Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trip Report: Day Thirteen/Fourteen - Paris (THE END)

We took it easy on the last day. My fever was gone but I still didn't feel great and was pretty concerned Ben was going to come down with it at any second. We decided to go up to the top of Tour Montparnasse, just down the street from us, but it was too cloudy at the top.

We had two major goals for the day: find macarons and buy some art for the house. The macarons turned out to be easy. I was kind of wishing we'd set that goal earlier in the trip, because it made me realize in retrospect that we hadn't placed a high enough priority on dessert.

Then we walked up to the Seine to the little art stalls along the river near Notre Dame.

We found a couple of good ones! Maybe soon we'll get them framed and I'll post some pictures.

Then we went to a Thai restaurant for lunch. It was so good, exactly what I needed. Nothing better than tom kha gai when you're sick.

We should have bought more! These were gone instantly.

I got a bunch of French medicine, too. All their medicine is behind the counter and you have to ask for it, so that was kind of intimidating, but the lady spoke enough English to hook me up.

Then we started packing. Our flight was supposed to leave at 7:50am and I had recently learned that you're supposed to be at Charles de Gaulle THREE HOURS before your flight, which was disheartening. Even more disheartening, though, was when I got this email at 9:00pm, literally as we were putting our stuff in suitcases.

Ugghghhhhh. We were supposed to fly from Paris to London to Raleigh, and the flight to London was cancelled because of fog. FOG. IT'S LONDON. I called British Airways and they helpfully said they could book me on a flight to New York which would then have an eight hour layover before heading back to Raleigh by midnight. Hey, no. So then I spent 45 minutes on the phone with a very nice gentleman with American Airlines who fixed the whole thing up. We ended up not leaving Paris until 10:45am instead, which was much better for the wakeup time. They booked us through Miami with only a four hour layover. Great.

Unfortunately, despite central Paris being clear and calm, there was a weird blizzard at the airport. I tipped our poor Uber driver an extra 20 Euros because I felt sorry for him having to drive in it. We did board the plane on time, but then sat there for three hours before takeoff so they could do de-icing. It was rough, man. Ben was starting to get the fever and I was still sick (but fortunately, wearing my new sweatpants, so at least I was relatively comfortable). It was hard to see how we were going to survive sitting on the ground at CDG for 3 hours followed a 9 hour flight followed by a layover in Miami followed by yet another flight and then a drive to our house from RDU. Plus it seemed like we would probably miss that 4 hour connection, anyway, given that we'd have to pass through customs and retrieve our bags and all that and had wasted 3 of the hours on the de-icing situation. I was convinced we were going to spend the night at a Miami Airport area Hampton Inn.


When we landed in Miami, though, we got special bright orange priority passes which we flashed along the customs/baggage/security procedure and everybody rushed us right through. VIP! By the time we were at the gate for the on-time Raleigh flight I felt filthy and exhausted and delirious but so, so relieved. WE MADE IT.

Now it's 27 days later and I am still not over this cold, by the way. It's been a real horrorshow of a January for both of us (and really, all of America, but for different reasons). I've been to the doctor three times and Ben's version of the illness turned into freaking pinkeye for a while. But we are on the mend, mostly, and after a couple of weeks of never wanting to get on an airplane again for the rest of my life, I'm already googling ideas for the next trip.

Trip Report: Day Twelve - Paris

France became the third country in which I have bought Strepsils. We may need to stop going on vacation when it's cold outside.

I didn't feel too bad other than a scratchy throat, though, so we set out for the Orsay Museum. We saw this on the way and I asked Ben if he thought it was a real cat show but apparently that's a ridiculous thing to wonder.

The line for the Orsay turned out to be crazy. Even the Museum Pass line. We were kind of sick of big museums, anyway, so we popped over the the Orangerie instead so I could make Ben look at the rooms specifically built to display Monet's water lilies. There was also an exhibit of American art, featuring the American Gothic painting! They did not allow pictures in there. This exhibit was one of my favorites from the trip, though.

There were surprisingly few people in the water lilies rooms. Ben complained about how boring the paintings were, so maybe that's why. Maybe everyone thinks they're boring.

We had skipped the line at this place with our Museum Pass too, and when we left the line was crazy. I really could not believe how many people were at the tourist sites on this trip.

We walked over to the neighborhood around the Opera House to see some fanciness.

It was fun looking at the windows of high end jewelry! In France they have a law that says you must show prices for anything displayed in a window, but there must be an exception for wildly expensive jewels, because none of this stuff had prices on it.

