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My Adventures Touring Europe in 1982 (23) Paris
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Monday, July 26
The tour group mood was jubilant as we set off today. We’re on our way to Paris, which is the high point of the tour for many of them. It also helped that the weather cleared up and became hot and sunny again. Paris is known for being the ultimate city for romance. I reminded myself of this as we left my beloved Heidelberg behind.
First we visited Reims, which is along the way. This city is made famous by Joan of Arc, and Notre Dame church. We viewed the church on our own, and I actually got one indoor picture of a fantastic stain-glass window.
Next, we went to the world-famous Dom Perignon champagne cellars. At the end of the tour, we were each given one tiny glass for sampling. I got off on it, and so did a lot of others! Even Mary and Anna got high! I had a good laugh, and so did they.
Some tour members bought a bottle. How I wish I’d planned my budget better – they only cost 140 francs, which is $20 US! In America, they cost closer to $90 a bottle. But I was running out of funds, and had no credit card, so I couldn’t buy any.
We arrived in Paris towards evening. To me, it was not much different from entering Los Angeles; it was huge and impersonal and, once inside, actually a bit grungy. We were put in dorm rooms crammed with beds and desks, just as we were in the South of France, and we had dinner in a college cafeteria with ordinary food. I went through the line, was served on a compartmentalized tray, and near the end was a selection of little white plastic cups of beer and wine covered with cellophane sitting on ice. I chose beer. They looked so tacky the wine must have been rotgut, so I figured beer was a better choice.
I was joined at dinner by a German guy. I told him about my journey, and how impressed I was with Heidelberg.
“Why did you choose beer? This is France, you know,” he said, pointing at my plastic cup.
“Well – the wine didn’t look too good,” I answered.
“The beer’s even worse.”
“Oh, really?” How could beer be worse, I wondered.
“Try it and see,” he told me.
I peeled back the cellophane and took a sip. Yeesh – he was right! It was the nastiest stuff! It was watery, and tasted as if someone had put sugar in it!
He laughed at my facial expression. “I’ll trade you,” he said, offering me his plastic cup of wine.
“Uh – that’s mighty generous of you,” I told him.
“That’s ok. You didn’t know better – but now you do.”
We traded, and the wine actually tasted pretty good. I couldn’t believe it when he drank my beer! True, he knocked it back with one gulp, but still!
Our tour group went to bed early. We’re slated to explore Paris tomorrow.
An inexpensive way to enjoy French cuisine is to make it yourself. This master chef teaches you how.
Tuesday, July 27
This morning, we had Continental breakfast as usual. I haven’t said this, but in every country, we’ve had local bread, which means French bread here. In that way, the breakfasts haven’t been too monotonous. Come to think of it, how many Americans eat breakfast at all? And even when they do, it’s usually cereal and milk – or donuts and coffee, eaten on the run.
This morning we toured Versailles. I noticed on the bus, Robin was holding $80 worth of francs in her hand. The tour was nearly over, and she still had that much???
Versailles was touristy to the MAX! It was just a big river of people flowing through the palace rooms. The crowds were as bad as they were at the Vatican. I got fairly good glimpses, but a lot of people didn’t even get that. I couldn’t even begin to take pictures – they weren’t allowed, anyway – so I bought post cards. I wish I’d thought of doing the same at the Vatican as well!
This afternoon, we had a city tour. Paris is ENORMOUS. We had to go by bus, since everything was so far apart. We saw the usual sites; the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees, and Napoleon’s Tomb. The Eiffel Tower was built for the World’s Fair, which Paris hosted in 1889. At first the French hated it, because it was totally contrary to what they considered beautiful (kind of like that statue in Vienna), but they eventually learned to love it, and now it’s Paris’ most famous landmark.
Personally, I find Paris too big to be romantic. I like South of France much better, and I still find Salzburg and Heidelberg to be romantically ideal. However, I found the citizens of Paris to be quite nice, especially for a city that size. They didn’t reach out to people to the same degree as they do in smaller locales, but that’s to be expected. I’d heard horror stories of Parisians being rude, but I didn’t find that to be the case at all.
Nobody gave me a second glance. I expected that too, knowing France had numerous colonies in Africa and the Americas, including my ancestral country of Haiti. I saw quite a few blacks in Paris, but none of them gave me a second glance, either. They probably assumed I lived there.
