
Me standing in from of the Eiffel Tower. We took the vertigo stairs to the viewing platform, putting my fear of heights and old metal towers to the test.
Complicated metal constructions seen from the stairwell in one of the legs.
View of the people under the tower as seen from the first viewing level.
Paris from above.
After descending the tower, we took another train to Montmartre, bought some sandwiches and sat on the hill near the church before heading out.
The church. It’s a sacred space no-matter what your beliefs were before you grew up and started “keepin’ it real.”
The Louvre at night.
Street along the river.
Pont Neuf Bridge.
Notre Dame Cathedral. Beautiful. The sides are better looking than the front, but hard to get a good angle of.
The night concluded with games of travel Catan were I slaughtered C.
Day 2: February 22th
I wandered around all morning alone while Chris had a work related interview. I crisscrossed familiar and foreign streets.
Some looked like this.
Jardin des Plantes.
The perfectly cropped tree tops that seem to be a staple of Parisian parks.
A view of grave markers at Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise. The place is an endless dense arrangement of tombs and walkways. Its layout and construction feel much like Paris itself. Only this is a city of the dead. The doored tombs are like elevators to the afterlife.
Canal with locks we walked along on the trip home.
My legs are sore today from miles of walking and not much food. C. slaughtered me in Catan this evening, and I’m ready for bed.
On Sunday night, we travel south to the coastal town of Marseilles for a day or two before heading to Barcelona. I’ll be updating sometime along the way.