The Longest Day… in Paris

23 June 2011

Paris 8pm

This has got to be one of the longest days I’ve ever had.
Yesterday …

View from our hotel room window in Paris (that's the entrance to the Louvre down the street)

24 June 2011

Paris 4pm

I was interrupted by my duck salad arriving yesterday and after dinner I wasn’t really in a state for thinking. My flight to Paris on the 22nd was supposed to leave a little after six. It eventually left a little before ten pm, which meant we landed in Paris around 12:30 am. After immigration (he didn’t do anything besides stamp my passport – didn’t even ask me any questions, his existence was pretty superfluous) and waiting for a taxi, we got to our hotel around 2am. We weren’t planning to take a taxi, which cost something stupid like 60 euros, but even if the metro/train system was running at that hour, we wouldn’t have wanted to deal with it.

… Only to wake up at 6:30 am to get to Versailles before its 9am opening. We then toured the chateau, the gardens, the Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s hamlet, and the Grand Trianon. By 3pm we were on the train back to Paris, where we stood in line for something like an hour before we entered the Musée d’Orsay. We didn’t leave until after 7pm for that duck salad I mentioned.

Again: It was a long day.

Presently Mom and I are in a very expensive cafe relaxing before we need to head to the train station. Everything in this city. I honestly don’t think I have ever been to a more expensive city. My cappuccino – $3 in Washington DC, 90 rupees ($2) in Delhi, 2.15 GBP ($3.42) in the UK – starts at 3.50 euros ($4.90) and goes up from there. When I paid 5 euros ($7) somewhere for a truly shit cappuccino that was basically espresso and poorly made foam scooped on to, I switched to straight espresso shots instead.

I may have given up on keeping a budget here, I am not sure that it is humanly possible.

The language thing is frustrating. Not because I don’t speak French. It’s fun to get back to the half-English half-foreign language transaction. It’s frustrating because I dospeak some French. My French and Hindi are about on the same level, only my Hindi is a little more solidified and a lot closer to surface. Twice now I’ve answered a French person in Hindi. It makes me even more nervous to use what French I have. Not only do I have to worry about getting the French right, but I have to worry about not letting the Hindi slip through.

Ferris Wheel at sunset in the park across from the Louvre

Versailles was grand and beautiful and everything I expected it to be except in one way. I was kind of expecting to get the same sort of gut punch reaction to the chateau that I got with the Angkor temples and the Taj Mahal but I didn’t. There’s got to be someplace in Europe that provides that gut punch, right? It can’t all be in Asia.

So Mom and I were tired and burnt out by the end of yesterday, but it was still pretty cool to walk across the Seine and be like: holy shit, we’re in Paris.

This morning we started our day off at the Louvre, waiting in line for its opening. Which was probably the right call because by 11:30, when we left (no, we did not see everything in that short amount of time) we were so burnt out and frustrated by the increasing crowds that I doubt we could have handled an afternoon trip.

Winged Victory at the Louvre

What we did see (in order to cut down on simply being in that mad house) was basically the Rick Steves Must See Essential Tour. (Mom had the Rick Steves Guide on her kindle. Very high tech of her.) The Venus de Milo. The Winged Victory. The Mona Lisa. Napoleon crowning himself, Lady Liberty and Michelangelo’s slaves. All good works (understatement), worthy of my time and part of the essential global education, I’m cobbling together.

But art-wise, my interests tend toward impressionism, the more modern without being too abstract. I filled pages of the back of this journal with names and works that interested me from d’Orsay, but I have only one from the the Louvre (aside from the classics listed above) – La Grande Odalisqueby Ingres.

To be fair, we didn’t wander much to allow me to go (oo!) and write things down. But that place is a mad house. You couldn’t have paid me to deal with the crowds much longer.

I will say this: with as many tourists as we get in DC, I will never complain about them again*. For it could be worse, I could live in Paris.

* Probably a lie.

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