Operation: GTFO (Day 215)

Post Paris Depression

I'm not in Paris anymore.

I’m not in Paris anymore.

I’ve been back from leave for about 14 days now.  A commenter on Trip Advisor asked me how I was getting along with my “post-Paris depression.”  I think that is the exact disease from which I’m suffering.  With a little bit of I don’t give a shit-itis.  This is precisely what happened to me during the last deployment when I came back from R&R—my ability to care about anything went from 0 to -15.  I would say that I’m sitting at a solid -20.

Of course it did not help that my battle buddy went on leave the day I got back.  I swear to God, I never thought it humanly possible to miss somebody so much, and we ain’t family or in love!  It’s just sitting in this office for a week straight with these two lunatics just really wore on my nerves.  It’s lucky they do have conversation or I would have committed suicide.  It’s just that they have a lot of issues.  Sometimes I feel like I’m having a conversation with a schizophrenic and/or my grandfather.

I suffered through a set of meetings where I realized that I don’t actually like any of these people.  No, let me take that back.  I’ve known since jump I didn’t like these people.  I think I realized how intensely I don’t like these people.  I remarked to Higher that I found it amazing his ability to deal with all these personalities.  I find it taxing to work with people I consider to be idiots.  He has loads more experience than I do, and maybe one day when I grow up I’ll learn how to function in a society full of buffoons.

The face you make when someone asks you to sit in on yet another meeting.

The face you make when someone asks you to sit in on yet another meeting.

In the last meeting, they thought I was taking notes.  Instead I was planning my post-deployment leave.  Thanks to PDRMA, I might get a week extra of leave.  An initial calculation puts me at 22 days.  I don’t believe anything until it’s in writing, so I’m going to assume I only have two weeks left.  I’m going to take a whirlwind tour of France and the UK.  I want to visit the Champagne region because I never got around to it during my initial leave.  Then I’m going to Paris again, then on to London for a week.

I already plotted out my entire itinerary based on 14 days.  I’m flying Space A into Ramstein and out of Mildenhall.  The only thing I really need are the dates.  Since there’s no way of actually knowing when the fuck I will be paroled from this misery, I will just have to wing it.  I figure I will have a better idea once I actually get on a plane.  Last time it only took me 2.5 days to escape Fort Hood.  It might be last minute and more expensive, but it is better than nothing.

It’s just giving me something to look forward.  For whatever reason going home is not enough of a motivator.  Maybe because there isn’t anything back there waiting for me, and I feel like it would be more of the same old-same old.  Really, I’m on the verge of just quitting everything and becoming one of these Bohemians that work their way around the world doing whatever the fuck they want.

I don't see what's wrong with this lifestyle.

I don’t see what’s wrong with this lifestyle.

I am going to take a page from my battle’s book and backpack—not in the traditional sense, though.  I’m too old for that.  But I might stay in a hostel in Paris because it’ll be so last minute, but when I get to London I’m doing my luxury route.  I’ll consider Scotland if I end up having these 20 days these people claim I’ll have.

Based on an arbitrary calculation I think I have nine more Sundays left.  I think this is the best way to think of it.  Higher said, “We have four paychecks left.”  Who the fuck wants to count dwindling paychecks?  Yeah, almost all of us are going back to jobs so it’s not like we won’t be getting paid ever again, but I can’t be like, “Four paychecks till I stop getting double paychecks.”  Someone else tried to count in hours.  Someone said, “Yeah, I did the calculation and it’s like 2100 more hours.”  I don’t know how accurate the calculation is but seriously, do you really want to count two-thousand, one-hundred, fifty-six hours, nineteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds?  Uh.  Nope.

Forget counting days too.  If I go with the rough estimate of nine weeks, then that’s like 63 days.  That’s still too much.  Nine Sundays sounds more reasonable and it doesn’t seem like a long time.

Trip Report: Paris, France (Day 9)

From the Tour Montparnasse

From the Tour Montparnasse

On my last day in Paris, I woke up very early so as not to waste a single minute of it. I honestly thought about going to Versailles as a day trip but the more I looked into it the more I knew that I wanted to wait for my return trip. I think coming in winter is great for seeing the sights without excessive crowds, but I can only imagine how splendid this city is in full bloom. I think Versailles as a whole might be better in spring.

Instead, I opted for Tour Montparnasse. I said before I wasn’t really big on going to the top of things but I saw pictures online that it has a glass enclosure. They don’t just let you walk around willy-nilly up there. I think it’s about 55 stories or so, and I have to admit that it was pretty amazing.

Not your average commute.

Not your average commute.

First, I went to Galaries Lafayette at the Commerce Centre. It’s far less manic here, so if you want to do your high-end shopping I would suggest this one rather than the one near Opera Garnier. It doesn’t have the same wide selection but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if all you really want to do is shop.

I bought myself that perfume I wanted, but unfortunately the Chanel counter at this location does not have jewellery. I was not able to get my friend the earrings she wanted. Chanel has been selling earrings for a hundred years.  They’ll still be there in May when I come back.

It costs 15E to get to the top of Tour Montparnasse. It really is a bit of tourist trap. When you first come off the elevator they take your picture in front of a green panel. This is so you can have a “photo” of you directly in front of the Eiffel Tower or some other location. I tried to opt out of this but they said, “It’s no obligation.”  I gave them my ‘black people don’t smile’ look and they did not bother me again.

I walked around in the enclosed area for a second or two. There’s a café and a gift shop, but they had half of it closed off for a private event. So I went up to the 59th level, the part where you can go outdoors.

I still think the view from Sacre Coeur is the best, but the Tour Montparnasse is a close second. Because it’s so high up you can really get a very wide view of the entire city and its outer lying areas. It’s sunny today so I think it’s pretty spectacular. As someone told me there were not that many tourists at all. I think perhaps a total of eight of us were on top. One guy had a really fancy camera; it looked like a movie camera. I’m sure it cost into the thousands, and I bet his photos were really good. Whatever. I’m happy with my iPhone photos.

I left just in time because a huge group of about 200 Chinese tourists showed up. There was even more downstairs waiting to come up in the elevators. When I went outside I saw five tour buses pulling off. I bet the private event was for them.

After Tour Montparnasse, I decided to have one last crepe. I used Yelp to find a nearby creperie and it came back with a little street that was full of creperies. None of them opened until noon, so I sat on the steps of a church, reading reviews for 20 minutes. I think this is one of my happiest moments in Paris.

It’s sunny and very peaceful. I can people watch and I really don’t have a care in the world. Sure, I have a little bit of sadness that in just 24 hours I would have to go back to my life but to even have an opportunity to travel at all is simply amazing. I have so many friends who have never left their home towns. I have even more friends that really want to go places but they feel confined by their lives. I think I am lucky that I lived outside the US in my youth. It helped give me an appreciation for other cultures. My sister and I look back on those years living in Japan and count it as some of the best years of our lives.

From the Trocadero at night

From the Trocadero at night

I think I am also blessed that I can even afford to go someplace. These days, people are just trying to make a living. More people are concerned about feeding their children and putting them through college, then going on an excursion to a foreign country. I don’t usually get on a soap box but I will put in a plug for a worldly education. It can significantly enhance their worldview.

At any rate, I chose Le Petite Josselin because the Josselin Creperie was closed for some reason. Josselin Creperie had the best reviews, but La Petite came in a close second. It was extremely crowded inside. I know the French don’t mind being so closely seated but I was uncomfortable. I’m not a small person and I felt like I couldn’t fit into the area the server wanted me to sit. Usually I don’t like to sit with my back to the door, but there was no way I could slide into that bench between the tables.  I felt like my ass was gonna be in somebody’s soup.

It was very warm in there so I hurried up and ordered a Martiniquaise. Coconut ice cream, chocolate, and Grand Marnier. The Grand Marnier is not overpowering, but I don’t really taste the coconut ice cream too much. Still, I think it’s very good.

Now I have to make a decision on the best crepe ever, but I felt like I could not. This street had about 10 creperies on it. I feel that I would be negligent if I made a decision without tasting their crepes as well. I have decided to table the research until it can be continued on my return trip. But for now, I think Ar Poul Gwen is number one, the Bayeux crepe is number two and Le Petite Josselin will be number three.

Now, time for some souvenir shopping. I’m not really big on souvenirs. I would never purchase an “I heart Paris” T-shirt, or a junky old coffee mug. But I do collect snow globes, so that tells you a lot. I really wanted something for my sister and my nephews but I didn’t have a whole lot of room in my bags and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take the time to mail something from France. Instead, I bought some scarves for myself and one for my battle buddy. Also, I couldn’t resist the sales so I bought a pair of boots. How fortuitous that I should be in Paris during the semi-annual sales.

I wondered if France had any big box stores like Wal-Mart or Target. I found a store called BHV in the Marais. BHV is like a Home Depot, Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond rolled all into one. It’s actually a little bit ridiculous, but so much fancier than those individual stores. This BHV has seven stories full of mid-range items. Some reviewers state the prices are expensive but it looks like middle class prices to me. I think it would be the difference of shopping in Walmart vs. Target.

