I’m not great at French, but I think this means there’s a 15 minute time limit for the bathrooms. And a surcharge for hotness. That is SO FUNNY. And all I have to say about tonight.
Wodehouse has long been my favorite author, even though he’s not particularly literary and his repertoire consists of 75 books with the exact same plot and Anything Goes. I love all of those things. I’m a sucker for hyperbolic, enthusiastically belted musical theater so that takes care of the latter, and the 75 former are just funny. In many of them, Jeeves- Bertie’s personal valet- has to take care of some problem that inevitably has the French chef Anatole threatening to quit. There’s a bunch of silliness and some implied debauchery, a bunch of “w. and soda, what, Jeeves? Pip pip, what ho, what ho, what ho.” And then Jeeves ingeniously solves the p. and the lark’s on the wing, the snail’s on the thorn: God’s in His heaven- all’s right with the world!
You’ve got to take it all with a grain of Anatole’s salt, but it’s thoroughly entertaining. And I 100% understand the refusal to part with Anatole’s services. The French can do things with animal output that would send a vegan to breakfast confessional, and a good French chef glows with epicurial halo.
That said, I meant to head to Pompidou today because it’s an inside-out Popple building. As fascinating as that is, though, I could happily stay in this bistro all day. Something egg, cream, and cheese-related just stole the muscle tone in my upper body and I’m gazing half-lidded at passersby as I wait for the waiter to touch my hand again, as he does whenever we interact. The next time means canard and mmmmmmm. As I wait, I superficially categorize people who pass: dapper Zach Jones in a snooty mood, soccer player, emaciated Billy Goodman in a suit, swaggering soccer player, flamboyant Dr. Eko, soccer player, taller and physically fit Mario Brother. I’m not really looking at the women because watching them walk in those shoes makes me uncomfortable. I mean 80% of the people here are wearing low cut sneakers, but on the off chance that they’re not, footwear is masochistic and terrifying.
Some time later I look at Pompidou for five seconds and head toward the Eiffel T again. It’s about a five mile walk through pretty stuff, and that’s floating my boat. Maybe I can stop again in the Tuileries…
Check that. I don’t have any Euro to drop in the publique toilettes, so I head toward a cafe outside the Louvre, figuring I’ll buy something delicious and use theirs. Whoops, petitioners! I have to pretend I can’t speak English. Actually, I pretend I can’t speak at all, the irony being that she wants me to sign something for the deaf and dumb. I do my best impression of an ancient Mayan- not because I look like one but because they’re the only people I can think of who wouldn’t be expected, in their schooling, to learn rudimentary English and to whom I wouldn’t sound vaguely racist comparing myself. Anyway, I stopped to listen to one of these fools yesterday and some guy came flying up yelling, “non! Non! PEEK-pocket! PEEK-pocket!” until I scurried away like a chastened sewer rat, thinking I was glad I didn’t make out with that Eiffel molester because they DO have little Fagin-mongers here, as it turns out. Thus, all subsequent petitioners ignored. I hope they don’t think I’m making fun of people who legitimately can’t speak.
Ahh, le café. I order a drink, which oops- that’s a half bottle of wine. Stupid metric system that I should’ve learned by now. Might have to read here for a good bit, pretending I ordered for two but am getting stood up. Ha! That actually sounds like fun. After every chapter I’m going to look up and around, exasperated and slightly pitiful.
Well, fearless reader, it seems I stopped taking notes at about that point. I did, in fact, make it through the Louvre again and then ambled across town to the Tower. I watched some funny breakdancers and stopped for crêpes. Popped on the train to get home.
L’hôtel’s Jeeves had prepared ma chambre. Au revoir, bonsoir, good night.
Listening to acoustic country music is like listening to Jingle Bells in a sultry whisper. It’s all God! The flag! My cheating significant other! But completely understated to match the soft guitar. This Parisian bistro music station is playing acoustic English and it’s the best pop experience of my life.
I stopped here because there was a seat in the sun and stayed because the waiter- who is clearly a rogue and only submissive for short intervals and to his tattoo artist- casually blew his cigarette toward the road, shot me a curled-lip grin more at home in a “bad boy on campus” chick flick, and flung the sidewalk sandwich board menu at my feet. Utterly cowed by the smirk and his silence, I was stunned into my own… which gave me a chance to hear the tinkling background music of Flo Rida’s “Whistle”, sung ballad-style by a woman who maybe didn’t know it was about a dude rapper asking for a blow job.
I laughed a lot, pointed at stuff, and waited for my food. It’s goat cheese season and whatever came out was amazing. Adam Levine was straight falsetto singing a lullaby “Animal” as I ate, and I think it was to soothe the goats- who I assume were frolicking in the kitchen to ensure optimal freshness- into producing. Good job, goats!
