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Tuesday, October 30, 2012
I wish now that when (or before) I was in Paris I would have read Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". I read it some months later, and the descriptions of the buildings and the streets and the smell of Paris just took me back to when I trudged those ancient streets in the rain myself. For anyone who is going to Paris: read Hugo first, not after.
In December, 2011, I went to Paris with my roommate and two other girls-sisters-and Dudley. After, of course, a brief stop off in London. You see, we took the trunnel (this train that goes UNDER THE OCEAN-nbd-from one country to the other), which we almost missed (literally SPRINTING), to Paris. Cold, wet Paris.
The city of Paris was very different than I imagined. It was beautiful, yes, and gaudy, absolutely, and it smelled like urine, so true, but it was just... different. It was so packed with history, the walls and the streets were reeking with art and literature and... urine. I just wanted to sit by the river and paint. We did a lot of walking, we did all of the tourist-y things like visit the Eiffel Tower and Versailles and The Louvre, all of which were breathtaking. No wonder everyone goes there! We also visited, like, a zillion museums. Which is cool, because, to me, to experience Paris you have to absorb as much history and fine art and French as you can.
French, can we just talk about FRENCH for a second? I don't want to offend anyone (not that anyone reads this blog), but le français est stupide! Seriously, it is such a difficult language, I couldn't even fake it enough to ask for a bathroom or flat water! I always kind of pictured myself speaking French, it's so romantic and sophisticated and all. But then I actually went to France and realized that it's STUPID! Or...more like...I'm stupid and can't grasp it.
Anyway, here are your picture, word, and experience:
This is me in Napoleon II's apartments. See that look on my face? Yeah, I'd say that was me emoting the general feeling Paris gave me. The splendor of everything was just...unbelievable. It made you feel so small and plain and poor. This picture really doesn't do the room justice, it was SHINING. I mean actively glowing with wealth. Gold walls? A must! Crystal chandeliers? At least a dozen! Giant portraits of moi in a powdered wig? Obviously! I wish you could see the true grandeur of every piece of furniture, every chair leg, the rugs...hence the bug-eyed expression.
I was really torn about which picture to include here, there's this other one of Notre Dame...oh heck, I'm breaking my own rules and posting it.
Isn't that gorgeous? I'm justifying it because it coordinates with my other picture-it makes you feel so small and lame. Can you imagine living in this place? I loved Notre Dame, the inside was extraordinary, even more elaborate than the outside. It's amazing to me that men with chisels could create such delicate stone work! Paris is a little suffocating, like, it smothers the will to live out of you or something, because it is so unfathomable. "You will never amount to anything," it tells you, "You could never achieve anything even a fraction as great as the people who built this city." The parisian people kind of make you feel that way, too, like they're always judging you as you walk by. They know, they know you're an American before you even open your mouth, and they kind of look down their noses at you and their gaze says, "Yeah, I live here. Take that back to Rock Springs" (that French guy just spat the words 'Rock Springs' at my feet).
Okay, my Paris word has got to be 'Splendor'. It's kind of a lame word but it's synonymous with Majesty, Grandeur, and Marvelous, all of which apply to this city. I know this is all I've talked about, but when I think back to last Christmas, what I remember the most was that feeling of splendor. I was in a movie, I was in Paris When It Sizzles (except it was really cold), I was in a romance novel (except for the romance part), it was unreal! The streets, the shops, the people, and I just scratched the surface! When we climbed those billion steps of the Eiffel Tower or the half a billion steps of Notre Dame and looked out from the top over the roofs of the entire city, I realized how little of Paris I had seen. I knew nothing. I know nothing. Houses of stone and rooftops of clay clamoring on top of each other up the sloping hills, hundreds and thousands of things that made up this place that made up so much history. Splendid.
Speaking of the cathedral, the experience that sticks out to me as one of the most unique was our opportunity to go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. IN Notre Dame. I'll admit, I didn't think we would get in, and I'm not saying we got front row seats or anything, but we made it in just as it was starting. Our cold group sat huddled between stone walls and stone floor and pressing bodies as we tip-toed to see the top of the Whatever-Bishop's big hat. It was amazing, there was the processional walking down the carpeted aisle, swinging their smoking lanterns and chanting Latin (or something). Don't ask me what any of it meant, but it was freaking awesome. I will confess, after about an hour of not really seeing the ceremony I sat on the stone floor and watched some tiny French children weaving between the big candle stands. 'One of them is going to catch this whole place on fire' I kept thinking. Miracles do happen on Christmas Day in the Notre Dame in Paris, however, because not one child was roasted that evening. There are a lot of candles in that cathedral. And a lot of stained glass, and wax saints and depictions of bleeding Christ. It was a good place to be on Christmas Eve, it gives one a bit of perspective.
When you, reader, go to Paris, know these things:
Crepes with Nutella are the only delicious French food. And croissants.
The Eiffel Tower is very difficult to photograph up close...
...and when you get there, take the elevator. Trust me.
Do NOT feed the pigeons.
Disneyland Paris is, basically, just like Disneyland California. Still cool though.
You WILL get lost.
Au revoir jusqu'à la prochaine fois!
(Thank heaven for Google translate. Stupid language.)