I once tried to see everything there is to see in Paris in nine days, with mixed results. A co-worker and I had strayed from our official duties at a trade convention in order to see the sights there. I say “strayed” which may be a tad imprecise. The convention was in Manhattan.
[All photos by the author]
In Paris we stayed at the Peace and Love Hostel. It’s a patchouli-ridden fire trap, decorated in post-period American Hippie. From there Nick and I ventured out, each day walking back and forth across the entire City of Lights, which is quite a distance considering you have to walk serpentine to avoid the dog poop. They really do need to oppress Fifi’s freedom.
The Eiffel Tower was way cooler than I thought it would be. It is big. It’s big and it’s tall, and it’s well worth the 50 francs or whatever it is they charge to use the elevator. I suppose now days the money is in Euros so have some of those handy if you go. The currency du jour might change by the time you get there so bring some stockings and cigarettes to trade.
We saw the Bastille. Well, sort of. It was torn down in 1789 so you have to squint and imagine a prison and the king and queen’s heads rolling and a bunch of peasants standing around eating cake.
The most memorable thing I saw was the Catacombs. Unlike the American Indians, the French have no problem with people desecrating the bones of their ancestors. The skeletons of over a million French people are stacked like cord wood in the old sewer system under the city.
Here’s the deal on the Catacombs. During the religious wars the various iterations of Christ each commanded his loyal followers to slaughter each other and the cemeteries couldn’t handle it all so they said “screw it” and dug up everyone who had ever died in Paris going back to caveman days. Then some enlightened genius said “Throw them in the sewer and charge people an ambiguous price.”
Anyway, children are running through the piles of bones while guards yell at them to slow down or they might trip over a femur or a skull. After about a kilometer of Dungeons and Dragons you reach the end and they check your backpack to see if you tried to steal anything. You know how travelers are compelled to bring little gifts home for their friends and relatives.
The Catacombs were not our only dungeoneering experience. Nick and I went rogue during our tour of the Sacré-Cœur which is a little church next to a big Irish pub in the Montmartre district. We ditched the group, ducked under the tape, and found some stairs in the back leading down to guess what? More dead French people.
As entertaining as piles of dead religious extremists are, it is an unusual and macabre tourist attraction for an American who once drove out of his way to see the world’s biggest ball of twine. But I understand that great allowances must be made for differences in culture when one is abroad. I learned that on my first day in London when I ordered fish and chips and the fishes still had their heads on. I decided at that moment to never order the haggis.
At Versailles you mostly walk around looking up at stuff, which is why I have tons of photos of Nick looking up at stuff.
When I first saw Pulp Fiction and they posed the questions, I guessed the answer to the follow-up. It just came to me. France is metric. I hardly see why that answer makes a difference though, it’s just a food name, not the actual measurement. Food can be named anything. We have freedom fries but everyone knows it’s just ethnocentric spuds. But anyway I saw the movie which has a guy named Brad who knows that the metric system is why a quarter pounder with cheese in France is called a Royale with Cheese as opposed to say, dogfood on a bun. Brad answers correctly spurring our hero to shout “Check out the big brain on Brad!”
Well then, since my name is Brad, and since my big brain is so pre-tuned to hamburger trivia, my hand was forced. So I ordered the Royale with Cheese and it tasted like crap, I mean… it was pungent and overbearing with after-tones of pickle. I forget how much it cost but I only had francs with me and the smallest note they trust Americans with is a 50.
This pretty much sums up all I have to say about the issue of immigration and refugees and foreigners and the like.