Au revoir

deep thoughts

In a few short hours I will be on a plane to Singapore. The other side of the world. Odd that here I’ve observed sober Parisian men peeing in the street seemingly just because they can, but in my next locale you would be imprisoned or possibly caned for such an offense. I also threw out my gum, so I wouldn’t even be tempted to chew it…expecting lots of culture shock.

So what have I learned thus far while on my journey?

There are beautiful people everywhere. Don’t limit your supply by staying put. The world is a big place.

I hate lines. Lines are a waste of everyone’s time. It’s 2014. Someone figure out a way to rid the world of lines forever.

Other languages are cool and I’d like to learn more of them.

Live life without a car. Get rid of your car right now. It’s a dangerous, pollution-causing inconvenience.

You seriously only need 4 tops, 4 bottoms, 2 dresses, 1 sweater, and 3 shoes to travel anywhere for 5 to infinity days. Quote me on that next time I try to pack a suitcase.

Tinder works in Paris and it’s just as hilarious. Haha!

I will be back once I buy a leather jacket and learn to say more than three things.

These women are impossibly skinny. I’m considering taking up cigarettes for breakfast and dinner.

I was so confused when I asked friends familiar with Paris for restaurant recommendations. No one jumped to a specific place that I absolutely had to try. I found out the reason is that France seems to have a baseline MO of “don’t serve shitty food.” With that as a starting point, really every place is good. The culture obviously takes more pride in food preparation and presentation than the good ol US of A. It must be so depressing for French people to visit and/or live in the states. I’ve had great restaurant experiences in the US, and I love to cook my own food, but I’d have to say overall I’ve probably had more mediocre to poor meals than superb. Which is so sad considering we are a country built on an agricultural tradition (even if it’s now an industry in corrupted shambles). *gets off soap box, drinks gallon of high fructose corn syrup*

Traveling alone is great, except when the trendy wine bar you’re in keeps playing Nora Jones. Don’t get me wrong, beautiful music, but with her it’s either you are WITH your one true love or you just LOST your one true love. I guess we always are in either one of those two categories but JESUS, Nora, lay off me. I’m in a weird place, OK? A place where drinking a bottle of Brut alone at 8 pm seems perfectly reasonable. Let’s not make it more sad than it is. #nojudgement #eatdrinkeat

Overall, great city, great trip. Will be back. Au revoir, Paris.

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Day 4

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Outfit: No picture, so instead envision yoga capris, Merrel sandals, and a long tank top. Not trendy, but functional when sitting on this sweet ride all day:

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Activities: Met up with Fat Tire Bike Tours at 9 am. We gather, walk to train station and traverse 30 minutes to the town of Versailles. Our guide, Ben, is Australian and about my age. He moved to France a year ago to be with his girlfriend. Le sigh. The rest of the 20 person group is all Americans and this is the first time I’ve been in close, constant proximity to Americans in about 5 days. While hearing and understanding the language is nice, I came to realize just how insufferable we are as a people. Like, we are the worst. Americans. Don’t. Stop. Complaining. But, it’s interesting. It’s always in a passive aggressive tone. More like a statement than a request or plea, but there is a entitled tinge of “What are you going to do to fix it for me?” behind every comment. As if the recipient of the comment is supposed to give a fuck.

“God, that sun is hot.”
“Jeez, these bikes are really heavy”
“Man, that wind is chilly.”
“Gosh, my seat still won’t go down.”

I was the only solo traveler in the group and I swear it was at least 2 hours into the tour before anyone spoke to me. Being silent goes so against my nature, but it was nice to not have to put any effort into a social interaction. I just observed.

There was a mother and daughter from Seattle – mom overly talkative, daughter a shy 17 probably. There was a family – mom, dad,1 boy, 2 girls, all under 17 – they kept making fun of the boy because the bike he got was called “rainbow sprinkles” (all the bikes had names) and so he was obviously super gay for riding it. I wanted to punch them all at various moments throughout the day. There was another grandmother, mom, daughter trifecta from California – very chill, I hung out with them for most of the day. The others were largely forgettable.

Tour itself was great. I highly recommend this company. We stopped at the markets in Versailles to get picnic privsions, then rode through some of the grounds, toured Marie Antoinette’s peasant village (where she hung out when she wanted to take a vacation from being Queen), and then the Chateau itself. Incredible. Louis 14-16 spent something like the equivalent of 8 billion Euro back in the 1700s to build the thing. It is opulent to say the least.

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Day 3

daily

Outfit: More stripes! Someone get me a baguette.

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Activities: See Art post for most of my day. Latter half involved getting sunburned (weather here has been fabulous) and walking through Notre Dame. Other than the gypsies being out of control, the site is pretty amazing (and free). I also bought wine from a shop in my arrondissement and some cheese from the local fromager. Life is good. Tonight might involve dinner at a local wine bar and/or another try for the Arc Du Triomphe. We’ll see.

