Monday, December 15, 2008

Ou est la toilette?

Typically, I like itineraries. They give me a sense of purpose. They keep me on schedule and prevent me from, well, doing exactly what I did today – carelessly explore and casually stumble upon, hypothetically speaking, a giant ferris wheel and tantalizing treats.
The day began with a sense of purpose: first the Louvre, then coffee at Angelina, then chocolate at Jean Paul-Hevin, followed by dinner somewhere back in the Marais. Yet upon leaving the apartment on the late side, my first priority was lunch. So I stopped at Victor’s where I got a tomato, chevre, and rosemary baguette which I took to-go as I found my way to the store that sells multi-day museum passes (a must if you're in the city for more than a few days). This was easier said than done. It is located in a place called Le Forum des Halles – aka Hell with a pretty name. The place is a giant underground mall fully equipped with an H&M, Gap, and Starbucks. When inside Dante’s third circle, it only took about 45 minutes to find what I was looking for, and when I thought I was only minutes away from the Mona Lisa, nature called.

The five gallons of water that I drank before I left the apartment was ready to gtfo. My search for the toilets began. On the bright side, one of the five phrases that I can utter in French just happens to be “Ou est la toilette.” Great! Wrong. Knowing how to ask the question doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll understand the answer when spoken in French. Lesson learned. Another 20 minutes and .40 euros later (you have to pay to pee) problem was solved. So finally, hours later, I realized it was probably too late to see the 300,000+ square feet of world famous art. And my day could finally begin.

I walked from Le Forum des Halles down the Rue du Pont Neuf and over to the Rue du Rivoli – a busy street with large brand name stores like Zara and Levis. I then turned onto Rue de l'Amiral de Coligny – home of the well known bar called Le Fumoir. While I didn’t stop in, it is a place I intend to return at which point I can testify to whether it lives up to it’s “fashionable” name.
From there, I wandered over to the Louvre, mildly jealous of the cultured tourists exiting the building, and continued to the Q du Louvre where I walked along the Seine which looked pretty bleak in the cold and cloudy temps.
From there, I wandered into the Jardin du Carrousel, which I believe (I could easily be wrong here) was a scene in the Audrey Hepburn film Charade. Somewhat creepy with the carousel music and ornate plastic horses, I took a few photos and wandered over to the hugest ferris wheel I had ever seen in my life – covered in bulbs that changed colors every 10 second and probably visible from Italy. Time for a ride! By this hour it was dark and the buildings and sights were all lit up – making this a particularly fun find. The view was spectacular, although my camera wasn’t able to capture one-tenth of it. The city lights outlined the streets and most historic buildings making it look like a city scene made out of light-brights – apropos for the City of Lights.
There was more to my day, including exquisite pastries at Angelina, a walk along the Champs-Elysees followed by high-end boutique window shopping on the Rue St Honore (where lingerie can cost more than a single-family home at la Perla), and then a delightful French dinner in the Marais. All things considered, no itinerary was needed. But those stories will wait until a time when I am more awake. Bonsoir!

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