Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Endless Vacation 3/3: France

Manchester, England to Paris, France

Spent our last night in Manchester with the whole family. Everyone came out for a night of Indian/Chinese/conversation. Knocked out four hours of sleep, and then got up at 4 a.m. for our flight to Paris. Terrorists are threatening the country. The locals are rioting. Let's do this.

Had trouble with Michelle's passport again, but otherwise the trip was easy. Hired a taxi to drive us for a flat rate of 70 euro. Between the terrorist threats and the strikes, things sounded iffy on the metro.

Checked in and made the steep walk to L'engilie du Sacre-Coeur. I view churches the same as mansions - extravagant wastes of wealth. But the architecture is still gorgeous. Then we walked to the Dali Museum. I'm not an art buff, but I've always had a vague interest in his work. This gallery stoked that notion. Yeah, some of Dali's paintings look like prog-rock album covers, but his sketches and sculptures are amazingly otherworldly. And he had a sense of humor that kept his surrealist art from collapsing under self-indulgence. I'm going to act on my interest when I get home and try to pick up some books about his work and life.

Michelle and I wandered aimlessly for a bit before stumbling upon Indiana, a Native American-themed restaurant. The food was good, even though the decorations felt weirdly racist, a mix of First Nation impersonation and American mockery. This place would never fly in the states, although I enjoyed the U.S.A. 666 poster.

Afterwards, the metro seemed to be open and running fine, so we traveled down to Notre Dame cathedral. Watched two dance troupes dance-fight, because why the fuck not? Notre Dame was gorgeous, a testament to human ingenuity. We slowed down after that - checked out some parks, sat down for a cappuccino at Cafe Richard - before hitting up the Latin Quarter and, briefly, the Louvre. I hate to admit this, but I love Paris.

Overslept but we still saw plenty of sights the second day. Spent hours in the Garden du Luxembourg - sat in cafes and enjoyed coffee and conversation. St. Michel is the place for record shopping. While it pained me to do so, I skipped on vinyl. I'm just not sure how I'll get it home, no matter how badly I wanted these Morrissey singles. But I found some great CD imports, like Six By Seven. They're a great drone/ambient group from the U.K. It's a bitch finding their albums back home. Yes, I specifically bought Celtic Frosts' Into the Pandemonium because John Darnielle recently wrote about it. Grabbed a late lunch at another cafe - salad with goat cheese and walnuts - and then walked to the Louvre. It was too packed, though, due to the security checkpoint. France isn't fucking around with the terrorist threats. So instead we walked through the Tuileries Garden for a couple of hours, and then took the metro back to the hotel.

We had a bit of a scare then. The metro doesn't open early enough for us to ride it to the airport and the phone in our room wasn't working. Eventually, we broke through a language barrier and hired a taxi, but then we realized we didn't have enough cash on us to pay him. So off I went at night to find an ATM.

Now, I like our hotel. It's cheap, clean, and close to the metro. But it's also in the red light district. I was propositioned by sex worked. A LOT. I'm convinced some of them were prostitutes, sitting alone by the entrances to dimly lit bars, wearing dresses that left little to the imagination. They constantly grabbed at me. I fought my way through a mass of whores and drunks and after six blocks, found an ATM. I have fallen in love with Paris, but I need to leave.

Couldn't sleep. Stayed up watching this French music program where celebrities get inside a confession booth and request live videos. Sometimes I got the Bee-Gees, sometimes I got Iggy Pop. The format seems odd. Why have Tim Robbins request "Louie Louie" when you can just play it? It seems like a dumb gimmick, but it still hooked me in. Europeans listen to a lot of crappy electronica, but at least they actually have music on television.

Turns out I was worried about nothing. The taxi showed up on time. Got into the airport without issue, although the line was a clusterfuck. In 80 minutes, I'll be on a plane bound for London-Heathrow.

Paris, France to London, England

I wish the flight to Heathrow took longer. Now we're sitting through a seven-and-a-half hour layover. Picked up gifts for the family, as well as some books.

London, England to Chicago, Ill. to Philadelphia, Pa.

I started going crazy on the flight to Chicago. Eight hours and I'm still not home. But at least I'm briefly in another city I never thought I'd see. I've been singing Alkaline Trio songs to myself for the last hour. I'm drinking a Sprite, the thirst-quenching high fructose corn syrup mix of the American masses. I'm one flight away from home.

"A rush and a push / And the land that we stand on is ours." - The Smiths, "A Rush and A Push and the Land is Ours"

-Venice is Sinking - Sorry About the Flowers
-Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
-Florence + The Machines - Lungs
-Yann Tiersen - Amélie Original Soundtrack
-Kenna - New Sacred Cow
-Venice is Sinking - Sand & Lines
-The Ting Tings - We Started Nothing
-The Long Winters - When I Pretend to Fall
-Bear vs. Shark - Right Now, You're in the Best of Hands. And If Something Isn't Quite Right, Your Doctor Will Know in a Hurry
-The Clash - London Calling
-The Raveonettes - Vintage Future playlist
-The Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness

Reading List
-Keith Jeffery - MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949
-Simon Pegg - Nerd Do Well

Record Purchases
-The Cardigans - Best Of European deluxe edition
-Celtic Frost - Into the Pandemonium
-Kasms - Spayed with three bonus tracks
-Six By Seven - If Symptoms Persist, Kill Your Doctor
-Torche - Meanderthal


Nathan said...


Paul Tsikitas said...

Dude... you bought Meanderthal in France?! That is amazing. Epic win.

And don't be ashamed to love Paris.

Adam McGrath said...

I really enjoyed reading about your trip, Joe. I'm glad you had fun and conquered the daunting feat of international travel.

Good idea to journal while you traveled. Also, that Dali museum was one of my favorites on my Europe trip.

Natalie Smith said...

Notre Dame is a great place to visit. Thanks for the beautiful pictures. Regards from Hotel Charles de Gaulle

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