A Travellerspoint blog

Judgy Jason

maybe I need a power bar


View 2009 05 11 Jasonian Loop de Loop on jreuer's travel map.

Intra Europe flights. Always interesting.
After leaving the sanctuary and free food, drink, power of the business class lounge.
Just the security lines to the gates in these mega international melting pots are like being in a market where all the languages of the world are spoken. Mountains of confiscated material - looked like most had just been purchased at the shops steps before the security point. Security folks gesturing wildly and trying to find common communication points.

Every interior in Europe right now is overheated so sweating is mandatory.

Once you get to the gate there is NO order. They simply state "now boarding" and the crowd surges forward. Often at Charles de Gaul you walk down the Jetway only to pile on a bus and take a looping, seemingly on and across itself, ride to yet another boarding area where you then shove and push your way on the plane. Many people acting like they have never been on planes before and I am thinking they actually haven't. Trains are likely what they are used to. Folks walking on looking bewildered.

I spot an interloper couple. A woman and man walk on near the end of boarding. There is an excited exchange of words and she sits next to me - nervous as a cat in a room full of rockers. She is super twitchy, got crazy eyes and constantly looking back down the airplane and at her husband, who is on the aisle but one row ahead and opposite her. My 'merican vigilance kicks in and wonder if she is a terrorist...then I'm like "naw, she's just a freak." Wondering what's up I look down at her ticket. Row 6 - Coach. Not row 4 - Business class. Ah HA! so that's what all the anxiety is about. So all through the rest of the boarding procedure she is all twitchy. She then asks the flight attendant if the middle divider can be removed and her husband sat between us. (business class intra-Europe on AF is merely a segment of the front of the aircraft with the middle seat converted into a table) The attendant said no...but then proceeded to ask me if I would switch. Grumble grumble...I had one of those balloons over my head with squiggles in it that cartoons use when the characters is all grumpy. Since I had been asked directly by the attendant AND I didn't want to come across as a total ass I said sure, it's only 1.5 hours and the aisle may be nice. I grabbed my bag and moved. Sat down and realized the two glossy gorgeous french Elle Decor and french Marie Claire interiors magazines were in the seat pocket. More grumpy bubbles over my head. I realized it too late and we were already taxing for takeoff and the flight attendants were seated. So I obsessed on my magazines watching these people out the far backward corner of my eye. I couldn't look cuz every time I did the woman would give me crazy lunatic eyes...the same frantic eyes I guessed were peering down the back of the plane before takeoff. I was just hoping her husband wouldn't notice the literature. DAMN crazy lunatic was looking at them. Soiled and feted. Damn! Then I thought to myself. Dude you are really going nutzo about these 2 Free French magazines. Well dammit I schlepped the damn things through security and on to the plane and HAD THEM IN MY SEAT. When these air PIRATES come and interlope into my row AND commandeer my treasure. I was determined to ask the attended the next time I saw her to get my precious cargo back. Unfortunately the next time I saw an attendant they were frantically giving us our "meal" sooooooo I breathed several times and let go of the fact I lost my magazines. At least I didn't pay for them. My new seat partner was Ms. Smug Yoga pants. She was reading some yoga poetry or something by some rashnishi. She had her glam Sophia Loren sunglasses on, had herself propped up against the window, feet on the chair and her Bose noise canceling headphones on. She though she was being chic but she looked like an alien and I was in no mood. The flight attendant before take off had asked her to take off the headphones, she refused. Clearly her yoga and spiritual enlightenment was going well - bitch. After take off she mercifully took her sunglasses off and wrapped a scarf around her head and face in total and slept. We landed and I left those nut jobs behind - thank god!

Posted by jreuer 03:26 Comments (0)

Lang Lang Lang whent the trolly....

our night at the Symphony


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Knowing I love classical music and knowing I especially love classical music in Paris Alex arranged for he and I to go to a concert. Three monsters of classical music London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), Gergiev and Lang Lang for an evening of Prokofiev. Alex was already planning to go to the concert so he picked me up a ticket. We weren't sitting together, but no worries, you don't visit during the show anyhow.

I met Alex at his house and we made a mad sweaty (I was sweaty as it was warmer and moister than I was used to) dash to the Metro for the ride across town to the hall, of which I am forgetting the name of at the moment so will have to update later. The metro was PACKED (and always hot) and seemed to take longer than usual at each stop...for simplicity we were riding a single line for this trip rather than make multiple connections six of one half dozen of the other. My ticket was will-call and we got my ticket and made it only a few minutes before the "get your rear in your seat" bells - which sound like an old fashioned alarm clock...the kind with the bells on top. It's jarring. You literally hear this racket for 10 seconds at a time to signal you need to sit down. But I digress...

