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Entries in France (4)

A Long Day

For all of you who think that travelling around the world for a year is fun every single day, well, it is. But some days are a hell of a lot less fun than others. Take “today” for example. We decided last minute to cut our time in South Africa short by a week (lots of reasons, mostly it’s dangerously unsafe) and start the European leg of our journey. At 7pm we began making the arrangements, which as you’re about to see were quite complex. At 7:15pm Josh & Sarah showed up (unexpectedly, that’s why we love them) for dinner. By 8pm all plans were made and we were on our way to Five Flies.

1047435-900919-thumbnail.jpgAt 7am the next morning we left for the Cape Town airport for a two hour flight to Johannesburg. We had barely a two hour layover to claim our bags, go through emigration (“im” is coming into a country, “em” is going out, which really confuses me sometimes), and catch the 4 hour flight to Mauritius. From there we had another two hour layover to use the one computer with an internet connection (circa 1987) in the entire airport to make our hotel arrangements for Paris. We clicked submit on the credit card just as the final boarding call was made. We then had a 9 hour flight to Dubai. In Dubai we had a two hour layover to confirm our seats (which sounds easier than it was) on the final leg of the journey for the 8 hour flight to Paris.

And so, 36 hours later, here we are. Of course the shuttle from the airport dropped us off at what we thought was right next to our hotel. But it wasn’t. After all that we ended up walking nearly 2 miles with all of our bags. In the rain.  If you're keeping track of our miles travelled section, we covered nearly 10,000 today.

Parisian Delight. . .

1047435-905728-thumbnail.jpgI practically had to beg Jason to include Paris as a destination in our trip, since his last experience over 10 years ago was uneventful in his memory. Being that he was a backpacker, roughing it in hostels, scraping by each day just to eat, he wasn’t gung ho on coming back. However, I think he would concede that this town is right up our alley.

This is the first time in a long while we’ve been in a city we can really explore by foot. Getting lost in the charming alleyways and vibrant boulevards of this town has consumed most of the past 3 days, and has been so exciting. This town as most people know is about its food, wine, Café’s, boutiques, beautiful architecture, amazing art museums and of course the people. We’ve been pleasantly surprised to find the “French” to be quite welcoming, anticipating the rude, stand-offish stereotype we’ve all heard about.  We even had a waiter today hand draw us a map to our next destination.

1047435-905729-thumbnail.jpgMy Aunt Nancy and her husband Richie just so happen to be here, and we spent a fun-filled night cruising the town with them. The evening began at the Grand Palais viewing an interesting art installation that looked more like a construction site. From there we walked down the Champs Elysee, through the Louvre, eventually meeting up with their friend Carla who has been living in Paris for the past 4 years.

Carla is a queen in this town, seemingly knowing every person in each place we stopped that night. A very interesting part of the evening was visiting her artist friend Laurent’s art gallery. No doubt a creative mind, he had fashioned an entire world and story around his art pieces in this most unique art space – it was quite fun exploring the space.

1047435-905727-thumbnail.jpgBeing that is stay’s light out until about 10:30pm in the summer, people don’t eat dinner until much later. That night I think we sat down at 9:30 pm to an authentic French meal. There was quite a lengthy process of picking just the right wines for our meal, which the owner personally hand chose (another friend of Carla). People take their food and drink here very seriously, as the owner seemed offended when I ordered a double espresso at the beginning of the meal to perk up. He actually came back with a chewable vitamin C as a remedy for my dreariness, which was very sweet!

We are enjoying this city so much that we have extended our time here. Tomorrow the plan is to go to Versaille for the afternoon, and the following day we’ll probably go to Champagne with Nancy and Richard to go wine tasting. Even with our jam packed long days, we’ve barely scratched the surface of this town. I was however informed by my cousin Sofi that Eva Longoria is getting married here today on 7/7/07, so maybe we’ll crash the wedding. . .

Sipping Bubbly in Champagne

1047435-910846-thumbnail.jpgThere is only one place in the world true authentic Champagne is produced, which is in the region of Champagne just north of Paris. This beautiful area is covered in grape vineyards that stretch over rolling hills for miles on end. Nestled within the vineyards are tiny self-sustaining villages that are some of the quaintest things I’ve ever seen, many which have been around since the 1800’s. The number of times I used the words cute, quaint, charming, sweet or adorable during our day trip yesterday to this region was even somewhat nauseating to myself.

1047435-910847-thumbnail.jpgAunt Nancy, Richie and I had a ball driving around the area (Jason sat this one out). Although I enjoyed myself, there was nothing that could compare to how silly and entertaining my aunt and her husband were together. With Richie as the driver and Nancy as the navigator it was a comedy of errors trying to get around -- even with the 3 maps Nancy had acquired, we continued to get lost throughout the day.

1047435-910845-thumbnail.jpgSomehow, after only about an hour and a half of searching we found the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay the capital of the Champagne region. Lined with the exquisitely grand Champagne mansions and champagne caves of the area, we couldn’t get enough of the street (minus the fact the road was a major construction site, since they were revamping the street).

1047435-910844-thumbnail.jpgWe opted for the Moet & Chandon tour to see how the whole process of Champagne making took place. It was a fascinating walk through some of the 18 miles of underground caves where the champagne was housed. We learned that the minimum amount of time to produce a bottle of Champagne in that cellar is 3.5 years, which explains the hefty price tag. We of course got to sample the bubbly at the end of the tour, which put us all in a good mood and gave us strength to continue our explorations until late in the evening.

Paris: Not Just BO & Bad Attitude

1047435-914572-thumbnail.jpgOK, I’ll admit it. I had some preconceived stereotypical notions of Paris and what it would be like. But I’ll also be the first to admit that I was wrong. For the most part – some people really haven’t discovered that miracle of science we call deodorant, making metro trips a mixed bag of poorly ventilated nasal sensations. That aside, I can’t believe how friendly everybody has been. Granted we’ve been trying to make a (poor) attempt at speaking French – something we’ve barely done this entire trip. In fact in most places we didn’t even bother to learn the name of the local currency, referring to it only as “thingies” or “funny money”.

1047435-914571-thumbnail.jpgWe’ve done a ton of stuff here. Dinners with family, dinners with friends, walking around aimlessly, shopping, eating. So much eating. They really do know how to do food here, especially cheese and pastry. And my second favorite food in the entire world (burritos are my favorite) – French onion soup. I’ve had probably a dozen different samplings (and by sampling I mean enormous bowl) now, and I feel like I’m just getting the lay of the French onion land. I’d like to do a year long French onion sabbatical one day, and try each and every one. Perhaps I could write a book about it. Oh and we’ve gone to museums.

1047435-905725-thumbnail.jpgA lot of museums. I hate museums. Unless they’re about food or video games or television, and unfortunately I haven’t come across very many of those. I just don’t understand art. To me either a picture looks like what it’s supposed to look like, or it’s not art. These random crayon scribblings of what are supposed to be boobies just don’t do it for me. I honestly couldn’t tell you if I were in the Louvre or a Holiday Inn art sale. Except that in the Louvre people stand around and use big words to describe what they’re looking at and have very serious expressions on their faces so it must be good.

It’s also been nice to be somewhere for more than just a few days. We’re six months into this thing now, and this is the longest we’ve stayed in the same city. It will be a total of ten days, and I think it really helped recharge our batteries a bit. The constant blur of planes, trains and automobiles catches up with you in weird ways, and a lot of times you don’t even realize just how tired you are until you take a moment to sit down and breathe. We’re also really looking forward to a summer filled with meeting up with friends and family. That way we don’t have to talk to each other as much.