Monthly Archives: July 2010

Why This Trip Sucks

Ok–here is is. The no-holding-back, god’s-honest-truth about why this trip sucks. By me. Ahem…

This trip sucks because if I’m not doing something at all times, I feel badly. We came so far and spent so much money, I feel we should be squeezing every last second out of our experience. I realize you can’t do that and have fun, but it doesn’t help the feelings of guilt.

This trip sucks because I hate cities, and I planned a three (well, originallly four and a half) week trip to only cities. I feel most at home when I’m around trees and open sky, and there isn’t even any grass in this city. Well, there is, but you are not allowed to walk on it, and it is far away.

This trip sucks because there is nowhere to pee, yet everywhere smells like it. I’ve had a previous commenter on here tell me to ‘be fair’ to Paris–it doesn’t all smell like pee. And the reality is–it does. Walking in our neighborhood, in front of the Pompidou Center, it is so bad I literally gag. And that’s not the only place I’ve smelled it, but I won’t bore you with the lists of the many, MANY places that reek of human litter box. And this bothers me for more than one reason–that is, beyond the gag-factor. You see, I pee more than anyone in the free world. I pee at least fifteen times a day, way more if I’m drinking wine (which I’ve not been doing here). This does not work well in cities–not at all. Yet I always find somewhere to do it that is socially acceptable (NOT in the street, though that would be much easier). Dear reader, imagine a time when you were traveling when you had to use the facilities, and they were really hard to find. Maybe it took you a while. Sure, it was uncomfortable, but more than that, it was annoying. It took up precious time you could have been doing something else, something better than trying to find a restroom that may or may not be out of order or for customers only. Now imagine doing that FIFTEEN times a day. That’s my vacation. Now imagine taking all of that time, just to have to step over multiple puddles of other people’s urine. Wouldn’t that annoy you? I swear to god–and I’m sure you believe me by now–I contemplated just squatting on the Champs du Mars yesterday, rather than standing in a thirty minute line for the sanisette. After all, everyone else freaking does it. We chose, instead, to just come home–the twenty minute train ride was quicker than the line.

This trip sucks because I’m starving. I’m starving all of the time. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t hungry. I refuse to eat when we are sightseeing (because then I’d drink water and then I’d have to pee more), so when we finally return to our neighborhood, I’m all about finding something to eat. Which takes more time. And then, like today, we sit down at a cafe and read the menu. I’m not a picky eater–not in the least–but again with the honesty, there’s very little I will eat here, and even less that I will pay insane amounts of money to eat. Today at lunch, my options were swordfish, duck confit, two kinds of raw red meat, or leg of lamb. So after having gone twenty hours without eating, and walking around for five of them, I had a cup of gazpacho. Were I Christian, I’d change the Lord’s Prayer to ‘give us this day our daily mush’.

This trip sucks because I’m trying so hard to share it with others, so that they my learn from it. And then I come ‘home’ to snarky, mean comments posted on here. I realize the theme of this blog is honesty, but it is honesty with a purpose. Honestly to help others. And telling me I’m an asshole (in not so many words, but that’s the main sentiment) is not constructive in any way. I’ve managed to be perfectly honest about my trip, myself and my faults–why spend your time being mean to me? What does that do for you? Really? Because it is further f-ing up my trip. So if that was your goal–you’ve achieved it. Though you really don’t have to put forth the effort. I’m doing a fine job ruining it for myself, thank you very much.

This trip sucks because I’m constantly fighting with my husband because I’m so miserable. This trip sucks because I can’t get away from said husband, even though we have an apartment and not a hotel room (thank the gods for that!) This trip sucks because we spent so much money on it–money we don’t even have–and it sucks. This trip sucks because people are going to ask me how it was when I return, and I don’t know what to say. I’ve contemplated it–I have ‘interesting’ and ‘sometimes beautiful’, but I also have ‘not fun or relaxing in any way’. This trip sucks because it is almost over, and I’m so very glad about that fact.

Done

Outside Invalides

We are so over sightseeing.  Yesterday, as we were rocking back and forth on the metro yet again, headed towards yet another sight we ‘had to’ see, we discussed how we’d been doing essentially the same thing for three weeks–being transported around from place to place, sight to sight.  And honestly–we felt kind of, well, done with it all.

This is not to say that we did not have a great day yesterday.  The metro upon which we were rocking back and forth took us near to the Rodin museum, which we walked to past the back of Invalides.  We stopped to take some photos of the outside of the building (neither of us had any desire to go inside) and then made our way to the Rodin museum, which is possibly our

Gardens at the Rodin Museum

 favorite place from the entire trip.  All of the guide books say the garden is amazing, but words cannot accurately describe just how amazing.  We spent a while just wandering the gardens.  It was lovely.

