Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Paris, Toute Seule

Pete hasn't shown much interest in visiting Paris since we arrived in Luxembourg.  He's already been with his old job, and now with his new job.  When he envisions Paris, he thinks of his face pressed up against the window of the metro at rush-hour.  His idea of a romantic getaway is a warm, secluded beach somewhere, perhaps the Mediterranean.  

I certainly don't blame him.

But we're just two hours away, and it's been over a year since we moved here, and I'm learning French after all, and I still hadn't gone.  Frankly, we're not really able to get away for weekends together at the moment because we're leading the music at church every week.  I've been trying to arrange a girls' trip, which may still happen eventually, but I was tired of waiting on other people, or for the timing to be perfect.  

I had to just go for it!  By myself!

So when a sweet deal for TGV tickets (first class!) popped up a couple months ago, I snatched up one return ticket for a Saturday in August.  I arrived at the Gare de L'est at 8:50 am and left at 6:40pm.  I was back in plenty of time to be in the church band Sunday morning.

Since I only had a few hours to work with, I decided when I bought the ticket that my only goal would be to explore the city, mostly on foot, and get the lay of the land.  I wouldn't do much researching, planning, buying advance tickets, plotting my sight-seeing to the minute, standing in lines, fighting crowds, etc.  I didn't want to plan because I knew I'd have only returned from Oregon two days before.  So I'd just take a leisurely walk around Paris, and save the in-depth sightseeing for another time.

Okay, I'll admit that my lack of preparation made me panic a bit on Friday night, so I didn't sleep much and worried I'd be exhausted (which, of course, made me panic even more and sleep even less).  But it all turned out fine.  First of all, I lucked out with perfect weather.  On such a gorgeous August day, I was expecting the city to be much more crowded with tourists.  It was predictably empty of Parisians, of course.  Many streets I walked down were completely deserted.  Sure, there were large tourist lines and crowds at the big attractions, but I breezed blissfuly by them.  I took the bus and metro when my feet needed a break.  I practiced my French a few times with various workers behind various counters, and sometimes they didn't even switch to English!  And traveling alone afforded me the freedom to be as indecisive or inefficient as I pleased. 

I handed other tourists my old, cheap camera to take photos.  When they handed it back to see if the photo was okay, I'd just smile and nod when it was super crooked or lopped off the top of a building.  (And sometimes, if it was completely awful, I'd let them move on and wait for someone else to come by.  It makes you realize that in general, people are pretty crappy photographers.  Or perhaps they just take little pride in their work for strangers).  Anyway, here are a few...

Sacre Coeur (I walked here first, and I did go inside since it was free and not too busy yet)
L'Arc de Triomphe
Louvre + ugly fence
Eiffel Tower as hair accessory
Notre Dame
Notre Dame
What it says
These guys wanted to be in my picture when I asked one of their wives (?) to snap one.  They didn't take one with their own camera too, which I had assumed was their plan.  But I guess they got what they wanted - they are now extremely famous on the internet.
Anyway, for the limited time I had at my disposal, I felt like I saw quite a lot, I understand how the city is laid out and how to get around, and I'm now well-equipped to lead a tour for all our friends and family who will visit and take the train to Paris with me next time.  Right?!? 

Or you can just meet me there, if you prefer.

À la prochaine...


Anonymous said...

In regard to people taking bad photos: they seem to forget that they have knees or feet, and won't bend their knees or move around to frame the photo correctly. Getting on one knee to tilt the camera up to capture both the person and the building behind the person is so minor but often overlooked. --Willard

Pete and Rosie said...

I know, right? When I'm asked to take a picture for someone I try to give them the best one possible. I climb up on stuff, stand in a puddle, sit on the ground, whatever it takes!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Rosie....And now you must read, "The Greater Journey" by David McCullough.