After finishing our final conference newsletter, my colleagues and I set out for some dinner and carousing in Lyon. I dined on pizza, not exactly traditional French fare, but it was tasty. We walked along La Saone in the evening and found a charming little place called L’Echo des Galets, where I demonstrated the importance of crepe-hair coordination. We headed back to our hotel at a somewhat reasonable hour, as we were tired from all the hard work, and I had an early train.
A month or so back when I purchased my train ticket from Lyon to Paris, I had several options in terms of departure time. I chose the 8:00 am train, thinking I would get a jump on the things and seize the day in Paris! This choice started to seem less wise as I was jet-lagged and sleep deprived. Nevertheless, I arose at 5:30 am to finish packing and head to the train station. I quickly fell asleep on the train and was in Paris before I knew it. I then proceeded to wander around the train station for about 20 minutes looking for a place to find a taxi. To say that the signage in the train station was deficient is an understatement. It almost seemed intentionally confusing. Arrows pointed the way to taxi stands, but when I followed them, I found no taxi stand and no more arrows to point the way. I did finally find one, however, and when I did, I proudly said to the driver, “Je voudrais aller” and then pointed to the address of the apartment where I would be staying. When I arrived at about 11:00, one of my apartment mates (Mari) had just gotten up, and the rest (Carol and my mother) were still asleep. It seems that staying up into the wee hours and drinking at least a bottle of wine a piece had become their Paris tradition in the few days they had been there. Sounded good to me!
Since the weather was sketchy, we headed out to enclosed shopping center, only to find that most of the stores inside were closed–things being closed on Sunday is kind of a novel concept in America! After getting a bite to eat, we then went over to the Arc de Triomphe. The weather had improved, and after climbing the steps of the Arc, I got my very first real-life view of the Eiffel Tower! I ended up with about 12,000 pictures of the tower, but it sure is pretty. Already by this time, my hand was getting sore from repeatedly whacking my camera to get it out of its weird pink period, but I was still getting decent pictures for my efforts.
We did a bit more sightseeing and got hopelessly confused by the Paris bus system, and by the time we got back near home, we were pretty beat. To our dismay, we found that the grocery store was closed on Sunday, which meant that, unless we went out to dinner (which none of us really felt up for) we would have an evening WITHOUT WINE! Considering my cold was still nagging me, it probably wasn’t the world’s worst idea.
Rachel, the final member of our party, was supposed to arrive the next day (Monday), but some bad weather and cancelled flights meant that she was delayed for 24 hours. She had already been to the Eiffel Tower, so we picked that as the first on our agenda in her absence.
We had heard that lines at the tower tend to be long, so we went over as early as we could manage. We waited in line (not entirely sure we were in the correct line) for about an hour and were disappointed to learn that the top of the tower was closed, so we bought tickets for the second level. At long last, we were crammed ear-to-ear in the elevator that took us up. As we navigated the crowds and enjoyed the view, we saw signs pointing the way to the way up to the top of the tower. I was slightly confused as we had been told the top was close, but a woman who seemed to know what she was talking about told us that they told people that the top was closed when it was very crowded but we could actually wait in line for half an hour or so to buy tickets to get to the top. We waited in the line to which we were directed to but saw no place to buy tickets. When we reached the front of the line, the ticket taker looked at our tickets (which were only for the second floor) and directed us through a door where would presumably be able to purchase tickets as promised. The door led to an outdoor area where we were corralled by ropes. No ticket booth was in sight. WTF? We limboed under the ropes and spotted another line that may or not have let to the correct place to purchase tickets for the top. At that point, I told myself that the view from the top was really pretty much the same, except that everything would look a bit smaller, and decided not to waste any more time waiting in lines that might not lead anywhere. I was adisappointed not to go to the top, but mainly irritated by the poor organization, signage, and instructions from staff. The Eiffel Tower has been around a long time. You’d think that more than 100 years would be long enough to iron out some of the wrinkles of making the tourist experience easy and efficient. You’d be wrong.
For lunch, we stopped at a corner cafe. Still on a bit of a break from wine, my mom attempted to order a beer, picking from the menu that she thought she recognized. The waiter shook his head. “No,” he said. “Beer.”
“Yes, I know it’s beer,” my mom said.
The waiter hesitated. “No beer.”
After a bit of back and forth where my mom attempted French and the waiter attempted English, my mom gave up and figured he meant that they were out of that particular beer and ordered something else.
Moments later, Carol, who had not payed attention to any of this, attempted to order the same beer that my mom had originally ordered.
“No beer,” said the waiter.
A scene similar to the one I had just witnessed played out, but this one ended up with Carol insisting that is what she wanted. When the waiter brought us our drinks, we finally realized what he had been trying to tell us: the beer Carol had ordered was nonalcoholic. Oh dear, first an evening without wine and now nonalcoholic beer! The horror!
After lunch, we went over to Fragonard, a perfume store and “museum.” I put museum in quotes because it was little more than a few old perfume-making contraptions, old (albeit pretty) perfume bottles, and mediocre paintings of people putting on perfume. I did buy some nice perfume at the store, though, so all was not lost. We then browsed around at Printemps Department store and Fauchon (a luxury food store) for a while.
With that, we considered the day suitably seized, so we headed home, but not before stopping at the grocery store to buy wine! After all, when in France…