FROM PARIS WITH LOVE

Paris 124

After the completion of our first Oxford course, we were rewarded a ten-day mid-term break before the actual start of Michelmas Term. One of my roommates and I elected to the tour the continent, spending two days each in Paris, Zurich, Vienna, Prague and Berlin, glittering 48-hour (or less) vignettes strung together on a slender necklace of train tracks, train stations, and train food.

Paris 023

Notre Dame stained glass

We spent two days in the famously-romantic ville lumière—trotting along the Champs d’Élysées, licking gelato outside Notre-Dame, scaling the Eiffel Tower, evading the hawkers in Montmartre, and sucking in smoke in every restaurant, metro station, and public park. As much as I’m sure you’d enjoy an exhaustive play-by-play of our twenty-miles-in-two-days Paris experience, here are some highlights, things we should have known, and things we definitely know now:

1. When Asian tourists ask you where the macaroon shoppe is, it’s ok to point them confidently in the general direction like a seasoned Parisian. Until you pass them half an hour later and they still don’t have macaroons. They don’t know the difference between an American and a French accent, right?

Paris 043

Inside Notre Dame

2. The American truism that if you drive a big truck you must be compensating for something is not an original one. Not surprisingly, we borrowed it from the French—who figure if you’re otherwise unimpressive you can always build an emasculating palace. That’s sure to keep the peons in line.

Paris 101

The Louvre

3. Proposing to someone from the top of the Eiffel Tower is just about the most romantic thing ever. I do not care how cheesy it is, I wish I was German.

Paris 1181059

View from the top of the Eiffel Tower

4. French waiters are primarily employed to smoke picturesquely and with contemplative brow in the streets outside your restaurant. If they take a break to bring you your food this is only an added benefit and should be received with the appropriate gratitude, and a heavy tip.

1023

Lunch on our first afternoon

5. People stretch naked in windows in the Montparnasse at noon. Do not be surprised. Do not look away. This is Paris.

Paris 164

Montmartre Streets

6. Do not bet 50 or 100 euros on your ability to watch a counter with a white bottom move wickedly fast across a cardboard box between the counters with black bottoms. This is not follow-the-cap at the baseball game during the seventh inning stretch. This is a man’s game. Also, a word of advice–there is no white counter.

Paris 081

Le Pont Carnivale

7. If you walk into a cathedral and a dozen Catholic nuns are singing high mass, sit down and listen. The only words you will understand are “Jésus-Christ” and the occasional “Alleluia,” but you are in the presence of the sacred. Also, you can offer a prayer of thanksgiving that you did not get ripped off too badly by the swarthy Africans on the front steps tying prayer bracelets around your wrist. It is perfectly acceptable to throw these away—God will not smite you.

Paris 160

Sacre-Coeur

8. Crepes and ice cream for breakfast is always a good idea. So are slimy things that slide across the ground until they are dumped in butter and garlic and presented to you on a platter for dinner. Just don’t think about it too much.

1064

Louis IX Crepes

9. Before remarking too loudly on the number of adult shops and gentlemen’s clubs, observe your surroundings. If you are a block from the Moulin Rouge, this is probably to be expected. And in this locale, do not place your ATM card in any suspicious-looking receptacles. If it looks sketchy, it probably is.

Paris 167

Le Moulin Rouge, Place Pigalle

10. French baby-strollers are remarkably sturdy. If you derail your child off the edge of the sidewalk and into the street in the rain, there is no need to panic. He is complacently no worse for the wear. Right the carriage and keep walking as though nothing has happened.

Ernest Hemingway was right (did you really think I could resist?)–if you are lucky enough to experience Paris as a young man, “then wherever you go for the rest of you life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” We consider ourselves lucky indeed.

Paris 149

Shakespeare and Company Bookstore

Advertisements

One thought on “FROM PARIS WITH LOVE

  1. There is a gyro stand like a block from Shakespeare & Co. that I ate at at least twice a week while I studied in Paris. When we were done with class we would walk from the other side of the river…past Notre Dame every day. Of course there was a crepe stand directly next door. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s