Playing a little catch-up here…
Funny thing about the train, toss on some headphones, play some music from home, and look around. You could be in any major US city. Remove the language and the architecture and it’s the same diversity of peoples. I’m sure this will change the further I get from the core of Europe and into the fringes where mobility is more restricted but for now I can believe I’m not that far away.
When I crossed into France several things became apparent. The weather I’d happily left in Antwerp was over France as well. Another thing I noticed was the graffiti had improved dramatically. Sorry Germany but your delinquents are still playing with finger-paints by comparison. The French appear to have the whole box of crayons.
I’m not sure if features of the landscape make it feel as if we’re going faster or we really are going faster. The German ICE was going 200kmh, but that felt pedestrian to the French Thaleys. The ICE also didn’t bank with the turns. I’ve heard the French TGV will do over 300kmh! I’m going to have to try that…
I sat across from a mother with twin boys for 4 hours. You could see the exhaustion in her eyes. She alternated from playing with them to reprimanding them. She was outnumbered but you could tell she really loved these boys whether they listened to her or not. By the end of the trip the man that was sitting across from them, who was rolling his eyes and their energy, was playing with them and even got hugs and kisses from the little boys. I’m sure the mother was also happy to have a little help.
Funny thing about Paris, in pictures all you see is the Eiffel Tower, but when you’re on the street walking around you almost never see it. I’ve seen the majority of sights at this point. The Arc de Triamphe, Notre Dame, Saint Sulpice, the obelisk, the Moulan Rouge, the Basilica Montmarte, of course the Eiffel Tower, and many others.
However, none of these famous and beautiful sights compare to the awe inspiring Louvre. The Louvre is the largest and most amazing museum I’ve ever seen. The collections are awesome, from Italian painters, to French sculptures, to Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Persian antiquities. Stunning. The British museum in London pales by comparison.
I walked for hours and the only reference I had for where I was in the building was too look out the windows and use the courtyards and streets for reference. I’d guess, but I’d usually be wrong. I would say that in the first 4 hours I covered maybe a third of the total collection and that was without aid of an English audio guide.
This is where you study art history, where the art and history live. Where you can see the chisel lines and the brush strokes.
It’s hard to describe Paris. It’s big, busy, old, dirty, friendly, imposing, helpful, beautiful, etc… It is awash in contradiction. The stereotypes are mostly false as with all stereotypes. The rudeness I was told to expect hasn’t shown itself – except for a gruff café operator. Everyone in every part of the city has been accommodating. Several times I’ve stood at a corner trying to get my bearings and someone has asked me if I needed help finding something.
I’ve found many straight streets since my first night wandering around in the dark. The streets start to make sense when you understand the landmarks and that the street names change when a building gets in the way. It also seems the further south I go the more loosely the traffic laws are interpreted. The walk/don’t walk signals are for tourists and the lines on the street are mostly decoration.
Everything is expensive here. Restaurant food and drinks are the most expensive I’ve found in Europe so far, but the groceries are the cheapest. All that taken into consideration, my benefactors have made Paris extremely affordable and friendly. They have gone out of their way to guide me and make Paris feel welcoming. I’ve taken every form of public transport and other than the man on the bus who chastised me for not covering my mouth while yawning, then threw up a few minutes later, everything has been smooth sailing.