finally entering some travel junk...
12.05.2009 - 14.05.2009
I have failed at daily blogging so here's many days worth.
Arrival! Whoo hooo!
After "enduring" a flight in Air France business class (the gent next to me had terrible "woke me up wide-eyed and startled" gas. I swear he must have eaten a dead and rotting mouse cuz the dogs farts never smelled so bad. Maybe all our American food had his tummy upset...but I digress) my arrival was amazingly easy. Of course it was! I had sent my advance team aka Jimmy a couple weekends before (He was actually passing through Paris on his way back home from busines in Dublin). He had arranged for our friend Sam to pick me up at the airport! He had also told them the wrong day so they had a dry run at it the day before - JUST to make sure I was collected! I get off my flight and I hear a familiar "Coo Coo!" (Sam's call) and I think "that's strange" I don't even have my bags and baggage was my first priority. But turns out there is a glass viewing area so non-travellers can watch the travellers scurry around blearily eyed navigating their luggage and customs. Customs in France is no more than some uniformed folks standing around visiting paying no heed to the ocean of folks exiting the baggage area. Joyously my trip begin with an absents of tortured communication with a cab driver.
On packing light.
A word on it...There are some people who are adept at picking up languages, doing mathematics and I'm convinced...packing light. I tried to gag down the cool-aid...and some did make it into my tummy...but what Jimmy ended up doing for me is sticking my wee Rick Steves in our giant roller. Notice I said Jimmy did it for me. I was catatonic by this point. A delightful pre-travel "What the hell am I doing" panic had shot through me and my mind went as blank as your favorite Olivia Newton John cassette tape after it sat on your brothers magnet pile for a couple days. There are still chirps and whistles but none of it makes sense. That is what happened with my brain.
I will succumb to dragging that damn overnight case with only a g-string and chap-stick on the tour in a couple weeks because deep in my heart I do recognize the necessity of the light packing. But while I'm in Paris and Prague I'll have more with me than a g-string and chap-stick.
Get Imelda on the phone. I have been looking for comfortable shoes - in general - for months now. That and I have also received custom orthodontics from my podiatrist one week before departure. Delightful combo before you head off to Europe to WALK ALL DAY for 42 days. I'll keep you posted. Oh packing light folks let me hear your collected shriek...I packed FOUR pair of shoes. FOUR. 1 2 3 4. That would be 8 actual shoes in all. Ha!
After sitting in hell traffic, getting settled and unpacking my eight shoes I struck out. My host had things to do and I was going to roam the neighborhood and end up in Gambetta and stroll the Pere La Chaise. I needed to eat and this was going to be my very first foray into using the year of french I took 5 years ago. I was nervous because Jimmy is my voice when in France. But one must feed onesself and it is much more difficult to eat if you can't speak.
Starting with a strolling tour of Gambetta was a great choice. I know the area well as it's close to our friends apartments and Jimmy and I have walk through and around it just about every day we have ever been in Paris. I selected a place to eat based on a number of factors. 1 the menu had to have something I could recognize and pronounce. 2 it needed to be clear if I sat myself or if I was host seated 3 it must have food. I easily found a place and when I walked in I realized I actually do have a french speaking voice. I sound like an infant with my use of words and construction...but I was understood and got nothing but French back the whole time.
I discovered (people and teachers tell you this all the time but until you are faint with hunger and are forced to do it - just doesn't mean anything) that if you just hear the blah blah of what they say and key in on the one or two words you do hear you can work backwards from those couple words and deduce what they just blah blahed to you. Of course you have to be quick or you'll lose them. It's worked for 3 days now! But again I digress...
It was only 1pm and I had just ordered and was perusing my guide book when I thought..."what the heck I'll check facebook" To my surprise I saw that my friend Ana was going to be in the center of Paris at 3. Whoda thunk!" Doable I thought. So I ate, paid and headed out to find the city center via Cimetière Père-Lachaise.
A quiet wonderful tranquil easter egg kinda place. You are surrounded by beautiful tombs and crypts and the place is full of trees and feral cats...oh and it's immense. It's easter eggish in that you never know what you are going to run into and if you are looking for something specific give it up. I wanted to see Edith Piaf's tomb and a couple others. I figured I could breeze by them on the way to meet Ana. Tranquility was not to be had as today was "lets limb up all these bushes and trees" day and the chainsaws were going full tilt in the area I was going Easter egg hunting. I poked around as long as I could with the din of metal chain on wood and 3stroke exhaust, never found the tombs I was looking for and realized a deficiency in my guide - no metro stops on the map. Damn you DK publishing! I did run into a couple interesting things...
Ever wonder what happens when you swallow seeds? They grow out of you later!
Using some deduction I actually ended up exiting close to the metro stop I wanted and made it to the rendezvous point.
After coffee Ana and I then walked the Seine and saw some of the sights. It was a lovely sunny afternoon.
Wednesday I was scheduled to have lunch with Alex so I though I'd pop over to an area we have never explored before I met him. Jardin des Plantes. Saw the remains of an old arena there arènes de Lutèce and stumbled on the Museum of Natural history. Didn't go in but the surrounds were great.
Lunch with Alex was great. Went to a place that specializes in making food with cheese and paring them with wine. It was delightful and we caught up on each others lives.
Okay..more happened that day but I'm done for now.