The Poetry of Paris (Week 1)

I took a train through the Chunnel from London to Paris. I thought it would be cool to travel through the Chunnel since I had studied a bit about it in school as an engineer. To be honest, I didn’t even know we had traveled through it until we were already on the other side. Maybe that’s the best way. I arrived to Paris a few hours late because someone had stolen the wires from a part of the train route originally planned, and we had to take a long detour. I arrived to my AirBnB after dark and met Eli, Miguel, Anna, and their little dog, Bab. Eli, saying it was too dark and I didn’t know the city, invited me to have dinner with their family, and I greatly enjoyed eating home-cooked food and learning about their family. What an incredible treat to have met this sweet family. I arrived to Paris with no plans except a bike tour of the city the next day. Since biking is one of my favorite things, I try to do bike tours in new cities to learn the area, see a few sites, and get an idea of what I want to do while I’m there. Luckily, I met Steph, a fellow solo traveller from New Zealand, on the tour, and we planned together to do and see all the touristy things of Paris. Not having great cell service, we decided to meet that evening under the middle of the Eiffel Tower at 6pm (I know, I know, but seriously, it’s pretty easy to find). Before meeting Steph, I wandered over to Musee d’Orsey to take in a few 19th/20th French/European paintings for a couple of hours and then made my way to the tower. We found a place to have dinner and share a bottle of wine and then decided to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower for a night view of the city, the twinkling tower, and the two-day-old blood moon. I think we waited in line less than 30 minutes and got to enjoy the view in what seemed record time compared to what others had told me about their adventures to the top. Afterward, we met for a drink with a friend of Steph’s from her designer frame convention (that’s why she was in town – she owns her own designer frame shop in New Zealand) at a quirky little restaurant that had three stories and a view to the bottom floor through the middle. We parted ways and decided to visit the Sacre Coeur the next day.

The following morning, we sat in a small cafe with a view of the beautiful church and had omelets, bread, coffee, and juice before our visit. Our bike tour guide had warned us of some of the tricks different people play to get money out of tourists: men from Africa wrapping strings around your wrists when you’re not looking and telling you that you have to pay for the bracelet and then asking, “Why you not happy?” or the groups of gypsy girls with pizza boxes getting your attention by saying they need your signature for a social cause while another girl snatches your phone or wallet from the other side. It’s all part of the traveling experience. Before we walked into the church, we overheard a man heatedly explaining “why he wasn’t happy.” The church was beautifully ornate inside – like so many old churches in Europe – and we decided to pay a few Euro to climb the 90 steps to the top of the tower to have a day-view of Paris. It was worth it. What we had missed the night before from the Eiffel Tower, we got from Sacre Coeur. We climbed back down after getting our fill (commenting on getting back in shape as we went) and ventured on to get some amazing street crepes (mine was chocolate and banana). Then went shoe shopping so I’d have something to wear with the dress Steph loaned me for the Moulin Rouge show that night. After having shoe succes, getting eye make-up done at Mac, and eating a snack at McDonald’s (what can I say, we got desperate), we took an Uber to our crazy dinner show where the tables were so close together, we could hardly get to our seat. We ate, attempted to chat with the two men from Uruguay next to us, and then watched as the craziness began. I hadn’t checked to see what kind of show it was. Steph had booked a single ticket through a travel agent, and we thought it would be fun to go together. Neither of us had any idea what to expect. Balancing acts, comedy acts, musical acts, a woman swimming with pythons, sequence, gems, feathers, lights, and yes, tastefully topless dancers (we were in France afterall), paraded across the stage for two hours performing. I watched amazed as a man with his feet strapped to the seat of a chair and knees bent over the top of the chair rested with his head against the floor while balancing his standing partner in his hands, arms straight above him. Then, he did the most amazing sit-up, still balancing her, and stood up in the seat of the chair himself. I had no words. There are things in life that I will only be able to appreciate and never be able to do. Buzzing from the show, we went for drinks to finish the night and made plans to visit the Louvre the following day, Steph’s last in Paris.

We met at the Lion entrance on the garden side of the Louvre to avoid the big lines at the pyramid entrance (our bike tour guide told us this little secret). Within 15 minutes we were in the museum and taking selfies (it’s pretty much required) with the famous Mona Lisa. We meandered a bit more through the many hallways, and then Steph decided she would rather spend time by the river for her last few hours. We left and caught an amazing free fashion/art exhibit (Dans L’Oeil du Flâneur: Hermès) and had crepes by the river. Then I sadly bid my new friend good bye so she could catch her flight home, and I went back to the Louvre to see more of the place and do some writing. The Louvre itself easily overwhelms the unsuspecting tourist. The maze of hallways and stairwells can lead to endless circles for the directionally impaired (that would be me) and the art without explanation becomes a cacophony of visual noise. I had to choose a few pieces to sit and admire to really appreciate the experience. I closed the evening by wandering the city and eating vietnamese pho in the opera district. The restaurant owner generously refilled the hot water in my tea pot several times after I had finished my meal but continued occupying the spot to do a couple hours of writing in this city of artists. I also thought about the next day and how I would be traveling to Amsterdam to meet with my dear friend and fellow yoga teacher from Germany. But to Paris, I would soon return.

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