Paris – Third Time’s a Charm….

They say that the third time’s a charm. After toodling around Paris alone the prior two trips I told myself that I wouldn’t go back unless it was with someone to share the City of Light with – it’s just way too romantic a place – a least to me. I know it is unbelievably cliche but I love Paris. I am on a train heading down to Spain with my Beloved after a lovely week in Paris. Suffice to say – there just wasn’t much time to blog given I haven’t seen this man for a couple of months. Priorities, priorities…. So, having torn myself away for a bit – here are a few experiences and observations that come to mind to share.

Ok, I may not have seen every con game there is but I’m pretty savvy when it comes to people attempting to take advantage of me. Thus far into this trip – other than the occasional aggressive beggar – I haven’t had anyone try to pick my pockets, grab my bag or snatch my computer out of my lap (this did happen to a friend while in Barcelona. Yep, right out of her lap by a guy on a motorcycle. Insult to injury – it was brand new as well). Well….first day in Paris…. I got taken TWICE. I am wondering – can I heap some of the shame on my Darling since he was there too? Really only one and a half times – I managed to get out the first one without loss of euros having caught on that the woman who was collecting signatures for a “charity of some kind” was really collecting for herself. Beware of that one!

All I can say about the second encounter is that we are still laughing and shaking our heads a week later. It was good – we give them that. Stop reading if you’ve experienced this yourself…. Ok, we are strolling down the Seine after a wonderful day – chatting about what next, how nice the day was, what’s for dinner, wow I can’t believe you’re really here, etc, etc. – and Suddenly a woman is bending down in front of us picking up a gold band. She held it up – exclaimed “WOW!” and asked us if we thought it was real gold and held it out to us. We squinted at the inside of the band and it seemed to say 18c – told her as much and handed it back to her. Now at this point I should have gotten a little suspicious – she shrugged and gave it back to us saying “you should keep it as a gift from Paris.” And she walked away. Now she looked perfectly normal, nicely dressed (I’m trying to make myself feel better – can you tell?) As Will and I are looking at each other – smiling and thinking we just had a happy little accident  and how great the universe is blah blah blah – the woman came back to us (ok, should have really been suspicious but hey – we were in a little bubble – as we were expected to be in this little confidence game…) She asked for money – just a little bit to help out. Well of course, she just gave us a gift (God, this is painful to write – I can see all the places we should have seen what was coming) I gave her a fiver and she looked like I was the biggest cheapskate on the planet but off she went. We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and headed to Musee D’Orsay.

Will and I are pretty smart people and we were playing this little interlude over between us and getting suspicious….finally. Even though the ring was heavy and had the carat stamp on the inside – we were coming to the conclusion that we may have indeed been rooked. As we were pretty much deciding that it was a distinct possibility – another woman was bending down in front of us picking up the carbon copy twin of our ring and holding it out to us with the EXACT script her crime twin used on us not a half hour earlier. We looked at each other – looked at her – and I held out my ring and said “already been there”. She pointed at a me with two fingers and headed in the opposite direction – quickly! I’m sure everyone else is going to be way too smart to fall for this one – just have a good laugh at our expense! Consider it our gift to you – from Paris.

What is it about the French Catholics that they want to preserve the bones – literally – of their religious MVPs?? It was truly creepy to look into a highly decorated glass fronted box and see bones, pieces of bones, even decorated. There were statues that had tiny lockets in their chests that displayed some piece of the honoree. I’m clear I don’t want to know what kind of pieces…

Here’s an interesting statue that was in the crypt of Sacre Cour- what do you think the symbolism means with a bishop carrying his own head?? Apparently it’s a saint who just simply refused to die when his head was chopped off. Legend has it he carried all the way back to his home town.

If you put together all the claimed relics of the Crucifixion you could build at least 500 crosses, numerous crowns of thorns and countless shrouds. Paris has its own claim as well. Saint Chappelle originally held them – the trade from some European big wig to Louis the 15th for cash – their version of a bailout funding. Now housed in the Notre Dame treasury – we paid the extra 4 euros but I’m not sure we actually saw them. You’d think they’d be clearly marked as a point of pride but they’re probably squirreled away somewhere to keep them safe. The other relics are worth a view – even more ‘saint parts’.

