S.G. Browne

Five Days in Paris

After the World Horror Convention, since I was in Europe for the first time in eight years, I decided to take the train over to Paris and spend five days enjoying the City of Lights.

I didn’t have more than a rudimentary use of French. Bon jour, au revoir, merci, sil vous plait, etc. So I checked out some CDs from my library to try to learn a little more conversational French. In theory, I knew what I was doing, and felt confident I could handle basic conversations. But when faced with actually answering questions or trying to remember what I was supposed to say, well, let’s just say I did a top notch job of butchering the language.

Still, even when you can’t speak the language, it’s pretty easy to have a great time in Paris even when it’s cold and wet and the lines for the museums and Notre Dame are two hours deep with tourists on Spring Break.

Rather than waiting in line, you can can discover places that everyone else missed. Like the Jardin des Halles in Chatelet-Les Halles, by the St. Eustache Church. Or Les Viaduc des Arts in the Bastille, an old elevated railway viaduct turned into a garden promenade above exhibition spaces that are home to craftsmen’s workshops and galleries. Or the streets that wind behind the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre and through the Latin Quarter behind the Pantheon.

I did manage to see the Catacombs, the Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise (found Oscar Wilde, but Jim Morrison apparently wanted to be left alone), the Musee Rodin, The Louvre, and wandered past and under the Arch de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, but avoided the lines that would suck up my afternoon.

All in all, a great way to end my trip to Europe.

Some random thoughts on Paris:

While there are dogs, you don’t see a lot of dangling tongues and excited faces. Most of the dogs wear serious expressions, like they’re all business. But then, so do their owners. None of the humans seemed particularly happy to be out walking their dogs. I only saw one owner who actually interacted with her dog, a Bull Terrier, with affection.

A friend suggested the Canal St. Martin was a good place to take a walk, touting the cute boutiques and numerous patisseries. Personally, the area was a little more crack whore than I expected. The boutiques were selling T-shirts that said My Parents Got High at Canal St. Martin and all I Got Was This Stupid T-shirt and you could buy dime bags from the crystal meth junkie twitching under his umbrella stand, with his serious dog at his feet.

I also ate at Chartier, an inexpensive restaurant at the edge of the Opera district. Chartier is touted as serving inexpensive quality food in a very Parisian experience that is well worth the visit. What the travel guides don’t tell you is that you sit elbow to elbow cafeteria style with everyone else and that if you don’t eat steak, you’re only non-meat option is some kind of unidentifiable fish croquette with a sauce that tastes better when you eat it with your rice pilaf.

Adieu, Paris!

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — S.G. Browne @ 4:46 pm