A bridge to nowhere, I just want a damned water, and more museums/art than you can shake a beret at.

The Wandering Nerd September 3rd, 2007

I chose to take the bus to Paris from London vs. the uber quick train. I’d intended it to be a good chance to stop in Dover and get some pics of the cliffs. Turns out the ‘Ferry’ listed in the itinerary for the trip is a giant train car. So now I’ve been on a bus on a boat, and on a bus on a train, I’m wondering how I can sort out to be on a bus on a plane, or somehow all three; a bus on a plane on a train. That would be like the bonus stage I’m guessing.

Ah, Paris! I have to tell you guys, I didn’t like it when I first arrived. The hostel I’m staying in has a rather snippy receptionist, and the reception is, literally, a bar. Now I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, ‘what am I going to have for lunch?’ What you should be thinking is, ‘well wouldn’t that be utterly perfect for you G? You stellar example of humanity and goodness in the world!’ It would be, only if they didn’t over charge for drinks, and then mandate that you aren’t allowed to bring external drinks in. Boo, no cookie for this hostel. Though a bottle of wine poured into a plastic bottle arouses no suspicion. It’s like Gatorade, but for the soul. Play along. Look over there.

As with London, I don’t think you can honestly give Paris an appropriate ‘going over’ without spending a couple weeks here, and that’s a couple of packed weeks. There truly is a staggering number of museums, galleries, tourist sites, etc. all around. Luckily they also have a rather expansive subway system, referred to as the ‘Metro.’ I can’t express how glad I am to have done the UK, and particularly London prior to hitting Paris. The whole not-knowing-the-language-oh-shit-can’t-even-order-a-glass-of-water-thing really hit me on the first day here. Luckily I found a Spanish pizza place owned by a guy who like America and was patient enough with me to allow me get some food. Not a bad pizza for a Spaniard in Paris. Typing it out like that makes it seem novel…strange.

I have been mailing all of the touristy brochures/receipts/odd bits of paper I’ve collected from each country back to myself, sort of a free collection of souvenirs. Trying to find a post office in the Paris turned into a bit of an experience. Here they use yellow and blue with almost a Nike swoosh to denote a post office, or ‘bureau de’ post’ as it were here. I don’t speak a lick of French and the post guy didn’t speak a lick of English. Luckily I was able to pantomime stuffing paper into a letter in a way that didn’t look all that provocative, and he got me sorted out, though I think he briefly considered giving me his phone number. Ah, Paris.

I was here before, long ago, on the same trip that took me to Stratford upon Avon. I was around 17 when I was here last, with a big group, a big…*ahem*…choir group. Yeah, I was in the choir. I was young and needed the trip to Europe, piss off. In any event, traveling like that is still rather myopic. You’re carrying, along with you, your own culture. That big tour group is, for all intents and purposes, a floating island of Americana drifting through France.

Solo travel is completely different, you’re tossed in the middle of a culture that really has no interest in making your life any easier. At best you’re a novelty, especially here as opposed to Ireland/UK. That’s why I’m more and more impressed with that local Indian/Chinese/Mexican family back in the States that have uprooted themselves, moved to an uncaring society, and carved out a business. Trust me, it’s hard enough getting a damn pint of beer when you’re out of your element, I can only imagine what getting a visa/business license/green card would be like. Remember that when you don’t get your crab rangoons…

I went ahead and grabbed the ‘unlimited 4 day Paris pass’ for museums/points of interest. It’s €45 and you get access to 60 different places, which generally charge about €6-10 for admission. I’m going to waylay it for all it’s worth. I hit up Notre Dame Cathedral and gave a goodly start on the Louvre today.

Notre Dame was another retread, I’ve actually busted out with some ‘Ave Maria’ on the dais there in the ‘ol cathedral, this time however I decided to let the innocent tourists be blissfully unburdened with any attempt of mine to sing. It’s closer to an epileptic cat on a hot tin roof than any sort of human concept of music. Yeah, that bad. I did get a chance to try some more low light photography. I will say that taking good photos would be a lot easier if all these damnable people weren’t about.