At this point, we really should have just gone home, or wandered around, but we felt compelled to at least attempt to visit the Eiffel Tower.  We’d only seen it from the Seine thus far (and we’ve been here for almost two weeks), so we walked around the front of Invalides (taking more photos) and made it to the very edge of the Champs du Mars (at the very edge

As close as we got to the tower

it is kind of icky), snapped a few photos, and then got the hell out.  We didn’t walk the half mile or so to the actual tower, and so of course we did not climb it, or ascend it in an elevator, or do anything else.  We took pictures from half a mile away, and left.  This is how we’re starting to feel about all of the ‘must dos’ on the Paris list.

After returning to our neighborhood, I had yet another failed attempt at feeding myself (Three slices of mushroom mush for fifteen euro?  What a deal?  And gee, I’m full…) and then took a short but mandatory nap (I think I’m more exhausted than I’ve ever been–and this is supposed to be a vacation) after which we decided to visit the Pompidou center, as it is right next door and, well, we ‘only had two days left’ and ‘didn’t want to waste any of our time’.  The Pompidou was lovely, as was the dinner we had across the street at the Cafe Beaubourg–though, again, for the price, I’ll eat more fruit from the market, thank you very much. 

Upon waking up today, my husband announced that he didn’t want to DO anything.  I argued with him for a bit–after all, this is our second-to-last day here, and tomorrow is a Sunday, so who knows what will be open.  But then I thought about it–I simply cannot rock back and forth on a metro carrying me to yet another sight.  I can’t LOOK at anything else.  My interest is gone.  So today we have a new plan.  My husband is going to find a cafe, and I’m going to find some shops.  He’s going to read and drink coffee, I’m going to buy presents for my mom and myself (and maybe some random friends).  And wherever it is that we do this, we are walking there and walking back.  I shall take zero pictures of churches, museums, monuments, gardens, or fountains.

Writer for Hire

To whom it may concern: Please consider hiring me to write true tales of travel–you could call it T to the Third. Or you could call it anything you damn well please, as long as you hire me to write it. I feel that this kind of travel writing is hard to find–the kind that actually tells it like it is. An example of this sort of writing could include chapters or articles titled ‘Why more than one museum in a day is inane’ or ‘Having to pee in Paris–why it sucks every single time’. I could write a whole book on what is wrong with most travel guides. Spoiler warning–it involves ‘The Best of One Day’ schedules and why they are impossible.

I’m a good writer–really, I could do it. Please don’t take the mechanics of this blog into account when considering it–these posts have been written with my husband looking over one shoulder, and a clock ticking away the hours of our vacation. Should it be my job, I can and will do it even better.

There’s an audience for this type of writing–I know there is. On the worst day of this vacation, I had over six hundred hits on this blog. Six hundred. My annoyance was interesting enough for it to be read six hundred times in a 24 hour period. A good day gets me maybe 200 hits. So you see, to whom it may concern, bitching about travel sells.

Of course, I can also bitch about other things. I’m really good at that. Give me a topic, any topic–oh that would be fun! Yes–anyone, give me any topic, and I can do it. Honesty is comedy. You’ll be rolling on the floor laughing–all because of the horrid, painful truth of it all.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my request. Sincerely, Tracy A. from Blog on the Run.

 

Being a Moron is Economical

Purse shopping in Paris....mon dieu!

I am in Paris, and I cannot shop. Can not. Not may not, not will not, not even should not (though that’s probably true). I can’t do it.

Yesterday we visited the Opera Garnier, and in between buying the ticket for the guided tour and actually going on the guided tour, we had about an hour and a half. Fortunately, thanks to my earlier obsessive planning, I had something in mind for this time–a trip to the big, fancy department stores directly behind the opera house.

I convinced my husband to enter Galleries Layfayette with

View from the top of Galleries Layfayette

promises of a really pretty glass dome (check) and a great view from the seventh floor terrace (check–and awesome, by the way–a great view, and it is free). Traveling up the escalator to the look out was torture–we passed by so many beautiful things I wanted to touch and buy. Sadly, we didn’t have much time–though I managed to make a small gift purchase for my sister-in-law before we had to leave to make the tour. I vowed to return.

The Opera was amazingly beautiful, and while I’m very, very glad we went, I don’t know that I’d recommend the guided tour. But that’s me–I hate being in a group. At times it felt like near the end of the night in a boring grad class–you just want it to end, but one jerk keeps raising his hand to ask questions, and you sit there, silently willing him to shut up. But, again, the building itself was beyond what I’d expected. I feel I have fully had my share of opulence and gold leaf, and feel even more sure that I do not need to go to Versailles.

