Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Jen's European Adventure: Climbing 1665 Stairs, A Mystery Lunch, and My Love Affair with a Pastry

I am determined to get this next out post before another month passes.  And it's only been 2 weeks!  Good job, Jen.

So where are we?

That's right, Paris.

The next morning, we get up and take showers at the campsite bathrooms.  It was the worst shower I have ever had.  In my entire life (and little did I know it would be worse in Rome...).  The showers would go from freezing cold to burning hot and back again in a matter of seconds, there were massive spiders hanging out above the showers, just waiting to drop down and lay eggs in your hair, and you had to keep pushing a button for the water to come out.  So basically, you had to wash your hair and body with one hand because your other hand was occupied the entire time with pushing the stupid button.

But I at least had remembered to pack a towel.  Josh and Ben both had to dry off with their t-shirts.

This is also when Josh discovered how horrible Kera hair product is.  It was a clear goop that basically just glued Josh's hair to his head.  Like, literally glued.

After we were all showered and ready, we walked to the train station, and had NO idea which train to take. It was super stressful trying to figure out what the crap we were doing and where we were supposed to go, but eventually, we figure it out.

When we got out of the train station, we started walking up the street, and this appeared out of nowhere:

 It was one of those "Oh my gosh, I can't believe I'm actually here" sort of moments of the trip.  That's the Eiffel Tower.  Right in front of us.  It was so cool.

There was a humongo line for the lifts to go to the top, not to mention it was 15 euro.  At the other end of the tower, there was no line, and a 5 euro fee to climb up the steps.  Can you guess which one we went for?

By the time we reached the top, my only comment was "I'm never going to climb another step in my life."

But it was worth it, being able to say that I've done it.

And I'm pretty sure my legs are still toned from that exercise.

After the tower, we walked past a cute little food cart on the side of the road, so of course, we had to stop and buy some crepes.  It was a surreal experience, eating a crepe with the Eiffel Tower right behind me.

Our next stop was the Arc Du Triomphe. 

This is where we realized we needed more pictures of the 3 of us together, but not trusting anyone with our camera, started the saga of the 3 headed pictures with a famous landmark in the background.

 We, of course, wanted to go underneath it, but crossing the street is suicide, so you have to get there by going on underground stairs.  We have no idea where they are, so we start just going in the same direction as other big groups of people.  We found a set of stairs that lead underground.  When we finally got underground, we still had no idea which direction to go, so Ben asked some tour guide guy, and he directed us in the right way.  We follow his directions, and find some stairs that lead back up...

...and we end up exactly where we started.  Um, what?  Then we look to our left, and there are the stairs, probably 20 feet away from where we took the picture.  

Oh geez.

 The next part of the trip is, in Josh's words, "the effing long walk to the Paris Opera House".  We walked down the Champs-Élysées and it's true, it was an effing long walk.  But, on the plus side, we got to cross lots of streets.  What's so cool about that, you ask?  Well, the walk/don't walk lights in Paris are a lot cooler than ours.  Because instead of the don't walk sign being some silly hand, it's a "sassy man" as Josh and I nicknamed him.  He was sweet.

After what seemed like ages, we found the Opera House (cue another 3 headed shot):

And set off for lunch.  We passed a lot of yummy looking food stands, offering hot paninis and cold drinks for only 5 euro, but Ben had researched this restaurant, and so we let him lead us there.

When we got there, we looked at the menu outside of the restaurant, and guess what?  It was all in French.  Go figure.  We couldn't read a word of it.  We decided that since we had walked all the way there, we might as well go in, and maybe our waitress would speak English and help us out.  We get seated, and guess what?  Our waitress DOESN'T speak English.  So we order some water (we learned our lesson with McDonald's and found out the word for water in French:  l'oh), and take a look at the menu to see if we can decipher anything.  We find an entree called "poulette", which looks like poultry, so we figured it was chicken.  We also saw an appetizer called "salade de concombre et tomate", which we translated to "cucumber and tomato salad".  We all three ordered the same thing, and placed our orders, hoping we didn't order horse meat.

Our waitress brings out our food, and it ended up being a big hunk of chicken on the bone, french fries, and the salad was tomatoes and cucumbers in a delicious vinaigrette sauce.  The salad was super delicious, but the chicken was dry and there wasn't a lot of flavoring to it.  There was a small pot of mustard in the middle of our table, so I used that to try and make the chicken a little more palatable   And their mustard tastes like horse radish, so it was an interesting lunch, but it was an experience.  And the restaurant was super cool inside, so I don't regret going one bit.