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Art

art

Went to Musee D’Orsay today to get a taste of art.
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I chose D’Orsay because it is much smaller than the Lourve, thus catering to my distaste for crowds and short museum attention span. Once I walk through the door, I am good for about an hour and a half, tops. Then, it’s meltdown city. D’Orsay also focuses on Impressionist art, which is kind of my jam.

However, it’s Tuesday. And on Tuesdays in Paris, all other art museums are closed. So where do the masses go? D’Orsay. I exit the metro to enter another giant line. Tres bien.

Three woman get in line behind me, speaking in unaccented English. I figure we’re all going to be here a while, so I turn around and ask where they are from? New Hampshire. You have got to be kidding me.

We start squawking like chickens at this small world revelation and shoot the shit about Hampton Beach and Manchvegas. They are a 17-yr old daughter, her mom, and then her mom. Three generations on a trip through Germany, Paris, and Spain to visit family. The mom and grandmother both taught Spanish at…UNH. Is this real life? I mentioned I minored in Spanish there and studied abroad in Chile. No shit? The grandmother is Chilean and grew up in Vina del Mar. Stop it. The squawking intensifies.

Into the museum I go and straight to my main men. A few observations:

1) Monet’s Chrysanthemums > Waterlilies.
2) Degas really cornered that tutu market.
3) Nothing makes a woman feel more positive about her body than viewing some of Renoir’s nudes. The woman are beautifully painted in all their fleshy glory. He also depicts breast feeding quite a bit in his work, like it’s normal, or something. Homeboy was a feminist.
4) Sculpture mystifies me in the same way airplanes do. How do they do it!? This museum has some amazing pieces. My favorite was a wall mounted panel showing huge eagles attacking three men. One eagle is dead with an arrow through it’s chest, but another eagle is poised above to peck some eyes out. One of the men, however, is screaming and winding up a serious rock to smash in the eagle’s head while another is cueing up his bow. It kind of portrayed how I feel when fending off seagulls at Hampton Beach.
5) No cameras allowed. Including iPhones. I snapped two pix before I was scolded.

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That’s Renoir’s portrait of Monet. Theirs is the first known “bromance.”

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Degas’ bronze ballerina.

All in all, great visit. I start getting hangry at 1 hour, 31 minutes, so I grabbed a sandwich at Paul (MB with the second shout out!) Ate on the lawn of the Lourve and then found a café to sip some wine. I could get used to this.

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Day 2

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Outfit: stripes and a hat? Who do I think I am?

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Activities: Head to a recommended bakery for a pain du chocolat. Walk down to Places de Vogues, a nearby park, to take in some fountains and sunshine as I enjoy my breakfast.

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Meet up with Culturefish, a free walking tour (shout out Mary Beth for the recommendation! Pierre says hello!) and proceed to learn more about French history and Napoleon than I ever thought possible. Seems like we should hear more about the French in US classrooms considering they bankrupted their own country to fund our revolution and then went on to chop everyone’s heads off. And Napoleon was a boss. But everything’s cool now. They have a female mayor in Paris and people really are eating delicious cake.

Make a Brazilian friend on the tour named Karina (25, works for Reuters in Buenos Aires, is taking a month-long European vacation because, well, just because…what the what? I thought I was lucky to get 11 days free. The US needs to chill.) We head to Montmartre for lunch at Le Relais Gascon and check out the Sacre Couer. Beautiful, as expected, and I get shushed inside when I sneeze, so you know they don’t mess around. We head to the Arc Du Triomphe only to be greeted by a piece of paper taped to the ticket booth stating the attraction is closed for no particular reason. #france. Oh well. I am sweaty and exhausted, so I go back to my apartment to nap/shower.

Wake up around 9 pm (sun is still up!) to get down to my evening boat cruise on the Seine. The Eiffel Tower is all dolled up in lights and looks like a movie. I am enamored. Pass all the beautiful buildings, house boats, and couples along the Seine in the passionate throes of make out sessions. These people just do not give a f#*% about you watching or even standing directly next to their very intimate shovel twirling (literal French translation of “French kissing”). Gotta respect that.

More pictures to come, WordPress being finicky.

The Food

food

You might be asking yourselves, “Kaitlyn, you are in France, land of foie gras, fromage, vin. What have you been eating!?” And to that I would say, wellllll…

My first meal here was fish and chips. I know. I’m ashamed as well. I panicked! Like I wrote before, ordering food in a country where you don’t speak the language is awkward and embarrassing. So, I stuck with what I knew. Can’t take the New England out of the girl, I guess?

That being said, I did eat my (delicious) fish and chips with a glass of rosé in a cute market next to my apartment – Le Marche de Enfantes Rouge. It was from a stall in the market. There were lots of Parisians eating there as well, so I figured I wasn’t too off the mark.

I tried to redeem myself with meal 2, but my shameful American-ness continued to impede my dining and/or friend-making experience. For this meal, I chose the café across the street. I hadn’t quite gasped the – just sit down in an open seat – idea, yet I have no French words to ask to be seated (silver lining: this whole experience made me realize how much I can say in Spanish). So, I mumble through an exchange with the waiter who begrudgingly seats me at a table set for two. So sad. However, my plan is to turn it all around with a carafe of wine and the beef tartare. In the states, I love tartare, but it’s normally a tiny portion and quite expensive. This seems reasonably priced, so I go for it.