I love the Louvre. I could spend days in there, and at this rate I probably will. Something that was unexpected, I find more enjoyment in a museum/gallery which is in a foreign tongue. It may seem strange, but if you have no idea what something is supposed to be, then by definition, whatever catches your interest is something unadulteratedly intersting to you. The pieces that really got me are in the gallery - which is huge this time - and in a number of cases I really have no idea what the were about.

While I’m on it, I’m finding I like sculptures more impressive than paintings. It was something I noticed at the Tate, but more so here. With a sculpture, every angle of the piece can and will be scrutinized. No point of view is defined, and in some of the better sculptures I’ve seen, the meaning clearly does change depending upon where the viewer stands. Paintings work similar, I suppose, but it’s more of a matter of when the viewer looks at the painting. Or, perhaps a better way of saying it, with which set of eyes a painting is viewed. Alright, I’m done pontificating. If you know what I mean I don’t need to go on, and if you don’t you’ll be ignoring most of the rest of this anyway.

I’ve spent about 3 hours a day in the Louvre all the time I’ve been here excluding this, my last day, and then only because it closed earlier than I had anticpated. Sadly I ended up not completing every bit of the damn thing. But really, how exciting would French paintings from the 17th through 19th century be. Hacks I tell you. All the more reason to come back at some point I suppose. Here’s the Louvre:

I’ve been to all the major spots, though I had to gloss over some things like Sacre Coeur. Yeah, big church on a hill, got it, no I don’t give a rat’s ass about Senegal and I don’t want your to make me a damn bracelet for 10€. I thought London was bad about the panhandlers/charlatans, but this is crazy. If you wander around here, inevitably you’ll get accosted by some vaguely middle eastern girl asking if you speak English. The first time I thought she was just lost and said yeah. Then they hold out this card that gives some horror story about them being from some crap country and now they are here in Paris and their father is dying of some horrible disease and they need money for them and their 5 siblings/children. I just told the girl she’d misspelled ‘Leukemia’ and walked off. I did feel a bit bad about it briefly, but only until another girl pulled the same crap about 10 steps later.

So I’ve covered the Arc de Triumph - which doesn’t necessarily celebrate any ‘triumph’ that I can tell - it’s huge. Like really big. I was thinking/remembering it as being smaller, no no, it’s massive. Great views of the city from up there, though they turn out for shit with the haze, but actually being up there was worth it. More for me. It is the location of a tomb of the unknown soldier, with an eternal flame.

Speaking of the fallen, I stopped by Jim Morrison’s grave and had some wine, figured it would be appropriate.

Found another Dali museum here, with more of his sculptures, really cool stuff which I separated out of the normal gallery:

What else, what else…oh, the food. I can’t even explain the glory of French food after being in the UK for so long. They actually use flavor in a number of dishes here, it’s amazing. There’s a little place by the hostel called ‘Chez Papa’ that has this brilliant sirloin with a cured ham - think prosciutto - over it and then a cheese sauce. *shiver* Magical.


I suppose I need to cover the Eiffel Tower. Let me start by saying I hate the damn thing. I really do. It’s so antithetical to Paris. It was meant to be dismantled but they figured out the tourist draw was worth keeping it open so it remains. It’s a giant erector set let loose in a lovely city. It’s only Parisian because it’s been here so long. With that said, there are some great photos - and I’m all for putting them up, cause this is some bullcrap - of and from the bloody thing and vidja.

The Musee’ National de Moderne is pretty happening, not so good as the Tate, but still a worthwhile experience. I’m taking a crash course in classical and modern art on this trip and finding out I like it, lots. Maybe someday I’ll be cultured and refined…stop laughing. Megan, you’ll probably want to check this one out, there are some interesting design type pieces in it.

