Today was simply awesome (still is actually). It's now 11:45 and I'm sitting in a hotel room in the heart of Paris. It's DIRECTLY downtown and I am about 500 yards from the Sacre Couere. The big surprise for today was that I spent the day with Dariush Ghobad; he is my brother from another mother. He was an exchange student from Lubeck, Germany that lived with me my junior year and after all these years we're finally able to hang out (mono e mono) in the streets of Paris in his neck of the woods. We did LOTS of stuff today and I'll write it all up in this post.
Before I get into that, I have to share my morning experience with the cleaning lady. :) I woke up at 9am to a cute little cleaning lady coming up the stairs outside my bedroom door. She was on her way up the steps and it woke me up a little startled. When I saw her head pop up over the bannister, I said "Pardon!?" and that scared the CRAP out of her. Obviously she had no idea I was in there and she jumped and yelled out a bunch of french swear words. Then she was immediately embarrassed to no extent. I kept saying "c'est d'accord!! c'est d'accord" over and over and gave her a big morning-breath smile. Her face was three shades of red and she just kept her hand over her mouth trying to let her heart slow back down though. :) There I am laying in my bed propped up on my elbow trying to focus on what's going on, and she's looking at me in total embarrasment. Granted, I went to sleep around 5:30 am and here it was 9am... so I was a bit disoriented to say the least and I'm sure I looked like I was hit by a freight train with puffy eyes and bed creases on my face.
We were able to communicate with one another using my broken up French and lots of hand gestures. We decided that she could come back in about 10 minutes after I got up and put some pants on, etc.. I told her that I would just go hang out in the lobby until she finished. It worked out great and we got a good laugh out of it after the excitement settled.
When I got back to the room I was scurried around and packed my clothes into my suit cases. I needed to meet Dariush at the hotel @ 2pm. During my scurrying I realized that really should wash some of my clothes before heading to Paris. I didn't want to have to worry about it while in Paris and I had access to a "community" laundromat. Therefore, I took my dirty clothes and put them in the washing machine and headed back to the room to finish packing. Oh yeah, check out the engrish at the bottom of this sign:
By around 12:00 my clothes STILL weren't clean and I knew I had a pretty long train ride into Paris (with all of my luggage). Therefore I decided to skip the drying machine and just packed them into a plastic bag. I was just going to let them hang dry in the hotel room when I got checked in.
I arrived at the Hotel Gerando and Dariush and I sat around and caught up with one another for a few minutes. It was great to see him again and we exchanged pictures of our families and then headed out the door for our "tour de Paris". We got a really cool room too by the way; it's the very first room on the left, on the first floor. It looks right out onto the street and we see everybody pass by our window. Any other place in the world, i would hate to have such a "high traffic" room, but c'est Paris!! I love it!! We have the Paris night life right out side our window (French noise and all). :)
Our first stop was a very short walk to the Gare Du Nord where we each got a 2 day metro pass that would allow us to go anywhere in Paris. Very cool to have!! From there, we pulled out a map of Paris and just decided to start our day at the Arc de Triomphe. From here would walk down the Champs-Élysées to the Louvre.
We were in no hurry and made a few stops along the way. We stopped at the extremely huge Virgin Megastore, a Starbucks, the Disney Store, and even got some smoothies at a Haagen Dasz for some smoothies. We walked slow and laughed a lot. That's one thing that I've always loved about hanging out with Dariush, we both have the same (very) cheesy humor and we just laugh at each other all day. He lets me think that my jokes are funny and I let him think that his jokes are funny too. We support each others corniness. :)
We eventually arrived at the Place de la Concorde and this place was amazing. I appreciate the architecture and history of it so much more that I'm older. From here, we were able to hang out and take pictures and enjoy people watching for a while. This was actually a very "romantic" place. I even told Dariush that I wish Jennifer was here with me so she could see all of this. I could so see us hanging out here like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. :D lol! No, but really it was very open with lots of trees, benches, little french tables, birds, and beautiful architecture all around. Sure, the traffic was chaotic, but the people in the park were all just relaxing and enjoying the beautiful weather. You could see all the big landmarks from here and I really fell in love with Paris from this location.