Haw,” the waiter says to me. “Pardon?” I say in a Spanish accent. “Dis is haw. No cooked” Right, he thinks I think I am at MacDonald’s. “Oui. Je comprend,” I say, not confident at all that I just said something remotely French. He looks annoyed? I smile like a moron.

Wine and tartare come, both delicious. Place fills up and I am largely ignored by all in my close vicinity. I only hear French though, so again a good sign that I’m not sitting in a tourist trap. Woman next to me also orders tartare. She eats it all which makes me feel better about the chances of my gastrointestinal system’s handling of my food choice. I pay, leave, sleep.

Morning comes and meal 3 is un cafe et pain du chocolat. Solid. Meal 4 is a salade dentente in Montmartre (shout out Virginie for the recommendation!). I would never have put thin-sliced pan-fried  garlic potatoes on top of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, smoked salmon, and olives with some cream dressing, but I’m glad someone did. Tres bien. Various macaroons, crepes with nutella, and jambon et fromage paninis later, I am full and in bed writing with a glass of wine.

Still on my list is some good onion soup, a steak with some cheese on it, croque madame, more macaroons, and some radishes. Priorities, people.

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So far

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Amazing things I’ve learned about Paris so far…

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The sun says out until at least 10 pm. DANGER.

The sound of the metro turnstiles when people walk through them is the same as the sound of dinner plates hitting each other as they are collected from a table. Makes me so so hungry.

Not knowing French makes feeding yourself embarrassing and hard. French people are like “yeah whatever” to those who don’t have the basics. I totally don’t blame them.

I keep forgetting to tip, which makes me a horrible person.

Sorry every healthy person in the world, but smoking looks super hot when Parisians do it. And I never want them to stop. #truth

The metro is genius. Half circle over lapping half circle equals efficient and functional public transportation.

Strikes are just part of the deal. Um, OK, I guess.

There are way more head scarves here than I have every been exposed to ever. I have never seen so much covered lady. Just an observation.

The people are really and truly nice. Like, way nicer than anyone I’ve ever met in Boston. 

Day 1

daily

Outfit: casual but cool. I swear. I’m wearing a scarf!!

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Activities: Make way from CDG to Paris in the midst of a train workers strike. Actually, worked out wonderfully. Though the flight was 2 hours late, I got my bag and on the train all within 30 minutes of de-boarding. Not too shabby. Wind up at apartment by 1:30 pm. Thank Jesus that the guy that answers the door looks exactly the same as the online picture I rented from. Speaks perfect English. Apartment is pristine. Game on. Take reviving shower (maybe slept two hours on flight) and hop to exploring Le Marais. Such a great area! Restaurants, shops, cute old buildings. And one Sundays they close most streets to cars so PEDs and bikers can roam freely. Somehow get over to Eiffel Tower. What a wonderful shit show. People everywhere laying out on the grass surrounding the tower and then lines for days to get into the actual thing. No, thanks. I buy a single Heineken from the Algerian guy in the street and post up on a bench to listen to some music and take in the sights. Weather could not be better. At some point, make my way back to apartment and  on my walk from the metro stop I pass Sway. You know, “What up, world” MTV Sway. Guess he’s hanging in Le Marais too. I have so many more thoughts to share, but my eyes are fighting gravity. So far, everything about this city has me falling in love with it, so get ready for those save the dates.

Land of the Lines

here to there

Thought I was being laid-back and cool by giving myself just 2.5 hours at the airport pre-flight instead of the requisite 3 for international flights. Wrong. All my anxieties were realized as I stepped into terminal E and a huge, gigantic, mega line.

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Now, I had already checked in online, but silly me, had also planned to check one small bag. Almost an hour later and with maybe 2 feet of forward movement, I’m thinking I’m not going to make the 9 pm bag check cutoff for my 10 pm flight. I ask my line mates what flights they are on. Some on mine, some on a 10:50 pm flight. Somebody makes the “guess if you don’t make your flight, I won’t make mine either” solidarity joke. Not an option buddy.

Panic sets in – Should I ditch all the full size liquids in my checked bag and just sprint to security with both? Do I just ditch my whole suitcase and go with the clothes on my back across the globe? Do I just turn around and go back to Somerville?

Instead, I decide to flag a gentlemanly Air France rep and flash my radiant smile as if my palms aren’t sweating, “Excuse me, sir, I am on flight 333.” Magic words. “Oh you are? Come with me, I’ll escort you to the desk.” Later, suckers! I can’t bring myself to look back at my line mates. I am free!

Check in takes all of 2 minutes. Air France, seriously?

Once through security, I mosey over to the wine bar. I need a drink. It’s mobbed, but I spot a solitary seat at the bar. Perfect for the solo traveler. I weave through the diners and politely ask the woman next to the seat if it is free. “Umm there’s a waiting list. The line’s over there.” Of course there is.

I find a seat by the gate, pop my Ativan, and commence the people watching. This is going to be an interesting trip.