My ticket in Salle Pleyel was row AA. Contrary to what I thought it ended up being Row 2. Row 1 having the stage in front of it. I usually like a more "territorial" view of the symphony, preferring to watch the whole ensemble as opposed to only seeing the first row of performers. However - this was one of the better symphony experiences I have had.

They played Symphony No 3 and 4 (1947) and Lang Lang did the Concert for Piano No3. Sitting so close to the musicians was amazing, bewildering and exciting all at once. The musicians filed in...I could hear each one in front of me individually tuning. Some of the women were dressed to go out right after. As if this were an annoying little stop on the way to a night out on the town. They had their clutches and some were dressed amazing. The woman in front of me in particular. She was stunning. Her blue black hair swept back into a long banana shaped bun on the back of her head, white translucent skin, lips wearing a demure shade of burgundy or was it red? Her wispy arms veins visible in an appealing way and her foot cocked out in her pumps just so her long black evening dress crepe clinging to her equally graceful leg. The dress had long beads on the top portion and faded into the crepe as the tube shaped dress hung perfectly from dainty straps from her shoulders. There was a matching square of a veil like material with beads all around it's rectangular edge. It somehow was always positioned perfectly - even as she tuned sitting forward, back straight as an arrow on her chair. Perfect posture. I constructed a whole entire glamorous life for this woman as I looked at her. Drivers, servants, art and glamor glamor glamor. Gergiev jarred me to my senses as he makes an imposing figure marching out to take control of the orchestra. Looking at the crew through the top of his blue eyes exposing most of the white on the bottom of his socket. He glanced my way a couple times. Percing gaze.

I was so close I was making eye contact with the players, when/if they infrequently looked. Certainly during ovations...which was weird them looking at me smiling down. I am guessing as they looked out the glare from the spotlights was blinding so the first couple rows afforded them some views of "the people" As I listened to the music I was studying their hems and shoes and inspecting their costumes for lint. My "I can see your nose hair" location afforded me an interesting look into page turning as well. I could see the music and follow along where they were and when it came time to turn the page, surprisingly it wasn't worked out. Sometimes both would act as if they were going to turn. I was surprised by that because you'd think that would have been worked out. Then I was thinking, well maybe they play it so much they don't have to fuss with those details. I snuk a picture of the stage and chairs - before the performance - but it is trapped on my phone right now.

The actual music was gorgeous and very stunning sitting in the second row. I could listen to a specific violin by looking at the instrument and pick it's voice out or I could sit back and muddle it all together. At one point all the violins were free form glissando and it was amazing...the sound surrounding and enveloping me and making me feel as if I were in a bottle of soda pop that had just been opened - or falling amongst falling stars. VERY nice effect.

Lang Lang came out and tore the keys off the piano as he is known to do. At one point I was wondering what would happen if the piano lid support shook loose and the top crashed shut. His velvet coat was free of lint and each of his hairs seemed to bob as if attached by wires as the beads of sweat glistened on his brow - velvet is hot you know. A poor choice when you are so exuberant with the keyboard. Both the Symphony and Lang Lang ended up doing encores as the audience went crazy crazy crazy. The performance was wonderful as it carried me away and shook my bones with it's vibrations.

Posted by jreuer 03:22 Comments (0)

Oooh la la

A sunny afternoon in Paris


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Monday...my last real day in Paris, was a day of getting some last minute things and a little sightseeing. It was a beautiful day by the time I got out of the house at around noon.

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I took the metro to Hotel De Ville and getting some wrapping paper for a gift and made my way across the river to the St. Germain where I had in mind to visit some boutiques. It was pure delight. The sun was shining and there was a cool breeze as I made my past the tourists and tourist shops that surround the Notre Dame. Arriving at the square of ND it was typically crowded...throngs of people.

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People queued to get up to the Notre Dame tower, people queued to get into Notre Dame, people queued to get on their buses, people walking en-mass following guides. Gypsy looking people asking tourists if they speak English and when they said yes (poor sots) they hustle them by thrusting a paper that I presume had a tale of woe and sorrow to perhaps ask for money or distract them for something else? It was a zoo. Adding to the typical ND masses there was a big local festival going on in the square in front of the cathedral. A huge pavilion tent was set up, a french band was playing folkish music inside and dizzying odors of bread and savory food poured out. Around that other food stalls were set up and crowds lined up to enjoy local fare. I wasn't hungry in the least so I enjoyed the visual feast and chaos for a while...taking it all in...watching bewildered tourists buffeted and bopped like fishing bobbers, they were getting tossed around folks making a dash to this place or that - or simply knowing where they were going and a meandering tourist with their nose in a book or map was simply an obsital to be dodged. As I headed out of the square to my surprise they had erected a beach volleyball court and games were going on while a bedraggled man sat on a stone bench in front of the match with pigeons on his head and arms. Ahhhh France.