After lunch I resumed my stroll Louvre-ward. The air quality was mediocre (said the sign) but the art quality fantastique, and I was humming an acoustic Thinking Out Loud when the Hotel de Ville dropped to the block out of nowhere and stopped me in my tracks. I am continually awash with awe for artistry here. How can so many buildings be so magnificent? Parisians sure do love the beautiful- in their statues and in their people. Actually, the statues probably inspire the people. If I had to look at perfectly proportioned, well muscled nakeds all the time, I might do things a little differently, too.
The Louvre is another gape-fest. It’s intimidating on a scale I have reserved heretofore solely for the Grand Canyon, and it’s hard to look at with any sense of reality. Once, Amy and I spent all morning driving nails into a piece of wood that we then painted the word “Plinko” on, and it seemed like the sort of day we could have a satisfied beer over, like we’d earned it. The Louvre is another thing altogether. Your liver would spurt like the Fontaine de la Pyramide if you tried to celebrate its completion with an appropriate drink. If I were a character in The Da Vinci Code and you asked me to find a body there, I’d laugh condescendingly at you and go find a goat cheese omelette.
The Tuileries were quiet and peaceful, too, so I read a quick book there before ambling on to the Arc de Triomphe. That one was my least favorite landmark so far because of the thronginess, but I didn’t give it much of a chance because I was thinking about my long walk home.
A solid nine miles ought to have gotten me more statuesque. Except… garçon?
I made it 45 minutes before they switched to breakfast English!
Something about me just screams American and I don’t know what: flip-flops, pastels, flag that’s stamped onto my bag even though I am vehemently against misplaced patriotism… but I’m trying really hard to fake some French. Christine and I noticed that the second we started trying French words, people would speak English back to us and now that I’m solo, it’s become a game to me to keep it exclusively Français for as long as possible. I accomplished breakfast using a couple of strategies:
a) taking a page out of Teddy R.’s book and speaking softly (the big stick I left for les gendarmes, which are everywhere, apparently foiling terrorist attacks with them. This is good in the sense that I like my terrorist attacks best when they’re foiled.)
d) referencing 1999’s Strange Pleasure go-to encore request phrase, except instead of “un autre chanson! UN AUTRE CHANSON!” which would be bizarre at 11 a.m. in a place called “The Green Fairy” I meekly subsituted “un autre café, s’il vous plaît?”
La Fee Verte! I just connected that this is called that because it’s an absinthe bar. Despite a recent nonsensical Mr. Boombastic experience that was directly related to afternoon absinthe consumption, I love the stuff. I love pretending I’m an old timey, roaring ‘20s intellectual, sipping thoughtfully to become less so. I love forgetting I’m trying to be thoughtful and skipping gleefully to a Shaggy concert afterward. Anyway, I’ll definitely be back. Or in my newly self-invented Franglais, je’ll definitely be derrière.
Oh! France is the greatest! Actually, “international” is the greatest. I read a couple of old blogs last night and realized that I was really excited about some guy hitting on me when I had dirty hair in the Philippines, too. And I don’t want to be someone who struts around going, “look at ME everybody, I’m a hockey player!” (another phrase I borrowed from 1999… sorry hockey team, but some of you guys were sort of ridiculous) so I want everyone to know that this NEVER happens to me in Maine. I mean outside of cabdrivers. So I’m only mentioning these things because they truly are exciting anomolies, although I’m starting to recognize the pattern that people maybe only find me attractive with dirty (or facial) hair. Weird.
Anyway, this tall, dark drink of water (which is gross in an actual drink of water but I’m for it in people) just stopped me and struck up a conversation as I was hanging out by the cemetery.
Side note: this is not something I normally do, but Jim Morrison and Rin Tin Tin are buried here and I had a picture of myself sort of peacefully hiking through it, eventually settling near some muse’s grave- not that Rin Tin Tin is a muse; I probably would’ve been allergic- and kicking back with a book for awhile. I thought it would get my mojo rising and whatnot. Turns out, though, this isn’t Evergreen Cemetery and I wasn’t going to be alone with the turtles. This place has no grass but is wall-to-wall above-ground crypts and there were real-time, actual layings-to-rest happening. Nope.
Right, so I didn’t understand much from this tall guy except his name was David (pronounced with an accent on the second syllable, like “living DaVid-a loca”) and the word “proposal”, but I had no trouble accepting a date to go dancing tonight, knowing that
a) it was an easy phrase to translate based on Christina Aguilera’s belting it out in Moulin Rouge (substitute “danser” for “coucher”) and
b) I knew I wouldn’t actually go because he had no possible way of getting in touch with me.
So after some lighthearted shouting: “C’est compliqué! C’est compliqué! D’accord, d’accord, d’accord,” we shook hands, au revoired, and I giddily moved on.
