It’s been a long-standing tradition in our family going back almost two weeks now that the member who happens to be a senior in high-school gets to choose the destination for her final family vacation before she has to face reality. Being an art spaz and a student of spending as much of her parent’s money as possible, Thing 1 chose spring break in Paris, which we accomplished last week and which I will now attempt to summarize in 800 summative words or less.
Other than single-handedly upholding the local crêpe-stand industry, our time in The City of Lights was spent rushing in and out of the more irritatingly crowded Parisian tourist traps in just five days, including
The Eiffel Tower: Built for the 1889 World’s Fair, the tower proved to the world that the French were firmly on the cutting edge of giant pointy thing technology. It held the distinction of being the tallest structure in the world until 1930 when it was surpassed by Herbert Hoover’s list of failures. You can go to the top but if you have reservations about waiting in line, first get reservations online. Unfortunately we didn’t get up there because it was temporarily closed due to reasons entirely in French. The next day we took the train to
Versailles: This is the royal estate built in the 17th century, a time when it was popular to wear high heels, face powder, fake moles, giant wigs, and too much rouge—and the women dressed funny too. Louis XIV was the original fancy Francy pants who held court here, which basically means they stood around and talked with each other about how great they were and how much money they had—kind of like an entertainment awards show.
We wandered the 800-hectacre gardens for a couple of hours including the mile-long-and-wide Grand Canal and the famous Neptune fountain that is composed of two Neptune statues right next to each other, giving credence to the rumor that Neptune was often Poseidon-self. After a while we said to hect with the acres and got in the hour-and-a-half line to go inside the chateau. There we and 8465208459856 other visitors (per room) awed the opulence and entertained ourselves by seeing how forcefully we could get the Tokyo subway-hardened Japanese tour groups to push us out of the way. These crowded conditions were excellent training for our visit to
Notre Dame: This French gothic cathedral is famous for its flying buttresses, gargoyles, rose windows, hunchbacks, and numerous national football championships. It is celebrating its 850th anniversary this year and is perhaps my favorite cathedral in all of Europe because I giggle a little bit every time I hear the term ‘flying buttresses.’ We were lucky enough to be there on Good Friday, the one day of the year they allow patrons to forgo any sense of public hygiene and line up around the block to kiss the purported ‘crown of thorns,’ which is housed there. There is no need to worry about interrupting a mass during your visit, as there is apparently no critical mass at Notre Dame since they allow tourists to wander about freely and recklessly during the services. (I actually attended mass there last Easter and being neither Catholic nor French, was more lost than if I were in a conversation with Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson.)
And for future reference, the phrase “When monkeys fly out of my buttresses” does not translate well, neither at Notre Dame nor at
The Louvre: The Louvre was actually Thing 1’s objective in visiting Paris as she louvres The Louvre and we spent two days there because she was having, as Thing 2 says, an art attack. The Louvre is the world’s most visited museum and houses the earth’s greatest collection of marble genitalia. Also on display are some of the most overrated pieces of art anywhere, including Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (straight into bankruptcy in just over 200 years). We attacked The Louvre with a genteel systematic ferocity that allowed us to see most of what we wanted in a matter of hours. Luckily, many of the larger sections were closed which gave us enough time to hike up to the
Arc de Triomphe: This Parisian landmark definitely falls under the category of Big Neat Things and is located just 104 crêpe-stands away from The Louvre up the renowned shopping boulevard, Champs de Élysées. Commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 after the victory at Austerlitz, the Arc has since been used to celebrate numerous other military triumphs by the likes of Kaiser Wilhelm and Adolf Hitler. Though it is possible to go to the top and amusingly watch those with de Gaulle to attempt navigating the 12-entrance traffic circle that surrounds it, we elected not to since it was rather chilly and we were already freezing our flying buttresses.
All in all, it was a good family trip, but there are a few things about visiting Paris we wish we had known before hand, which I have listed below for your travelling convenience and/or entertainment:
–Contrary to popular belief, Parisians are not arrogant snobs who hate Americans. You can go a long way toward making them extremely helpful by learning a few simple phrases in French such as “Bon jour” or “Comment ça va?” or “Sacrebleu! Mon portefeuille est plein d’argent!”
–There is no need for restaurateurs to ask if you want fries with that. Everything comes with fries whether you want them or not. And of course, the fries are French.
–The Seine River running through the heart of Paris is picturesque but not exactly pollution-free. Swim at your own risk. Those who jump into the waters are generally considered in Seine.
–If you want to fit in, wear dark, bland clothing. The only people who wear bright eye-catching colors on the streets of Paris are tourists and Louis XIV.
–French mustard differs significantly from French’s mustard; thus the phrase, “Oh, is this mustard?” is more often than not followed by the phrase, “Oh! Too much mustard!”