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The rest of the afternoon was a pleasure. I had oodles of time so I strolled the tree lined blvd St. Germian with the breeze and dappled afternoon sunshine. It was marvelous as perfect of last day as I could have asked for. Lots of Italian folks visiting Paris it seems I was dodging slow moving "buchon" or traffic jams of them as I made my way to the shops on my list. I was stopped by some tourists on their own who must have been lost and asked in what I presumed to be rapid Italian where something was, then they tried broken french and wild gestures, both of which I didn't understand. When I told them in French I didn't speak French or Italian they threw up there hands and flapped their lips and got all exasperated, As I walked away I thought "Yes my dear Italian brothers and sisters it actually IS my fault you are lost. Very sorry." Though I didn't laugh in their faces and was apologetic as I could be in a language I don't speak I chuckeld to myself as I continued on to Dyptic, one of my destinations. I also had a couple chocolate shops on my list - one being just far enough that walking would be inefficient even on this nice of day. So I jumped on the metro. The shoppe was to be in the square not to far from the Metro...It was there. Sort of. It had closed and they were hauling the coolers and other required appliances away and the sign on the door suggested their other locations. None of which were convenient. I strolled on this time, bought a bottle of water from a nearby shop and stumbled on St. Suplice.

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Last time I saw is square was better. This time the church towers were undergoing renovations and they were setting up for a market. So there was a lot of racket. BUT the day was so lovely and the fountain was nice. I sat on a shaded bench, drank my water and snacked on some almonds. After a while of sitting and watching people I realized I really didn't have an idea of the direction I needed to head. Consulting my guide I realized I was only a block from Luxembourg gardens, so I, along with much of Paris, went to enjoy the park in the sun. A sunny day in Paris will bring the Parisians out in force to the parks. They whip their shirts off faster than a model changing between runs in a runway show and flop all over the grass and sit in the park chairs. They look like white sunflowers as they position themselves to face and follow the sun for the afternoon.

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The backup chocolate shop address on my list ended up being on my stroll to the metro on the St. Germain. I say the address ended up being there because the shop was not where it should have been. 0-2. I took this as a sign and decided chocolate wasn't to be on the menu today.

The last thing I was hoping to pick up was closer to home...every time I walked by the shop it was closed but I noticed it would be open when I went back to Sam's to freshen up before the concert. Indeed it was open and I stopped. Alas, of course, the item I wanted was gone, after days of seeing it in the window. Drat. It was simply an old photo in a junk shop...but darn it. Oh well. I will settle for Dyptic and pick up some chocolate in the airport on my return flight in June.

Could the day get better?
Why yes it could! More Later

Posted by jreuer 02:46 Comments (0)

Say what?

blah blah blah...


View 2009 05 11 Jasonian Loop de Loop on jreuer's travel map.

Contrary to my apprehension before arriving in Paris without my translator and navigator aka Jimmy, my visit has been, thus far, without drama. Knock on wood.

As for language. Previous visits I would never speak. NEVER. When I tried I became very embarrassed and very bashful and it was a bumbling mess and I would throw Jimmy to my rescue. Alone I have no such backup and surprisingly I have survived. Mind you I am speaking extremely simple phrases...the survival phrases...but it's working! Imagine that. I am experiencing a strange phenomenon of losing my mother tongue...but I am told that is normal. My brain blanks on the most simple of words and phrases.

Some remarkable exchanges for me - they may be very ho hum to you...but THIS IS MY BLOG. :)

As you previously saw, ordering my first meal A milestone for me by itself! Previous I would have had a heart attack...but one must eat. So I bucked up and it went swimmingly.

Buying a bunch of metro tickets from the ticket seller.

