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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Paris Hilton, It Ain't

The hotel, that is.

Here in Paris, our gang of law students is staying at the Citadines Apart'hotel at Place d'Italie. We stayed at a Citadines in London (it's a European chain), so we were familiar with the setup - small rooms, no maid service, but an apartment-style joint for a week (kitchen, cooking tools, etc.). The Citadines at Trafalgar Square was a pretty good setup, though - despite the cramped quarters, nobody really complained much.

In Paris, it's a whole new (worse) story. We arrived via bus from the train station after our ride through the Chunnel. With 60 people rolling up to check in, there was one person staffing the desk (it was a Sunday, true, but come on, we had reservations - they knew we were coming). It was a complete zoo checking in - people calling out names, handing out room keys, and fighting through crowds of angry students and luggage. Worst of all was the elevator - one of the two elevators in the joint is broken, and elevators in Europe are small to begin with. This meant that only four people could ride up at a time with their bags, and with each ride taking a few minutes, the wait for the elevator ended up being nearly an hour for people like me at the back of the crowd (I had strolled across the street to get a soda rather than fight through the crowd). Finally I decided to carry my bags, which weighed a total of about 100 pounds, up five flights of stairs to my room. I don't think I'm qualified to be a fireman.

We quickly found out that the trouble with the hotel didn't end there. The room was even smaller than that in London (although with some clever furniture rearranging, we made some space). My bed is slightly U-shaped, so I roll into the center no matter where I lay. And worst of all, you can't make outgoing international calls from the rooms, leading to a line nearly a dozen deep for the pay phones in the lobby. There's also no breakfast served at this hotel like there was in London. At least on the plus side, there are a few TV stations here that show, shall we say, liberated programming.

Paris itself, at least based on my first walk through, seemed much dirtier than London, and I was quickly starting to question how this place became seen as such a romantic city. (The answer to the question, of course, is to travel like a high roller - don't take the Metro, stay in the medieval castle that's been converted into a sweet hotel, and eat at the 40-euros-an-entree places.) We went over to the Latin Quarter and saw Notre Dame, which was pretty impressive. Then we walked around to find dinner. We settled on a pizzeria because we figured 10 euro for a pizza was reasonable, but when we looked at the menu and saw 4.50 Cokes (that's over $5 US), we couldn't justify paying that (and they don't do tap water here). We instead found a sandwich shop and picked up baguettes and sodas for about five euros. Then we just wandered around the Latin Quarter eating them. That's the way to roll.

Today we did some classwork, including reports on EU countries. (We were Sweden. I passed on the wisdom that we had a general value added tax of 25%, but that for food it was 12%, and for books and other cultural items it was 6%, because "we want to promote eating and reading.") It got to be pretty tedious at the end when we had to listen to the lesser countries like Cyprus present, but I guess that's how the real EU is, too. After that, I waited in line for about an hour and 45 minutes to change my train ticket to Brussels so I could be on the right train. (While I waited, I had a Royal with Cheese from McDonald's to pay homage to Pulp Fiction.) I had to get new tickets because mine weren't exchangeable or refundable. The new train tickets ended up costing me (sorry, Dad - I'm trying to be frugal) 107.50 euros. The French rail system has unquestionably had its way with me.

Feeling abused by France at this point, I figured I'd go get some wine. Instead, I came across a couple classmates who were heading over to the Eiffel Tower. We checked it out, and it. Is. Freaking. Huge. It was the tallest building in the world for about 50 years until the Empire State Building was built in the '30s (take that, France!). The replica in Las Vegas probably is about as high as the second tier of the real deal. We didn't go up to the top - we figured we'd save that for nighttime.

Instead, we headed over to the Arc de Triomphe. As we came up the escalator from the Metro stop, suddenly the Arc appeared right before us. It was a pretty cool experience, so we went back down the escalator and rode up again, this time with cameras rolling. Then we stood in the middle of the Champs Elysees and took pictures while dodging traffic. Tickets to the top of the Arc were five euros for students, so we went for it.

It was so worth it.

First we found a museum, which we didn't expect, inside the Arc of Napoleon's victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. Everything was in French, though, so we were kind of guessing at what we were looking at. Then we got to the top of the Arc. From there you can see straight down the Champs Elysees to the Louvre, and to the south was the Eiffel Tower. Then we turned around and saw the sun setting over Paris past the Grande Arche (the sun sets really late in Paris, especially this week, when the days are the longest of the year - sunset tomorrow is around 10 p.m.).

As the clock struck 10 - and I happened to be recording the view of the Eiffel Tower at this time - suddenly the Tower started sparkling with light. It was absolutely incredible. I filmed for a little bit, and then I just stood back and watched the tower. Then and there, 160 feet above the Champs Elysees, above the dirt and bustle of the city, for the first time since I've been in Paris, I finally relaxed and took it all in.

I suppose I could get to like this place after all.


  • At Monday, June 20, 2005 9:41:00 PM, Anonymous Z said…

    While you're there:

    A great neighborhood to walk around is the Marais.

    The best view of Notre Dame is from the Pont des Arts footbridge over the Seine.

    Don’t miss the Sainte-Chapelle church near ND.

    Consider a day trip to Chartres.

    After the Louvre, if you only hit one museum, make it the Orsay.

    The Mets will sweep the Phillies.



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