13 September 2012

Parisian passages

I won't lie: it's with a considerable amount of joy that I realised this morning, "Final set of France pictures!" So this overly stretched-out narrative is finally at its end.

We started our morning by finally biting a get-in-line-and-wait bullet. The travel team had its heart set on the Catacombs of Paris, no matter how long it took to get in. Our first stroke of luck was that our other friends had made it to the queue before us, so we got to skip ahead immediately. Then... there was lots of waiting. I took the time to write some postcards, stick insufficient postage on, and then went in search of a mailbox to drop them in. I don't know if they arrived in the end (family?). While I was off on my mission I also found a souvenir that I could go and purchase later.

After our morning in line, we made it inside the Catacombs at around lunch time. There was lots of interesting information about the geology and the fossils, and then of course there were all the skeletons. I trust you can do your own background reading. Bottom line, it's a pretty excellent place to visit, even if you have to spend hours waiting to get in. Take some snacks, good company, and don't forget sun protection.

We emerged from the cold of the underground passageways somewhat frozen, but it was nice to have a bit of a delay on really feeling the heat that had taken over the city. Lunch was served at an excellent takeaway joint with the nicest Algerian guys you ever will meet. One of them had spent some time living in the US, so he spoke English and we had a good chat.

I forget if it was before or after lunch that I dragged our whole party to the tiny book store where I had found what I wanted to take home from Paris: a book on French folk art. The owner spotted me and said something in French, which turned out to be "I remember you from this morning". My friend had had to translate that, but the next bit I got, "You looked at a book on French history or something". I was taking it over to him to pay, so, "Aha! Yes, this one!" It's actually funny how much one can understand even when you technically understand nothing. (More on that in a minute.)

For the afternoon our two parties split up again and we went to go blitz around on the Seine on a Batobus. We took a break at one point to get some three Euro colas at the Louvre shopping centre. I think the only person who served me a suitably cold beverage the whole time we were in Paris, was the Algerian guy. And I'm pretty sure that wasn't three Euro. So, basically, Europeans seem to like most drinks at something just below room temperature. Blegh!

For dinner we finally had a timely meet-up and successful supermarket picnic in the Luxembourg gardens. We finished in time to slowly leave as the guards with their whistles were walking around, urging all the lazy readers and sun-sitters to get a move on.

Seeing as how sunset happens after dinner in the summer, we used our Batobus passes to the full to enjoy some sunset and night time cruising. We finished at the Eiffel Tower and took some more compulsory touristy pictures. It was great when the tower started doing it's flickering lights thing. Literally everyone, i.e. hundreds of people, GASPED.

The next morning we drove out to Charles de Gaulle to bid our friend farewell. Too sad :((( to say more about. We sent off another postcard—with sufficient postage this time—and then set off for Germany.

Buying that stamp was actually one of the adventures in communication. The lady at the tobacco shop knew the word "stamp", so we were off to a good start. I knew that Japan is "Japón", even if I didn't pronounce it correctly. The only other hurdle was figuring out how many I want, but that worked out somehow too.

Stopping for lunch on our way back, we actually made it pretty far into the ordering process before making the waiter switch all his complicated questions to English. I think we got as far as two of the burger special, both with regular Coca-Cola, and then I didn't understand the next question at all, but I had this feeling that he was asking about how we wanted the meat done so the answer of "medium" worked... and then we got stuck with do we also want dessert and whatever else. But hurray for context up to that point. It was the same at museums. After the regular business of getting a ticket has been conducted, they will always ask you where you're from. I have no idea how the question goes, but I know what it is.

That's all from the all-knowing smarty pants traveller for now!

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