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The Tourism Vaccine

Me: Do you know what I’ve not done here at all? Gone shopping. I’ve not gone shopping at all. And there’s all of these soldes going on.

Husband: Soldes? Does that mean ‘sale’?

Me: Yes.

Husband: Oh! I was thinking, man, all of these stores have the same name. Sol-dees. I thought it was like Macys or something.

Me: HA ha ha ha ha!

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Today I cured myself of the fear of tourist spots by doing what doctors have done for ages–I subjected myself to the very thing I was trying to avoid. Over and over, in smallish doses. A tourism innoculation, if you will. And I’ve come out on the other side with not so much as a fever.

We set the alarm for 6:30 for this morning, intending to make it to Notre Dame before the crowds. Well, the crowds won, because we turned the alarm off and slept until 10. So we again ditched the big church and headed out to the other side of the river. Two metro rides later, plus a short walk, we were at The Cluny, which is actually called something in French meaning ‘Museum of the Middle Ages’, but everyone calls it the Cluny because, well, for one thing, it is easier to remember.

This particular museum was mentioned in this month’s National Geographic Traveler magazine, in an article titled ‘Paris without the crowds’. Even after that article was published, crowd free is what we got. And it was a great little museum, the highlight of which was a circular room upon which hung six of the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. Now, I know this sounds insane, but I love the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, and have ever since I was a small child (and wanted some day to grow up to BE a unicorn) So seeing them there–where I didn’t even know they’d be (I just wanted to get away from the crowds) was pretty awesome. I sat in that room for a while. Other than that highlight, the museum itself is pretty cool. It is partially built out of old ruins, so the building itself is a museum. It was pretty cool.

After we determined that the attached garden–lauded in National Geographic as a great place to relax–was actually pretty lame and oddly crowded, we walked up past the Sorbonne to Luxembourg Gardens. I cannot believe a place that beautiful exists, just sitting out in public like that. You’d have to pay a lot of money to get into gardens that amazing anywhere in the states. It kicked Longwood Garden’s butt. And it had little kids sailing little boats in a fountain. How freaking quaint is that? (And again, sorry no pictures–uploading issues. Flickr albums to come).

Walking across and through Luxembourg Gardens, we hopped on another metro (I LOVE the Paris metro–see rant below) to travel to the Musee d’Orsay, which was one of the main things I wanted to see during our stay here (in addition to Versailles, which we are nixing, and Giverny, which we are still considering). We got the audio guide, and only attempted the first floor, and we still spent three hours there. This is the kind of art that I love. I’m embarrassed to say that Monet is one of my favorites, tied for first with Van Gogh. I’m embarrassed because, really if you don’t know anything about how or what he painted, or how innovative it was at the time, or haven’t seen the stages he went through or understand the effect he had on art in general, you really think that his paintings look like a Friendy’s restroom print at best–or a shower curtain, at worst.

After determining we’d run out of steam at the Orsay (get it? a steam joke?), we walked across the Seine on a very bouncy bridge, through the Tullieres gardens (‘A bit disappointing’, my husband remarked) and took a ten minute metro ride home. Which brings me to my I Love the Paris Metro rant…

I love the Paris metro. I’ll tell you why. Unline the NYC subway, there’s a little board that tells you when the next train is coming–and it is always within four minutes. Always. Unlike the London metro, there are stops more often than every three miles or so, so you are always close to a station. It is also very easy to transfer. Additionally, it is very easy to understand. The lines are clearly marked, the final destination tells you in which direction you are going, and there’s even a handy map that helps you determine which exit to take–something the D.C. metro–formerly my favorite metro stystem–could learn from (Sorry D.C. metro. don’t worry, I still love you!)

We then came home and, after discovering an awesome new store that just opened up down the street (PA people, think Wegmans meets Wawa–mindblowingly odd and awesome), we had a lovely, if a bit confusing dinner at a bistro down the street (I thought I ordered scallops–I got chicken.)

I am having a better time. I am still frustrated by many things, and tonight at dinner, when my husband pondered ‘I wonder what I’d have to do to earn a living here’, I replied, ‘Well, first, you’d need a divorce lawyer’. But, I haven’t cried in two days, I am no longer sleep-deprived, and am trying not to be bothered by the…counting them…maybe three dozen people hanging out (loudly) at the cafe out my window (in the same way that I’m trying not to be traumatized by the two men I witnessed shooting up in the ‘pee stairwell’ outside the apartmemt building door.) I’m not homesick, but I’m not sad I cancelled Barcelona, either. I’m somewhere between the me of two days ago–mentally burning the french flag whist screaming ‘f@ck soccer’ in the streets, and my husband’s ‘English teachers in Paris’ job search mentality.

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