For my battle buddy I also bought her some nuts from le pistacherie. She loves pistachios and cashews and I thought the gift baskets in the window were really pretty.

Seriously, it's the butter and garlic.  I'd eat them again.

Seriously, it’s the butter and garlic. I’d eat them again.

You know what is the most difficult thing to overcome when travelling to another country? It’s not the language or the customs of other people. It’s the metric system! Even though I grew up in Japan where the metric system is used, I still have significant issues. It was like I lived in two worlds, never fully grasping either system. I am also a poor judge of measurement. I say things like, “My apartment is very small. It’s about 50 square feet.” I don’t say it as an exaggeration; I genuinely believe a person can live in a 50 square foot apartment. Or I’ll say something like, “You can walk there very easily. It’s about half a mile,” and it turns out the distance was closer to five miles. Don’t get me started on meters!

When I went into le pistacherie I thought about just buying one of the gift baskets, but the case where you can buy by the gram had so many different varieties. I knew my battle would appreciate cheese-crusted cashew nuts and lemon-flavoured almonds, but how much do I buy? So, what’s sad is my only understanding of the metric system has to do with drugs. I used to work law enforcement, and I knew that a few grams are a night in jail but kilos will get you sent up.

So do I order a few grams of nuts or a kilo of nuts?

Luckily, the kind lady really assisted me. Through some wild gesticulation I was able to show her how much of each I wanted. When I told her it was a gift for a friend, she thoughtfully packaged the nuts so beautifully. You just don’t get that kind of assistance at a big box store in the US.

I spent another hour or so wandering around the Marais before heading back to the apartment to start packing. I did have one last church concert lined up and I also wanted to dine out again. This time I wanted to try l’escargots. I have never had them before.

I asked for recommendations on TA, and someone came back with Chez Denise. I decided against Chez Denise because the menu seemed a little more than I could handle. I read something about pork knuckles and bone marrow and it intimidated me. I’m not sure where I stand on French food. I am discovering now how “French food” is a very broad term. I don’t know the regions just yet, so I don’t know what each region specializes in. Then, of course, you have all the contemporary and fusion places so it’s hard to tell.

Ultimate in Parisian shopping.

Ultimate in Parisian shopping.

What I say I don’t like is that some of the food can be quite bland. I know this is because I was raised on spicy food drowned in garlic and chiles. If it’s not burning my lips off then it’s not hot enough. French food does not have these attributes. I’m not the American that grew up on pot roasts, potatoes and casserole dishes, so some of the French food is really a leap for me. On the other hand, I absolutely adore seafood and everything I’ve eaten on that score has been delectable. Having said all that, I did not have a bad meal at all. I think the best thing I ate was oxtails and scallops. I could have done without the beet juice dish at Jules Verne.

Instead of Chez Denise, I went to L’escargot Montorgueil (spelling). It was hardly a block away from the apartment. I told the server that I had never had escargots before and please recommend the best version. They had different options and I really couldn’t tell what the difference would be. He chose for me the traditional garlic, butter and parsley.

Before I went on an escargot escapade, I watched several YouTube videos on how to eat “the slippery little suckers.” Anyone who has ever seen Pretty Woman, remembers the scene where Julia Roberts flings a snail into the air. I did not want to be That Guy, flying snails all over the place.

After the videos I felt confident I would be able to eat them without making a fool of myself. When they arrived, I looked down at the plate skeptically. It really is six snails nestled into a plate specifically designed for them. The shells are turned upward to hold the garlic, butter and parsley concoction like a little bowl.

I picked up the tongs and the little fork I was given and began to dig in. I pushed the fork way down into the shell like the video said so but all I could pull out were parsley flakes. I started to wonder if that’s all it was, just some garlic juice with butter and parsley. There was nothing to chew. In the video the guy had meat on his fork. I thought, well, maybe this one doesn’t have any, like sometimes when you get a bad oyster or a crab with very little meat. I was disappointed so I picked up a second snail and tried again.


I was able to pull out the meat, but now I actually have to eat it. I decided there was nothing for it but to pop it into my mouth, so I did.

La Madeleine Eglise.  I thought it was a museum.  It's a church.

La Madeleine Eglise. I thought it was a museum. It’s a church.

It reminded me of a very strong portabella mushroom. It was a little bit chewy but otherwise it tasted perfectly fine. I think the actual taste comes from whatever garnish they put on it. I think the snail itself doesn’t taste like much. Before eating the snails I thought they would be slimy, but I discovered they aren’t at all. I would definitely eat them again. I had a glass of Beaujolais blanc. The waiter suggested it would go well with the escargots. He was right.

I still had quite a bit of time before my concert so I went to the Trocadero again to see the Eiffel Tower one last time. It is evening time now, so it is lit up and I think it looks even better than it does during the day. There are actually more people out here than there was that first day I came.

I stayed up there admiring it until it was time for my concert.

Afterward, I attended my final church concert. It was a playing of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at La Madeleine Eglise. Yet another beautiful evening of music in another beautiful church. A string quartet opened up with a familiar song, but I couldn’t remember the name. Then they went into Pachelbel’s Canon in D. That damn song again.

A rail thin singer came out for a selection of songs, including Ave Maria. Frankly, I did not think she was that good. Her voice was not big enough for the church and the strings overpowered her. While technically proficient, she lacked warmth and I was glad when her set was over.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a piece of music that a lot of people know but may not know the name. It is a Baroque violin concerto for the solo violin and quartet. You’ve heard “Summer” a thousand times. I know I have, and I never get tired of it. I wanted to learn how to play the violin based off that piece alone. My parents didn’t want to suffer the screeching, scratching of a new violinist so they never put me in lessons.

They really played quite well, but it wasn’t the Four Seasons that did it for me. They played two encores. The first one I didn’t know but the last one was Camille Saint-Saens’ Le Cygne. This is truly a haunting piece of music, and hearing it in this church….it gave me a chill. The song is basically about a dying swan and is based on the notion that swans are mute their whole lives until they are about to die. Upon death, they sing a most beautiful song that makes you weep when you hear it.

I thought it was almost symbolic to end the evening on that song.

This is pretty much my version of Paris.

This is pretty much my version of Paris.

Trip Report: Paris, France (Day 8)

The one good day to get on a riverboat cruise.

The one good day to get on a riverboat cruise.

Time is flying fast.  Can’t believe I have to leave in two days.  If I were going home to the US I’d probably be just a little sad, but since I have to go back to that horrid place I’m practically suicidal (no, that’s not a cry for help).

Today is the day I attempt to get into Jules Verne.  I never made reservations for a lot of reasons.  First, I didn’t know if I even wanted to dine in a restaurant of its calibre.  Second, in order to make a reservation you have to basically put a deposit.  You can cancel but only up to a certain amount of time.  I kept going back and forth whether or not I wanted to dine.  I didn’t want to reserve and then bail out at the last minute, only to lose my deposit.

Out of all the reviews on Michelin-rated restaurants, this one seemed the least pretentious, catering more to the tourist crowd.  It’s not that I can’t eat in some stuffy old white table cloth joint because I don’t know how to conduct myself, it was the whole eating by myself thing.  It’s one thing to turn up at McDonald’s alone, or even your neighbourhood bar and grill; it’s quite another when you’re at some place that expects you to be boo’ed up.

I read that I could just walk in without a reservation:  I would have to wait or I’d be denied.  I dressed in my best outfit and got on the Metro with fingers crossed.  Eiffel Tower up close is pretty amazing.  There are tourists, but not that many.  No one tried to pickpocket me, much to my disappointment.  This whole trip I’ve had my valuables duct taped to my body.  Haha.  I’m just kidding.

I arrived at 1158 and the door was already opened.  There is a little lobby area and I asked the maitre d’, “Are there any seatings available?”

He smiled wanly at me and said, “Has Madame had an opportunity to look at the menu?”

View from the restaurant.

View from the restaurant.  I am INSIDE the Eiffel Tower

On the inside I died laughing.  Bitch, are you asking me if I have money?  I was not offended.  I think it’s a good thing to ask to save someone from humiliation.  I had such an experience about 10 years ago in California.  Ty and I visited Los Angeles, and we went to a restaurant called Pacific Railcar.  Back then I was the proverbial struggling college student.  California at that time did not publish its menus outside.  I was shocked out of my socks when we were handed menus reflecting $50 per plate.  We were so embarrassed.  Since the restaurant specialised in seafood we pretended that we really wanted pasta.  The waiter gave us a pitying look so we ordered a glass of $15 glass of wine and a $20 shrimp cocktail to save face, then ended up at a Denny’s because we didn’t have any money left.

These days I have a savings account.  I told the maitre d’ I was fully versed in the menu and asked again for availability.

I crossed my fingers as he called upstairs.

“Yes, madame, please, right this way.”


