3 July 2009...........................................................................................10:20 PM Aurelia's house
I neglected to mention that last night was a company picnic of sorts for Sinequa (Aurelia's company, and the one for which I am now temporarily employed). It was a lot of fun. Very French--everyone sitting on the ground in suits and dresses, eating cheese and drinking wine. When Cyrill, the man with who I "negotiated" my "contract" offered me some wine and I declined, saying I wasn't thirsty, he said (in English): "Oh, you are Mormon?" How the heck did he know that? Then I realized: I will never be able to keep my religion on the down-low at my workplace. One, I graduated from Brigham Young University. Two, I served abroad as an LDS missionary. Good-bye, under the radar. Hello, walking "It's About Time" ad.
Anyway, today was my first day of work. My "training" if you will. It went well. I really like the work, and I really like the company. I never thought this was possible, but maybe computational linguistics could be my thing after all. My new fantasy is officially going to be Sinequa offering me a job when I graduate. Equals packing up and moving Sego and I to Paris. Hey, it could happen.
So I've been meaning to write some more "travel-writer-style" stuff instead of just all me, all the time. So now, allow me to present two lists. One, things you hear about Paris that aren't true. And two, my super-cool personalized travel tips for Paris. Premierement:
1. You may have heard that French women are the unshorn heathen of the Apocalypse. In other words, that the women here don't shave. Au contraire! I was the most clothed woman in this entire city who was not wearing the hijab these past few days, and I have yet to see an unshaved pit. Hungary has France beat in the unsightly body hair department. Which makes sense, if you think about how France is way ahead of Hungary in the whole "looking to the USA for guidance" thing.
2. You have also probably heard that French people are rude--probably from the same person who told you item one. Seriously, who have you been talking to? Listen to me now: French people want your money as badly as anyone else. They will not be intentionally rude to you unless you are rude first. If you're from a place where people are naturally gregarious even with strangers, like, for example, Texas, you might find the French a little standoffish. But if you're from Seattle, you'll be fine.
3. You may have heard that a hunchbacked man rings the bells of Notre Dame. Nope. I checked.
4. You may not have heard this, but personally I have always got the idea (from movies and such) that Paris was sort of sedate and tranquil, and that's what made it so romantic. It's really not. Paris is definitely a city. My room shares the courtyard with a restaurant, and I hear people laughing and clanking dishes for most of the night (Luckily, my personality is such that I find this soothing). Paris is romantic, but not because it's quiet.
That said, to contradict Collin, one does NOT need a lover to visit Paris. I toured the city alone, and had a blast. Here are my tips for your own one-person (or you know, whatever) Romantic Getaway:
1. As soon as you arrive in Paris, I don't care how tired you are, go to the nearest corner grocery store and buy yourself some French grapes. The fat, round, violet ones. Oh my. (Pause to eat grapes).
2. Do what I did, and leave your iPod at home. Hardly anyone here sports them, and a big part of the fun in Paris is soaking in the sounds of the city and eavesdropping on French conversations you can't understand.
3. Along the same lines, learn French. Any French is better than none, which is what I was armed with, and it was sometimes limiting. It's hard to get off the beaten path if you can't communicate with anyone. So learn some French. Or better yet, have a French parent, so you'll be fluent.
4. Notre Dame? Totally worth fighting the crowds. Also free this time of year. I recommend forking over the three-euro donation (Yes, it's a donation, but you better pay it, you cheap bastard!) and getting one of the little candles that says Notre Dame on it. More interesting than the kitschy junk at the gift shop, and cheaper too.
5. Also, don't just walk through Notre Dame. Sit. Think. Hum to yourself the soundtrack from Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame. It's a really cool place to hang out if you give it a chance. Plus it's a church. It's meant to be sat in, not walked through.
6. The Louvre? Also worth a look. But don't bother standing in the ridiculous line for a glance at the Mona Lisa. It takes forever and you don't get that close anyway. I highly recommend the exhibits with the Greek and Roman statues. Particularly the many manifestations of Venus. I was so in awe of the skin and figures of said incarnations that I left the Louvre with half a mind to name my firstborn daughter Venus. Chalk it up to temporary insanity.
7. Buy a metro pass for as many days as you will be there. Should I repeat myself for emphasis? BUY A METRO PASS FOR AS MANY DAYS AS YOU WILL BE THERE. Paris is a big city, and although walking can be a pleasant experience, there WILL be days in which you spend all day walking and a three-kilometer walk back to where you are staying will seem like an insurmountable task. Also, riding the metro is a BLAST and a great chance to people-watch (re: check out French men). So buy a metro pass. It's worth every penny.
8. I am now going to say something potentially controversial. I would say if you are anything like me, and will be in Paris for a week or less, don't bother buying a museum pass. They are a good deal in the sense that that for 60 bucks or so they get you in free to like 60 museums and attractions. But they are a waste of money in the sense that no human being could see that many tourist attractions in three days. Although I am the kind of person who takes it slow, I'll admit. I spent a few hours in Notre Dame, a whole afternoon in the Louvre, and a whole evening at the Pimpidou (more on that in a minute). But if you're more of a whirlwind tour kind of gal or guy, maybe it would be worth the money for you. For me, however, it would have been cheaper to just buy individual tickets (esp. considering that Notre Dame was free...and the Musee de l'Erotique is NOT included).
9. If you get sushi in Paris, an eight-piece roll is quite small. It will not fill you up.
10. I highly recommend the giant ferris wheel.
11. I shrug my thick American shoulders at the Eiffel tower.
12. During the course of your trip, you will, every day, see AT LEAST one woman (or man) that looks EXACTLY like Liza Minelli. Don't be fooled! It is not. Stop dreaming.
13. You must spend a few hours at the Pimpidou if you like modern art. Especially the exhibit they have right now about female artists. Their collection is MIND-BLOWING. Beware, though, that it's a MODERN art museum, so if you're squeamish/easily offended/Wills, you might want to be careful, or take someone like me with you so she can go first into each room and make sure it's safe.