After the tour we were too tired to return to the department store (my husband was thrilled), so instead we returned to our neighborhood and had a great–and very late–lunch at Grizzli, a bistro a few blocks down from our apartment on Rue St. Denis. I did manage to buy a rather odd sort-of-hippie-ish yet very Parisian dress at a small boutique on the way home (for 17 euro!), but alas, that was to be the extent of my shopping success.

Sacre Coeur, taken whilst resting in the shade.

This morning we headed out to Sacre Coeur and Montmartre, despite my misgivings. I really wanted to see the cool, domed church, but every single guide book warns you about this area, rife with pickpockets and people trying to sell you things you don’t want. But still we went, and we are glad we did. The church was beautiful–or perhaps I was hallucinating from the effort of walking up all of those steps (funnicular my ass–the line was long and slow moving. I’d rather be huffing and puffing up a steep hill than standing brainlessly in a line like a lemur).

After we’d explored it both insidea and out, we made our way through yet more ‘quaint’ overly touristy areas (quaint is in quotes for a reason, people), where the afore mentioned thieves and hawkers attacked us. I honestly think this phenomonon makes sense–it is an area with a large tourist population, everyone is looking up and snapping pictures, and because of the terrain, everyone has to pass by pretty much the same point, bottlenecking through tiny stairways and emerging to find two men blocking the way and trying to tie ‘friendship’ bracelets onto your arms. Were I a thief or a hawker, that’s totally where I’d hang out. Of course, I didn’t like this one single bit, and so after our visit to the Dali museum (which was awesome and peaceful and I loved, even though I never would have gone if my husband hadn’t insisted) we made our way down some back streets to a different metro stop and got the hell out.

Two train changes later, we were one stop away from our apartment at the Arts and Metiers stop, which is home to the Arts and Metiers Museum. My husband has been wanting to go to this museum the whole time we’ve been here, and since we were right there and our museum passes covered the entry fee, we decided to check it out.

Now, the name may be Musee de Arts et Metiers, but I’m pretty sure the locals call it ‘Le Musee de la Grande Nerd’. Starting with astrolabes and sextant, continuing through a grand display of weights and measures, meandering through what can only be described as the loom room, we happend upon a room displaying examples of printing presses throughout the ages, as well as one of those phone operator boards that Mrs. Oleson used in Little House on the Prairie. My husband was in geek heaven, reading all of the little signs–at least, reading the ones with English translations (thankfully few). To be fair to this museum, it was lovely, air

Foucault Pendulum...or the set from LOST

conditioned, empty, and had a thing or two to teach the Louvre about the number of restrooms to include in a museum (I’m pretty sure that if everyone who was in the museum decided to take a pee at the exact same time, there still would not have been a line!) And we saved the best part for last–an amazing display of old transportation, including a steam powered horseless carriage, all housed in a crazy beautiful old church that was part of the museum. The same area also housed Foucault’s Pendulum, which my nerd husband marveled at for a while.

We headed home for a late afternoon rest, intending to hit the Pompidou Center tonight (it’s not going to happen), but one fact had not escaped me when we’d arrived at the metro station–another line, going away from our house, but directly to the amazing department store area, left from the same station. So I kissed the husband goodbye, and went off in search of a wearable souvinier.

I did not get a wearable souvinier. The prices were part of the problem. It’s bad enough to pick up a handbag and see a number in the three hundred range. It’s even worse when that’s in Euros. I realize that it is sale season, but thirty percent off of a four hundred dollar bag is still too much (right?) But even if money wasn’t an issue, I have a different, bigger issue. I can’t speak French. And not being able to speak French has saved us a lot of money.

I’m going to be honest–I’d probably buy a three hundred euro bag if it was thirty percent off and I really loved it. It would be my only souvinier from this crazy trip, and that would be fine. But I can’t shop for one, because as soon as I touch anything–even in a large, busy department store, a smiling woman in black shows up, blurts out a whole bunch of French, and smiles at me. I then drop the bag, walk slowly backwards, and mutter some form of ‘je ne comprend pas Francais’. She then looks at me like I’m a moron (which, at that time, I am) and I’m on my way.

Please note: as his meal is farther away, it SHOULD appear smaller. Nope.

This happens in restaurants, too. Today at lunch, after realizing we’d arrived too late for the prix fixe lunch special (which I love because I can order two things for one low price, so if the first thing ends up being, say, fish with eyeballs in horse sauce, I can eat the other thing), I was at a loss for what to order. It was a busy bistro, clearly catering to the ‘I have a thirty minute lunch break crowd’, and the waiter was looking at me, and I was looking at the menu understanding very little, and so I did what I’ve been doing this entire trip–I pointed to the cheapest thing on the menu and said ‘je voudrais’–again, pointing–and ended up with yet another tiny salad. This time the man even said–in French, but I understood this–something like ‘you know that’s really little, right?’ And I said ‘oui’. And I ate my two slices of cucumber, three pieces of feta, and five leaves of lettuce. After all, I’d not eaten in twenty hours, and just climbed up to Sacre Coeur. I didn’t need more than eighty five calories, right?