So, for real, the view is spectacular.  I felt safe because I was enclosed and there’s no way a divine wind could sweep me to my death.  I did not get a window seat, but my seat was good enough.  If the window seats are booked and the guests seated there have finished their meals you can ask to be moved.  They will accommodate you.  I didn’t feel the need to move because I was facing right out the window.

A Suisse and Brazilian couple got the window.  The waiter asked if they were celebrating anything special.  She said, “I am his girlfriend.”  He said, “She is my friend that is a girl.”  She said, “Girlfriend.”  The waiter smiled and wisely did not say anything.  She said again, “Girlfriend.”

King crab with some caviar and a stale ass breadstick on top.  Good as shit, though.

King crab with some caviar and a stale ass breadstick on top. Good as shit, though.

The service is impeccable.  They take your coat at the door and hand you into your seat.  There are about 100 servers just waiting for the opportunity to treat you like a royal.

I should have started off with a glass of champagne as an aperitif but I’m glad I did not, and you’ll see why in just a little bit.  Instead, I got plain water and they brought it along with some cheese crisp thing.  Again, I’m not big on cheese but I had purposely skipped breakfast so as to be hungry.  Then they start with the bread.  The server brought out a HUGE platter of various breads:  wholegrain, white, soft pastry, crusty, whatever.  The one thing I haven’t liked about French restaurants is the hard bread.  After wearing braces, I find I can’t eat hard foods like that anymore.  I was thankful to get a soft piece of bread.

I ate three.

I ordered the five plate experience and asked for the wine pairing as well.

Course 1:  Seafood mush, fish eggs and stale bread stick

The menu called it “delicate sea urchin, gold caviar, seaweed bread stick.”  Actually, it’s really good.  I’m gonna say the seafood mush was the sea urchin and it was topped with king crab (the waiter said so) and caviar.  I never had caviar before in my life and it was deeeeeeeeelicious.  I could have done without the stale breadstick, even though I do like seaweed.

A different waiter brings three wine glasses and situates them on the table.  He pours a glass of white, while yet a different waiter come by with more bread.  Apparently each waiter has a purpose.  It’s not the same guy doing everything.

I’m not the only person dining alone, so I don’t feel conspicuous at all.  The waiters paid more attention to me than anyone else, but that’s their job.

This was the only thing that wasn't that great.  I ate the shit out of that lobster though.

This was the only thing that wasn’t that great. I ate the shit out of that lobster though.

Course 2:  Lobster on baby food, thin slice of carrot, some kind of tuber and half a leek.

…or, “Seared langoustine, homemade pickles.”  The names the chefs come up with are hysterical to me.  Really, it’s probably just a description of the dish but I have to put it in layperson terms.  I would not consider myself a foodie by any stretch of the imagination.

Lobster on baby food tastes great.  The lobster is utterly perfect.  The texture was exactly where it should be, slightly firm.  I don’t know what the baby food was, some kind of orange coloured puree, but it coincided with the lobster in a marriage of excellence.  I don’t see “homemade pickles” on my plate.  I see a tuber and quite literally half a leek.  The tuber was meh, but I like leeks.  Too bad I didn’t get a whole one.

Wine guy comes back to pour a second glass of wine.  This is also a white wine.  I have said for the longest time I do not like white wine.  At home, the only whites I ever drink come from the Carolina Muscadine grape, and I only ever drink it when I’m having a barbecue or something like that because it’s super sweet.  My preference are dry reds.  So now I think I need to clarify.  I don’t like *cheap* white wine.  Whatever this wine guy is bringing is excellent.  The first white had a buttery nose to it.  My first thought was popcorn, which sounds gross but it was anything but.  This second white was more flowery.  Neither were very dry, which is good.  It was a dry white wine that led me to believe I didn’t like whites.

A different kind of lobster with vegetables I've never eaten before.

A different kind of lobster with vegetables I’ve never eaten before.

Course 3:  Bland onion looking thing with cheesy mushroom sauce.

…or, “Chicory, ham, comte cheese and black truffle.”  I have no idea what a chicory is but that cheesy sauce was the TRUTH!  I don’t even like cheese, but it was light and flavourful.  Maybe it was the truffle that gave it the taste.  Oh, it was so good.  When I first ordered I asked if it could be made without ham and I was obliged.  I thought chicory was something you put in coffee.

Here comes the wine guy again.  Okay, so I know I ordered the wine pairing.  Sometimes I do not fully think things through.  Are they really going to bring me five glasses of wine?  Halfway through this third glass of wine my face became numb.  Once I get that numb feeling in my face I know it’s time to stop because after that comes the loud talking, laughing for no reason and passing out.  Should I tell him not to bring anymore?  Hahahaha.

I had needlessly worried about what to do with myself between courses.  There was a lot to observe.  I did play on my phone but that’s because I was writing down each dish according to my own description.  I didn’t want to forget and at the rate I was drinking there was no way I would be able to remember anything at all.

Course 4:  Lobster on poinsettia leaves, one potato chip in beet juice

…or, “Roasted blue lobster, braises salsify, cooking jus.”  Poinsettia leaves are poisonous to some people, so I’m sure it’s not really poinsettia leaves.  I don’t know what this is.  Are the leaves red because of the beet juice?  This dish is the only one I did not care for too much.  I don’t like beets or potatoes.  There is precisely one thin slice of potato drowned in beet juice and these leaves.  It just wasn’t appetising.  The waiter comes by and sees me picking at it.  He says, “Madame does not like beets?”  I shook my head.  He gave me a most aggrieved look, “But the lobster!!?”  Oh, bitch, don’t worry.  I am not about to throw away some lobster.  I was able to get it out of its shell without getting too much beet juice on it.  Very tasty, but lemon and butter would have been much appreciated.

First dessert:  half a teaspoon of ice cream on an orange rind

First dessert: half a teaspoon of ice cream on an orange rind

Because I ordered only the fish courses, I did not get course five which is just as well because I was pretty much a fat horsey by then.  The dishes are very small but there’s a lot going on.  I have finished three glasses of wine and I know I was smiling like an idiot.  The waiter tried to take away glass number three, but I wouldn’t let him because there was a tiny drop left.  Bitch, please!

Dessert course 1:  Vanilla wafer with ice cream and orange rind

…or, “clementine tartlet, chestnut ice cream.”  The ice cream didn’t taste like chestnuts (not that I’ve ever had chestnuts), but instead it seemed like plain vanilla to me.  I like citrusy things so this was a home run for me.  The clementine is very strong, very chewy, like a gummy candy.

More wine.  Oh, God.  This time it’s a sweet dessert wine.  All these wines are French so I don’t know how it works but in the US, dessert wines are called fortified wines because they have more alcohol than table wines.  Halfway through this glass I know that I should stop but I can’t because I’m actually now drunk.  I’m glad I’m alone because there is no one to talk to; therefore, I cannot talk loudly and embarrass myself.  I just sit there smiling like a fool.

Third dessert:  fancy ass marshmallows, macaroons and even more fancy ass marshmallows.

Third dessert: fancy ass marshmallows, macaroons and even more fancy ass marshmallows.

Dessert course 2:  gold spray-painted medallion chocolate thing

…or, “Crispy tower nut, chocolate from their factory and praline.”  Chocolate, yes.  Praline, yes.  It’s not spray painted but it’s shiny and gold.  I can’t think of how they got it to be that colour, and maybe since I’m trashed all I could think of was spray paint.  It looks like the gold foil wrapping on a champagne bottle but it’s edible. (Later, I found out that it’s actually real gold powder.  So, like, I ate gold.)

More wine!  It’s called Maury, and the only reason I remember it is because of Maury Povich.  I thought of that when the waiter was pouring and I busted out laughing.  He looked at me like, “what is so funny?”  I couldn’t explain, so he walked away looking a little miffed.  This wine is not that great.  It tastes like prune juice.  I drank it anyway.

Just when I though the experience was over, here comes yet a different guy with MORE desserts.  This time it’s a little tray of macaroons and some fancy marshmallows.  He actually said, “In case you are still hungry.”

What!?!?  I am so stuffed and my head, my poor head.  I did help myself to a chocolate marshmallow while I waited for coffee to be served.



So, you know, alcohol is a depressant.  If you’re not laughing and drinking and having a good time with friends, then you’re thinking about things.  As if on cue, Claire de Lune started playing softly in the background.  It made me wistful and reminiscent.  I got dumped a week before Valentine’s Day in 2014.  A month later, I shipped off to Utah to do some training for the deployment.  I really liked that guy and I thought we were gonna make it.  Here I am dining in some super fancy restaurant alone and he’s …. who even knows?

