Paris Blues

Paris Blues

It was a sad day as we said farewell to our tour buddies and loaded up our luggage into a taxi to go to our new hotel. It got even sadder as we drove away from our old familiar quaint neighborhood and into somewhere strange and not quaint at all. The buildings got taller, the sidewalks colder… in fact it all looked a bit industrial to me. For a minute I thought I was in downtown New York or something. I kept my feelings inside, hoping our hotel would be something special since it had been recommended and the pictures on the internet seemed really cool.

But everybody knows how misleading pictures on the internet can be. I’m a chief offender myself. I always post the most appealing pictures and toss the rest. I love portraying a rosier side of life. That’s all fine except when you’re buying a house or reserving a room at a hotel. It was nothing like what it advertised and the free internet access? Well, that was a crock too. This hotel does offer internet access but you can either pay 6 euros for a half hour or 25 euros for 24 hours. Obviously I opted for the 25 euro deal but it was a bit of a surprise especially when I had to express my confusion in broken French.

We trudged up the stairs and into our room. Right away we re-arranged the furniture to accommodate my mom’s breathing machine (she has sleep apnea). The plugs were all on one wall and the beds (two twins pushed together under one bed spread) on the other so now we have a very creative arrangement of furniture with my bed on the wall where the head board is and my mom’s pushed up against the mini-fridge and television stand. The maids are going to love us.

As soon as I had rearranged the furniture, I quick-like-a-bunny, popped open my laptop computer to see what kind of networks I might be able to log onto. I was hoping there might be some free connection I could get through the wall… you just never know. There was a connection all right but I needed an access code, so downstairs I went to get the access code. Next step: logging on with access code. Denied! Try again. Denied! Try Try Try again. Still denied. Down the stairs I go hoping not to seem like a really high maintenance customer with an addiction to the internet.

It didn’t work until after 9pm that night. The hotel had to call their IT guy and everything. It was sad sad sad. I hate to admit it but I even had a little cry about it. What a spoiled brat I am. I think I was feeling just the first twinges of homesickness and all I really wanted to do was call Toby, but of course he’s sleeping when I’m awake so that was out of the question.

The reality is, the weather had turned. Everything was suddenly gray and cloudy and cold. Our new neighborhood was unfamiliar and not as open and full of people as our old neighborhood. Our guides were gone and it was just now sinking in that here I am in a strange country where the menus aren’t always translated into English and I’m without a clue where to go or what to do. I can’t stay in my hotel all day. I’d never live that down. I must get out and about but my mood was darkening and I really started to question my choice to extend my stay. Plus, six days with your mom is bound to wear you thin even if she is the best mom on the planet. I think what really got me is that I’m the brave one and I have to be the one who always asks how to get somewhere or how much something costs. After a while I just wanted to take a brain nap and let my mom do the all the talking. I think I really got spoiled with our tour guides doing everything for us. It didn’t help that I got the could shoulder from a few locals when I attempted to get them to speak English for me. I totally don’t blame them for being annoyed but it’s just so hard sometimes.

You have to approach Parisians with just the right amount of politeness and butchering of their language. If you try too hard they dismiss you as an idiot, if you don’t try at all they dismiss you as an idiot. I’ve found that immediate eye contact and a quick “bonjour” is very very important. Skip that step and you might as well just walk out and try again at the next stop.

Good thing my mom is a smart cookie. She knew just what would revive my spirits: a strong cup of “cafe” and a brisk walk around the block. Before we knew it we were be-bopping into shops and buying my nieces all kinds of expensive Parisian clothes. The little kid’s clothes here is soooooo cute! I couldn’t resist. And so all’s well that ends well, right?

Stay tuned though, the plot thickens…

Isn’t this car cute? It can park both ways! Parallel to the sidewalk or perpendicular because it’s square! This would solve all my parking hassles back home. Also for future reference: notice how ugly my hair is.


Versailles, Versailles, Ver-sigh…

It was sunny went we rode the train out to Versailles. We had visions of gardens and water fountains dancing in our heads. Our tour guide said today was the prettiest day she’d ever been to Versailles. I should have taken it as a warning when she said she’d been to Versailles in wind, rain, sleet and snow but never a sunny day like that day. Because a sunny day it did not turn out to be!

Which is fine if you like to be inside gazing at the opulent palatial rooms. But we let ourselves hurry along with the many tour groups because what we really wanted to see were the gardens. Many of us are gardeners of sorts and we were amazed, looking at the map, how big the grounds were. We didn’t want to waste a minute trying to figure out who’s room was who’s. Once you’ve seen one grand palace, you’ve seen them all. Oh the sacrilege! I know as I type this some student of French history is shaking their head and vowing never to read any posts from my ignorant blog again.

We rushed down the scarlet carpeted stairs, past the gift shops and huddled tour groups by the door. We flew out the doors trying to find out how much the garden tour cost and when we looked up from our maps what did we see? Great big gray blue ominous clouds approaching!! In fact it looked like a twister might touch down. Suddenly the wind whipped up and I could barely make it from one shelter to the next. A storm was definitely going to throw a wrench in our plans. Umbrellas popped up out of no where and people ran out of the rain from all directions. The wind was so heavy that it blew over some heavy metal traffic dividers a film crew had put up to keep the crowds out of their scene. Their orange and white striped plastic keep-out tape was flapping in the wind. I wonder what movie they are filming*.

Instead of going back inside the palace and taking a more studied tour we some how made it to the hall of government or something like that. It was a long hallway with many many many busts of important people in government over the centuries. I think we ended up there because it’s the only place that had benches. The older ladies needed benches… and maybe I did a bit too.

Then things got interesting. As you can see from this picture we love Versailles.

In fact, I got so bored I started playing with my camera as a toy. Gotta love that. The last two fuzzy frames are me acting like a maniac in my blue sweater. See, I told you it’s perfectly okay to just go crazy here in Paris!

*We’ve seen a couple of film crews. One on the Seine and one at the Louvre and we hear that they are filming the Davinci Code in the Louvre at night. How exciting is that? Wouldn’t it be cool if I made it into the movie as some speck of a tourist somewhere?

**How’s the loading time on this page? It has crossed my mind that having so many slide shows must be making things slower than molasses. But I figure the people who are reading either have a fast connection or the patience to log on and go make a cup of coffee or something while they wait.