If anyone is wondering, my husband very much enjoyed his giant hamburger next to a mountain of (actual) French fries. He had a cute salad garnish that was bigger than my whole meal.

I am starting to like it here–three days before we go home, of course–but I am getting tired of feeling like an idiot. And feeling like I’m about to pass out from hunger. It is now after seven in the evening, and that sad little salad is still all I’ve had today–and I managed to buy exactly zero supple leather handbags. But together, the husband and I did manage to visit the butcher, the Italian market, and the produce stand. Which means that right now, pasta sauce is simmering in our little tiny kitchen on Rue St. Denis. And that’s not a bad end to any day.

 

Dangerous

I’m starting to like it here more and more.  The thing I like the most is how far away it feels from my normal life.  My normal life is kind of annoying; parts of it creep into this life, and I’m at the point of simply swatting those parts away.  I hope this attitude continues after I return home–though it may require a severe lifestyle change.  Of course, I’ll keep you all posted.

There and Back Again

One of the things I was most hoping to get out of this trip was the feeling of really living in Paris, if only for a brief time. And I achieved that goal–by leaving Paris. 

Amsterdam was awesome. After getting over the fact that, no, it is not only quaint canals and seedy coffee shops (some of the canals were seedy and some coffee shops quaint), and after learning how to navigate the tram system (there’s no little map to use), we really enjoyed our almost-two days there. Of course, this could be due to the fact that I had nothing planned. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch. And yet we still had fun, we still saw sights, we still managed to find places to eat. We went to the Van Gogh museum–which was amazing, despite how packed it was–strolled through Vondelpark, and checked out the flower markets. We also had a great Dutch meal in a very reasonably priced and VERY old restaurant we wandered into, and a fantastic lunch at an Indonesian place suggested by the guidebook. 

After London and Paris, I really was wishing I’d planned a ‘somewhere with a pool and a beach’ vacation-within-a-vacation, but as it turned out, Amsterdam was just what we needed. The people there were over-the-top friendly, everyone spoke English (and Dutch), and there were lots of places to pee (you could walk into any bar, pay 20 cents or so on a tray not guarded by some mean woman, and feel guilt-free about using the facilities–Amsterdam definitely earns five toilet paper rolls on my own, personal rating scale, and that’s the highest number of rolls a city can earn…nevermind the fact that I just now made up this rating system) And, as an added bonus, I don’t think it went above sixty degrees (farenheit) the entire time. People on the streets were wearing jackets. On the 27th of July. 

All of this, and it was less than 3.5 hours door to door–from our hotel in Amsterdam to our apartment in Paris. And what did we do when we got off of the train? We headed straight for the metro–which we now know how to use–and made it home in record time. We hit the Monoprix for wine and juice, stopped by the pizza shop downstairs for a late dinner ‘a emporter’, threw open the windows to the apartment, poured wine, lit candles, scarfed down said pizza in a very non-romantic way, and said ‘ahh…we’re home’. 

A Sign

Am I sad that I cancelled my solo trip to Barcelona? No. Am I sad that I’m not going to Barcelona–yes and no. Yes I’m sad that I’m not going, but I’m not sad that I’m not going alone. I am especially un-sad about this after the incident at Gare du Nord this morning.

We arrived very early for a 6:30 train, so nothing was open. My husband took off to try to find an open restroom (for me of course, and no such luck–yet another thing I don’t understand about the way things work here) and he had no sooner disappeared down the escalator than I was accosted by a homeless woman slash gypsy. I’d prefer to call her a gypsy because, well, she looked like one, and was much better dressed and more coherent than any homeless person I’ve ever encountered. After I (politely) refused to give her any money (and I honestly didn’t have any cash) she stood there and yelled and cursed at me, both at close proximity (way too close) and then from further away, cursing me and damning me like some sort of French Stephen King character.

Doug eventually returned, and I am never letting him out of my sight again. Oh and thanks to all of the other people around me, who clearly saw that I was alone and being harrassed, and did nothing to help me. Nice.

There’s yet another thing I do not understand about this woman–and a similar, younger woman with the same speech we encountered outside the Louvre. She seemed very mobile, very in her right mind–and hell, she could speak two languages. Instead of standing there cursing me, telling me what a nice life I must have not having to live on the street, why didn’t she just get a job? Nothing about her made her unemployable; in fact, if the two of us were up for the same job, with her language skills, I bet she’d get it over me.

———-

Please note: as we are enroute to Amsterdam, all posts for the next two days will be written from my iPhone. So they may have more…cough…typos than ever before. Sorry!