The next song was Pachelbel’s Canon in D, otherwise known as the Wedding Song.  Now I’m truly depressed.  I finish the Maury Povich and think about the mythological creature:  The Woman Who Has It All.  I don’t think such a thing is possible.  Either you’re devoted to your family, or you’re devoted to your career.  When I went to basic training my drill sergeant used to say there was no such thing as giving 110%.  He said, “What’s 100% of you?  ALL of you.  What’s 110% of you?  MORE than you.  You cannot give more than yourself.”  I have been devoted to my career:  putting myself through school, deploying twice, working extra, working over in order to prove myself and get ahead.  Since I cannot give more than myself that is probably why all my relationships suck.

Deep thoughts, and that’s why it’s not a good idea to drink so much.

But you know, maybe I’m better off without that guy because that bitch would have never come with me to Paris.  He is too awkward.  I couldn’t even imagine him attempting to speak French.  And eating in some fancy ass restaurant?  Yeah, right.  Unless it’s chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese and his momma’s meat loaf, he would not try it.  But then, you know what, he might eat this boring ass French food.

Anyway, I’m in Paris, so what do I need to think about him for?

Treat yo'self!

Treat yo’self!

I asked for the check and now I’m really about to die laughing.  I have some idea of what I spent because I studied the menu for so long when I was trying to decide.  I forgot about the incidentals:  coffee, water, etc.  They charge you for every little thing, but you might as well go all out.  Don’t do things in half measures.

I received l’addition and the sum is 297E.  Lucky the military don’t charge you rent or food.  Shit, if I was home I’d have to eat Ramen noodles for the rest of the week.

Since my mood had turned morbid, I figured the only way to lift my spirits is to go shopping.  I’m not sure how I managed to get to Champs-Elysees.  I wish I could elaborate for you my adventures on this grand boulevard; however, I do not remember too much.  I remember the train making me dizzy.  Then I remember being in a store, and that’s about it.

Next thing I woke up back at the apartment with a snow globe on the bedside table.  LOL.  C’est la vie.

Trip Report: Paris, France (Day 7)

The pyramids outside the Louvre

The pyramids outside the Louvre

I think all these late evenings are starting to break me down.  I can stay up late watching TV or something, but night after night of opera, concerts and whatnot, maybe it’s just too much.  Oh, first world problems.  Actually, I’m rather happy with the way I planned this trip.  I do my sightseeing in the morning, come back to the apartment for a rest then go back out for dinner and evening entertainment.  I would never be able to keep up the pace without that afternoon rest.  It’s also a lot of walking and stairs, but I did not plan a breakneck trip, running from one thing to the next.  I hate that style of vacation, and so many people do it.  They show up some place for a few minutes, take a picture and then run off.  What is the point?

Anyway, it’s my day for the Louvre, the most famous museum in the world.  I already said I was take it or leave it when it comes to museums.  I do appreciate high art, but I can’t stare at it all day long.  I understand its importance and contribution to the human dynamic but just like anything there’s a line to be drawn.  I hate going to these places and some guy is staring at a black square, talking about the artist’s emotions.  Bitch, it’s a black square, get over yourself.  But then again, I guess I do the same thing about literature and music–it’s all relative.

I got to the Louvre around 930 and already there was a considerable queue.  During the low season, the Louvre is free on the first Sunday of the month, otherwise it costs like $40 to get in.  Being the most famous museum in the world, I guess you can command that high price and people are actually paying it.

Every square inch of the Louvre has some kind of artwork on it:  the ceilings and the floor.

Every square inch of the Louvre has some kind of artwork on it: the ceilings and the floor.

My friend told me to use the side entrance.  I did not come in through the pyramid, but instead went to Porte Richelieu and walked right in.  There was no one there at all!  It was raining and all these people were just standing out there.  One thing I am not clear is if you still need to get a ticket of some sort, even if it is free.  I still had the museum pass, so I waved it at the security person just to be sure and he let me in.

I decided to get the audioguide for the Louvre because it’s just so massive.  I don’t usually do audioguides but I felt like I would benefit from it.  It only costs 5E, and I brought my own headphones.  I’ve got noise-cancelling, noise-isolating Bose headphones—excellent for drowning out the noise.  The audioguide is a Nintendo hand-held and ended up being a little frustrating.

I started off with the Masterpieces tour.  It’s supposed to take you on a 50 minute tour of the greatest masterpieces the museum has to offer.  It has a GPS thing and it tells you where to go.  Obviously, GPS and I have had a falling out after that fiasco leaving the Pantheon.  Every five seconds the stupid thing was like, “You have left the tour, would you like to recalculate?”  In some cases I wasn’t even moving.  I was still admiring a piece of art.  After a while I just gave up on trying to have a tour.  You can input the numbers from a certain work and the commentary will come up.  The audioguide will also automatically detect which section you’re in and give you a brief overview.

"Where Are My Arms?"

“Where Are My Arms?”

When I came to the Louvre, I had only two goals in mind:  La Giaconda (like everyone else) and The Last Supper (more on that in a minute!  LOL).  I figured if I saw anything else of import it would be an additional treat.  I also thought I would only be in the museum two hours, three max.  I can only stand to look at so much.  Well…..

I started with the Venus de Milo, or “What Happened to My Arms?”  Again, I am making up my own names to the artwork.  I liked the audioguide because it did help me understand what I was supposed to appreciate about the piece.  You get to hear a lot about the history of the work and the artist (in this case, unknown).  It’s crazy that it was created a hundred years before Christ.  Some guy found it in the 1820 while digging around on the island of Milos.  They did find the arms but they were all messed up, so no one knows exactly how her arms were situated.

Next I went into a room with Greek and Roman sculptures.  I viewed Artemis with a Doe and the Caryatides.  This is where the audioguide got me all messed up.  It told me to go to Caryatides and I was practically standing on top of them and it was like, “You’ve left the tour.”  Ugh.  So I just started wandering, which ended up being a far better idea.

"Pour It Up"

“Pour It Up”

In case you didn’t know, the Louvre is MAAAASIVE.  I wonder how long it would take to “do” the Louvre properly.  Even the Louvre itself is a masterpiece, apparently an old fortress and palace.  From floor to ceiling, every space has a piece of art crammed into it.  I was in overload within minutes, but it was like I couldn’t stop.  I did take a moment to sit down for some French style breakfast at one of the many cafes inside the Louvre; it was to regroup after getting lost on the Nintendo tour and to decide if I really wanted the hassle.  There’s a lot of people in here and most people are wandering around kind of aimlessly.  You know I move with a purpose.

I decided to keep going, and I ended up in the Greek, Roman and Etruscan sculptures.  I was there for an hour before I wandered into French paintings.  Of course, being France, there is a shit ton of French paintings.  They have it divided by period, and then there’s the Italian paintings.  My God!  Some of them are just so massive.  Maybe because I don’t have a creative bone in my body, I wonder how on earth you just wake up one day and decide to paint a ten foot canvas of some subject.

It took me two hours to find La Giaconda, or “I’ve Got a Secret,” or “Need To Get My Brows Done.”  (You know she ain’t go not eyebrows.)  So, the harsh reality is that the Louvre is always busy and you will never get a private moment with Lisa.  This bitch is in high demand.  She has her own personal bodyguards and a barricade to keep you from getting too close.  She is a celebrity and everybody wants to take their picture with her.  Fuck Beyonce; it’s Mona Lisa, bitch.  I did not want to photo bomb La Giaconda, but I did take a picture of the crowd in front of her so I could show my friends back home what it’s like.  I am not even sure what the deal is with trying to take a picture with the Mona Lisa, especially because there are a thousand people just standing there.  Whatever.  Once again, even though I knew beforehand the situation, I was very disappointed.  I wanted to chat with her for a moment and ask her what’s so funny.  I think she has something to say.  It is said that visitors spend about 15 seconds looking at her before moving on, so she has never had the opportunity to let anyone in on the joke.  What a shame.  You know people have thrown rocks, acid and paint at her?  That is why she is has a bullet proof case.  People are crazy.

I could not capture the entire horde of people standing around the Mona Lisa.

I could not capture the entire horde of people standing around the Mona Lisa.  And it’s a small ass painting anyway.

Since the Mona Lisa is in the Italian paintings area, I figured The Last Supper would be around there too.  You can use the audioguide to find a piece of work, but the joke’s on me because The Last Supper is not in the Louvre!  I went through that whole list of Italian paintings, then I went through each painter before I realised my mistake.  I was always under the impression The Last Supper was on display in the Louvre.  Apparently it’s in Milan.  My second guess would have been Rome.  You have to make an appointment to see it and you can only look at it for fifteen minutes.  That’s some exclusive shit.

David Shanks Goliath

“David Shanks Goliath”


At any rate, I decided to get my religious painting fix.  There’s a whole area devoted to renditions of the Virgin and Christ.  Right here is evidence to what I said before:  we all come from the same place, we just tell the story differently.  You can compare and contrast these depictions of the Virgin, taking note of little details like the style of clothes she wears or who’s hanging about in the background.  Depending on where the artist is from, Mary is white, black, Chinese, young, younger, celestial, human or fat.  It’s astounding.  I really like different interpretations on religious stuff.  You know I believe all of it is the same damn story just told differently, and people are out here fighting to the death to get people to believe in the exact same way as they believe.  That’s a damn shame.  You got one life to live and that’s how you choose to live it.

