Friday, July 29, 2011

Paris, je T'aime

We always seem to leave for Paris at the crack of dawn, but this year it was the crack of pre-dawn, and maybe earlier than that. Thankfully everyone was ready on time and the Green Tomato taxi company (sweet silver Priuses!) had four cars lined up outside to get us to St. Pancras. Many things after that are now a blur. We were very sleepy. I remember eating a breakfast something. I remember a security checkpoint. I remember singing “I’m gonna sit right down and bake myself a muffin” in a stupor. But somehow we got on that train. And the train went fast, and the fields were misty, and my eyes were heavy, and we went under the chunnel and boom! We were in Paris.

Paris was not very welcoming at first. It was cold, and I had promised the students it would be warm. It was cloudy and windy when we got to the hotel, but then everyone conked out in their rooms and when we woke up the sun was out. And we had great weather all day.

First order of business was food – I’m a big believer in that whole Maslow thing – so we went to the Carrefour grocery store and everybody got big sandwiches and chips and went into the Georges Brassens Square to eat them. We were surrounded by a murder of crows but we seemed to escape. Greg made up terrible and inaccurate histories of Paris. We debated our chips. And then we headed to the Eiffel Tower, which was a big hit. I never know; sometimes my students don’t like Paris. This group loved it. Loved just about everything about it. Emily was so excited to film the Eiffel Tower from the overground metro that she accidentally filmed everything except it. We walked from the Trocodero to the base of the tower, and the fountains turned on as we passed. I’ve never seen them in action. Impressive water pressure!

Next we went to the St. Michel fountain, where we talked about the Les Mis student uprisings and listened to the soothing saxophone of a gentleman with a mullet. Following this, we dropped in on Shakespeare & Co, which was a little more packed than usual. There was, as always, some piano hog upstairs who kept playing and singing in English – but we met him and his wife outside after and, sure enough, they were BYU Cougars. Then we crossed the river to Notre Dame. Which the students went in, but I did not. I’ve been there many times, and I needed to wait in a 15 minute restroom line monitored by a terrifying woman with a mop.

After this we walked across the bridge to Ile Saint-Louis, which we now call “ice cream island.” This came from last year, when some of the students were looking at a Paris map and saw a giant ice cream cone sign over Ile Saint-Louis. They called it ice cream island, and now we all do. And sure enough, we had ice cream! I had rhubarb, which I know sounds gross. While on ice cream island we also had dinner at a creperie, and were served by this insane but hilarious woman named Mina. She told me to “stop speak,” and she kissed Greg on his ear, and she told Josh he was fat because he asked for ketchup. Every time she brought in food she said “teet teet teet teet!” like some kind of robot. We loved her and feared her.

And then the sun started going down and we went climbed through Montmartre until we reached the steps of the Sacre Couer, solely because it’s the best place to play “your girlfriend/your boyfriend,” a game too complicated to explain here. Just never wear bright colored trousers or crazy hats to the Sacre Couer and you don’t need to worry about being pulled into this game. We also explored the art shops at the top of Montmartre, and nobody bought art but everybody bought gelato. Josh and I had an uncomfortable encounter in the public toilets, which makes two in one day for me. Despite this, I love Montmartre. My favorite part of Paris.

We ended the day as we usually do, watching the Eiffel Tower twinkle. I love hearing the students gasp the first time the twinkles start up. I always gasp a little bit myself. The Eiffel Tower is one of the few world landmarks that is actually larger and more impressive when you see it. You sort of have to remind yourself that you are actually there.