Paris: Day 2

Our second day in Paris:  the part where the fun really begins.

We woke up early to meet our “Bike About Tours” group.  The group meeting point was at Notre Dame Cathedral, by the Charlemagne statue up front.  Sounds easy enough, right?  We set off with the “Google Maps” walking directions from our hotel to Notre Dame that I printed before we left for Paris.  Naturally, we got lost.  Lesson 1:  the street names seemed to change with no real rhyme or reason.  Streets also turned & continued in a completely different direction…and there were no signs indicating the route change.  Almost instantly, we missed the neatly numbered-in-a-grid-like-fashion streets of NYC from our trip 2 summers ago.  This was like a foreign country or something.  Oh yeah.  It was.

We arrived about 10 minutes early for the biking tour, and found the Charlemagne statue.  After patting ourselves on the back for getting lost, finding our way, and still being 10 minutes early, we took a few obligatory tourist photos.  I know this may come as a shock to many of you, since I rarely take photos. 

Our group of 12 walked over to Hotel de Ville (Cruella’s house…just kidding–it really means City Hall & the mayor hangs out here to do mayorish stuff).  Our tour leader was Kate.  She did a great job, not only pointing out the important sites, but biking safely.  As a result, all 12 of us made it out of the biking tour alive.  If you have seen me bike, you know what I mean.  Sadly for some old guy, I was not the worst biker in the group.   Or maybe he was faking it so I didn’t feel bad?

We followed Kate for SIX HOURS as she biked us around the heart of Paris.  We saw & learned a lot of cool stuff, including (but not limited to):

*Gargoyles are really just fancy gutters.  Totally working some of that action into my next house.  Or is that over the top?

*The Marais (typically a Jewish/gay neighborhood) was one of my favorites in Paris.  I loved the energy.  It was quieter, yet seemed like a lot was going on, if that makes sense (?).  We stopped briefly by a school yard in the Marais, and heard children playing at recess.  Children’s laughter & play time apparently sounds the same in every language.

*We saw a bunch of random doors.  As in, the building crumbled long ago, but the door still remained intact. 

*We saw The Doors.  No really.  We saw the house where Jim Morrison died. 

*We saw dog poop on the sidewalks.  Apparently the problem has greatly improved, but we did see our fair share.  I guess in a big city, with lots of dogs, it is part of the landscape.  Still…not what I envisioned of Paris.  Certainly not what they print on the  notepads with Parisian landscapes that I buy in the $1 bins at Target.

*The space invader guy.  These were interesting little guys, and after they were pointed out to us on the biking tour, we noticed them throughout the city each day of our trip.  Basically about 20 years ago, some masked artist went around the city with little tiles & randomly constructed space invader/the ghosts from PacMan on building corners.  The French loved the whimsy so much, they left them intact.  Now it is a part of the artistic culture.  It did make an interesting juxtaposition–a 300 year old structure with a 1980’s style Atari character discreetly hanging out on the corner.  After Atari guy (who is still anonymous) made his Parisian debut, he decided his little tile creations were awesome & went global.  Apparently you can find them in major cities in pretty much every country.  Who knew? 

*Victor Hugo’s house.  Wow, this was quite the ‘hood.  Funny he was a Richie Rich, when all of his books were about the Poory Poor. 

*Doors often lead to courtyards, instead of buildings.  Building facades were often just faces for beautiful courtyards, and other buildings.  I found this fascinating.  Made me want to peek into every building that I passed, to see what was going on behind it.  To avoid being arrested, I refrained.  You never know when that guillotine might make a comeback!

*The super high arched doorways were not for aesthetics…They were for passage of horse & carriages into the courtyards.  After learning this fun fact, I regurgitated it back to Brian every building that we passed.  Finally, he let me know that he understood their intended purpose.

*Brian can actually take pictures WHILE riding a bike.  This was nothing short of amazing to me, considering I could barely avoid crashing, with 110% of my focus on preventing that very occurence.

*Medieval streets.  Seriously.  Incredibly narrow cobblestone “roads” with low buildings, each with a different provencial look.  Deju vue of Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, anyone?  (I also conjured up images of cartoons with characters standing on roofs & throwing fiery torches into the street…but that’s just me).