So now we’re three hours into the Louvre.  I think I’m ready to go and I even head towards the desk to return my audioguide but now the Near Eastern Antiquities have caught my eye, then I wandered into Oriental objets d’art.  Next I’m looking at old rich people furniture, like some Marie Antoinette type stuff.  My feet hurt really badly and I say to myself, “It’ll still be here when you come back.”

It was almost 3PM when I left.  Feet hurt, back hurt.  Everything hurts.  Walking around on all that marble, going up millions of stairs.  At least I’m getting some exercise.


“I’m Sexy and I Know It”

My next stop was the Arc de Triomphe.  This also turned out to be free entrance.  I had no idea you could go up in it.  The stairs are killer and I don’t know if there is limited ability access.

It is basically a memorial to all those that fought and died in the French Revolution and the Napoleon campaigns.  Now, I think it is a monument to all French Soldiers because there is a Tomb of the Unknown under the Arch, and it represents Soldiers who died in both world wars.  So, of course, I’m all about supporting Soldiers and I love it when a nation honours its military.  I like patriotism.

There’s a room full of different French military uniforms throughout the years.  It’s a bit of a museum on the inside, complete with photos and vignettes to tell various stories.  The view from the top is superb.  Of course, you can see the Eiffel Tower from there.  It wasn’t terribly crowded up here either because the weather is not that great.  Over the years, I have developed a fear of unprotected heights so I couldn’t stay up there too long.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

I was supposed to stroll the Champs-Elysees afterward but here comes the icy rain again.  I’m dog tired anyway, and I plan to stay up late to watch the Super Bowl.  Time for a crepe and a rest.

The creperie is Ar Poul Gwen and the crepe is chocolate and Grand Marnier.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  The Bayeux crepe has finally been unseated.  This crepe here is the truth!  The actual crepe is very delicate.  There’s a light butter flavour, not too much because it doesn’t alienate the chocolate.  She put just enough chocolate inside.  (Don’t you hate when they overstuff the crepes?)  Then the Grand Marnier.  Yum!  She folds it very neatly and cuts it into neat rectangles so it is easy to eat.

I have two more days to test crepes before I make a decision once and for all.

Tomb of the Unknown

Tomb of the Unknown

I have another cheap dinner of some leftover Chinese, Thai and la tradition.  I’m still hoping that Jules Verne will take me.  I’ve already looked at the menu and calculated I will spend a tidy sum.

After taking a nap, I spent some time researching on where to view the Super Bowl in Paris.  I did get some suggestions from TA, and I found at least 10 bars where the big game would be playing.  In the end, I decided to stay in the apartment.  I really did not want to go back out in the cold, and I am not big on hanging out in bars by myself.  I probably would have met some new friends, but some of these places were talking about I needed to have made reservations and all that jazz. Really I kept falling asleep.  It’s cosy in my little apartment.  To go to a bar I would have to take a shower, get dressed and transport myself there.  It all seemed like too much.  I have champagne and spring rolls right here.  Why do I need to go someplace else?

It was an experience trying to watch the game on French TV.  The commentary was in French which I didn’t expect.  I mean, that’s stupid, but I honestly never gave it any thought.  When the game finally came on and the commentators started up with the back story of the Patriots and the Seahawks I just busted out laughing.  If you know the sport, you probably don’t need any commentary at all but it’s part of the experience.  They talk about stats, previous games, comparisons to other teams.  How do you say “third down” in French?

View from the Arc de Triomphe

View from the Arc de Triomphe

I ended up watching the game on my laptop.  I was very surprised this was available.  In previous years you could only watch Super Bowl on your mobile devices if you had a cable subscription.  Since I technically do not live anywhere, and I’m a cord cutter anyway. Thank God for VPN.

I kept the French game on in the background because it was hysterical.  Even the intonation of the French commentators’ voices is different.  When Jermaine Kearse made that insane catch, the French commentators did not sound as excited.  Maybe they were like, “Who likes this stupid violent sport anyway?”  On the American channel the commentators were screaming like maniacs.  You could tell they had jumped onto their desks.

Ar Poul Gwen, best crepes ever!

Ar Poul Gwen, best crepes ever!

It was good I stayed in because Katy Perry’s half time show put me to sleep a little bit.  I woke up somewhere in the middle of the third quarter.  My team was losing and it didn’t look good for us, but you know Brady.  He specialises in last minute hope.  I think he likes to be under pressure like that.  Anyway, thanks to Pete Carroll’s horrible call the Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl—and yes, you can call us a dynasty.

Anyway, time to get some sleep.  Lucky the only real thing I have planned for Monday is an attempt to get into Jules Verne.


You’ll find out how that went, plus the Champs-Elysees!

Trip Report: Paris, France (Day 6)

Sunrise from the steps of the Basilice of the Sacred Heart.

Sunrise from the steps of the Basilice of the Sacred Heart.

I tried again for Sacre Coeur today.  I’m so glad I went.  I liked it a lot better than Notre Dame.  For one, it was very early morning and there wasn’t a lot of people.  The sun was already up but here sunrise is at 820 so at 9AM you can still get that sunrise feel.  I think that’s cool.

It was very peaceful overlooking Paris below, and the church here is wonderful.  Sacre Coeur is far younger than Notre Dame, but to me, it looks older (in a good way).  I was disappointed I couldn’t take pictures inside Sacre Coeur, but that’s okay.  I will remember its majesty.

I think all people of the Christian faith, especially Catholics, more or less do what they ought to do when they enter a place of worship.  At Notre Dame, I saw a few visitors going off to where the priests were said to be located, but mostly people were just there to gawk.  At Sacre Coeur, I think there were more people there for worship and prayer, even if they were just tourists.

I witnessed a very intimate moment between an African woman and God.  She was crying hard and praying out loud.  She was in front of the statue of Saint Antoine of Padoue.  I just looked him up right now and apparently he is the patron saint of lost things or lost people.  Whatever or whomever the woman lost, it hurt her very badly.  I think I’ll say a prayer too and hope that she finds what is missing.

After leaving Sacre Coeur I went down the steps and towards the right, to an area filled with fabric stores.  A lot of the shops were just opening up and it’s nice to see regular working folk going about their business.

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

I turned the corner and ended up a street with basic shops.  These were places that remind me of Family Dollar or the Chinese-run store that specialises in random things like bathroom hooks, aluminium foil pans and cheap party supplies.  There were two stores at the end of the block that confused me.  I couldn’t figure out what they were.  One was called Sympa-Poutou and the other was called Sympa-Something Else.  Some guys would drag out these big brown boxes full of stuff and women outside would dig through the boxes, looking for… I don’t know.  The women were very excited by whatever they found.  One woman found a pair of underwear.  I can’t think of an American equivalent.  It’s not a thrift store or flea market.

I don't know what's going on here but it was a frenzy!

I don’t know what’s going on here but it was a frenzy!

I hopped on the 2 train, which was right there and went to Rue de Commerce.  I wore heels to the last opera but they were uncomfortable so I felt like new shoes were in order (actually, any reason will do).  I strolled along for a little while but did not find what I was looking for.  I think the shops here are for more conservative people.  The clothes in the windows were very classy.  I need something all little more edgy.

I ended up going back to my own area.  There’s all kinds of shops in Rue St. Denis, Rue Rambeauteau and Sebastapol (I probably spelled all those wrong).  The other night when I out to Opera Bastille via the Chatelet metro, I found all kinds of stuff that I would buy.  The shops here are for a younger, more edgier crowd.  I ain’t young but I do like that edgy look.  I found some simple black flats.  I also found at least seven pairs of boots I should have bought but I only have the one piece of luggage.  There’s absolutely no space for me to keep all these treasures.  Better save it till next time (there will definitely be a next time).

I stopped for a crepe at Jet Lag.  I chose plain sugar.  It was a good crepe, a little fluffy though.  Closer to a pancake, but not as thick.  I think I’ll put it in the number two spot.  As of yet, no one has beat out the Bayeux crepe.

Just one of a dozen crepes I had.

Just one of a dozen crepes I had.

I had another la tradition for dinner.  I’m penny pinching because I’m supposed to dine at Jules Verne (or equivalent) either Monday or Tuesday.  So, yeah, like a dummy I did not make reservations.  Some reviews stated that I could walk in, and yes, I do know that it’ll be a crapshoot.  I’m trying for lunch and I’ll be there when the doors open at noon.  I’m banking on the fact that it’s winter and no one is about.  I never made reservations because there was that whole deal about me not even coming to Paris.  If I cannot get into Jules Verne, then I’ll stalk another Michelin-rated restaurant.  There’s bound to be at least one here that will take me on a moment’s notice.  I just call it part of the adventure.

