Trip Report: Paris, France (Day 3)

View of the Le Tour Eiffel from the Trocadero

View of the Le Tour Eiffel from the Trocadero

Even though I am an early riser, I love that Paris is not an early morning city.  I can get up early, do what I need to do and go back to bed for a little while.  Whoever balks at the opportunity to lay in bed for another hour more?

I had all these grand plans to visit the Trocadero, Galeries Lafayette, Printemps and the Pompidou Centre.  Oh, the best laid plans.

I took the metro out to Trocadero.  Supposedly you can get an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower up close and personal.

Classic French guy

Classic French guy

The metro in Paris is very easy.  If you can ride the subway in NYC or the tube in London, then I think you’ll be fine on Paris’ metro.  I didn’t have any problems, except the one time I was daydreaming and got off on the wrong stop.  That weekly pass I bought was money well spent.  I’m pretty sure that it has already paid for itself.

I love riding the train because you get to see real people, and not just tourists.  I sit on the train and discreetly watch people.  In my head, I make up stories about their lives.  Like the old man next to me and his bag of oranges.  He’s on his way home to his wife, to whom he’s been married for 42 years.  She’s in bed with a head cold and he’s bringing her oranges because they’re her favourite.

The youngish smartly dressed lady across from me, reading Cinquante Nuances de Grey.  She just finished law school and is a junior associate at a top firm.  She reads romance novels because she hasn’t found her true love just yet.  She was engaged but ended it because he doesn’t have goals.  He’s in his sixth year at uni and just changed his major again.

I was going to make up a story about the grungy guy next to me, but I was interrupted by a busker.  An older guy got on the train with an accordion (I think it’s an accordion).  He starts playing what I’ve always thought of as classic French music.

Don’t laugh, but when I was 11 or so I had this idea that French people, well, Frenchmen, all wore striped tunics, a beret and played the accordion.    French women were all waifishly thin and they smoked causing them to have sexy, husky voices.  Just like all Italian men ride in gondolas, crooning “Nessun Dorma.”

This guy played my whole train ride.  I don’t know how the French feel about buskers but I usually give them a coin or two when I’m in NYC or someplace.  I like music and there’s not enough music in the world.

I got off at Trocadero and exited onto the street.  The information I read made it seem like I would see the Eiffel Tower as soon as I saw daylight.  I’m looking around aimlessly, a little annoyed.  I walk a few feet and bam!  There it is.  In my face.

I was not prepared for such a sight.  Seriously, I thought the view would be …. I don’t know what I thought it would be.  It’s not that big, but it’s THAT big.  Does that make sense?  And it was so easy to look at.  There wasn’t a crowd of people.  There weren’t other buildings in the way.  It was … right… there.  Wow.

Black folk everywhere got to hustle.

Black folk everywhere got to hustle.

Yeah, I’ve seen it in movies, on postcards, wherever, but it’s not the same as seeing it in person.  It really is magnificent.  I think I got a little tear in my eye, but I’m sure it was just the wind drying out my contacts.

I actually stayed up there for a little while because I couldn’t take my eyes off it.  I would start to walk away but I’d stop and look back it just one more time.  I hope there’s a sunny day so I can go back and see it in the sunlight.  I hope other visitors give it due appreciation.  Not all people travel the same, but I get a little irked when people show up at a site, snap a few selfies and then dash off to the next item on their list.

Stop for a second.  Take it in.  Let it soak in a little bit.  Maybe create a lasting memory.

I wanted to walk to Galeries Lafayette from the Trocadero.  It’s a couple of miles that normally would be nothing for me but it is COLD.  All the experts warned me that I wasn’t going to walk much because of the cold.  They were right.  I thought I was going to be okay with my ninja suit, my wool jumper and this pea-coat.  Honestly, it isn’t enough.  The wind is cutting into my heart and every time it rains, I die a little inside.  Still, I’d rather be soggy and happy in Paris, then hot and depressed in Kuwait.

