Monday, April 16

Europe, Europe! (Part 2)

(To review my trip, go to "Europe Europe Part 1" to continue your reading!)

On Eurostar, we exited the tunnel beneath English Channel, we arrived to la France~

The train only took us 3 hours (with time difference). It took us to Gare du Nord station in Paris. It was a bit difficult for us to navigate from the train to the metro with those confusing or absent signs! And C's french was *really* rusty! Only little did we know that the lack of signs is the standard in Paris...

After persuading some Parisians for help, we reached to the Metro which was fairly easy to get around. We arrived to a hostel just right outside of Paris in this area called "Clichy". Our hostel was only 2 blocks away from the metro stop. Sweet! We checked in and proceed to our room (all to ourselves! Yessire!) on sixth floor... and right out of our window, we can see the Eiffel Tower! Mind you, this was nighttime so we did see the sparkling demonstration. It was exciting! I begged C to go out to see the Eiffel that night (it probably was 10pm). We put our newly knowledge of the Metro to a test and made it to Eiffel de Tour! There was *so* many tourists-- and traps as well... there was a good number of people trying to sell ripoffs of Eiffel-- colorful key chain with mini-statue of Eiffel hanging from it. C and I, on the entire trip, never had problems with people trying to sell us souvenirs-- until here in Paris. We had to be brazenly rude and shooed those people off. We looked around but didn't see much due to the darkness of Paris so we went back to our hostel and planned out our 3-days stay in Paris.

Next day, we went out to the Lourve (we slept in a bit) and we thought we can get in with an expected short line because it was raining (heavily).... wrong. People still went to the Lourve and stood in the LONG line outside in the rain! Ridiculous, so we moved on to D'Orsay which is only across the Seine river-- same story. Funny, there was a person who sold umbrellas-- and he definitely made a profit that day! (We ended up buying an umbrella for 5 bucks because I, yes I accidentally left the umbrella on the Tube in London. :-/ )

We didn't get the chance to enter any of museums as we originally planned. We decided to just walk around the Seine river-- and we found ourselves at Notre Dame. Paris is pretty a pedestrian city-- if you do have a good pairs of walking shoes.
We did go in the church with hordes of tourists. I was upset for one fact- people took pictures with flash inside the church despite numerous of warning signs to not use flash photography. I was disappointed that the local people of Paris had to suffer the inconsiderate attitude by visitors to their homes.

Notre Dome has this amazing rose window. C pointed out that the negative space (the trim, beams, frames) of this window is still an image while the positive space (the glasses panes) also gives images. So there are two perspectives to this rose window! I do love Notre Dame for its antiquity and beauty. Can you imagine all of those colorful window and amazing vaults in 1700?? The people back then must have got spiritual seeing this amazing piece of architecture. Bonus for the church!

We stumbled into a section of Paris-- the Latin Quarter-- we have read about this in travel books and those books were right to call this a giant tourist trap! If you can, avoid this place at all costs. It was very close-by to Notre Dame and we were very hungry so we had no choice but entered the lion's den.
We found a quiet Greek place to eat salads (we haven't eaten greens so this was a heaven for us!!) while we deducted which country each tourist was from.

We went to Eiffel tower to check out more areas surrounded the tower-- The arc Du Trimphoe, street of Champs Elysses (the final run that Tour De France bicyclists took). A funny story engulfed from the street. For some of those who may don't know the street-- Champs Elysses is "blinging" with expensive brands lined up. In middle of this street, there is a .... American restaurant.... known as McDonald's.

Yes. McDonald's on this expensive hip street. And it was a busy-- there were lines to get a French McRoyal (we really didn't read the menu so we had no idea and I just made that term up.) We went inside for the warmth after a chilly stroll. There was a second story so we went upstairs to sit near the windows to look down out to the street. We were people-watching as always. Something caught in corner of my eye-- I glanced over and there was this young couple whom were decked out in fancy suits, expensive jewelry, and hip hairstyles. It was apparent they were on a date because the man was feeding her french fries. Although because they were French, they had to
do it the French way-- he wooed and lured her to take a bite from a fry in his hand. The woman looked at him coy and snapped her teeth, laughing.

What the ??!!!?? How could it be romantic to have a date in a freaking McDonald's?! Guess being on Champ Elysses makes it more exotic. I will never understand the French after making this observation.

As New Year's Eve rolled in, C was hesitant about going out in Paris when the midnight strikes. He wanted to stay in our hostel room and watch the fireworks at Eiffel from our window. I put on my pout face and begged him-- he conceded in and off to Eiffel Tower we went! We thought it would be difficult to get to Eiffel when it was 10pm-- actually it wasn't that bad-- people did move when you asked. They didn't pack up and push people out of way. There were many police officers patrolling but we spotted a police van with officers inside drinking champagne! Only in France would cops drink on duty!

The people were SUPER friendly. It wasn't crowded at the Eiffel, and we got a GREAT view of the tower when the midnight struck. See this picture for our location at the Palais de Chaillot-- you see several dark columns just in front of this grassy block in middle? We were RIGHT there! It was raining, cold, but I loved it! I did expect a bigger firework show, but apparently the city of Paris just left the fireworks to the locals to shoot off from the grounds-- it sure added some excitement as we ducked our heads as one runaway firework went across our heads!!