Then we actually went shopping for a while at the Galeries de Lafayette, the world's first department store! Oh, and I bought some sweatpants at Benetton to wear on the plane home.

This was an alarming trend I noticed over and over - so many people wearing nude pantyhose! Let's all hope that doesn't make it to America.

Ben drug me all over the place looking for this dome he'd read about in a guidebook. It was pretty awesome, I have to admit.

So fancy!

After this we were super hungry and in an inconvenient location for our metro line, and the situation deteriorated very quickly. We ended up inside a packed metro station at Chatelet and no trains were coming, with more people pouring onto the platform every second, and then some guy started walking back and forth shouting things in French in a threatening manner, and we got the hell out of there. I'm sure it probably would have been fine, but I kept thinking, "this is the moment when people convince themselves somebody isn't going to do something terrible and then they all get killed by a maniac." So anyway, we grabbed a piece of pizza for sustenance at a little place near Notre Dame, and then took a cab back to the hotel, where I quickly discovered I had a fever and was all shivery and pathetic for the rest of the evening.

Trip Report: Day Eleven - Paris

Nearly every day, we cut through the Luxembourg Gardens for a shortcut. 

They are really beautiful and there were always a surprising number of people out, even as the week went on and it got much colder. The last day there were a bunch of elderly men playing some sort of croquet-like sport while smoking cigarettes.

We walked past the Cluny Museum of Medieval Art on our first day, and had been looking forward to checking it out. They had a special exhibit on the Merovingians (the people who lived in France during the transition time between the Roman Empire and medieval times). It was by far the highlight. They had a whole bunch of books dating from the 500s. That's so old! I've definitely never seen a 1500 year old book before. I couldn't stop taking pictures of them.

Nearly all the stuff that remains from this time period is religious, because the monasteries were the only source of stability and consistent income.

I took a picture of this room because it looked awesome, and later learned it's from Roman times! It was a bathhouse.

Oh look, another book.

There are also these famous tapestries there, The Lady and the Unicorn, which date from around 1500.

Look how cool Jesus is.

This was a small room that was a chapel in the original mansion where the Cluny is housed today.

After that we went and got sandwiches from the corner store again. We were pretty hooked on these sandwiches.

Then we set out for more museums. Ben wanted to go to the Museum of Arts & Measures, and I knew he would delight in spending hours taking a million photos of obscure microscopes, so we decided to split up. We went together on the Metro and then I walked to the Picasso Museum and he went to the Arts & Measures. Guess how many of us got at least a little lost: Two. But ultimately we both figured out where to go.

The neighborhood around the Picasso Museum (the Marais) is very nice. Old and twisty streets. Most things were closed even though it was a Tuesday afternoon, but this is the Jewish area and it was during Hanukkah so maybe that's why.

The Picasso Museum was doing a joint exhibit of his work with this other guy who makes these tall statues I have seen elsewhere (including Denmark and I'm pretty sure the North Carolina Museum of Art). The two guys didn't actually know each other well, though, and I felt like the whole thing was kind of a stretch to make their works relate.

This is the place where the Paris Museum Pass paid off the most for me, by the way. I asked where to go and they directed me to a small area off to one side with zero other people around. I thought surely this could not be correct, but it was! I walked right in and skipped that entire line! Suckers.

There was some cool stuff in the Picasso Museum, but nothing super famous.

I took another picture of Sacre-Coeur. You can see it from almost everywhere!

Then I walked back to the Museum of Arts & Measures. I only made one tiny wrong turn and realized it after only 5 minutes or so. Then I failed to see the entrance to the museum and walked all the way around a giant city block back to where I started in order to get inside. Ben was still exploring so I looked around at the exhibits for a while and then got a coffee in the cafe and read my book. Then we took the metro back to our hotel.

This restaurant was right on the corner in our neighborhood, and looked so fun and festive that we felt like we were obligated to try it out.

It was terrific! One of the best meals of the trip. We got a seat right by the window, which was nice.

Mmm, bread.

I got a miniature bottle of wine alllll for myself.

Ben ordered escargots.

I got cheese and figs in fried dough. Guess how good it was?

For entrees Ben got steak frites

and I ordered fish, because I wanted something a little on the lighter side. I forgot, though, that I was in Paris - it came in a big, delicious puddle of lemon butter.

This meal was one of the highlights of the trip! We went home and went to sleep and then I woke up with a sore throat. :(