Numerous store engagements boulangarie, wine shop, supermarche museums etc. I navigated purchasing knives in BHV which for a non french speaker is a potential hurdle. You first stand in line as everyone before you has a long animated discussion with the knife seller about each knife and the choice they should make. When it's your turn you can have the same conversation or, like me, just ask for the knives you want. He then writes up a ticket and sends you off to go pay in a totally different location. You queue up, pay and return to pick up your knives. Thankfully they don't make you queue up to pick up your knives. I somehow figured that out without looking like a total dumbhead. And I never got English back...so apparently they thought I was good enough. :)

Today I almost had to fall back to English when I somehow lost my ticket to get into the various exhibits at Georges Pompidou. I had been to the special exhibits.They were Calder and Kandinsky. Two different shows...both were completely amazing. Perhaps more on them later. But they have to scan your ticket before you enter the different exhibits. You can purchase to just see the permanent Musee exhibit or admission to both the Museum and the special exhibits. Somewhere along the way I lost my ticket - drat! I disemboweled my bag. Turned my pockets out and no ticket. I must have dropped it. So after 5 min of frantic searching through every booklet and scrap of paper in my bag I had to resign myself to having lost the ticket. LORD! That means a potentially impossible bit of communicating I lost my ticket and can I please be let in without it. I did have my receipt. For this exchange I allowed myself the opt out of apologizing that I don't speak french and do they speak English? Ended up the ticket guy didn't but I somehow got across using the french word for lost and ticket etc that I lost my ticket and showed him my receipt instead and he let me in. A sigh of relief and I went to view the permanent exhibits.

Navigation has been even easier. I went out the last couple days without a guide or map. Many places are familiar to me from all our previous visits and you are never far from a metro station. Using maps on the iPhone makes it a snap to figure out where you are if you are ever unsure (Though pulling the maps sucks up your bandwidth allowance for the cell network so I have been avoiding it).

All in all my solo trip to Paris, which I had reservations about...has been, happily, totally 100% positive. I have been totally relaxed and unstressed so far in fact. A wonderful start to my vacation. Thank you Paris and all my friends, new and old.

Posted by jreuer 16:17 Comments (0)

Catacombs

Pretty dang cool

semi-overcast
View 2009 05 11 Jasonian Loop de Loop on jreuer's travel map.

After Lunch on Wednesday 5/13 with Alex I felt like seeing some bones...so I thought I'd check out the Catacombes de Paris.
I thought it would be a quick walk - proved to be a long one...but oh well by the time I figured out it was a long walk I had walked to far to waste a metro ticket so I trudged on and found the bones. A couple snaps on my walk there.
I love the Bibliothèque nationale de France François-Mitterrand. It is surrounded by steps which are so massive and imposing you can't help but be captured by them.
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The library has four towers which are all shaped like open books standing on end forming the four corners of the block.
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I think we have visited every time we are in Paris (there is other stuff around it) but it's so visual and crazy you are drawn in.

I was hiding under the metro from the sporatic rain. It's quite lovely at this point. The bricks forming arches (you can't really tell in this photo but it turned out cool none-the-less)
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Love the tree lined boulevards...they sometimes seem to go forever...especially when you are tired of walking. :)
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So a while back - a long while back...they exhumed a cemetery details are here:
http://www.catacombes-de-paris.fr/english.htm

You walk through this very unassuming and demure entrance, In fact, it almost looks questionable, you ask yourself as you walk into this small room "Is this worth 8€" You then go down about 180 steps on one of the smallest spiral staircases I have ever walked. THEN you walk these looooooong passages that are so short I had to watch my head the whole time. At one point I thought I was lost I had been walking in the tunnels for so long...long and dark were these passages. And wet. VERY slippery. Would never cut the mustard in the states for safety...well that and you are in the bowels of Paris. Apparently these were quarry for Paris stone and I guess the tunnels go forever all under the city. I couldn't help but think - oh my god I have run all the way back the way I came if something happened, like an earthquake...of course I wouldn't have lasted a blink of an eye...
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Anyhow.
You hit these amusements left by the quarry folk.
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Sort of like a mini Petra. And believe me...everyone who paid their 8€ are so happy to see SOMETHING they are acting like it's Petra. There is all this excitement and photographing. Myself included...you are just glad you haven't taken a wrong turn and there are other people around. Really...you walk that long (and I was usually by myself unless I was passing people questioning if they were lost). So the tightness in your chest releases and you continue on.

Once you pass the cute amusements you get to the place where the bones were placed that is all you see is bones bones and more bones. So many they look like cobble on the walls at points with only the sculls offering a different texture. Nothing returns the tightness in your chest and says "I Love You" like a good ol' scull heart.
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A true hallmark moment.

All kidding aside. It was very weird and sobering. There are so many it seems surreal and at times they look like stacks of firewood. Each bunch of bones has a marker indicating the area/cemetery they came from.
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It's all a bit overwhelming. I actually felt like I shouldn't be seeing it. It was a very difficult thing to explain.

It's extremely dark and the floor is slippery. They don't allow flash photos and it's so dark I even turned off my autofocus lamp because it was like a spotlight! That and you have to be careful for all the dripping water that is seeping through the stone.
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Posted by jreuer 13:22 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

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