After wrapping up our SIX HOUR (again, I like to say it for emphasis) bike tour, we returned our bikes to Hotel de Ville & headed back to our hotel.  The Irish Pub on the corner, Carr’s, seemed to be calling us.  We obliged & popped in for a quick Carling.  First cold beer of our trip…couldn’t have appeared at a better time.  Especially since the weather was unseasonably hot—in the mid 90’s.  Of course, there was no air conditioning, but the windows were open & a breeze was blowing.  And that Carling sure was cold.  The bar was empty, except for us, and the bartender let Brian go behind the bar for a photo…in fact, it was his idea.  And you know that I will stop at nothing for cornball/touristy photos.

 On a side note, when we first arrived at the bar, I ordered a Guinness.  Let me just say that again:  A Guinness.  I saw the sign outside & thought, sure, I will try something new.  I have seen others drink Guinness, and they seem to be really popular to those that like them.  Plus, I liked saying it.  Like it made me a “real” beer drinker.  Imagine my surprise when I realized I was drinking motor oil.  Brian finished it for me, but not without making fun the rest of the trip 🙂

After a few more Carlings (I learned my Guinness lesson), we headed up to the room for a quick wardrobe change.  Then we hit a little market for 2 bottles of wine & some plastic cups (so chic); loaded up our bookbag, and looked for a bite to eat.  When we saw this sign, we were lured in by their promises of pizza and air conditioning:

Sure, pizza isn’t the most Parisian meal (or was it??  we saw more pizza restaurants than French ones).  But we were hungry & tired, and air conditioning sounded pretty amazing at this point.   We enjoyed a DELICIOUS pizza and a couple of Heinekens.  Excellent choice.  So much so, we ate at this same joint 2 more times during the trip.  Talk about getting exotic with our food choices.

Next we headed down to the Seine River to drink our wine & hopefully catch a river boat cruise.  We enjoyed a beautiful Parisian sunset by the Seine, definitely a trip highlight. 

Naturally when there are beverages involved, the need for a ‘toilette’ isn’t too far in the future.  This was our first experience with the whole Parisian bathroom scene.  Basically, there aren’t any.  Well, there are SOME but not many.  For a city that is home to millions & vacation spot to millions more, you would think there would be more bathroom action.  Not so much.  We moved from the cobblestone walk by the Seine back up to the road, looking for a bathroom.  No dice.  We crossed the street & went through the Porte de Lions into the massive Louvre courtyard area.   I asked a random guy “TOILETTE?”  and since I had a frantic look on my face he pointed and tossed some advice my way:  I could make it to the only bathroom in the courtyard…but it would close at 9:30.  I checked my watch, in an absolute panic at this point, and it was 9:27 pm.

I knew I could never make it by 9:30, and started to look around furtively for other options…I found ‘other options’ in the way of a large English hedge row; something of a labrynth type maze of bushes.  We ducked in a few rows, and Brian stood guard while I used what would prove to be the cleanest ‘toilette’ of our trip.   We noticed several men walking around in the hedge maze, and assumed they were also using the toilette.  We were wrong, but more on this later.

After the whole mad dash for the bathroom thing, we missed our chance to catch a riverboat cruise.  Instead, we decided to spend the rest of our night hanging out on the Louvre lawn, finishing our wine & enjoying the evening.  The sun did not set until around 10:30 pm each night, and the Louvre lawn was full of people–chatting, drinking, eating, and living.  I loved that experience, and we returned to the Louvre several times throughout the trip.

We returned to our room (a 5 minute walk from the Louvre) around 11 p.m…we intended to go straight to bed, but Carr’s Irish Pub was calling our name once again.  We popped in for a Carling or 6, and then back to our room by 1 a.m.  After all, we had to get some rest!  Day 3 was another biggie…

  1. Thanks! I have 8 more days of fun filled adventures to update 🙂 Definitely a work in progress, but I am having fun with it.
    I will check out your blog as well!

  1. July 16th, 2010
    Trackback from : Your Garden

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