French people are the worst!....or so we thought.

Trip Start Jun 16, 2011
Trip End Jul 21, 2011

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bonjour from a long awaited and much needed laundry mat in Brussels.  

Yesterday we had our first and last day in Brussels after spending three days in Paris. After feeling all warm and fuzzy from our welcoming in Ireland we were not sure what to expect from France. We have had quite a few interactions with French people along our journey and out of those we have enjoyed one of them. The rest have consisted of broken English conversations mixed with French condemnation. Matter of fact, we would go as far to say that we were not looking forward to Paris, as sad as that is. We've been told story after story on how Paris is dangerous, and the French people refuse to speak any English to Americans(even if they know the language). We decided that we needed to drop any preconceived notions and go in with a positive attitude. After all, if the French were to visit New York City they would receive a similar attitude from Americans with the possibility of being shot, not robbed.

We took an early morning flight from Cork to Paris, arriving around 11 am. After checking in at our hostel, which seemed alright, we were too tired to really explore our options so we did what seemed easiest… went to the Eiffel Tower. After about 2 minutes of gazing in awe at its glory while being serenaded by a Native American band… we both were fast asleep (clutching our belongings) on the viewing lawn. Waking up, freshly sunburnt (something we had not had to worry about for the past week in Ireland) we tried to motivate ourselves to hit the town but ended up sitting on a park bench writing our reflections on Ireland. We went back to our hostel, met our new bunkmates, and set out to explore our neighborhood (Montmartre). We ate dinner at a Kebab house, got a bottle of wine, and sat on the steps of the French Parliament people watching while listening to a Fleetwood Mac cover-band. Here we met Patrick, an architect major from UVA who was also staying in our hostel. We exchanged stories from our travels while watching a drug bust from across the street. We then decided to get a good nights sleep so we could make the most of Paris.

The next morning we headed to what we thought was a hidden treasure of Paris, the Catacombs. To our surprise, we found a line that seemed pretty long at first, only to determine it was actually ridiculously long- wrapping around nearly the entire block. Luckily we were standing in front of a nice Aussie couple, once again confirming that Aussies are our biggest allies. If we were ever in a position of international relations we know who has our back. After taking a steep spiral staircase 134 steps down into the earth’s crust, we continued down a short, narrow tunnel for what seemed to be a mile. The main attraction consisted of another mile long tunnel, similar to the first with the exception that the walls were made with the bones of 6 million Parisians. The wall was about 5 feet high with the outer portion made from the stacking of femur bones while patterns were created using skulls. This is where we would tell you the interesting history behind this attraction, but we did not purchase the audio-guide. What we were able to gather from the limited information on the posters is that it has something to do with the overcrowding of the graveyard and at some point there was a battle fought down there.

All boned out we decided to try some French cuisine for lunch. We found French food to be very similar to American food. Their McDonald’s double cheeseburger is exactly the same as ours, but they do offer tasty sandwiches called le’chaliets.

We then went to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral. Of course, the architecture was amazing and quite a spectacle to see. Disappointed to discover the Hunchback was only a fictional cartoon character we thanked the kind priest for this information and went on our way.

We hopped on the intricate, yet easy to navigate metro system, and returned to the Eiffel Tower determined to hike to the top. It ends up that you can only walk 1/3 of the way up the structure which ended up being more than enough. We then took an elevator to the very top. As you can imagine the view was amazing and we enjoyed it thoroughly, evaluating each direction trying to determine which had the best view (Congratulations west!). Quickly becoming dust, we decided to have a picnic dinner on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower. We found a pizza place and ordered a pizza consisting of olives, onions, mozzarella, sauce, and a mystery French ingredient called thon. It was only after we started eating, that we realized thon was French for tuna… this explains why the pizza man was surprised we had ordered it. We had also purchased delicious cherries and a 3 euro bottle of wine. Despite its cheap price the bottle proved to be a delicious high-quality specimen of French wine. It was here that Pat saw his future bride… a model from Slovenia. Unfortunately, she succumbed to the charm (and free wine) from 2 French guys sitting next to us. Judging from her chain smoking habits and her overall condescending attitude… it was probably for the best after-all.  After dinner we relaxed and played rummy (while being ridiculed by the same 2 French guys sitting next to us 'Boring….so boring’), and avoided eye contact with the hundreds of people selling key chains versions the Eiffel tower at all coast.

The next day, we decided to take-on the ultimate test of our museum patience... the Louvre. Learning from our crucial error at the Catacombs, we headed straight for the audio-guide desk, only to find that we were too late and they had all been rented out for the day. We decided to make the best of it, and intended on doing a lot of reading. This proved difficult since neither of us spoke French and the museum didn’t offer signs in any other language. So Ryan stepped in as the tour guide and made up explanations of various pieces throughout the museum. Our favorite piece depicted a very sad and chilly Santa Clause on December 26th. After that got old, we decided to go see the main attraction… The Mona Lisa. When you first entered the room, you would have thought Shinee (see previous London blog) was giving out autographs, with hundreds of people pushing to the front to get a picture of the beloved Da Vinci painting. I guess they didn’t want to forget what it looked like. Mentally exhausted we decided to take a long lunch of baguettes and quiche, returning to the museum to discover that it was closing in 20 minutes. Determined to make the most of what little time we had left, we rushed from room to room soaking up as much art as we could in a desperate attempt to make ourselves more cultured…. It worked.

When we returned to our 6 person room we noticed that we had 4 new roommates 2 brothers in town from Switzerland for the Iron Maiden Reunion show, a pre-med student from Boston, and Matt. Overall, we have found the people we’ve been sharing a room with to be pleasant or at least quiet. Matt was neither. Instantly after meeting Matt, he disapproved of all of our methods of traveling so far, lectured us on his 22 different varieties of beers he has tried during his trip, demanded we not wake him in the morning, and upon leaving our room taught us to the importance of locking the door to our room.

Mat was the only thing we found unpleasant in Paris… although it did provide us with hours of entertainment mocking him. Other than that Paris was amazing. Our initial negative attitude was unwarranted. Nobody fit the anti-American stereotype that we had. The entire city had a lot of character with its architecture, city lay-out, etc. There was by far, more things to see in Paris than any of the other cities we’ve visited so far… and we must admit, what they say is true… the city is romantic. This left us feeling lonely and slightly gay being that it was just the two of us, but we both agreed that we would try to revisit the city with significant others in the future.
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Ben on

Is that pat doing the robot inside the catacombs? I can only hope that it was followed up by the grocery store decision dance!

Ryan-i hope you didn't visit the eiffel tower without having a re-make of the washington memorial!

Diana Hundley on

Sounds amazing! Have a great time and stay safe!

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