Monday, January 19, 2009

Europe Trip Journal Part 4


A little more souvenir shopping in the morning, then got on the 1:00 p.m. train back to London. Shoaib met us at the station near his parents' place in Worthamstow (suburb of London). Spent the evening w/ Shoaib and his brother Mo and sister-in-law Asna and sister Meriam (sp?). Shoaib cooked chicken satay and a bunch of sauces and chutneys - delicious. Played poker and roulette, and shot off New Years fireworks in the small, enclosed back yard at midnight. Fireworks went horribly wrong and began firing sideways, towards us, and we had to duck for cover in the garage - quite scary and I feared for my life but in hindsight it was a lot of fun. Also released a large Chinese lantern - like a hot-air balloon.

It went straight up 20 feet, and then took off extremely fast over the roof so we tore through the house to the front steps to watch it ascend - looked like a bright star and finally disappeared after 5 min or so. Much less frightening than the fireworks.

Shoaib cooked us breakfast. Took 1:10 p.m. train for Paris. Have to look up train speed - too fast, in my opinion. (According to the Internets, top speed of 186 mph. I was right. Too fast. Somehow it just doesn't feel right to be going that fast, so close to the ground. The scenery shoots by and it's almost a chore to look out the window. But I guess if you want to get from London to Paris in a little over two hours, you'll want to go that fast.)

Arrived in Paris approx 4:45 (Paris one hr later time zone than London) and stood in line to buy Metro tickets. This is where we had our worst memory of the trip: a woman fell down the stairs next to the ticket office, screaming, her stuff flying everywhere, was really frightening. People nearby helped her and police arrived in less than a minute. She seemed to be okay, just really angry; I couldn't tell for sure because she was speaking French, but she seemed to be saying someone tripped her, and another woman had a bloody nose, apparently because she got hit by the woman as she fell down the stairs. Not a nice welcome to Paris and it put me in a shady mood for a while, which made it difficult to navigate around, on top of the language and culture barriers. But things got much better after that, and really it was probably a much worse experience for the lady that fell down the stairs than it was for us.

Made it to hotel, Metro system kind of confusing since we never used our ticket, but prob. b/c New Years Day so not charging for rides. Receptionist at hotel desk is from New York, has lived in Paris 20 years, but I spoke French to her anyway. :) She insisted on speaking English. Dinner at a creperie - I had a foie gras and caramel pear crepe; Jason had fruits de mer - tres delicieuse. Credit card denied! I used horrible French and hand guestures to tell annoyed waitress that I would wait at the table while Stanley went to ATM.

General issues at beginning of time in Paris figuring out how best not to annoy people. I slowly realized that they prefer than I not speak more than necessary - just keep it to bonjour, au revoir, s'il vous plait, merci, and don't ask questions unless you really need the answer; don't waste their time. So I could have gotten by with only one year of French in high school.

Walked into what must be a tourist trap cafe and paid 10 euros each for a cup of coffee and some toast and jam (they were out of croissants!!?!). Took Metro to Notre Dame.

(I call this photo "The Unorthodox Evolution of Stanley".)

Really great stained glass in this church.

Walked around shopping and getting a feel for everything, and found a Starbucks, which we would have rather skipped for culture's sake, but we really needed a normal amount of coffee in a paper cup. I snapped a photo of Stanley entering, which added to the embarrassment for me.

If you click on the image to zoom in, you'll see that everyone at Starbucks is smoking, except Stanley. If you could zoom in farther, you would be able to read the gentleman's lips as he says "Stupid American".

Walked to the Louvre museum - just the outside today...

... then through the Tuileries Gardens and down Champs Elysees (any shop you can imagine that is too expensive to bother entering) to Arc de Triomphe,

then through side streets to the Eiffel Tower!!

So pretty, definitely worth seeing. Plan to ascend tower another day - lines too long. (We never ended up ascending it; would have to wait for hours no matter what, and on the day we had considered doing it, it was closed due to snow.)

Went looking for a cafe or something for dinner and stumbled on rue Cler street market, which was on our to-do list. Bought quiches for tomorrow's breakfast, and pear tarts for tonight's dessert.


Went walking toward St Germain-des-Pres neighborhood and Musee Rodin but were distracted by street market that appeared near hotel. We bought ham and cheese crepes and tiny potoatoes sauteed in duck grease - magnifique. Set off for St Germain again and I was lured away from the route by tons of shopping opportunities. So I shopped and Stanley accompanied me for a while but eventually got bored and sait in a cafe, reading, until I was done (got a lot of great stuff at H & M and Zara; hope we don't need to buy more luggage), then I met him at the cafe and we had dinner there - Jason had a plate of cheeses and I had a salad w/ cured pork shoulder.

Computer may have gotten fried yesterday, which would mean going through some effort to retrieve our trip photos. (Turned out fine; not fried, just dead battery.)

More to come soon.

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