I took a nap then headed back to Opera Bastille for Ariadne auf Naxos.   So, I’m figuring the edgy push-the-envelope thing is totally French.  Don Giovanni went for full frontal nudity and Ariadne had the lesbian love thing going on.  I’ve never seen the like in the US.  Frankly, it’s refreshing to find new twists on old stories.  Men in powdered wigs and pantyhose are the reason no one wants to see the opera in the first place.

Ariadne auf Naxos is an opera within an opera.  It starts off with some rich guy hiring a concert master to create an opera to entertain his guests, as well as a ballet master to put on a comedic ballet for after the opera.  Rich guy invites all these people for dinner and they linger too long at table, so rich guy tells both masters they’ll have to perform their masterpieces at the exact same time.  Oh, and by the way, you only have an hour to do it and not a minute longer, and be ready in about fifteen minutes when my guests are done eating.

The composer of the opera, typically sung by a soprano, is, naturally, incensed at the idea of someone taking liberties with his (her) creation.  She spends 15 minutes bemoaning plebeians and their constant need to be entertained.  The diva of the opera cannot fathom being on stage at the same time as a comedienne.  It’s just too shocking.  The comedienne, Zerbinetta, says, “Well, people hate opera anyway.  It’s a good thing we’ll be on stage or else the guests will fall asleep.”

The two masters get together to come up with a whole new piece.  Zerbinetta tells the Composer she hopes there will be a handsome male lead to fall in love with.  “Someone with smoky eyes just like you,” says Zerbinetta to the Composer and they share quite a passionate kiss.  The Composer kind of likes the idea but is too melancholy to think properly.  In the US we’re still dancing around the gay marriage issue.  I don’t know what the laws are in France.  (Just looked it up, totally legal.)

In the next act it is the opera the two masters have created.  The diva is the title character Ariadne.  Theseus has just dumped her and she is in the throes of despair.  Zerbinetta comes along and says, “Honey, please get over it.  Men like him are a dime a dozen.  The best way to get over a man is to get under a new one.”

Then she breaks into the famous aria “High and Mighty Princess.”  Wow, just wow!  And wow again.  This is written for a coloratura voice, which, in my opinion, is the best voice.  They have so much range, so much control, so much ability.  Zerbinetta’s voice was both strong and delicate, which is rather unusual because it’s usually one or the other.

Zerbinetta sings about her various lovers, encouraging Ariadne to snap out of her gloom.  Ariadne decides there’s nothing left to do but die.  As she awaits death, she flirts with a young man but he doesn’t really capture her attention.  Then a new man shows up.  She thinks it is Hermes, the Messenger of Death.  It’s not Hermes, but Bacchus instead.  She sees him and instantly falls in love, forgetting about Theseus.  They sing their true love for one another, and having only just met 10 minutes ago, they live happily ever after.

The end.

Ariadne is not a tragic opera; nobody dies.  It’s also very short.  This production was again modern.  Zerbinetta was more like a burlesque dancer.  Ariadne was still the typical opera diva dressed in a ball gown, but when they staged opera (within the opera) they were on an island wearing board shorts and flip flops.  They even had a VW bus in the background.

If this is opera in France, well, I think I know where I need to buy my season tickets.

This time, after the show, there was a queue of cabs.  Yes, the metro is easy but it’s cold and I want to be home RIGHT NOW!  I paid the 6E to go up the street.  I had plans to go to a club after the opera but let’s be realistic, I’m doing too much and I don’t like to go by myself to the club anyway.


Tomorrow:  Louvre, Arc du Triomphe, I think we got the number one crepe, and Super Bowl in Paris.

Trip Report: Paris, France (Day 5)

Now what's going on in that head?

Now what’s going on in that head?

I got up early to visit the Rodin museum.  Turns out, I was little too early.  The museum opens at 10 and I got there around 930, so I had to march around in front of the gates for half an hour to keep warm.

I think these smaller, less hectic museums are for me.  I’ve been to giant places like the American Museum of Natural History in NYC and Chicago Museum of Art.  Both come with hordes of people, screaming children and people bumping into you trying to take pictures.

The Rodin had none of these things.  There was a special exhibit (or at least I think it was) of Rodin’s pre-work.  I say pre-work because it was like all the stuff he did before he created his masterpieces.  There was stuff he intended to use for an exhibition on Victor Hugo, but I think the exhibition never came about, and Rodin just had all this stuff lying around somewhere.

I went out into the gardens but it was raining pretty good.  I wished I still had that janky umbrella I threw away in Montmartre.  I did see The Thinker.  What you thinking about, guy?  I also saw The Gates of Hell.  Glad it’s only a depiction and not the real thing!

I think the hotel portion was closed for renovation.  There was scaffolding up and guys working on things.  I was pleased with what I saw, so I left.

I headed over to the Pantheon next.

So far, I think this might be my favourite.  It’s more about architecture here.  It was a church first, but now it’s a gigantic tomb.  Some of France’s most famous persons are buried here.  I guess it’s a little morbid to gape at someone’s final resting place.  I only knew a handful of those interred here.  I know Voltaire and Zola, though I never read their work.  Of course, Victor Hugo.  Le sigh, my dear Victor.  I loved Les Miserables but suffered through Hunchback.  When he started going on about Notre Dame, describing every square inch, I had to put the book down.  I never did finish it.

Marie Curie is here too.  I wrote a paper on her in high school.  I’ve also read Alexandre Dumas, and then there’s Louis Braille, who probably does not need an introduction.

Only the dead keep it.

Only the dead keep it.

I like the crypt here far better than the one in the Bayeux cathedral.  There, the ceilings were very low and the room was tiny.  The crypt in the Pantheon has very high ceilings.  It’s quite spacious and the air can flow through easily.  Of course, there’s a difference in the architecture of both buildings.  So it’s probably comparing apples to oranges.

It was not crowded at all, and I’m beginning to think wintertime is the best time to visit.  You can do almost anything without a queue.  Sure, you’ll have to brave the cold, but I think it’s about weighing what is most important to you.  If you have your heart seeing certain things and you really want to enjoy it, you might do well do come in the winter.  On the other hand, you might be a person who thinks vacation is about standing in line, like at Disney.

My Lost in Paris adventure began right after I left the Pantheon.  My next stop was supposed to be Notre Dame, but when I exited I found that it was raining really hard, and the temperature was low enough that the rain was actually a little icy, turning into snow.  I thought it was too early to go to back to the apartment, and I really wanted to see Notre Dame.  I thought, “well, when you get there, you’ll be indoors, so what’s the difference?”  When I did the GPS, it said it was about a 15 minute walk.  I tried to memorise the directions so I would not get my phone all wet, and that’s where I fucked up.

The first step I took was wrong.  I think I went left when I should have gone right, and made a right when I should have turned left.  I didn’t take my phone out to recalculate; I have no idea why I did not.  Pretty soon I was completely turned around.  Don’t ask me to describe where I was, because I can’t.  Now it’s full on snowing (thankfully, it didn’t stick).  I love snow, like I really love snow but this is that wet, heavy kind that soaks you.  After about 15 minutes my outer layer of clothing was soaked.  My feet were also wet because I stepped in a puddle.

I ran into a lavarie to get my bearings.  My hands were so numb I could hardly operate my phone but discovered I had walked 15 minutes in the wrong direction.  Fuuuuuuck.  Should I go on to Notre Dame?  I felt like a drowned cat.  I decided to go back to the apartment for a little bit.  The GPS said the nearest train was a RER B.  Well, I couldn’t find that shit either.  Another 20 minutes wandering around in this little neighbourhood.

I started to despair.  I thought, well I’m just going to die here on the streets of Paris.  Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had just passed a bus stop and I decided I was just going to get on a bus, any bus, just to be out of the elements.  Once inside, I would figure out where I am and go from there.  Well, when I turned around to go to the bus stop, I saw the RER station.  Voila!

I’m not sure why I was having so much trouble.  I’m pretty good with directions, but I think once you lose your bearings it can be hard to right yourself.  Some of the streets look the same.  The streets are not perfectly straight.  They veer off and go every which way.  I don’t mind being lost but not when I’m cold and wet.

I made it back to my neighbourhood and at this point I’m hungry.  I went into a kebab place that also makes crepes.  I guess now is good a time as any for a taste test.  Delicious kebab, but the crepe was just so-so.  It was too dry and even the Nutella did not liven it up.  So far, I think the crepe in Bayeux might be the best.

I spent a few hours drying out in my apartment.  I took a long rest until around 5.  My concert at St. Ephrem’s church did not begin until 9PM, leaving me plenty of time to do a little more sightseeing.  I was surprised to see the sun when I went out again.  I was beginning to think there is no sunlight in Paris.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame

The Cathedral of Notre Dame

I walked to Notre Dame just to enjoy a little bit of light.  Here, I found my first lengthy queue.  I thought the line was really long, so I can’t imagine what it would be like in the height of summer.  I also found rude ass line jumpers.  When I got into line, a young guy got in line behind me, and then a family behind him.  The line was slowly moving forward, inching towards the entrance and two Russian bitches came up beside me.  They stopped to take a picture and then they stayed.  Biiiiiitch!  I don’t think so.  I gave the girl the stank-face just to let her know she wasn’t about to cut in front of me.

