Monday, 28 September 2009

Bonjour from the City of Lights!!!!!!!


And a good evening to you from…well, actually…right here in sunny Charlotte!!!! That’s right, I’m HOME!!!! However, that will be a separate blog, as I want to give the C-L-T the respect it deserves. Instead, let’s focus on the weekend that just passed – mine and Jenny’s AMAZING 35 hour whirlwind tour of Paris – the City of Lights.

First off, we didn’t get in bed Friday night until MIDNIGHT, which made for an EARLY start for me and JT. Dude – I was DRAGGING when we woke up at FOUR IN THE MORNING…yeah, no cup of coffee could save me (although the Nero Mocha with a ham and cheese Panini gave a valiant effort). We got to St. Pancras International, got the stamp in our passport, and then crossed off another of life’s to-dos: we rode the Eurostar.

Okay, first things first – the Eurostar terminal is AWESOME, and the ease of getting on that train and getting settled is WONDERFUL.: assigned seats, plenty of room, and a smooth ride. However, it was NOT the most comfortable for sleeping, and I tried in vain for 2.5 hours before hearing the announcement: Boujour a Garde du Nord (Paris North Train Station).

And so, at 9:47, we were off and on our way. First stop was to pick up the “Paris Visite” ticket, which basically enables you to ride all the metros, trams, trains, buses, and even their version of the Donkey Light Rail (Matt – that’s for you – I said “Donkey Light Rail” about a million times this weekend, and oddly enough Muffin Puffin NEVER found it amusing), called the RER.

Next up was our uber-posh hotel, covered courtesy of some leftover Hilton points. This place was SWANK, and you could tell they weren’t used to cats just rolling in wearing “Life is Good” shirts with nothing but backpacks. All the same, 10 minutes later we were out the door for our first tourist attraction – The Arch de Triumphe.

So yeah, now’s a good time to mention that I don’t really SPEAK French. Actually, I can’t really pronounce or spell it either. That being said, pumpkin and I were valiant and did manage to string together a few phrases, courtesy of the Terrier herself, Sophie Dusoraux. Soph – some of my more classic moments I can tell you in person.

The most important French word I learned? Pression. What does it mean? Why, it’s means “ON DRAFT, BABY!!!!” Key phrase that I will take with me to all French speaking countries in the future: “Grimbergen au Pression? Oui, oui, merci!!!”

So the Arch was amazing – honestly, bigger than I remembered. Walking around it brought back tons of memories from the time that mom and I visited Paris together, and it was really wonderful to stand at the Arch and look at all the streets streaming away from it, with the Obelisk of Place de Concorde on one end and the Grand Arch (oddly enough, perhaps my favorite thing in Paris) at the other.

After that, it was down the Champs Elysses, where we stopped for a GREAT lunch of…wait for it…wait for it…3 kinds of cheese, 2 glasses of wine, and then a sandwich filled with cheese, topped with cheese, and then with a different cheese melted on top of it. I’ll go ahead and say it because you’re all thinking it – Sam and Jenny won’t use the bathroom for a month (I’m happy to inform you that you’re wrong, but I agree that we’re living dangerously close to the “Goat’s Cheese Threshold.”

After that it was Place de Concorde, complete with an obelisk from the Temple of Luxor. This was a big moment for JT and I, as we’ve now crossed off all 4 obelisks from Luxor (at least I think – need to confirm with the handwritten journal on that one first – it’s written in my hieroglyphics, so that’s appropriate at least).
Next up – Tullerie Gardens, complete with little kids sailing boats in a pond, weird “Jack the Pumpkin King Nightmare Before Christmas” style statues (I couldn’t help but think of the Love, Actually Line: “It’s not funny, it’s art,” as I shook my head”) and the Louvre. We didn’t go in this go around – we’re saving that for the NEXT trip.

We then walked the River Seine for a bit, crossing at Pont Neuf (that’s right – call me Jason Bourne: “Paris. Today. Pont Neuf. You come alone. You face to the west. You take your coat off. If I even suspect someone is with you, I’m gone.”) before going to another highlight of the trip – the Notre Dame.

Okay, there were queues EVERYWHERE, and the ND was NO exception. However, the line did move quickly, and you could wander wherever once you were in side. Again, memories came back as I looked at the two HUGE stained glass windows, one of the Old Testament and one for the New Testament. Also, there was an infant Baptism going on, which was neat to see.

After that, we rolled to Paris’ most famous monument – the Eiffel Tower. However, given that there was a TWO HOUR WAIT TO GET UP, we opted instead to take some great pictures of it, including crossing the river and taking photos. Whilst across the river, we stumbled upon this RANDOM skate park, filled with French thrashers. Muffin – if our kids tell us they want skateboards, I propose we lock them in their rooms – FOREVER. That stuff just LOOKS painful.

Next up was a drink in the footsteps of Earnest Hemingway – Le Duex Magots (Yep, that’s right – the place is called “The 2 Maggots” – catchy). Hemingway was a big drinker here, so I needed this moment. However, since prices have CLEARLY risen since Hemingway’s time, we couldn’t afford to eat there. Instead, we opted for the Tavern du St. Germain, where 3 Grimbergen (au pression, of course) and – you guessed – another cheese tray fed us dinner. Then it was to the hotel, where we absolutely PASSED OUT and slept 10 hours (gotta love those blackout curtains).

The next morning was a WHIRLWIND through Paris. We started the day with some GREAT crepes at the base of the Eiffel Tower. While the line was shorter today, the top floor was closed due to overcrowding. Given that, Perfect Pumpkin and I tackled another of life’s to-do list – we took the steps to the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower. I gotta tell ya – my calves are still KILLING me today. That being said, it was worth EVERY STEP. The view from level 2 was SPECTACULAR, perhaps even better than the top because of the haze and smog of the day. And mom, you'll recognize this photo – it’s looking down on the exact spot where you bought me an ice cream cone when we got our first view of the Eiffel Tower 17 years ago (hard to believe, right?).

It really was surreal being on the tower with Jenny. Such amazing views on such a perfect day, there with my wife – it was so truly amazing. What a month September has been!

After that, it was off to Les Invalides, where Napoleon is buried (thanks for the tip, Soph). This place was 8.50 Euro to get in, but I pulled off a great coup by asking (in French, for the record), if I could just buy a ticket for the tomb and not see the rest of the museums. They said no, but since I was standing RIGHT BESIDE THE TOMB when I asked them, I got to look at it for a solid minute while I fumbled through my French. Yes, Yes, Sean, I know – I am one SERIOUSLY cheap bastard.

After that, it was off to the Grand Arch, where we wandered around what JT and I consider the “Parisian Canary Wharf.” Don’t ask me why, but I LOVE the arch – such a cool concept.

After that, it was back to the train station, where JT and I had a final meal of…wanna guess? Wine and cheese, baby!!! And another Croque Monsieur (yep – the ridiculously cheese-filled and smothered sandwich) to wash it down with…I know what healthy is…
Although, it should be noted that, in the spirit of trying new things, I wanted to sample a French beer. Scanning down the menu, there was one beer I didn't recognize - "Monaco." Feeling daring, I ordered it, expecting a nice, light, continental lager. What did I get? I got a beer mixed WITH SPRITZER AND GRENADINE. The waiter told me "Is French Specialty!" I just shook my head. I've never wanted to yell "FREEDOM FRIES" so much in my entire life.

So that’s the trip in a nut shell - can't wait to go back!!!

That’s all the news that’s fit to print. Chat tomorrow (or later tonight if I can get today’s blog in!).


Sam and (from 4,008 miles away) Jenny

P.S. Fiona – in case you’re scoring – I did shave.

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