The streak of meeting really cool people continues unabated. A number of Scots, Australians, Brits, Canadians, and a fellow American, so more pics of people will be showing up in the gallery. If things work out I’m going to catch back up to some of the peeps in Amsterdam, though apparently the prospect of finding a room there - as in Munich for Oktoberfest - is similar to pulling your lower lip all the way over your own forehead.

In Brussels now, found a bar that has over 2000 beers in stock - suck on that Flying Saucer - and doesn’t close until 4 am…I’m starting to like this Belgium place.

So here’s the main Paris Streets gallery for you amusement and enjoyment. Make with the enjoyment!

you know that but you go on
you know but that you go on
-soul coughing

5 Responses to “A bridge to nowhere, I just want a damned water, and more museums/art than you can shake a beret at.”

  1. meganleighon 03 Sep 2007 at 3:44 pm

    So you “claim” you are becoming “cultured” during your European quest… well, I will be the judge of that! I expect a full report on the Ecole de Beaux Arts upon your return. I do teach a history of 20th century design course, so that task is within my right to require from you!

    I also have to comment on your “distaste” of a Parisian icon. Yes, it is true that the Eiffel Tower was built to be disassembled (it was built for the Paris Exhibition in 1887), which is somewhat scary to think about as you are shot to the top in a small glass box. However, the structure is a tribute to the engineering progress Paris celebrated (before any other country, I might add) at the end of the 19th/ turn of the 20th century. It is, if you will, a very tall “appendage” that represents their superiority in manipulating cast iron. It also influenced the design of early (skyscraper) buildings of the 20th century! So, give respect where respect is deserved! ’nuff said. ;)

    Oh– I hope you also saw my earlier comment on your London tour. It has some cool places to see in Brussels!

  2. mariettaon 04 Sep 2007 at 11:10 pm

    i love the night picture from the base of the eiffel tower. so beautiful. its the background on my laptop now!

  3. The Wandering Nerdon 05 Sep 2007 at 10:12 am

    Megan: Regardless of the fact that the french only figured out how to use fire and fashion tools late in the 19th century, they still build a giant metal wang smack dab in the middle of their city, and left the bloody thing up for over a century. I’ve not ever needed the little blue pill, but I hear if an, ahem, something erected, lasts for more than 24 hours you should see a doctor, what does that say about the Parisians who’ve left the thing sticking up for 120 years? It’s impressive, granted, but at least the Flemish had the common decency to build the Atomium far enough away that it wasn’t always visible, that’s all I’m getting at. ;p

    I hit some of the places up in Brussels but didn’t make the Horta Museum, not my bag baby, not my bag.

    Mary: I’ve got all of the night shots from over Paris saved in full resolution. I’ll probably have some big prints made when I finally settle down some day, but if you want the bigger images, or if anyone else does, just let me know and I’ll post them or email them.

  4. Woodyon 05 Sep 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Jules: Then what do they call it?
    Vincent: They call it a Royale with cheese.

    Hope you’re doing well. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us!!

  5. Hoshion 05 Sep 2007 at 2:32 pm

    More Dali, lots of talk and the Louvre and a museum crammed full of modernist furniture by the likes of Le Corbusier…awesome. I sometimes forget that the reviled people of Paris are still chocked full o’ nuts…er…culture. Especially when compared to my fair city here in the Midwestern US. :/
    Glad you made it out alive and into the land of Flems. I wonder if you will make it out of Belgium though, after the passage about the bar with 2k kinds of beers. I doubt I would leave. Besides, it’s just a short train ride to Amsterdam, so why leave for long anyway? :p
    I was hoping you would either go South to Spain and Portugal first or that I would have found the $ and time to get my passapuerta straightened out before you got to Amsterdam. That will be one of the places I want to go when I get over there, so be warned.
    Stay safe, have fun and try not to drink all 2,000 kinds of beer…your first trip to that bar, anyway.

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