Saturday, 23 October 2010

Paris I (Fall Break Part 1 of 5)

October 13, 2010

Today we went to France via the Eurostar. I was super tired so I attempted to go to sleep, but I could not. Then I worked on my structural analysis and began to get super tired. It became so bad that I was beginning to nod off, so I put it away and tried to sleep, but, of course, I started to wake up again. Oh hell. Anyway we arrived at the station and headed for the metro along th- HOLY CRAP! Three soldiers armed to the teeth just walked right by us.
These guys (taken under Eiffel Tower)
In case you did not know, the international authorities issued a travel warning for Europe due to a suspected terrorist attack. Different countries have handled this in different ways, and the above picture is a sample of France's reaction. In other words, they are taking this very seriously. The metro was pure evil. First of all, people in France are pushy. They will shove you so much as they feel necessary to fit. Second, the metro itself tries to eat you. The fast-closing doors do not stop for body parts, and poor Phil's hand was almost lost. When we arrived at the train station, we learned that the train we needed to reach Barcelona was not running (see the post "Holy Heartbreak!" as to why). We drifted around the station for a bit, and by the time we were ready to hit the town, the professors already got a 7:30 PM bus to take us to Barcelona, which meant we were all to regroup at 7:00. With that said, we walked out of the station and along the Seine (main river). The views along the Seine were beautiful and there were plenty of bridges.

Ha! They don't even know that they are on the Internet.
However, what really took me by surprise was the bizarre works of art along the Seine.
This is a man behind a... um... well, he's behind something. I can tell you that much.
I don't even know where to begin with this one.
My dream house: a melted one.
The result of a steel manufacturing plant giving too much time off to its employees.
Anyway, we soon came upon the unmistakable image of Notre Dame. It is really a majestic sight. I also took pictures of the inside but I got better pictures on my second trip to Paris so you will see them then.
Look at those buttresses.
They're watching us; pose really religiously.
I finally got a picture of TWO friends taking pictures.
While we did get inside, we wanted to go up into the towers, which required a separate entrance. We got to he entrance only to find a sign informing us that you could not enter the towers from 1:00 to 2:30 that day. Considering it was 1:15 and we had to be at the Eiffel Tower at 3:00, it became pretty clear that there was a conspiracy. You see, if j- oh hey! A place to eat! Yum! We headed into the restaurant and I ordered a Nutella and banana crepe. It wasn't heavenly but it was still pretty good. Anyway we finished and walked along the Seine for a long time until the got to this building, which we lovingly named...
... the hurry the f* up building.
We were still more than a mile away from the Eiffel Tower and only had 30 minutes to get there. That may not seem too bad, but with the constant traffic, intersections, and stoplights, a half-hour mile in a major city is difficult, especially if, say, there were certain physical limitations on how long you can keep up a fast pace. Anyway, half of our group (my half) started walking at the deadly pace that is right between a walk and a jog. We finally bumped into the metro station at the Musée d'Orsay. Thank goodness... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... hey guys? I don't think its running. As it turns out it was running every half-hour, which still didn't do us any good. Okay, back to walking-jogging hybrid. To my utter amazement, we were only 3 minutes late, but we could not find any one else, even the professors. As it turns out, everyone else had the same problem. It was about this time that I acknowledged that I was actually under the Eiffel Tower.
Not there yet...
Not yet...
Not yet...
We went up the Eiffel Tower via elevator. On the second level I took my favorite shot, which revealed to me two things. First, the tower is really, really tall. Second, There are SO many rivets (about 500,000).
At the top we could see all of Paris. Now until fairly recently, Paris has had height restrictions for most buildings, and since being less strict about it, some skyscrapers have popped up. The only problem is that they look horrible in the skyline. For instance...
Random-ass tall building #1.
Random-ass tall building #2.
I love seeing cities from high places. I love looking at the organization (or lack there of, with London). But a picture is worth 968 words, so here is Paris.
I'm so high right now. So high!
After the Eiffel Tower, we had free time so long as we were back by 7:00, which was not a lot of time. So we basically decided to walk back to the train station on a route that would take us to other sights. We past the Arc de Triomphe from a distance... Egyptian obelisk and a badass fountain...
 ... we wandered into some kind of famous gardens (with strangely little gardening) and came across an interesting piece of art that depicted a man...
... from hell...
... and finally we crossed paths with the exterior of the Louvre.
I don't care what anyone says; the pyramid works. End of story.

I think I will take this opportunity to express my sincerest disappointment that I did not encounter any French stereotypes. I did not see the Frenchman in an artist hat with a horizontal black and white striped shirt holding a baguette and a bottle of wine all while randomly being next to a snail.
Like that.
It disappointed me that my stereotypes were not fulfilled, though I did catch a few instance of PDA that would probably get you smacked in the U.S., so I guess that counts for something.

We arrived at the station after passing Notre Dame again only to find out that the bus time has been changed to 9:30 (so we need to be there at 9:00), giving us 2 extra hours. I actually stayed at the train station on account of exhaustion from the poor night's sleep the previous night. I basically moseyed around the station for the next 2 hours. However, I did encounter an interesting shop right outside the station. It sold snacks... watches... travel items... books... butterfly knives... switchblades... and tasers. Yes, f*ing tasers. It wasn't even in French; it was just labeled "taser" in the window display. Keep in mind that this is right near the entrance of a mass transit station, but there's no way that could be a security issue.

Time for the bus... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... where is it? Oh, it two blocks away from where he said he would pick us up. How thoughtful of him. No big deal, it's a quick walk. You don't speak English. Great.

Before I state the rules of this bus, let me clarify a few things. First, a classmate of ours has a medical condition that requires a bathroom to be handy at all times. Second, this ride was anticipated to take 12 hours. Third, this driver looked like he murdered puppies for his other job. He was f*ing terrifying and could most certainly rip me to shreds if he felt so inclined. Anyway, here are the rules:


-No food
-No drinks
-No bags
-There was no bathroom, so stops every 3 to 4 hours (not often enough for my friend)

If any of these rules get violated, we all get dumped on the side of the road, and I have no doubt that he would. What. The. Hell. Anyway, after my flat mate negotiated with him in French (which I will assume involved much badassery), we got a slightly lighter set of rules.


-No food
-Water permitted
-Small bags allowed
-Stop every 2 hours

If any of these rules get violated, we all get dumped on the side of the road. Well it's not going to get much better, so here we go. It was only about 10:00, so I doubted my chances of sleep for a while. At least I'll have plenty of hours to do my structural analysis; let me turn on the light. You disabled the lights. You motherf*ing piece of sh* son of a b*. It's funny, but the light thing was really what set me off internally for my own sake. Otherwise all my rage was for my friend's sake. I stayed awake for the first 2 hours and rest stop and started dozing off on all the following trip segments. The problem was that I woke up every time the bus stopped. So my sleep was disrupted a good six or seven times during the night. Honestly, if my friend doesn't have to go on a moving bus, I'm okay, but I am going to feel pretty crappy tomorrow.

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