Did you know that the bell in Notre Dame was actually baptized and named “Emmanuel”. That’ll give you a leg up in your next Trivial Pursuit game.

Why all the gargoyles? And why decorate a religious edifice- that is supposed to make people feel good, safe in the arms of god – with ugly, menacing and evil looking creatures? Fire and brimstone?  Strike the fear of god in the parishioners as another means of controlling the masses?  Plain downspouts are boring?   Did I mention I was a recovering catholic?

Some things never change – men with their backs to the public while urinating in… public. Smoking may be forbidden inside an establishment – it doesn’t seem to have made a dent in the number of people that smoke.  Nor does there seem to be any encouragement to pick up your dog’s doodoo. So, a stroll in Paris still means spending some amount of time watching your step, averting your eyes and holding your breath…

A word that describes Paris? Fashion… It’s hard for me to be here at the tail end of three months of traveling having worn the same clothes over and over and over. Same sensible shoes. I’m a fairly self confident person that doesn’t feel the need to keep up with the Jones but it only took a few hours in Paris to make me feel like the White Trash Spinster Second Cousin. All those perfectly coiffed, starved to perfection, fashion forward Parisienne women gliding effortlessly across uneven cobblestone streets in impossibly high heels while I am turning my ankles in my sensible flat soled Naots. In fact – the only real purchase I made was in Paris was a fabulous coat. I noticed I even matched a tree – wonderful.

Because we rented an apartment and food in Paris is so expensive – I headed out our first day in search of a grocery store in the neighborhood to stock up. Can’t be too hard, right? OMG – I must have walked for at least an hour not finding a single store that sold anything other than high end chocolate and bread. Muttering to myself that I now know why the women of Paris are so thin – who wouldn’t be after a marathon – I soldiered on. Of course, AFTER finally finding a fruit stand and a 7-11 equivalent at what seemed a million miles from our place – I discovered that the French version of a supermarket was only about 2 blocks away. Another little ethnocentric slam – just because there are stores and Starbucks on every street corner at home….. And worse – I’ve been here before!

Speaking of shopping – a line outside Louis Vuitton complete with a rope gate and bouncer facsimile ……really? We kept looking back shaking our heads in disbelief. That takes the term ‘shopaholic’ to a whole new level.

Ladies – if you’ve drug your guy to the Champs Elysees – have a heart and give them equal time in the fancy car showrooms and the other ‘go fast’ big boy toy stores. They might even spring for a Louis V clutch – but don’t expect them to wait in the line….

 

 

I didn’t know that Rodin’s Thinking Man really started out as a little guy who was contemplating Dante’s hell below in the fabulous “Gates of Hell” sculpture. What an incredible piece! The Three Shades was an interesting take on the idea of perspective. Then there was the serene lovely pond with the statue of the man about to eat his children resting in the center. Interesting juxaposition – I thought he was playing with them at first…..

 

 

 

We spent a lot of time in the Armory which houses a progression of materials and tools of war over 500+ years. It was a little disconcerting to note that all the amazingly beautiful detail, artistry and craftsmanship were focused on pieces who’s sole purpose was to kill someone or protect from being killed. One interesting comparison was the steel used for European weapons was rough and seemed appropriately ancient while the Japanese swords displayed looked absolutely brand new and they were about 300 years old.  They were ahead of us even then….

26 euros for two french coffees? Really?????     …….Really.

I could go on and on with the stories and there are plenty but as I have said before – a blog post by definition isn’t a book. That being said – I finally had my wish and it only took 11 years. To stroll the streets of Paris arm in arm with my Beloved and share my most favorite city. Being a lone traveler does have it’s advantages at times but when it comes to romance – in my humble opinion – you just can’t possibly enjoy that solo…….

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