Monday, May 02, 2011

Europe 2011, Part VI: Day 3 in Paris

As I mentioned in Part II of this series of posts about my trip, I didn't blog or post anything online about the trip prior to it happening, nor did I do any From-The-Road -type notes. I did, however, take mental notes about what sort of facebook statuses or tweets I might have created while I was gone. You can find these brief anecdotes - sometimes helpful hints for taking your own trip! - in the remainder of my trip posts; they will be BOLD.

I woke up on Tuesday in time for the hotel's breakfast, and YUM. Pain au chocolate, toasted, was my favorite, followed by slices of baguette with brie or whatever else I wanted. And grapefruit juice, YES.

Since Darin had left for his day's duties, I retreated to the hotel room, with the 'do not disturb' sign on the doorknob, and took a shower. Guess what happened after my shower. No, just guess.

I found my first grey hair in Paris.

After dressing, I pulled out my maps and book about Paris to plan out the day. I concentrated: "Today's my last day in Paris. What do I want to do?" French music playing from the television, I began my plan when . . . knock-knock-knock.

What the? Darin wasn't due back until about noon. I answered the door.

Cleaning lady.

I checked the door: yep, the do not disturb sign was still there. I asked if she spoke English, and the answer was a soured face. I looked again at the door hanger, and the woman motioned to enter the room.

Okay. Not awkward.

I sat on one side of the tiny room watching as she cleaned the other. I tried to help.

Don't try to help the cleaning lady. Just don't.

After making the bed, she gasped and pointed to a dark mark on the otherwise immaculately white comforter. Remembering the eclair the night before, I stammered one of the only words I know how to say in French: "Chocolat."

Once again left alone in the room, with a tentative schedule of my day in my mind, I opened the windows for a fresh, cool breeze, climbed under the comforter, and drifted to sleep. Darin's knocking on the door woke me up, and we soon took off for another day in the city. First stop? Academie Nationale de Musique, also known as the Paris Opera, also known as where the story of the Phantom of the Opera took place. We didn't go inside, just took photos outside.

We walked by the Ritz hotel and saw paparazzi but no celebrities.

Feeling a little hungry we stopped by a recommended tea room for what I'd heard was the world's best cup of hot chocolate. Was it the best? I'll never know because I'm not paying €18.5 for a cup of hot chocolate. At least, not on this trip. I settled for a mushroom & swiss crepe from the same street vendor from which I had, the day before, purchased a lemon & sugar crepe. I threw it away after one bite.

Lemon & sugar crepe? Good. Mushroom & Swiss? Gross (sadly).

I'll be honest: I was hungry and cranky -- thank goodness the sun was shining. The inaccuracy of our map(s) was beginning to take its toll on my mood, but we finally found the location for which we'd been searching: The Holocaust Memorial.

I suppose it's weird to say that our favorite place in Paris was the Holocaust Memorial; favorite isn't even the right word. Our oldest daughter has been studying WWII in school, and when I told her about such a memorial in Paris, she had asked us if we would visit; we said we would; we did. We feel that going there was the best use of our time, and of all the places we visited, it's where we spent the most time. The Shoah Memorial is haunting, as you'd expect, but being in a modern (and what looked to be somewhat of a newer) building is also beautiful. The courtyard displays what looks like a giant urn, upon which are inscribed the names of the camps.

Also in the courtyard are walls with names of the 76,000 people from France who were murdered.

The only place inside where photos are allowed is in the crypt, which contains ashes of the deceased.

The museum is very well run, with video and photographic displays. The tour (which we walked through from end to beginning) ends with a room where the walls are a collage of photographs of children in their happier times; printed on each photograph is the child's name, their birth date, and the date they were taken. The entire experience of being at the Memorial was completely humbling and terrifying and worthwhile. We finished our visit at the book store where we picked up a copy of Six Million Paper Clips for our daughter.

Back on the streets of Paris, I marveled at the architecture of some random building. "Look at this," I said to Darin, "I have no idea what this building even is. It's magnificent, and it's not even the best-known building in this city. Anywhere else, it might be the crowning jewel, but here? It's just That One Place." Amazing.

We tried to navigate the metro system to no avail and made the decision to take a cab to the Arc de Triomphe, or rather, to just across the street from the Arc.

After a few photos there, we took a stroll down the Champes Elysees, which brought our very first encounter with the gypsy girls who beg, "Do you speak english?" We brushed past them and while looking for a creperie found a darling & modern little bakery.

We had a li'l snack, including a mini-madeline in pink which we couldn't, between the two of us, finish because it was so sweet.

Hey, look what we found across the lane!

After a while spent in H&M, we decided to walk toward the Eiffel Tower. We had considered a night-time river cruise, but deemed ourselves too exhausted and opted for an early dinner and some pictures of the Eiffel Tower. I wish you could see it, the way it's lit up and twinkles at night. Really.

We found our way back to our hotel. I think each night we made it back, I was surprised that we had found our hotel at all. We packed up most of our things; we were leaving early in the morning.


AzĂșcar said...

I get around.

Jennifer said...

I had no idea there was a Holocaust museum in Paris. I went to the one in Washington D.C. as a teenager . . . definitely my favorite part of the trip . . . very touching!