Then we made our way to Sainte-Chapelle.  It's a medieval Gothic chapel, and they are in the middle of restoring all of the stained glass, and it was absolutely gorgeous.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  We stood in line to pay for a ticket, and I always got a little nervous paying for things over there, just because I couldn't speak their language, and there's always the off-chance that my card will be declined.  So I go up to the payment window, and an attractive Frenchman was sitting behind the glass.  I say "bonjour" (in a total American accent, I'm sure) and ask for one ticket.  He smiles, and tells me how much it is, and I hand him my card through the window slot, but then he points to the card machine that is right in front of me, so I make some comment about how I should have noticed it right in front of me, and he smiles and laughs (what can I say, I'm a charmer).  Then he gives me my ticket with a charming smile, and we part.  I catch up with Ben and Josh, and I don't remember how the conversation got brought up, but the fact that I thought the French guy was cute came around, and Josh asked me what his name is.  I realized with horror that I didn't think of checking his name tag in the few moments of staring into each other's eyes.  So we affectionately came up with the name "French Phil".

(Josh believes that French Phil stole his credit card information... but French Phil would never do that!)

So it was about this time that the boys'... ahem problem... came to light.  In other words, they were chaffing.  To no end.  So we basically needed to get home asap.  But we still had a few essential Parisian sights to see, so the boys suffered through it.  We headed to Notre Dame next, and that was so cool to see in real life.  Not to mention it was free.  So ya, that rocked.  

Josh had already seen Notre Dame, so he didn't go inside, but just sat out in front of it.  Ben and I went inside, and the detail and intricacy of Notre Dame were amazing, and it was just as cool inside.

When we came out, we found Josh drooling on himself, literally, and then we decided we wanted to find a bakery.  Because if you go to Paris, you have to go to a bakery, right?  We had no idea where one was, and we were wandering around aimlessly, which wasn't doing anyone any good.  Our feet were sore from walking a bazillion miles to the Paris Opera House, and the boys' chaffing wasn't getting any better.  We ended up stopping at a food cart across from Notre Dame, and we got croque monsieur sandwiches instead of a pastry.  We were told we needed to get them by the Waby's, and at first I was not impressed, but once you got to the middle, that's where the deliciousness kicked in.

After finishing our sandwiches, we discovered the best thing yet.  A drinking fountain.

I know, I know, you guys are saying, "A drinking fountain?  You just visited Notre Freaking Dame!"  

Yes, but Europe does not have drinking fountains.  And so we had to carry around honkin' bottles that we bought at Carrefour, which were empty by now.  So we took in that precious water like we were lost in the Sahara for 6 months.  It was heaven on earth, I tell you.

After getting our fill of water (we went through the line twice), we made our way to the Musee D'Orsay.  The Louvre was closed the day we were in Paris, and we had to go to an art museum, so this was the next best one. There were some pretty amazing art pieces in there, like Monet's water lilies painting, and there was a whole display on Van Gogh, with his self-portrait.  But after seeing the few art pieces I actually recognized, Josh and I found a spot to sit down, and it was heavenly.  Ben came back from looking at the other displays way too early.

After the Musee D'Orsay, we walked past the Louvre and took a picture in front of the famous pyramid. 

It was finally time to head back to our campsite, and we were all a little bummed that we didn't find a bakery.  After we got off the train, we walked back toward our campsite, and what do you know, but there was a bakery on the road back!  And it was still open!  And it was so cute!  So of course we went inside.  It was tiny, with glass shelves full of scrumptious looking pastries.

Josh ended up getting flan, Ben got a chocolate dessert with a label in front of it saying "meringue" (more story to follow on this), and I got a macaron, because I had heard those are what you're supposed to get in France.

We paid for our purchases from this cute little French lady, and she put our desserts in a cute little box tied in a ribbon.  I about died.  It was so cute!  So of course, I had to get a picture. 

We walked back to our campsite, and I played "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast on my iPod on the way back, just because it felt right.  Then we started eating our pastries.  This is me a few seconds before I began my love affair with macarons:

Seriously, this was one of the best things that I have ever eaten.  It was like eating a chocolate cloud of deliciousness.  If my feet weren't feeling like they were about to fall off I would have gone back to the bakery and bought 5 more.  Mmm-mmm.

We asked Ben how his dessert was.  When he bit into it, it was full of white filling (meringue) and Ben said, "It's good, I just didn't know it was going to be meringue."

We were a little confused.  "Ben," we said, "but it said meringue right on the label at the bakery.  How could you not know?"

He claimed he thought it was French for something else... oh well.  I'm sure it was delicious.

Well everyone, that's Paris for you.  Join me next time when we discuss becoming prisoners in our campsite, Ben's birthday he'd probably rather forget, and the joys (and heat) of Rome.

Au Revoir!

1 comment:

  1. I laughed out loud several times. Thank you, Jen! I feel like I was with you!