Saturday, July 26, 2014

Paris, Part the Only One (7/21 - 7/23)

I apologize for putting this up so late, two full days since we left Paris--but Paris was such a whirlwind, and we were so tired from traveling that I just didn't have the time because I was sleeping. Hopefully none of the six people who read this are TOO annoyed and we can just get past it and you can enjoy the pictures. Here's what happened in France:


We left Galway early on Monday morning to make for Paris. Luckily, unlike our trip to London, this did not involve staying at a hotel near the airport overnight and waking up at 5 in the morning, thank God. We took a nice calm bus ride to the Shannon airport, where we met a nice American couple who a) had their honeymoon in Barcelona b) had stayed extensively in Venice c) she was a therapist d) he majored in Religious Studies, which is basically like Storytelling but with more grounding in reality. It was a little eerie, but they had some great tips on where to go and what to do in all the various places they had been in their travels. We thanked them and continued on our way, straight through the Shannon airport security (gloriously lax except for one thing--they took my Nutella and I cried) and on to London.

London Heathrow Airport is The Worst. To quote one of the great poets of our time,

"You're the worst.
You are human tennis elbow.
You are a pizza burn on the roof of the world's mouth.
You are the opposite of Batman."

And I don't quote Troy Barnes lightly.

The security took half of our liquids because the clear plastic baggie they were in for convenience was too big, there were no soft pretzels anywhere, everyone was rude, even the airport people they literally pay to be nice and do nothing else, and our flight smelled like armpits. That was a dark time for us, so I won't dwell on it. I will just say that we made it to France, through customs, and after a very frustrating ordeal at the Orly Airport, we made it to our room in Paris. And were greeted with this:

And everything was okay.

By day, our room looked like this. Out that window is the view in the photo above: the rooftops of Paris from the eleventh floor of an apartment building on the Rue de Entrepreneurs, with the Eiffel Tower startlingly close, just on the other side of some buildings.

The photograph doesn't really convey just how CLOSE the Tower was--from our view on the balcony, we could pick out the forms of people walking up the stairs and the elevators moving up and down, and even make out some of the writing along the middle section.

The room wasn't airconditioned, so the big sliding-glass doors that opened to the narrow balcony were a big help. Our hosts graciously left us a gift of Bordeaux, too, which went untouched, unfortunately, until the last night.

 Luckily, there was a small grocery store on the bottom floor of the building, so I went down there first thing to grab some breakfast: baguette, Brie, apple juice, bananas, and Nutella. Then we packed up a backpack with supplies and headed out into Paris.

The first stop was, obviously, the Tower. I had never seen it up close before, and I didn't realize just how tall it really is. It dominates the landscape, and is easily the tallest thing around for what seems like miles. As long as you're in Paris, you can never really miss it--the second you get any elevation, you can see it poking its head out from behind some buildings SOMEWHERE.

After oohing and ahhing for the appropriate length of time, we left the Eiffel Tower to wander down the River Seine.

We planned to return to the Tower the next morning, very early, to skip the lines, before catching our flight. We were spending two nights in Paris, giving us really only one day to see the city, but we wanted to cram in everything, so we had to make some sacrifices. Like sleeping.

"Will you take a picture of us?" is a request that transcends language barriers.

In Paris, there is a bridge that is covered in locks like this. Couples will take a lock, engrave or write their initials or another cute message on it, and lock it to the bridge. Then, together, you throw the keys into the river. Your love will last for as long as the lock is locked to the bridge.

It's a really sappy, sentimental, sugary-sweet tradition that's totally over-rated. I mean, who actually does that? Love locks. Sheesh, gimme a break.

Nah, who am I kidding, it was wonderful. Maybe vomit-inducing for the people around us, but wonderful.

We know the exact spot on the bridge where the lock is, so if we ever need to show anyone or come back and check if it's there, we can find it again.

And over the keys go. This isn't actually the real bridge of locks. The real bridge is so full of locks that the paneling has been ripped away in many places by all the weight. The tradition is now spreading to many bridges in Paris, and this is one of the more popular ones. We thought it was the most scenic and romantic, with the Tower in the background, so we chose to lock ours here.

After that, we walked down the river for a long time and took a LOT of pictures. SO many pictures. I may have gotten a little frustrated with all the stopping and photographing at one point.

We found a carnival, of all things, in the Jardin de Tuileries, smack in the midde between the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe, so we wandered around there for a while, but everything was very expensive. It was fun to hear all the locals screaming and cursing in French on the scary rides, though.

The Ferris Wheel was actually a pretty good size, though it didn't come close to the London Eye.

We made the obligatory stop at the Louvre, even though we didn't go in.

My mom told us we should just sneak in through the gift shop, but we wanted to set good examples for all the other tourists, so we refrained.

We got pretty good at taking selfies using Sarah's big girl camera with the fancy lens and all the buttons I'm not supposed to press.

Eventually we made it downstream far enough to see the real lock bridge.

There are locks locked to locks locked to locks here, on both sides of the chain-link fence. There are so many locks that I forgot what the meaning of "lock" was, in that funny was that happens when you say a word enough times, even though I only thought it and never said it out loud.

We even made it all the way down to Notre Dame, where the line to get in stretched literally around the block and into the next neighborhood.

We appreciated it a great deal from the outside. Sarah made fun of me for saying "buttresses" really loud over and over again.

Not many of the gathered tourists appreciated our rowdy rendition of "The Bells of Notre Dame" from the Disney movie "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", but that is not our problem because French is also a Free Country.

The aforementioned buttresses. The gargoyles spit water when it rains, but we didn't get to see that because while it threatened to rain all day, we never actually got any water.

A view of Notre Dame from the other side, as we walked past on our way to the neighborhood where Sarah stayed with her family a few years back. She claimed it was "really cute", so naturally I was excited.

My favorite shot of the cathedral. Note the buttresses.

We found the hotel where Sarah and her family stayed when the visited Paris just a few short blocks from Notre Dame, in a neighborhood that really was "really cute".

The streets were tight and crammed with people, the buildings crowding all the space overhead in that delightful Old World way, shops and restaurants spilling out onto the street and the smell of baking bread everywhere. The neighborhood was dominated by this massive church that would deserve the word "cathedral" if it was located anywhere except in the shadow of Notre Dame. After eating dinner at a cute little bistro and finishing up with some God-tier chocolate mousse, we headed back to our flat, about two hours upriver.

We stopped for some breakfast supplies along the way, but I was hungry on the way back and got into them a little bit.

Though we didn't end up going to the top of the Eiffel Tower (too foggy to see anything the next morning), we made the most of our day in Paris and were exhausted and thrilled at the end of the day. We stayed up way too late for our own good eating French food and talking to our families, and got up too early in the morning to go through the gauntlet that is Orly Airport again. Onward, to Barcelona.


Thanks for reading. We'll have the Barcelona pictures up in the next couple days. Miss everyone at home. Lots of love from across the Atlantic.

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