Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Paris: Continued...

Arc de Triomphe, originally uploaded by justinpward.

We are still in Paris and trying to rest after a nice, exhausting trek to the Arc de Triomphe and a stroll down the Champs-Elysees this afternoon. We're having tons of fun, albeit strained at times due to my own Americanism creeping through, but it has still been a once in a lifetime experience so far and it's only a third over.

We've been tooling around and catching all the major sightseeing attractions and everything else we can soak up, and unfortunately, it has been unbelievably difficult for me. Like...really, really hard. Somewhat embarassingly, actually, and all told, this is one vacation where my emotions have been sent up and down wildly and unpredictably and yet we're still having fun. Whatever...

I want to address the negative; I need to get it off my chest.

The Food

Let's put it this way...I ate McDonald's today.

We've been sort of stuck on the idea that the cafes are the only spots to get lunch, they're all exactly the same, and they're completely lacking any hospitality towards Americans. I shouldn't overgeneralize on that, because I really do know that there are some great cafes that we never made it to, and I'm sure all of those were the good ones. However, we've experienced getting laughed at while ordering, 4.3 euros for a Pepsi that tasted like crap, the worst steaks I've ever had in my life (which is really one of the only choices on the cafe menus that makes any sense), and an overall sense of overwhelmedness while trying to make sense out of what is actually going to end up on the table while we wait in hunger.

I never realized how warp-minded, self-centered and picky my taste in food has become in my old age. I can't disconnect my brain from the fact that I'm not in Chicago.

Part of what I wanted to get out of this vacation was an appreciation for the French culture and cuisine, and I don't think it's too early to call on the fact that I have failed miserably at doing so. FAILED. It's okay, though, I'm man enough to admit that.
My name is Justin, and I'm an ugly American...
I wouldn't say all of it has been bad, but it's certainly 75/25 in favor of complete garbage that I've eaten versus what I've enjoyed.

(okay, I feel better now)

Everything Else

The sightseeing here is beyond pheonomonal, and it's definitely what we came here for.

We've done the Lourve, which was overpacked to the gills with tourists from all over the world. We saw the "Mona Lisa." We saw the "Venus de Milo." We saw great Egyptian artificats, some great paintings, and you know, art and stuff. The building itself is stunning to behold and I easily enjoyed it despite the crazy crowds. That's about all you could enjoy, though, unless you wanted to stand in a 1,000 person line to pay for an audio headset to take with you. We passed on that.

We've done the Eiffel Tower in a couple different capacities. First, we looked at it when we got here. A day or so later, we went to the top. I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Me. A slow elevator with all glass windows leads you 1,000 feet into the sky with a deck on top, enclosed (thank you), with a skydeck one floor up with open air views of the world. I was scared out of my mind going up the elevator, and the second we got to the top I had to sit down. I really thought I was going to pass out. Katie and Mark were cool to pander to my phobia and help me get to the top, and I was able to get up and walk around a little bit after ten minutes or so of deep-breathing. I was glad I did it, and I was glad that they helped. Then, we went back the next time to catch the super crazy light show that they have every night after sunset. Super crazy light show might not really describe the seemingly easy pattern of flashing lights that accentuate the lighted beams already, but it was still cool to catch it.

The Picasso Museum was shut down to a "social movement" nearby staged by the students in France protesting a possible bill granting more employer rights to those hiring people under the age of 26. Okay then, thanks...

Notre Dame was flat-out amazing. The architecture alone is worth the trip to Paris. There were a billion people inside, and yet it was still very peaceful and calming inside. A great highlight of my trip so far...

Everything we've seen has been very, very enjoyable and that much has been great. We've had some slight Metro hiccups, but nothing serious other than our intense concentration and studying when trying to figure out where the hell we are. There are magazine covers on the bus stops that feature topless women. That's cool, right?

It's hard to digest it all, but I can say that we found an Irish pub where the bartenders willingly speak English. We're going there again tonight. =]

Hopefully, I'll have another update before we leave, but the internet connection I'm poaching from the hotel across the street isn't as reliable as I'd like. Oh well...I'll make sure I at least write something to keep my thoughts a little straighter. There's so much going on here that it's really even overwhelming to think of everything we've done already. I'm proud of that. Europe is hard but it's something I knew I needed.


burningoak.com said...

No worries, you'll only remember the good stuff in a month or two, and I'm sure there's plenty of that, too. The culture shock can be a little rough if you're not used to travelling outside the midwest. Personally when I went to France I had three years of culture and language prep so I ate it up, but I can't imagine going there without that prep. It's got to be wild.

Well done on the Tour d'Eiffel by the way. You'd have never forgiven yourself had you not gone up. Good choice.

1:58 PM  
nelsorp said...

good find on the irish pub. while travelling in college i found france to be the least hospitable to american college students. i tried my hardest not to be recognized as american, but my lack of french is a dead giveaway. enjoy the sites, the good cheap wine, and the scenery. its worth the hassle for the memories. if you haven't been warned, watch your pockets in the metro. the pickpocket kids are amazing...

5:48 PM  
Justin said...

That Irish pub is going to get its own blog post for sake of the fact that it's really saved our evenings the past two nights. It's made the mornings a little bit slower, but hey, I'm on vacation...

We're fully loving the sights and the fact that we can stand on an Arc erected in the 1830's while overlooking all of Paris with five lanes of roundabout traffic below. I'm sorry, but that is just fun and we know it.

Thanks for the tips, guys. Keep 'em coming...

2:54 AM  
nelsorp said...

if your are contemplating visiting jim morrison's grave site, i would recommend NOT going. its out of the way, and its pretty depressing. the cemetary has been trashed by "fans", and there is graphitti everywhere. not worth the trouble, unless you are a die hard doors fan i guess.

UNESCO Building - Designed by Marcel Breuer, Japanese Garden by Isamu Noguchi, Meditation Space by Tadao Ando. 3 great designers. Pretty neat spaces.

10:55 AM  

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