They tried to get behind me, but the young guy saw what was going on.  He cut them off and they ended up behind him, in front of the family.  The family wasn’t paying attention so I guess it doesn’t matter.  Yes, the line was long but it wasn’t miles long and it was moving pretty good.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I think I did not enjoy Notre Dame.  Of course, it’s very pretty but it was also crowded.  People were talking too loud.  Every time I stopped to read some information, someone would jump in front of me or bump into me.  I tried not to get pissed off, sometimes these things happen.  The church is a point of interest, but it’s still a church and should be treated as such.  There was just too much horseplay, and these people were adults!

I had my fill, so I left.  As I walked away, the bells were beginning to peal.  Now that’s lovely.  I walked around Ile de la Cite a little bit.  I thought about going to Sainte-Chappelle but it was already closed.  Instead I went on to Pont Neuf and was able to get a fabulous picture of the city at sunset.

I saw some locks on the bridge there.  So I’m confused.  I thought the “thing” was to put locks on the Pont des Arts?  So now just put a lock any bridge?  I’m of two minds on the whole love lock thing.  When I saw all the many, many locks on Pont des Arts I was really shocked.  I knew there were locks on it, but not that many.  It was a little bit insane.  I think it’s wrong to destroy property like that.  I read the city has to cut them down because the weight tears up the bridge.  But the locks keep reappearing.

Then, on the other hand I think c’est romantique.  It’s stupid, of course.  I’ve never been so in love that I’ve wanted to vandalise someone’s property.  Someone made the suggestion that instead of putting a lock on the bridge, buy a lock here in Paris and put it on your own property.  That way you can look at it daily, and it is still a symbol of your eternal love.

Until you get divorced or break up.  At least if it’s on your own property you can cut the lock off and have it melted down.

I’m such a cynic.

Waaaay too much going on.

Waaaay too much going on.

After Pont Neuf, I walked to a restaurant I had chosen near the church:  La Petite Perigroudine.  I picked it based solely on reviews and proximity to my evening entertainment.  It was a good choice.  I ordered oxtails and scallops in a peppery gravy atop a bed of mashed potatoes.  The oxtails were quite tender and meshed quite well with the gravy.  The scallops were perfectly sautéed.  Not too rubbery, not too chewy and not too mushy.  Perfectly firm.  I don’t like mashed potatoes, but I ate a bite or two.  A good flavour, but I just hate potatoes.

I let the server pick the wine for me.  I like that about France.  They know what goes with their food.  You can’t really do that in the US, unless you’re at a high end place.  If you’re in Olive Garden and you tell the server to pick the wine, the good Lord only knows what you’ll get.  He might come back with Boone’s Farm, or some shit.

For dessert I had profiteroles and chocolate.  The profiteroles were swimming in about a gallon of chocolate sauce, stuffed with chocolate ice cream and drizzled with a different kind of chocolate on top.  I was stuffed by the end because I tried to eat all that chocolate.  I’m such a child when it comes to food.

I like how in France they don’t try to rush you from the table.  It was around 730 when I finished eating and the concert didn’t start till 9.  I had a seat in the window and I was quite content to people watch for another hour or so.  No one bothered me, or gave me dirty looks to clear the table like they do in the US.  It wasn’t crowded anyway so I didn’t feel as if I was holding anybody up.

Around 830 I left to dash into a bodega to buy a half bottle of champagne for when I got back to the apartment.  No more full bottles for me.  I’m glad to see half bottles are easily available.  A full bottle was great for the first night or two, but that’s a lot of alcohol to consume.  In just a few short days I’ll have to go dry again.  Better start weaning myself now.

St. Ephram’s church is small and intimate, a perfect venue for a piano concert.  The pianist is Pascal Mantin, a student from the National Conservatory of Music of Paris.  I selected this concert because of the repertoire:  Erik Satie, Beethoven and Franz Liszt.  All composers that I am quite familiar with.

Mantin started with Beethoven.  Claire de Lune and Appassionata are recognizable to most people.  I taught myself to play Claire de Lune on my first deployment.  Mantin plays it differently than I do, and by different I mean WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY BETTER.  He had a very tender touch to the keys, like a lover’s caress.  It was very moving, so sensitive.

Dude could play.

Dude could play.

His selection of Liszt was also quite excellent, but my favourite is Erik Satie’s Les Gymnopedies.  When I was studying for my Master’s, we were taught different methods to read literature.  In one method, the method almost everyone uses, is that you read the text, then you get a little background information on the author and try to correlate the two.  With this method you might try to discover why the author wrote whatever it is he wrote.  For example, it is suggested that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein based on her experience of miscarriage and childbirth.  Others think it’s because she was hanging out with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron at the time, and they were weirdoes.

There is another method of reading where you completely ignore the author.  You simply read the text and try to figure out what the story is about.  It’s a little more complicated because you’re supposed to look into the meaning of every word, simile and metaphor.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that these methods of reading can be applied to music.  I do not know if you have ever heard Les Gymopedies but it is a most sensitive piece of music.  Is it depressing?  Is it sombre?  Is it hopeless?  Why did Satie write this music?  What was he feeling?  I think Mantin is trying to tell us something in his playing.  Perhaps he has discovered the motivation for Satie’s work.  I listen to Satie when I am melancholy because the music is so despondent, but strangely, afterward I feel better.  I do not know if it is the healing effect of music, or if because the music itself offers a little hope at the end.

Mantin played for us two encores.  He introduced all of his music—in French.  So I had no idea what he was saying.  I didn’t recognise the first encore, but the second needed no introduction.  Chopin!  One of his glorious etudes.

What a wonderful way to spend the evening.  I have another church concert lined up for Monday night, or is it Tuesday?  I’d better check the tickets.


Tomorrow:  Sacre Coeur, some light shopping, another crepe and another opera!

Trip Report: Paris, France (Day 4)

Outside the Jardin des Tuileries.  That's the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Outside the Jardin des Tuileries. That’s the Eiffel Tower in the background.

I bought a Museum Pass to tour some of the museums and other important sites in Paris.  You can get them in 2, 4, or 6 day increments and they’re good for like 1000 museums.  Of course, I don’t plan to see a thousand museums, just a handful.  I’m not crazy about art but I have an appreciation for it because I think the world would be a boring place if there was no art in it.  Like, what if we weren’t creative?  Ugh.

I went to see Monet’s water lilies first, at the Musee L’Orangerie.  It’s not a large museum, so I didn’t have to spend hours and hours.  They have about eight of his water lilies on display.  I had no idea how big these things were.  I mean, you see it in books and you might think two or three feet.  No, these things are at least ten feet wide, and maybe six feet tall.  That is a lot going on.

I was glad the place wasn’t crowded.  I hate going places where there’s a thousand people crammed into a little space, talking all loud and being obnoxious.  The only people here were people who actually like art.  I took a seat in front of one of the water lilies and stared into it.  After a second, my eyes lost focus and I was transported to another place.  Suddenly, it’s not water lilies anymore.  I was lost in the forest, the same forest from Where the Wild Things Are.  It’s really dark.  It’s scary, but not in a way where I fear for my life.  More like the same fear I get when I visit a haunted house.  You know it’s just fun and games.  I was trying to find my way out of the forest, then someone coughed and I was back in reality.

There is more to l’Orangerie other than Monet’s paintings but I couldn’t get into it.  They have some Picassos here, and I hate Picasso.  I also discovered I hate Matisee too.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen one and now I look at it and I’m like, “Ugh.”  I just don’t like blocky look.  It looks like something I could draw.  Why is it famous?

On the way out I passed Henri Rousseau’s“L’enfant a la poupee.”  That shit looks like Grumpy Cat in a baby doll dress.  You know it’s a masterpiece worth millions too.  Damn.

Outside l’Orangerie is the Jardin des Tuileries, a garden, but in the dead of winter ain’t nothing here but naked ass trees and some dirt.  I’m sure it’s really pretty in spring.  I’ll put it on my list for things I need to do when I come back.  I went over to Musee d’Orsay next.  Now, I really liked this place.  It’s full of art a simpleton like me can understand.  My sister despises this.  She thinks portraits and landscapes and the like are plebeian.  “Everybody likes it because it’s basic and commercial.”


I guess I’m common.  I think her argument is that most regular people do not take the time to understand forms of abstract art.  A portrait of a noble lady is not hard to understand.  You don’t really have to think about anything.  A commoner can appreciate it because the lines are all neat and the colours make sense.  Everything is as it should be.

This is where I feel she is wrong.  Although I’m not big on art, I do wonder about the human experience.  Why do we create art?  Why do we sing and dance?  Why do we make music?  Why do we preserve our past?  Why do we create anything that is not for eating, survival or shelter?  These are things unique to all humans.  It does not matter race or religion or anything.  All cultures have a method of passing on stories.  Why do we want to remember the past?