Le Jardin des Plants, Notre Dame, the Seine… it was really a beautiful day overall. I finally found my reading spot near a busker playing Jeff Buckley on accordion, and it was so lovely that I wished I had euros to throw at him. Perfect skies, scent of spring flowers, super creepy gargoyles hovering above.
Je t’aime, Paris… je t’aime.
Saturday, April 18, 2014
“What the fuck is this?!” asked the cabdriver, and please excuse the language but it’s a solid, descriptive quote and I have no intention of editing.
“You going to France? Fuck.” At this point he became pensive, but only for a couple of seconds because if first impressions are correct, he’s not a particularly pensive kind of guy.
“I got arrested there once,” he said casually upon resuming speech. “Apparently you’re not supposed to have sex under the Eiffel Tower. Well, you are. But you’re not supposed to get caught. Hey, you’re an attractive woman! You might even look okay with a beard! Attractive women can pull off anything.” *
And thus begins my next trip over an ocean. This one has absolutely no connection to being professional except that I booked it a few weeks ago when showing my classes a picture of Mont St. Michel and realized I’d like to look at it via eyeballs rather than Kodachrome. So without the shackles of ambassadorship, I embark.
*best weird compliment since “you’re overeducated and he misuses a lint roller”
Monday, April 20, 2015
I didn’t actually embark because airlines are willing to pay you $700, sometimes, to take a direct flight the next day instead. Thus, I landed Monday morning, somehow made it to Christine’s, and got to hang out with her and the kids in Luxembourg Gardens. This is a staggeringly beautiful and well-maintained place where all of the trees appear to be shaped into giant double-popsicle shapes by helicopter blades. You should read a book there sometime with the ducks. Since I was feeling jet laggy feelings, I went to bed instead.
*side note for family: Christine and the kids were great. Nic’s a cute little chubby thing who smiles constantly, Nate’s all happy-go-lucky pretending he’s Spiderman, and Anna is sweet and smart as a whip, suggesting with a giggle that I should visit Napoleon’s chocolate tomb and -when necessary (most of the time)- softly correcting my French.
*side note to French friends: my French is atrocious, but better for knowing you. Though I haven’t found context yet, I can easily bust out phrases that high school conversational French students would kill for, like “Christ in a culvert!” and “Dominic: born in God’s hotel” and “oh! My body part is cold!”
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Sacre Coeur is quite a hike, but the walk is full of quaint little alleys and Paris’s last urban vineyard- in which you cannot, as we learned, have an affirming glass of red while casually trailing your fingers through the grapes from which it came. It’s good, though, because of developing bun muscles and the impressive views at the end. There are impressive views everywhere here, actually. Anna taught me that 200 years ago, too many people were getting gross diseases and all up in each other’s business, so they razed the place and appointed a guy to rebuild the whole thing to exacting standards. He was actually fired because people thought he was too extravagant, but the parks and architecture still reflect his vision. It’s nice. Think New Orleans meets medieval meets a Napoleon complex with sprinklings of statues and gold. And think French women behind all the windows doing postpartum kegels, because that’s what Christine learned at the beginning of her time here, and whoa.
I’m sorry I made you think that.
Now think about my meal! I went straight French and had cappuccino with my escargot, champagne with the baguette, and white white with my penne with foie gras. Christine and I split a profiterole. I’d’ve thought about it all day, but this- later:
“It’s 9:47 p.m. and I took the train to the Eiffel Tower, where I’m having a very charming French evening. To my right is a Sound of Music ballroom scene, a crescent moon dipping magnetically toward the couples and the music grand but dim, like it’s been trapped in a Parisian snow globe. To my left is le Tour, lit golden and majestic. Also to my left is the bottle of champagne I bought in touristic obligation, which I opened surreptitiously until a guy tried to sell me another. There’s a book in my lap. C’est bien.”
Well, that’s as far as I got before this French homme tried to make out with me during the sparkly part. It started when the E. Tower went all Electrified Fairyland- as it does on the hour and which is visually insane- and this man asked me to take his picture. Next thing I knew- bam- he was getting all nuzzly and I was murmuring “mais non, mais non” like a good little French girl. These stereotypical Europeans are forward, right? My very favorite pickup line ever was from that Turkish guy at PLC who stared deeply into my eyes and said, “86 Commercial Street. You come or you don’t.” And this guy was equally not subtle, except with lips instead of words. It was hard to get excited about it, though, because I hadn’t showered that day and was feeling less “I’m confident and ravishing!” than I was “he’s probably trying to lower my guard so he can pickpocket me.” So I kept squirming my face around as he tried to bulls-eye the lips, until finally I just shoved him and proudly said, “bonsoir.” Sorry, adventurous friends and cabdriver. Pas de romantic interludes as he was moving too vit and I was smelly. Also stranger danger.
Think he would’ve liked me with a beard?