So thanks to getting food poisoning in the states I was able to pretty much waste most of my first day in Paris. So much for going to the Paris Flea Market and seeing either very expensive things I can't afford or trying to buy something I can afford only to find out that I have been pick pocketed. Either way I felt outraged and rather stupid for getting sick as if I had any control over the matter. I spent most of my Sunday in bed trying to get over whatever the hell was going on in my body.
Food poisoning, the flu, black plague, Lupus? It's never Lupus. Whatever the hell it was that made me sick I was not amused. I was however nauseous and still jet lagged. Ana and I were going to the Flea Market that morning. Titi warned us not to go to the cheaper side but to stay in the more expensive antique part. He said you go to the affordable part to buy a really cheap leather jacket and you come out without your wallet or phone so it really isn't that great of a deal after all.
The plan was to wake up at 8am and get ready and head over to the Flea Market then hit the Notre Dame later in the afternoon. Luckily 8am is a sad joke when it comes to waking my beloved up from a deep sleep. It might be easier to wake a cave man from being frozen in a glacier for 5,000 years than waking Ana up and I've tried just about everything. When cymbals and signal flares don't work you just have to give up and wait. Maybe I am exaggerating a tad bit, she usually does wake up easier when we are traveling I will grant her that. She slept through my puking in the bathroom closet the night before, both times. This isn't a heavy sleeper but a person in a deep coma.
On the other hand she is smarter than me because she actually slept through the 8:00 AM alarm on into the 9:30 area. Meanwhile I lie there on the bed like a beached whale that suffered from nausea. She asked why I didn't wake her up with the alarm and I had to tell her that I was sick. I was surprised to find she didn't her my nocturnal bathroom trips. Why was I surprised by this I have no idea.
Our roles were reversed, she was chomping at the bit to get out and see the sights and I was stuck in bed with a belly full of bad and a head of swarming insects. Even though I was still glad I wasn't back in Houston, probably would have to work the weekend before Labor Day. Ana volunteered to get me some meds for my stomach while I sat there downing tylenol and watching Nature TV with French narration. The good thing about those kinds of programs other then the great cinematography is you can watch and get an general idea what is happening.
Ana returned minutes, hours or days later I don't know because I was dozing. She brought stomach meds and saltines, those combined with the Sprite in the mini-fridge was the cure that I needed to right myself. Two of those items, Sprite and Saltines, have been a mother's home remedy for stomach problems since the 1870's. I don't know how credible that is but if your mom never brought you Sprite and Saltines when sick then you either had a real medication or your mom didn't love you.
Finally by that afternoon I was able to walk around the room without feeling like I was spinning in a tilta-whirl and no more breaking out into sweats like James Brown (Good Gawd Y'all). I was ready to see Paris though I wasn't yet 100% tip top. So what better plan than strap 10 lbs of camera and glass to my back and walk around with my sweetheart.
Some French Fountain Thing
I was still running a fever, sweaty and unsteady walking around the unfamiliar streets in a jet lag induced daze. Typically I am a ball of nerves when walking the streets in a strange city. It usually takes me at least a day or two too calm down enough to enjoy the sights and sounds . The first time I was in New York City I was as jumpy as a frog in an iron skillet, the same for Sao Paulo. Paris wasn't so bad, I was a little jumpy the first night there but walking around with Ana toward the Seine I was calm with exhaustion and fever. The Seine, if I was back home it would have been called Green or Ohio River or perhaps Skeeter Bayou. God Bless the People's Republica of Texas.
Paris is amazing in the same sense that New York City is, you can actually walk to just about any destination and if not the Subway is right there at your disposal. It is thrills me to be in a walkable city. I live less than a mile from my job but there is no way I'd risk walking across an intersection in Houston in the morning. I don't like driving across intersections in the morning in Houston or any time for that matter. When Ana was staying with me in March I even told her that I never take off from a green light, always hesitating for a few seconds because some dumb bastard is always trying to make it across. That act might have saved us both from a pot smoking pizza delivery moron one night who just clipped my front bumper.
Ana and some sort of book store place
We walked along the Seine, toward Notre Dame and Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. Each are landmarks in their own right, one has been in many books, the other sales many books and both have been in a few movies. S & C is everything you ever wanted in a hip bookstore, crowded, claustrophobic and stuffed to the gills with dusty books. It wasn't until I met the author Jeremy Mercer at the Santos Book Festival that I learned that the owner allowed authors to sleep there in exchange that they help out in the store. I didn't really have time to ask about accommodations at that time and even so I had to go back to the States anyway to work more overtime to pay for this trip.
Ana and I made a circuit of the shop, up the stairs, pass the Japanese girl with backpack using an old typewriter in a cupboard. The English woman talking about travel to a couple in a large room. Then back down the stairs past a cubby hole with a children's bed and books and around back to the front. I was tempted to buy yet another copy of Tropic of Cancer and get the stores stamp on the inside flap but I really didn't need a third (fourth?) copy of the book. Not to mention the fact that I now have an entire wall covered with books in my dining room that I need to read. Half Price Books and numerous Borders Bookstore closings has turned me into a bit of a hoarder.