This evening was free, so I played guitar again for a couple hours. My tour group enjoyed it, but it wasn’t the same as it was in Switzerland. I think we’re all aware this journey is about to end, and we don’t want to think about it.
Wednesday, July 28
Today, we are free to visit whatever site in Paris we want. Paris is so huge, it really needs a tour of its own; at least a couple weeks are required to do it a hint of justice. I and some others decided to visit the Louvre Museum. Our local tour guide was leading it, so I found it easiest to go with her.
The museum holds a lot of Greek and Egyptian statues, and numerous paintings. We viewed the Mona Lisa, and it was a lot smaller than we’d believed it would be! It was only 30 inches by 20 inches! Our tour guide gave us plenty of warning before she showed us; I admit, I laughed when I saw it.
She led us to another painting, giving us plenty of warning here too. “Now you’re all adults, right?” she asked, tentatively. “Uh – this painting – surely you’ll understand – it is of a woman who is pregnant, and she is with her sister.” Finally, we were allowed to view it. Her sister was pinching her breast, to see if it produced milk! Okay…
When we returned to the hotel, I found the others were there, preparing for our last dinner together. Breakfast is the only meal provided in England, where we would be going tomorrow. This dinner was to be very special, so we were dressing up. I put on the outfit I’d bought in Athens.
It was while we were waiting in the lobby I discovered Chiara speaks French! If only I’d paid more attention to my tour group! She told me she had gone to see a Can Can dance; it was fabulous. If only I’d budgeted my money better, I would have gone to see that too – but then I would have missed the tour of the Louvre.
I listened to the others tell where they had gone. Some went to the Latin Quarter, others to the Pompidou Museum, and some even had money to shop – in this most expensive city on our tour! “Guess where I saw Gayla?” Robin stated. “She was in a square, totally surrounded by cats. She was feeding them.”
“Sounds like something an old lady would do,” said Toni.
“She sure acts like an old maid, doesn’t she?” sneered Garnet.
“The cats were enjoying a Gayla event!” declared Leah, and several people laughed.
Johannes walked in from outside, and told us the bus was ready. As we filed out, Gayla entered the lobby and hurried to me. “I heard what they said about the cats. I just can’t wait to get away from these bitches!” she hissed.
I shrugged. “Notice it was only the meanest clique making comments?” I pointed out.
“They’re all the same to me.”
We rode on the bus through streets of buildings crowded together, stopping in front of a nondescript one. Then we entered a restaurant that was almost as narrow as the bus itself. One long table dominated the room, and half of us had to step over it to sit on one side.
First we were served a cocktail which was red and tasted like Kool-aid. Then we had hors d’oeuvres, followed by our meal, which was beef and rice. During the meal, we were served wine in baby bottles! At dinner’s end, we toasted with champagne. During the meal, the cliques talked with each other over their experiences. I remained silent, listening to everyone. They mainly talked about shopping and partying.
After dinner, we went to the church of the Sacre Coeur and mingled with locals and artists for a couple hours. I got back together with Bruce, and we flirted and gave each other backrubs. This is the first we talked since the Trevi fountain in Rome. If I’m going to get him, I only have a few days left.
We finished out the evening with a romantic nighttime sail on the Seine in the Bateau Mouche. I sat next to Chris. “You were wearing a very interesting t-shirt today,” he said. “It’s a good thing people don’t read English here, or it could get you in trouble.” My t-shirt had read, “Good little girls go to heaven. Bad little girls go everywhere!”
“Actually, I think most people here read English,” I answered him. “In that case, you’re really lucky you’re not in trouble!” He hadn’t bothered to dress up for the evening. His t-shirt had marijuana leaves all over it, and the words, “Legalize it”. I understand a drug bust in France isn’t a nuisance; it’s a disaster.
“So, did you meet any fabulous French girls here in Paris?” I went on.
He sighed. “I couldn’t. I’m – uh – worn out. I can’t function anymore.”
“Aw, shucks! At the worst possible time, too! Oh, well – the women are probably as busy as the men, so you probably couldn’t have met one, anyway,” I said, referring to what our local tour guide had told us in the South of France.
We retired to our dorms in a state of melancholy. It may have been a hostile tour group, but we were still just a little sorry to be breaking up soon.
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© 2013 Yoleen Lucas