Galeries Lafayette was both amazing and disappointing.  If you are rich, or you don’t care about your child’s college fund, you’ll be in heaven.  All the upscale merchants are here:  Bulgari, Kenzo, Cartier, etc.  It’s mind-boggling.  I could have spent half a paycheck on a pair of gloves.  And that’s what makes it disappointing.  If you don’t have that kind of money, you only get to look.  I love clothes.  I love nice things.  I like this place but I ain’t got that kind of money.  I mean, I knew what time it was before I even got here but still, looking at a pair of boots for $1000 hurt my feelings.

I didn’t think about the crowd though.  Goddamn.  I guess cuz it’s cold out everybody wants to be inside.  There are not that many French people here.  It’s more Asians, some Brits and Aussies.  These Asians and their fancy ass money.  You fancy, huh?  I passed a girl loaded down with Ferragamo bags.  Must be nice.  I really didn’t hang out too long because after awhile I don’t want to just look.  I want to buy stuff too.  I might come back because I promised I would look at some Chanel earrings, and I want a perfume for myself.

Printemps is another high end store, and I decided to skip it.  The reviews said that Printemps is far snootier than Galeries Lafeyette with even more ridiculous pricing.  I went for coffee instead.  It’s like I can’t drink enough coffee here.  I see now where Kuwait gets its coffee and dessert vibe from.  I wanted to say that Paris reminds me of Kuwait, but really, Kuwait just copied Paris’ style.

I spent the time looking up places where broke bitches shop.  I started a thread about it but I never wrote anything down.  One lady said Rue de Commerce, and another one said the mall at La Defense.  Since Rue de Commerce is outdoors, I decided on Quatre Temps (the name of the mall) at La Defense.

It is crowded as fuck in here but I really do need to shop.  I felt like a homeless person compared to these fashionable French women.  I can’t be in the opera in a worn out Old Navy crew neck and a skirt with a tattered hemline.  Now that I have proper lighting, I see my clothes are not even black anymore but some fucked up shade of brown or grey.  That’s a no go.  I need to be dressed.

Quatre Temps was really up my alley.  They had nice clothes at very reasonable prices.  There’s H&M and Zara, but other brands like Naf Naf and Guess.  I spent hours here, going from store to store, trying to find just the right outfit.  It has been a long time since I’ve done real shopping.  I think about all the lovely clothes I have at home and I get a little sad, so I need to buy something to make me happy.  I bought a few blouses from Naf Naf but my ass is too big for these French styles.  I ended up at H&M for a skirt.  I didn’t want to buy from H&M because I can do that at home but this booty wasn’t going to fit in anything else.

I also bought more accessories.  Like I need more accessories.  A strand of pearls, a statement necklace and a ring to match.  I had to put shit back because I remember the drawers full of shit I got at home.  It don’t make no sense.

I was supposed to go to Pompidou Centre but I went back to the apartment instead.  I’m so dead from shopping and it’s pouring down raining again.  I stopped for la tradition, it’s the rotisserie chicken in a bag that’s very popular here.  It’s greasy, hot and delicious.  I also went into a traiteur chinois for some Asian vegetables.  Basically, a traiteur chinois is a Chinese food restaurant.  It’s not the same as in the US though.  It’s almost like a buffet but they serve you.  If you want to eat in, they’ll put it on a plate and bring it to your table.  If you want to take it home, they’ll wrap it up in these cute little boxes.  These people were really nice.  They gave me free mandarins.  Or maybe everybody gets a mandarin, but I still felt special.  And you know you’re in Paris when the damn Chinese place has wine by the bottle too.  I just love it.

La Tradition - a quarter of a rotisserie chicken served in a bag, piping hot.

La Tradition – a quarter of a rotisserie chicken served in a bag, piping hot.

