So, “Day Two”; day one being yesterday, since the day was spent on a plane/arriving/sleeping/eating, most of which actually happened in FRANCE! (Therefore it counts.)
Today was pretty eventful, if you ignore the fact that Dad and I completely disregarded the alarm clock we set on my running watch. It’s just our luck that the only clocks we have in our room are my computer and our watches. We don’t have an alarm clock in here, and we both neglected to consider that his phone WOULDN’T work here, so we can’t use it as an alarm clock. We definitely meant to wake up at 6:30, but ended up sleeping until 10:something, and didn’t go anywhere until it was nearly noon. Again, whoops.
We managed to make our way over to Châtelet-Les Halles via Metro, which is the train station underneath the mall. The mall (“centre commercial”) is called Forum des Halles, which is 4 (maybe? I didn’t count…) stories of shopping. I swear the idea is to trap you in there and make you shop for the rest of eternity. Luckily, WE ESCAPED (after going in circles)!
It’s really cool, though; there’s escalators all over, and a maze of hallways leading to all different stores. H&M, Pimkie, Gap (go to France to buy American clothes? Yes. Of course! It was REALLY BORING in there though, and the sizes were even more confusing than everywhere else. Fail.), and other stores. What’s really cool about Les Halles is that there is this courtyard-like area, not that we actually went out there since it was wet. xD
We ended up at H&M, mostly because I recognized the name of store, and although it is in the United States, there aren’t any near home. They had some pretty strange things in there, I have to say. There were far too many pairs of sparkly leggings (some multicolored) that were no more than leggings COVERED in sequins.
They had some truly bizarre jeans too; patchwork jeans, jeans with no less than 50 zippers or studs, jeans that were actually leggings that looked like jeans (whaaaat?), shiny leather (hello, 1980s) pants, and in the men’s section, they had jeans that had paint all over them! (My comment: I bet *insert name of relative that paints* has a pair of those! FOR CHEAP!) They had “man-pris” (Capris! For men! Apparently quite popular… I still can’t convince any Americans of that, though), which are still very amusing.
Did you know that Levis are like… DESIGNER jeans?! I was unaware of that fact. You could buy some and say they’re the hottest style in Europe now! You could even call them your “Parisian pants”! :O
So, after that, Dad and I went to lunch at this little cafe; Café Etienne. The waitress didn’t understand much English, but with my feeble attempts at speaking French (this is what happens after five-ish years of français in America; you still can’t speak it fluently!) and dad’s ridiculous gestures, we managed to get by. Lunch ended up being an hour or more; the waitress kept wandering off, but the food was good (especially the fries. *insert pun about the best french fries being French*)!
I’m not sure if this is standard, but les toilettes were co-ed. Each one was this tiny toilet with it’s own door and motion-sensor light so you had to move or else you’d be stuck in the dark. Awkward French bathrooms are funny.
By then, it was raining harder, so we braved the wind to locate a place to exchange our dollars for euros and finding a BNP Paribas, the bank I’m allowed to withdraw from here. The teller told us directions to a place to exchange our money, but we of course got lost and ended up going to the Banque de France; the gendarmes let us in, and then we discovered that it was basically the Federal Reserve of France. For future reference, the people in there are quite nice and didn’t yell at us for being stupid Americans who don’t know where to exchange money.
Quite by accident, we wandered into this little hallway of the Louvre (not the musée, but the building said “Louvre” on it so…*shrug*) that had a currency exchange. Now I’m not carrying around $5 US anymore, yay! Unfortunately, that was about 3,31 (, = . as far as money; odd) euros (when I figure out the alt-command for that symbol, I’ll use it. Until then… EUROS), and as in any city, 3,31 can’t get you ANYTHING. [Actually, you can get postcards for cheap! YAY! Or give money to the street performers! Like the accordion guy!]
We wandered a bit more until we were in front of the Louvre, and took pictures. (I’ll include some, including one of me making a completely ridiculous face!) Dad decided that I shouldn’t be the only one with pictures taken of me, so I have a few of him, too.
Dad: “There’s never any pictures of me…”
Dad wanted a picture with the policemen-dudes, but we were afraid to ask since they had guns.
The entrance to the Louvre from the side (and behind).
They know lots of little tidbits about the city and monuments; though the tours don’t actually get you into monuments and such, they are a good way to get to know your way around and figure out places to go. Sandemans tours (such as “New Paris”) are in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Prague, Jerusalem, Madrid, and Paris. I highly recommend them if you go to any of those cities (we’ve taken the ones in Munich, Berlin, and Paris). 🙂
With the tour, we wandered through Place de la Concorde, where the obelisk stands where people were guillotined during the French Revolution, through some of the Christmas market along the Champs-Élysées and to le petit palais and le grande palais. We learned some interesting things about World War II and one Nazi general who basically saved the city (Hitler wanted him to destroy Paris, rather than let it fall to the Allied forces). Apparently, the French don’t like to acknowledge that this general (or the Allies) were the main reason that they regained Paris. (SHH! Don’t tell them I told you!)
After the tour ended, Dad and I wandered back through the Christmas market. We bought marrons chauds, which are roasted chestnuts (I should have guessed what the name was, actually: “marron” is the french word for ‘chestnut’ and is often used as ‘brown’, and “chaud” means hot… so, hot chestnuts); you can’t get those in the US because chestnut trees are basically endangered, which is sad because they are YUMMY! A bit sweet, but soft; the flavor is different than that of any other roasted nuts. (-_- if you’re laughing at that)
After that, we had some chocolat chaud, which was definitely a treat– it was a lot more substantial and rich than the kind we make at home with dry mix. I have no idea what they did to it, but I was quite pleased! It didn’t even have MARSHMALLOWS or WHIPPED CREAM! *gasp*
(Oh, right! I forgot about the fresh smoked salmon! I think it was called saumon norvège, and it came with crème fraîche et salade [which is really just a large piece of lettuce?] on a baguette. I still don’t know what crème fraîche is, but it’s quite good.)
By then, it was raining pretty hard, so of course we chose to walk to across the river to a Metro station. And we got lost. And ran in circles. And rode two different buses, and three different trains, as well as walked through the same block far too often. We agreed that being lost in Paris is a lot more fun than being lost anywhere else; for one, despite the rain and generally miserable weather, Paris is still “The City of Light.”
Montmartre et Musée d’Orsay later today! (with far too many pictures, of course!)