View my video clip of the fireworks and flashy Eiffel du Tour here!
(you might have to tilt your head sideways. I couldn't find the clip that I adjusted to be viewed upright)

We went back to the hostel-- well more like TRIED to get back. The Metro was CROWDED! People were just packed in like sardines-- even the doors couldn't close until at least three people just get off from the tram! It was unbelievable to see this SO much of people (locals and tourists) just in one tiny place! We did bump into a Deaf Italian who was in town for the holiday as well with his hearing female friend. We couldn't chat much because we were busy pushing our way out of the train to get off at our stop!
*Additional note: C and I didn't meet any Deaf Parisians. :-( I did have an original plan to meet up with a guy named Florent. We kept contact via text-messages all way up to London-- where I lost my Sidekick2 and the ability to stay contact with him. So it was SO sad that I didn't get chance to see LSF(French Sign Language) or at least the Deaf community in Paris. We even had a small packet of LSF that we practiced to prepare ourselves for Paris!

We went to a train station on January 1st (after finding out that so many museums were closed on NYD. Bummer!) to buy rail tickets to Italy. We had to go to a specific booth with a British flag sign (indicated that the person do speak English)... and we faced with a stereotype becoming true-- the French lady who was supposed to know English was very snooty to us. She explicated that she was frustrated with our request for her to write down (we wrote in English asking for a price to Venice, Italy-- she replied with her voice. Argh!).. She wrote down and pushed the paper back under the window-- and it was in French. We were bewildered and wrote "English please?"-- she rolled her eyes at us and spoke something to a person in next booth. I got ruffled by her impatient attitude. C reminded me to just smile and make her feeling guilty for being mean. We kept signing to each other in hopes for her to realize that we were Deaf and that was the reason we explicitly asked her to write down. Notes were swapped back and forth under the window and we were able to achieve two rail overnight tickets to Venice in Italy for.... 200 euros or something. We wrote down, "Bon! Merci" and she smiled and waved her hand good-bye as we left with our tickets. Change of heart? At least maybe, just maybe next Deaf person comes in and ask her to write down what she says, she won't put up a fight!

We finally went into Lourve Museum... however the entry was a confusion! There were too many lines and we wanted to buy a package where we could use a ticket to hop several different museums. We finally arrived to this office for those tickets-- the workers realized we were Deaf and won't let us buying. We were surprised and implored them to let us buy-- she wrote down: "You can get in free". We looked at each other and gestured "why?" and we only got one word as her answer: "Invalides"....
we looked up to her and she gestured "you both" and pointed to that...awful word. I hinted to C that it may meant "disabled" in French because I happened to read in the guidebook stating that there is a museum dedicated to honor the veterans who were disabled by the wars and the name of that museum did include "invalides"... but... "INVALIDES"??? In English "invalid" is a word with bad connotation. So this bothered me slightly as we proceed to the entrance and showed the ticket-checker the note with INVALIDES written in caps. They escorted us in.
So by accepting the label of being invalid, we saved 20euros. Whatever it takes to pinch a penny... :-/

As an art student, I had to admit that... Lourve has an amazing collection, but none that interests me. (Shielding self from tomatoes throwing). They do have zillions and zillions of sculptures and artworks.... from Gre-Romans era and pre-1400s. I did
see Da Vinci, Raphael, the Mona Lisa painting, and a favorite piece of mine, a marble sculpture of a hermaphrodite (view #1 and view #2). The architure of the Lourve is more impressive-- the Roccoo and Romantic styles with elaborate details all over the ceilings are amazing. The Lourve is huge, mind you, but we spend our times being blown over by the ceilings in various rooms. By noon, the Lourve was getting crowded... and people were
touching the sculptures (are you f***ing crazy, it is over 1,500 years old! Stop touching it or it might crumble!) so I was getting irritated by the disrespect. C was getting hungry and tired (we already ate at one of their cafes. Expensive but we made our service quick and sweet so we could move on) so we decided to leave without checking some more rooms. I told C that there are always another time to visit the Lourve.

We hopped across the river to see Musee D'Orsay-- lines were long as always but C decided to "bend the rule" by taking the short line (for.... "seasonal ticketholders" or something like that). There was a security guy who scolded his finger at us but C ignored-- and I obliged. C gave me a look to imply that I just ignore him and walk by like I was dumb. The guard spoke, I gestured that I am deaf. He moved on to next phrase: "American? You speak English? You do speak English. Listen to me..." and I just blurted out in my Deaf accent: "Yes, we are Americans.
We are deaf. We want to buy special tickets". He was taken back and looked away as he waved us in to use this short line. Maybe he was ashamed? Surprised? Who knew? Of course C did go crazy on me and told me to stop listening to people and just go head-on-- I argued: "at least we got his approval to use this line, now I won't feel so guilty, thankyouverymuch.". There was a confusion once we got in-- where is the
tickets, what are all of those lines for? And it didn't help that I had to use the bathroom SO BAD. I looked at the map and ran to the nearest bathroom-- and somehow we ended up being inside the museum. We realized we did go into this corridor which does have a giant gate but it was wide open- and we bypassed the area where the tickets and security detectors are at. C took advantage of this and hurried me to get deeper into the museum before any one of the security guards notices. There, I got to see Manet, Monet, Renior, Degas, and this shocking nude painting made by Courbet that I am fond of. Musee D'Orsay resides in an old train station so there is this beautiful clock overseeing the museum. You should go there just for the architecture!

Tip: make sure museums are open on whatever day you plan to go. Most museums in Paris close on Tuesday and holidays (even if it is not a popular holiday). We did attempt to visit Musee Picasso and Musee Rodoin but no. Closed. Bummer. So we just went back to the hostel and packed up for our next destination-- Italy.

PART 3 COMING! All about the Italy~~

(Part 3 will come. Part 4 is in works. Yes, there are so much to share!)

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