From here, we strolled up to the Louvre and Dariush told me about a lot of this history of this place. I'm sure I knew about the history of each site I visited today while in high school, but (sorry Madame Weight, et tout) high school was always my "social time", and I didn't go to learn most days. :) It was amazing to stand in the middle of the Louvre and just look around. This is such an amazing castle and I "got it" today. I have always remembered this place by the glass pyramids in the middle of the courtyard. However, today I really recognized and appreciated the vastness of the castle itself. From this day forward, when somebody says the word 'Louvre', I will no longer just think about the pyramids anymore. I will think about the amazing castle at the end of the Champs Elysees. Pictures do this place no justice; you really have to stand at the top of the steps before the castle to understand why I was so awestruck today.
After walking through the courtyard of the Louvre, I called Jennifer from Dariush's cell phone to check in and see how she was doing. I wanted to call her because I didn't think i was going to have internet connection tonight. The best part about our conversation was that I was talking to her while standing on the Pont Neuf bridge over the Seine looking at the Notre Dame de Paris. How often will I be able to have that conversation with her. I've posted a picture of Dariush talking to her so that you can get a feel for how rare such a phone call is for most people I know aux États-Unis . :)
From the Pont Neuf, Dariush and I took the metro back to the hotel to get our jackets on because it was starting to get pretty chilly since the sun was hiding behind the clouds. From the hotel, we went to get dinner a nice little restaurant on the side of a street. In order to get to the restaurant, we had to walk through the red-light district in Paris. It was pretty interesting to say the least. I was amazed that little children were all over the place through this area because there was nudity and sex all over the place. Mais, c'est la vie en Paris I guess. This is where Moulin Rouge is located and there was a big event going on there tonight because the red carpet was laid out and a lot of people were gathered around for something...
Just about 200 yards from the Moulin Rouge, Dariush and I sat outside at a little restaurant and ate some pizza and drank wine. We sat here for about 30-45 minutes and just talked and enjoyed each others company. Our dinner was great and it was pretty cool to see all the traffic and watch the the Parisians walking by us while we just relaxed at a little table on the sidewalk.
After dinner we visited the St. Michel near the Cluny la Sorbonne. It's like a little European village with tight streets and crowded shopping areas. It's a 100% tourist trap. There were many pubs and restaurants in the street and tons of "I Love Paris" t-shirts plastered all over the place. It had a very cool vibe to it. Just picture very narrow cobble stoned streets lined with restaurants, pubs, beaucoup des gens francais, and all the gaps filled in with souvenir shops. Here we got a dish of ice cream and slowly strolled over the Pont St. Michel bridge to the Ile de la Cite where the Notre Dame de Paris is located.
While on the "island of the city", we were able to get up close and personal with the Notre Dame cathedral. This was another "wow" moment for me. I stood at the front door of the Notre Dame and was very impressed by it. It is simply huge and extremely beautiful. Dariush gave me a lot of history about the religion behind it. He has worked for the church for years and knows a lot about this area. We were able to go inside and walk around a little bit and this impressed me EVEN MORE. On the inside, it's hard to comprehend what it took to build such a place by hand. It was very quiet and dark in here and there was catholic music playing with very dim candle lights. Dariush said that he wanted to bring me back tomorrow (in the day time) so that I can see the light coming in from the stained glass windows. I do recall visting this place when I came over 15 years ago, but (again) it's much more powerful to me now that I'm older and more impressed by these things. Here is a movie that I made to (try) and show the beauty of the Notre Dame at night and I actually was able to spot the Hunchback of Notre Dame at one point :)
After leaving the Notre Dame, we strolled through the Hotel de Ville and just let ourselves get lost. We talked about pulling out the map to find out where we were a few times, but decided against it and just enjoy the beautiful weather and Parisian night life. We stumbled upon Les Halles and sat down for a few minutes to rest our legs and decide what to do next. We decided to just head back to the hotel and then maybe find an internet cafe so that I could post this. And lastly, on our way to the metro, we passed in front of le Centre Pompidou.
Phew!!! That was a HUGE day. Tomorrow we have even more plans, but I won't elaborate now... You'll just have to wait and see... That is if you are even still reading this huge post. :)