Notre Dame was also crowded with tourists and also Mass but it didn't seem as claustrophobic. Actually you'd have to be a 50 foot giant to even begin feeling claustrophobic in the Notre Dame. You witness the outside and think nothing of it but on the inside you see the real beauty of the structure, the high ceiling, the arches and columns and stained glass. This becomes quite common in most of the churches that I went into in Paris, the outside is just another church but the inside is wondrous Things like this make you realize that most American buildings are a joke, box stores and McDonald's and all ready to be knocked over by a strong wind and into the Wendy's or Wal-Mart across the street.
We left out through the same crowd that swept us inside like a wave and walked down toward the bridge to the other island in the Seine, Ile Saint-Louis. I had heard this island mentioned a number of times the night before has the best Ice Cream ever in the history of forever. The conversations of the night before between Ana and Titi about this ice cream place where in my head, though I was in and out of that space time continuum by then. I just remember hearing were the words yummy, best in Paris, and love it repeatedly. I was sick and a little drunk on champagne but I wasn't stupid, I knew we'd be hitting up that ice cream parlor as soon as possible.
I was lead through the narrow streets past the little shop windows with their interesting wares for sell but not really allowed to stray to far from the path. Ana was like a Ice Cream seeking bloodhound and I was tagging right along beside her. She knew exactly where to go and before I knew it I was standing at a window that had a list of flavors for the day. I had Salted Caramel, I am sure of that but I can't remember what Ana had, either way the ice cream was as described the night before, awesome.
After we got our bearings and started the short walk back to the hotel with my my body still sweating out what ever was trying to kill me the day before we tried to figure out what to do with the wreck of a day. The schedule was now completely screwed thanks to my stomach and bad American Food. We chose to go to the Eiffel Tower at around 9, which entailed going the 100 yards to the Subway with the chance of more walking afterwards.
I had heard stories from people about the Paris Metro, that it was dirty and dank and not well light and I have to say those people must have been in a different Paris. Personally every time I hear about a Subway system I just assume the worst which so far has been New York City. Even that is not as bad as movies and TV has made it out to be, I actually like riding the NYC Subway system because it gets you where you want to go unlike Chicago's EL which gets you about 20 blocks from where you want to go. I like the NYC Subway but nothing in it has ever been washed, just painted over a few hundred times since 1865 when it was first built. The Metro is old as hell to but the French seem to have heard about the invention of the Pressure Washer and keep that place clean or as clean as possible being buried under the Earth. It was also well light or maybe it just seemed brighter thank to the walls being covered in white ceramic tile.
We made a few stops and like any monkey in a strange tree I watched what others were doing to get the doors to open. When you reach a Subway Stop you can't do like NYC or Sao Paulo and just leap through the door as it open but you first have to flip a lever on the door to get them to open. These are need to know things kids, I don't want to charge face first into a subway door thinking I'm on Star Trek or the grocery stores where things open automatically.
It was around 9:45 by the time we reached the Eiffel Tower on a Sunday night and it was just a crowded as you would expect the most famous landmark in Europe to be on any night. It was pretty crowded and gorgeous. You've seen the Eiffel Tower a million times in your life but then you are standing under the thing and you realize all those pictures and movies don't really do it justice. In most movies and photos you see it way off in the background, looking majestic and tall. I imagine there are two reasons for this, one is because it is such an icon of the city that it just demands that kind of respect and two probably because if they took a photo really close to the base people would see how long the lines are to go to the top.
Not that the lines really matter because it is the Eiffel Tower, you don't go all the way to New York and just stand and look at The Empire State Building then sigh and go back to the hotel room. Now you climb up inside that bastard and look as far as you can see into New York City gloriousness. Same with Eiffel, you came this far be a shame to say fuck a bunch of lines. Besides you are a tourist like it or not and lines are your speciality. Lines and dodging guys trying to sell you mini-everything.
Ana and I got in the cattle line for tickets to the top with all the other people pretending to be paying attention to their smart phones and taking pictures up the Eiffel's dress. We waited in the line knowing that they closed the top at 11:00 pm but it was only 10 so we had plenty of time to get to buy the ticket and ride up to the top. It gave us hope up until around 10:15 when the marquee over the ticket booth started flashing that ticket sales for the top had ended for the night. We could still go to the midpoint but not all the way up to the top. Ana was deflated as was I because we had waited for so long and were so damn close to the head of the line. We weakly vowed to come back later in the week and go to the top. It was the same kind of promise you make to keep in touch with old classmates or people you reunite with at funerals.
We actually closed down the Eiffel Tower, us about 2 dozen other bleary eyed, jet lagged tourists. We consulted the trusty Metro Map and found a train that took us close to our hotel without having to connect. So off we went back to the Hotel and that big comfy bed that was waiting for me, covers outstretched ready to embrace me into delicious slumber.
The only memorable thing about the train ride home was at the station near the Eiffel Tower at well past midnight two teenagers, a boy and a girl walked past us to sit. The young man with his jeans around his ass and his underwear at waist level decided to scratch something out of his ass with furiously. Ah, Paris at last, romance and hemorrhoids.