Thursday, February 9, 2012

Paris is pretty rad, guys.  At first Lyndsey and I were both a little disappointed that it didn't reflect the Paris we'd been daydreaming about for most our adult lives, but this is obviously unfair to Paris.  I was pretty disappointed that there aren't quaint little bars on every corner where old men are sipping brandy a la "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" but clearly it's not fair to expect Paris to have remained unchanged since Hemingway was wandering around looking for things to drink.  Lyndsey was disappointed that Paris didn't more closely resemble the whimsical and wonderful city depicted in The Triplets of Belleville but this can perhaps be forgiven since it's not only a movie but a cartoon.  We were both disappointed that the first food we tasted didn't inspire this kind of reaction and the whole city didn't look like an Edith Piaf song.

But again, none of this is Paris's fault, it's our fault.  Once we let go of our expectations and actually started appreciating what Paris is, as opposed to what we expected it to be, I think we both agree that Paris is pretty awesome.  There are little cafes and bakeries and bookstores and print shops and restaurants and clothing stores pretty much everywhere.  It's also refreshing to see cafes open past 8 and still doing brisk business (sorry, Helsinki).  And most of the tourist landmarks that we've seen have been well worth the hype.  Notre Dame was especially cool.  It's far more ornate and impressive than it looks in pictures.

Paris art museums also, in my opinion, completely live up to their reputation.  We went to the Musee D'Orsay and the Louvre on consecutive days and both were well worth an afternoon (although this may be partially due to an exceptionally high tolerance on our part for art museums and an exceptionally cold pair of afternoons).  I've heard several people say to skip the Louvre but I strongly advise you, if you receive the same advice, to ignore those people and question any opinion they ever offer again.

I also advise you, if you do visit the Louvre, to avoid leaning against the wall to steady your arm while you take photos of the artwork.  Turns out that this will set off an alarm that sounds like the Germans are coming although it will provoke considerably less excitement in the museum guards, one of whom we saw napping as we strolled suavely yet quickly away.  Maybe she was on some kind of strike.  Anyway, I was highly embarrassed but am now considering a second career as an art thief.

Also a word on Paris beggars:  they are many and a few are ingenious.  Near the Eiffel Tower, Lyndsey and I were approached by two girls who pretended to be deaf and mute and asked us (well, kind of gestured) to sign a petition.  It dawned on me that something was not quite right as I filled out my name, city, ZIP code (wait, what?) and then donation (ah, yes).  They only got two and a half euros from the both of us, but even that was annoying.  I blame Helsinki for lulling us into a sleepy sense of security.  Anyway we saw them a few minutes later in full sprint with a Paris policeman in hot pursuit, followed by another policeman a few minutes after that just trying to keep everyone in sight and looking like he regretted eating such a big breakfast.

Not long after, we were walking along the Seine when a dude walking the other way bent over and picked up a gold ring.  His reaction was extremely animated.  Hello, what's this?  I say, a gold ring!  Oh, but it is far to small to fit my unseemly fingers.  But here now sir, why don't you take this beautiful thing?  What good luck for you on a fine, sunny Parisian afternoon!  Now it would only be fair for you to give me a euro or two, since I am the one that found it.  Why not?  No, I don't want the ring, it doesn't fit.  You keep it.  And give me some money for a sandwich.  C'mon man, one euro.  Seriously?  Whatever you've got then.  Nothing?  Fine, forget it.  Then he waved his hand at us and walked away, like "you guys are assholes anyway."  I guess I can't blame him for being frustrated, he was probably waiting there for a long time and it was cold out.  Unluckily for him his two colleagues had put us on our guard.

Tomorrow is our last day in Paris, then we fly back to the good ole United States.  I have to say, I miss it much more than I thought I would, although reading today's headlines about Santorum gives me just a little pause.  The US is lucky it has Polar Pops or I might never come back.