Saturday, July 30, 2011
Daniel was the first one to wish me Happy Birthday, though it was at 12:20 last night. My birthday actually started with a Happy Birthday rap that Zoe wrote and performed for me right in the middle of the hotel lobby:
I told the groups that for my birthday Daddy needs a “time out,” so after buying them museum passes we all split and went our separate ways. Some went to the Musee D’Orsay, some went to the Catacombs, and I went to Beauberg/Les Halles. This is the area just north of the river, probably most famous for the Centre Pompidou. I’ve been to the Pompidou plenty of times, but never really explored the area around it. So that’s what I did. It’s definitely old city: lots of thin alleys and winding streets. I hung out for a bit at the Stravinsky fountain, which I’ve seen in movies but never live. It’s really kooky! I liked the snake.
I ate lunch at the Cafe Beaubourg. It’s a really cool piece of art deco design, and was very quiet inside. I ate a meal alone, and I really enjoyed that. I’m sure my waiter thought I was really lonely. But I just ate my croque madame and read some Peeta and had a nice time. Outside was so busy and crazy, and this was the perfect little respite.
After that I made my way through streets of bookshops, streets of shoes shops, and lots of t-shirts claiming to be vintage. None of them were, unless you count Spongebob as vintage. The Les Halles shopping center is going through a major reconstruction, so I only went in there briefly to see what all the fuss was about. There’s no fuss. Just a lot of Gaps. Some great statues outside, though, including Pygmalian, by Julio Silva:
I rested for a few minutes at the Fontaine des Innocents. I listened to my ipod and did some people watching. I'm beyond the point now where I worry if people are laughing at my giant green skullcandy earphones. I love them!
And then I was sort of done with markets and people so I went inside St-Eustache church and sat down. I listened to some more music and took the church in. Nobody complained about me wearing giant green earphones in there, so I guess they are pretty allowing. The church is beautiful; very, very tall, and so quiet. The grounds outside were beautiful, and I took a nap under a tree. A nap you say? Happy Birthday! It was hard to sleep, though, with this thing staring at me:
Next up I went to the Forum des Images, a museum for French films, because I love French movies. I had to learn to love them as part of my initiation into the exclusive Club du Pretension. The museum is free to the public, and you are assigned a carrel with a beautiful big screen and a sound system and encouraged to watch any movie you want. The only stipulation is that they have to be French, or filmed in France. So I went with What’s New Pussycat, the Peter Sellars/Woody Allen/Peter O’Toole comedy which I have never seen. It’s wacky! Filmed entirely in Paris.
I met back up with the group for dinner at Crepes a Gogo. There was no birthday monkey business like there was last year. I was relieved, to be honest. We just had good crepes. And then we hustled back to the Eiffel Tower to catch the Fat Tire Evening Bike Tour.
We did the Fat Tire day tour last year and loved it. I daresay the night tour is even better. You stop less, and it’s more about seeing the city than learning about it. The fifteen of us had our own guide: Billy, from California. Billy was entertaining and funny and he encouraged us to boldly dominate the streets, which we quickly learned to do. I think the Fat Tire tours are the best thing a tourist in Paris can do. So fun. We rode to the Sacre Couer, and over to ice cream island (where the students pitched in to buy me a quadruple!) and then onto the grounds of the Louvre, where we had free reign to ride as much as we liked just as the sun was setting. This was surreal to me. This amazing sense of freedom to ride and ride around the pyramids, and the eternal joy I get from getting into people’s photographs who I don’t know.
The bike tour basically ends with a trip up the Seine on a boat. Billy serves wine, but I warned him that we were a giant pack of Mormons so he came prepared with Cokes and Oranginas. Somehow Greg, Billy, and Jaron coerced the entire back of the boat to sing Happy Birthday to me, and it was very awesome and sounded mostly asian.
One last thing: Billy encouraged us to stay for the 1:00 am Eiffel Tower twinkle. Something amazing happens, he said. So we did. And he was right. I won’t tell you what it is, but it’s worth staying up for.