Collectively, Sarah and I may have managed an hour or two of sleep on the flight over, but that was about it. Further, sitting in economy class for 7+ hours does a nasty number on your neck/back and legs/feet if you’re on the tall side. I knew this would be the case, but it’s always fun to experience it. A few moments into the airport folks started smoking. It was novel, and not particularly offensive.
From the air, the streets of France and Paris look far more organic than I was used to. History will do that, I suppose, but it makes for an entirely different look versus the states.
Some random guy off our flight started picking trash out of the planters on the way into customs, and then leaving the trash on the side of the planter. It was absurd to watch, and shortly afterward his party (family, I guess) started joining in on the fun. Lunatics, we were surrounded by lunatics, and we were going to die.
A quick trip through immigration and customs (and I mean quick; orders of magnitude faster than any such experience in any other country or coming into the states) we were on our way to the train and bus system, modulo passing several well-armed security personnel carrying some contemporary fully automatic rifles.
CDG in general is huge, and is full of expanses of open space and air. I don’t know why it is this way, but it feels like you’re in a much less cramped place than, say, JFK, SFO, ORD, EWR, MIA, DFW or any other big international airport.
I know this should go without saying, but the public transport system in Paris is so far beyond anything stateside that it’s ridiculous. We hopped on our little train, made a quick connection, and were in the opera district in half an hour.
Our room at the Intercontinental was small by our standards, but huge by French standards, and well apportioned. We were on the top balcony floor, and could walk out on our porch and overlook the opera district. It was all quite beautiful.
Not having slept for about a day, Sarah requested a nap, and after some debate she went to sleep for about an hour while I showered and read. I snacked on some wheat crisps and sunflower butter from the plane.
After this we were refreshed and ready to stay up the rest of the day (err… really, yeah).
Getting back to the showering bit though, I am convinced that the French do not shower. This is not because they smell or anything like that. Rather, it’s because they make it impossible. Our shower consisted of a bathtub with a two-foot-wide piece of glass to shield the spray from the shower head (which was at a proper 8 foot altitude) and the hand shower … and had a quarter-inch seam that was open all the way down the middle. Thus, if any water splashed in the remaining 70% of the tub, five feet above the tub, or against the glass, it ended up pouring out on the floor. Thus, any shower over a few seconds in length was statistically guaranteed to dump several gallons of water all over the bathroom floor. We got better at this as the week went on, but the easy conclusion was that nobody in their right mind would want to continue showering in these circumstances.
But enough about materials, let’s start the gastronomic odyssey. We started walking in a light snow up Rue Saint Honore to sample Gosselin, where I acquired a baguette with ham, homemade mayonnaise, fresh tomatoes, and crunchy greens of some sort. Oh, and the occasional slice of hard-boiled egg.
Oh, by the way, I’m going to butcher the spelling, accents, and all of that stuff through these summaries. Sorry.
Anyhow, it was amazing. The meat was cut thin and there was not very much, but on the whole it was extremely flavorful, had perfect texture, and put any American sandwich I’ve ever had to shame. Damn. May I never eat a sandwich over here again… Also got a Pain au Chocolat. It sucked. It was more like an egg-washed cake donut with a few chocolate chips there. Perhaps the biggest pastry disappointment of the entire trip. Stick to the sandwiches, bread, and other stuff. This was the first of many shops we visited that has in the last decade had a #1 loaf in the Parisian baguette contests. You can really taste why. Bread over here sucks.
This will be a recurring theme in these summaries. I’m sorry to spoil the surprise.
Julien, a few stops down the street, was our next stop. Best baguette we had on the entire trip, from this two-time winner of the baguette contests. Mother of god, that bread was good. Outstanding texture, flavor, everything was perfect and so far better than anything I’d had in the past. Their Pain au Chocolat was also the best we had on the entire trip. It was like a perfect croissant with fantastic chocolate ribbons woven in. Magnificent.
So we had now arrived at the Louvre, planning to start our cultural activities in the city. Of course, I was retarded, and still thought it was Monday, and didn’t realize that, it being Tuesday, the Louvre was closed. Whoops.
Realizing that we weren’t that far of a walk from Musee d’Orsay, we went there instead, and purchased a Carte Musee. This was our best investment of the entire trip. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. We spent about an hour waiting outside in the cold, so we could spend another 20 minutes waiting in line to buy our tickets. This was a short line compared to many we saw. The lines, even in the middle of Winter, to get into Paris museums are insane. This brings us back to the Carte Musee, which allows you to bypass entrance lines, not have to buy tickets (except for temporal exhibits/surcharges), and gives you access to damn near every attraction and museum in Paris. Buy one on your first day there, and never look back. Trust me. It’s worth the extra money to not spend half of your day in line.
d’Orsay was okay. We were pretty tired, and impressionism just wasn’t doing it for us. I did, however, see my first painted nude midsection featuring extensive detail to the vagina in a “proper” museum, which was novel. You don’t see that sort of stuff every day. After a couple of hours of this we were pretty exhausted, and decided to spend some time in the upstairs cafe, to have some coffee/tea to wake, warm (the museum was not particularly well insulated or heated), and refresh us. We ordered, and then about ten minutes later our bill came. We waited for quite a while longer but our beverages never came. Ridiculous. We left. This was perhaps the only bad service we received anywhere in the whole of Paris.
Having waited through that experience, we decided it was time to leave. We ended up doing a picnic dinner, gathering produce, meats, cheeses, completed baguette sandwiches, pastries, beverages, and so forth from the various shops and markets on the way back to the hotel. After spending a few minutes reading through the guidebooks deciding where/when to go tomorrow, I took a 20-minute nap, and when I woke we decided to just throw in the towel and go to sleep.