Stuffed on la tradition and wine, I almost overslept the opera.  Lucky my apartment is so damn close to everything.  Once again, I got on the metro and I was there in like 15 minutes.  I would have been smart to learn some French words concerning the venue.  Like how about what’s French for will call?  Or ticket counter?  I had these paper tickets but I didn’t know if I needed to trade it in for a regular ticket or if the paper was good enough.  There was this long ass line at what I assumed was the ticket counter but what if I stood in line for no reason?  There were other counters and employees standing around.

You know what?  Just be a boss and own that bitch.  I walked right up to the usher and gave him my paper.  He scanned it and pointed me up the stairs to another usher who showed me my seat.  When in doubt just do what you want.

The opera is Don Giovanni.  I thought I had seen it before.  Turns out it was Rigoletto I was thinking of.  I got them confused.  They both have Gs in the name so it’s easy to make the mistake.

Most people are not fans of opera; it’s probably the singing that drives them away, but really there are some interesting stories, not unlike what you’d find in a Hollywood film.  I liked the setting.  They chose to go with a modern bent:  the scene could either be a luxury penthouse suite or a corner office at a big firm.  The men wore suits.  The ladies wore typical street fashions, and the peasants wore what looked like a janitor’s uniform.

To put the story in modern terms, Don Giovanni is basically what we’d call a serial rapist.  In the beginning of the story he sneaks into one girl’s room, tries to rape her and then kills her father.  By the end of the story, he is attempting to rape another girl on her wedding day and beats up her new husband.  He later tries to blame everything on his valet, who has kept track of his lord’s conquests:  640 Italian women, 231 Germans, 100 Frenchwomen, 91 Turkish girls, and a whopping 1003 Spanish ladies.

The production really was quite edgy.  I wonder if this is a French thing.  I’ve been going to the opera since I was 20 and I’ve never seen full frontal nudity.  The audience didn’t bat a lash, but I was perplexed by it.  Opera stories, especially the tragedies, usually contain intense subject matter but in the American productions I’ve seen everything is implied.  You don’t actually see a guy trying to rape a girl.  The fight scenes are usually almost cartoony.

Usually, Don Giovanni is staged as a man who simply seduces women.  He’s usually seen romping around the stage, looking all goofy while women playfully try to fight him off.  This production of Don Giovanni was very dark.  Giovanni is definitely a rapist and the women are scared of him.  He already killed one man and he threatens to kill anyone else who gets in his way.  The townspeople, tired of his criminal behaviour, march upon him wearing these fucked up Mickey Mouse masks.  Then the ghost of the dead father shows up with a bloody box on his head, and Elvira (Giovanni’s outraged fiancée) looks like the wraith girl from The Ring.

Elvira stabs him in the neck and the townspeople in their scary Mickey Mouse masks pick up Giovanni as he is dying and they chuck him out the window whilst chanting, “The perverse shall perish as they live.”

The end.

As far as the singing, the character Anna was the best.  It was her father who was killed.  Her song of vengeance and grief was very powerful.  Elvira, the fiancée, was a little shrill in the first act.  I think she was able to warm up her voice because she improved by the second act.  Zerlina, the new bride, was also spot-on.  I don’t typically review the men’s voices.  I don’t know why; I just don’t.

After the show, I rushed outside quickly to catch a taxi only to discover there is no queue of taxis like there is at the Met or the Kennedy Center.  Maybe I was at the wrong entrance.  Maybe they have a taxi stand in the back somewhere, but it was way too cold for me to wander about looking.  I ended up back on the train because it was easy and right there.

Getting back to Rue Montorgueil, I saw that quite a lot of restaurants were still open.  There was a fair number of people about.  I thought it would be deserted.  I’m glad it’s not.  I’m not scared to be out after dark, but I think it’s cool when people are still in the cafes, laughing and having a good time.  I like Paris.  It’s so alive.

That’s enough for today.

Tomorrow it looks like rain most of the day.  I’ve got Musee D’Orsay and Musee L’Orangerie on the menu as well as Jardin des Tuileries, which might be no good in the rain.  I might try to see the Pompidou Centre as well.

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