"Thug Life"

“Thug Life”

Musee d’Orsay was a little more crowded than l’Orangerie but still quite manageable.  I spent about three hours here, mostly because I was doing a lot of thinking and being silly.  I don’t like the artists’ names for their paintings so I make up my own.  Henri Regnault’s “Summary Execution under the Moorish Kings of Grenada” is too much of a mouthful.  Instead, I call it “Thug Life.”  Honestly, if you can cut someone’s head off in one fell swoop and then just stand there, all chill, then you are, how we call in my neighbourhood, a thug.  Sometimes the titles are too simple.  Degas’ L’Absinthe should be called “This Date is Really Boring.”

In all seriousness, if we didn’t have art of any form could you imagine what we would be like as a people?  It’s depressing to think about.  Have you ever met a person who doesn’t listen to music, doesn’t go to the movies, doesn’t enjoy theatre or other fine arts?  They’re just not into any of that stuff.  They seem so dull, so passionless.  I met a guy once who did not like music at all–like, he didn’t like anything.  Not rap, country, classical, R&B, jazz, NOTHING.  He said he sat in his car in silence.  He didn’t own a stereo or any music playing device.  And he wasn’t big on going to the movies either.  Boring.

I spent a lot of time perusing religious paintings.  I think these are my favourite, given my minor is in religious studies.  I like all things religious:  angels, demons, monks, vestal virgins, etc.  I love depictions of holy text.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be from the Bible.  It can be anything.  My opinion is that we all come from the same place; we just tell the story differently.

"Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This"

“Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This”

After d’Orsay, it was almost 2PM and I just randomly decided to go up to Montmartre and see Sacre Couer.  I have a plan to consolidate some of my sightseeing because I think I’m going to go to Versailles on Monday or Tuesday.

I purposely made my schedule loose and easy.  I don’t like to leave anything until I’m ready and I don’t want to rush from site to site like a madman.  I do have more museums on my itinerary but I know what I can handle and I did not want to try and do them all in one day.

Besides restaurants and museums, Paris has an awful lot of stairs.  I mean, geez!  Stairs to every museum.  Stairs at the churches.  Stairs in the subway.  And when I say stairs, I mean, like, stairs.  Not just one or two, but hundreds.  The stairs at the Abbesses metro station are not a joke.  I just learned that Abbesses metro station is the deepest in Paris.  I guess that’s why it took an hour for me to get up to street level.  Yeah, they have an elevator but I can’t get into pissy-smelling metal boxes underground.  I need to work these thighs anyway.  I was a little breathless when I got to the top.  Unfortunately, it was pouring down raining.  I bought a cheap umbrella at one of these stands and that was pretty much a waste of euro.  Next time I’ll just throw six euro into the street to commemorate that piece of shit.  As soon as I opened the stupid thing a gust of wind came and tore it inside out.  Le sigh.

I threw it away and just walked into the rain.  By this time I’m actually quite hungry.  There are many brasseries and cafes here.  That’s the problem with Paris.  It’s not there isn’t enough to eat, it’s that there is waaaaay too much to eat.  I could hardly decide.  Everything smelled great.  I walked half a mile before I could make up my mind.  And they have the nerve to have their menus on the outside!  You see something on a menu and you’re like, “Oh, man, that looks great.”  Then you read another menu and you’re like, “Ohh, that looks good too!”  My stomach started rumbling when I was reading the menu at Café Chinon.  Guess this is where I’m eating.

Inside Musee d'Orsay

Inside Musee d’Orsay

I love how the restaurants are small and cosy.  I like how there are more mom and pop places than there are chains.  If one place is too crowded, just go one door over and there might be a seat for you there.  I’m sure there are places where the food is not that great, but with so many choices it’s like you really can’t go wrong.  I am told that French people do not wait to eat like how we do in the US.  Meaning, if you go to a restaurant and they’re like, “Yeah, it’s an hour wait,” the French don’t do that.  They just go someplace else.  I think it’s because a lot of these restaurants are very small.  Cafe Chinon had like 20 tables.  Other places even smaller than that.  They just don’t have places with 100 seats, not really.  And there are just too many choices to have to wait for any amount of time.

And I didn’t go wrong with Chinon.  I had grilled chicken with mushroom sauce and homemade pommes frites.  I got a non-alcoholic drink called chantaco.  I’m not sure of all the ingredients but it had orange flavours listed in the menu and I like citrus stuff.  They brought a whole basket of bread, which I devoured while waiting for my food.  Everything was delightful.  When you have a small place like this, you can make everything fresh.  Nothing has to be frozen or preserved in chemicals to last.  It’s just good food.

The wind had picked up considerably and it was raining a little too hard by the time I settled the bill.  I stood on the corner debating whether to press on to Sacre Coeur, and then I just decided to head back in for an afternoon nap.  This weekend promises to be less wet.  Sacre Coeur has been standing since 1875.  It’ll still be there on Saturday.

Before I could go back to the apartment, however, I decided it was time to continue my research on crepes.  Across the street from the Franprix there is a place that does crepes with indoor seating.  I went there and ordered a crepe with Nutella.  It arrived rather boringly on a red plate but good things don’t always have to come all dolled up.

It was good, but there was something about it…. A little too buttery.  It was like the chef started making a beurre crepe but then suddenly remembered I wanted Nutella.  I do like butter on my crepes but only if I’m ordering butter and sugar.  I think butter and Nutella is a little too much.  I washed it down with a café crème.  Tomorrow is another day and I will continue the search.

Don't know what it is, but it sure is pretty.

Don’t know what it is, but it sure is pretty.

I took a long nap then met my friend for dinner and drinks around 6PM.  We started with drinks in a little spot on Rue St-Denis.  I think he’s just looking for a hook-up girl, which really is most unfortunate.  He’s not bad looking and he had good conversation.  After I disabused him of the type of girl I am, we did fall into easy conversation.  We talked a little about our lives.  He is from Sri Lanka and had worked all over the world, looking for a place to make his fortune.  He really likes France but he thinks he might do better in Australia.  I told him not to bother to come to the US—not because he wouldn’t like it there, but because the “strike it rich” days are over.  Everybody is just trying to survive.

He took me to a Sri Lankan place up in La Chapelle.  I liked this little area because it was very ethnic and a place where I think regular folk hang out.  Apparently, it’s considered a no-go zone, but I think it’s because there are working class people here.  You can tell that by the menu prices.  Everything was cheap as hell.  They’ve got wine, and you just ask for red or white.  Don’t worry about vintages or varietals.  I know it’s not the right way to do wine but whatever the server brought me went just fine with my food.  I had some kind of chicken with blazing hot sauce and basmati rice.  It reminded me quite a lot of Indian cuisine.

By the time we went to yet a different restaurant for dessert we were talking about race relations and classism.  He said that human rights were well-respected in France and that’s why he loves it here so much.  In the subway station we had seen a well-dressed lady with an expensive handbag talking to a homeless (I’m assuming) person, laying on a dirty blanket and all his worldly possessions around him.  They appeared to be having a lively conversation and it wasn’t about money.  She was laughing and even touched his shoulder.  I said, “In the US, that wouldn’t really happen.”  You don’t see a lot of well-dressed people talking to bums and shit.  Most of the time we pretend they don’t even exist.  I told him I felt like there were class issues in the US.  Poor people, working class people and rich people don’t really cross lines.  Oh yeah, for many people it’s hardly noticeable but for everyone else there is a huge gap between the tax brackets and we all know it.  Poor people generally don’t stop being poor, and the rich only get richer.  He said that was really unfortunate and I agreed.  I’m just a middle class person, so what I can do?

Making crepes in the window

Making crepes in the window

We talked about terrorism and what if America wasn’t a superpower.  Realising we were getting into heavy stuff, we turned the conversation to sports.  He asked if he could see me again and I invited him to the bar I’m going to for Super Bowl.  I did keep using the phrase “American football” just so he wouldn’t think I was talking about soccer.  Apparently, that was no help because he thought I was talking about rugby.  I had to use google images to show him the difference.

And that’s why the world is awesome.  Everywhere is not the same.  Everywhere people have different interests.  Imagine if we were all the same?  How boring.

I finished the evening with champagne and a molten chocolate cake with white chocolate cream.  It was wet and freezing but I had a good time.  I am quite comfortable to travel alone and I encourage it of anyone.  I would be lying, however, if I said I didn’t wish someone was here with me to share the whole experience.  In the evenings, all the restaurants are full of friends chatting and having a good time.  I felt a little bit like a Sad Sally in the corner by myself on other evenings, so it was nice to have him accompany me.  I told him that I was just using him to be my dinner date.  He said that I could use him any time.

That was nice of him.

I left him on the steps of the 13 train in the rain.


Next:  Rodin, Pantheon, lost on the snowy streets of Paris and a church concert!