How McDonalds saved my vacation

Trip Start Oct 04, 2009
Trip End Oct 24, 2009

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Where I stayed
Floris Ustel Midi Hotel - with elevator!!

Flag of Belgium  , Région de Bruxelles-Capitale,
Monday, October 12, 2009

Well, after  eating several more Egg McMuffins, McM’s and McChickens I’m getting back on track.  I’ve been drinking lots of water, eating more, and getting sleep, but it’s slow going trying to stay ahead of this sore throat.  Each day I start out a little weak, then eat something and energy returns quickly.  I think this is how it’s supposed to work instead of just eating because you’re in front of the computer or television.
My week is winding down in Paris and I’ve needed to make some choices about what I could realistically see.  I decided on the Rodin Museum and the Opera Garnier which is right down the street.  Monday is a travel day .  But first, another impression of French culture.  I’d say about a third of the young people are walking around listening to their MP3 players with full sized headphones.  Not earbuds.  The full sized Sennheiser or Bose headphones which go over the whole ear.  Not the medium sized ones you get with your PC, the big ones which completely cover the whole ear.  I’m sure the sound quality is great, but come on…..that’s just wrong…..  Also a gripe.  When I walk into McDonalds for breakfast and order a café grande (large coffee) I didn’t expect to get what we in the US call a small coffee cup and it’s only 2/3 full.  It’s not espresso, it’s just regular coffee.
Saturday I went up the street to the Opera Garnier.  It was commissioned by Napoleon and it looks like Versailles inside.  All of the walls, the molding on the walls, the stairs, the banisters and railings are all polished marble of different colors.  If it’s not marble it’s covered in red velvet or gold gilt.  These people definitely know how to do fancy.  The ceiling was painted in the 60’s by Marc Chaggall.  It was pretty amazing.  I was lucky to get a peek because after about an hour they closed it down because they had a matinee performance. 
So I headed to the Latin Quarter where I stayed last trip.  It’s a popular area with young people so it was bustling.  Lots of places to eat so I got a Gyro at one of the many Gyro stands.  I love Gyros.  I just don’t think they need to also jam it full of French fries so I got them on the side....with mayonaise.  Delicious…and not from McDonalds.  I hung around for a while, then walked across the bridge to the two islands in the middle of the Seine.  This is where Notre Dame is (on Isle de la Cite).  What I was really hungry for was some ice cream from Bertillon, supposedly the best ice cream in France, on Isle St. Louis.  I got a small cone with 2 “boules” of Citron sorbet.  Cost 6 bucks, but so does Baskin Robins.  Took one little bite and almost passed out.  I’m convinced the French are messing with the laws of physics.  There’s no way you can get that many lemon molecules into that tiny little scoop.  No wonder they’re working on the Hadron super collider. 
Afterwards I thought I’d take the Metro to the Trocadero, across from the Eifel Tower and check it out at night.  Someone here suggested I climb all 700 steps so I can have bragging rights.  They were not aware that 700 steps is just 10 trips from the street to my apartment.  No…I wasn’t going to do that.  But from across the river it was great.  It was lit up in red and white (no, I don't know why) and the plaza was full of people just being part of the scene.  A number of Africans (a lot from Tunisia and Morocco) were there selling their wares and a few had a boom box hooked up to a car battery playing Michael Jackson and “break dancing”….sort of.  They need a little practice, but they were fun.  At one point an old guy (no, not me) jumped in and stole the show, not that he was all that good, but he got out there and everyone had a good time.  About that time it was the top of the hour when the tower sparkles for 5 minutes.  So I used my camera in video mode and took a shot.  Unfortunately I turned the camera on it’s side to get the best vertical shot and now the video is sideways….I’m going to find a way to post it anyway.
Sunday I went to the Rodin museum.  Paris can be deceiving.  You walk down the street and all you see are solid walls and doors at the sidewalk.  But walk through those doors and a whole world can open up.  Behind the doors at the street was a large courtyard, then a large house, then a huge garden at the back of the property with a lot of his sculptures.  I’m taking pictures like crazy.  Snap, snap, snap, battery dead.  Oh well…..  It was time to go back to the apartment anyway.  I’m leaving in the morning and I have to pack.  Paris had its ups and downs, but I’m ready to move on.  I’m not ready to haul about 70 pounds of luggage with no wheels, but I want to get on the road.
Monday I got up early and headed to Gare du Nord to take the high speed Thalys to Brussels.  Took about an hour.  Walked to the hotel first, which was close and dropped my bags off because checkin wasn’t for another couple of hours.  Then I took off to find my bearings.  At this end of town it’s a lot of Arab immigrants on the streets.  Saw a sidewalk sign for Lamb Tangine which I hope to try tomorrow, but I headed to the Grand Place without camera for now and ran across a little Thai restaurant with 6 tables and scarfed some Pad Thai and egg rolls.  I was hungry for asian food, but the stuff in Paris was mostly like Bel Air, already prepared and not hot.  What am I supposed to do with that?  Anyway, afterwards I found the Grand Place and stopped in one of the many fine chocolatiers where I chose about 8 little chocolates to top off the evening and headed back to the hotel.  Oh my gosh, they have an elevator.  I had to control myself because I didn’t want them to see me crying.  I’m on the third floor (really the fourth floor).  I dumped my bags, took a shower and crashed for a few hours.  I’m still holed up in the room and plan on getting a full nights rest before heading out to blitz the city tomorrow, my only day here.  After that Bruges…..
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