I have a big problem of not listening to people when I already have my heart set on doing something. People warned me that Paris would be completely dead in August. I always thought that was sort of an exaggeration, like saying “All the French are snooty”.
No, really, everything is closed in August. I’m not sure how you can run a country when everyone departs the capital in August – a capital that is not just a political one but a financial and cultural one as well – AND takes a national holiday on top of that (Aug. 15, Fete de l’Assomption).
But first – arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport and getting to Paris from there is a completely separate hassle. The airport, interestingly, looks like something out of “Blade Runner” – like a futuristic layout that is so dirtied and aged that it just winds up being decrepit. I only speak “enough French to get by” but I managed to get my bags and find the shuttle to the RER train that takes you into Paris. Helpful hint, if you get into Paris this way you have to buy a separate train ticket (that costs more than just a plain old subway ticket). Thanks for being a bitch about it, subway window lady. Don’t you have a strike to go on?
I took the Metro into Paris and had hoped to transfer onto another RER line to reach the stop closest to my hotel (stop Musee d’Orsay). Unfortunately, the station where I wanted to make the transfer – Saint-Michel – was closed to that particular line. Which means when I exited the station, I had to walk several blocks while dragging my suitcases in order to reach my hotel. And of course it was raining. I was so completely stressed out by the time I reached my hotel that I had to take a very long nap after I checked in.
My hotel, the Hotel d’Orsay, is marked on the map. Normally the St Germain des Pres, the main boulevard just to the south of it, is bustling. When I was there, I was often the only person on the street for a few blocks – everything was closed.
I have only one picture from Paris, mainly because I was so incredibly annoyed by the entire city shutting down that I decided to not take pics out of spite. And also because the last time I was there (6 years ago, in June, which was really fun), I took a million pictures. But I digress.
Since I’d already done the touristy stuff and so many things were closed, Paris was boring and a rittle ronery. I spent most of my time walking around and looking at neighborhoods. I considered going to see “Marie Antoinette” one day, but the movies were dubbed, not in subtitles. The best day was when I met up with the president of my school’s alumni group in Montmartre for a tour and lunch (including escargots, which are like oysters but a little tougher).
Thursday morning I woke up and caught a train from the Gare de Lyon to St-Raphael on the coast, and from there I took a boat to my next destination.
I was terribly unimpressed with the French women I saw. You always hear about how put-together they are, and feminine, and stylish, and “don’t get fat“. These are mainly lies. French women have just as big of guts as I’ve ever seen, and plenty more wrinkles because they smoke like chimneys and tan themselves to the point of looking like a rich cognac-colored handbag that I’d like to own. Also, many women I saw – FRENCH women – had hair colors that simply have no origins in nature. Skunk-stripe highlights and lots of brunettes-turned-redheads. For all the fuss about French women not wearing makeup, they are certainly willing to experiment on other parts of their heads.
One more gripe about the French. They’re not snobby, just terribly unhelpful. I wonder if French people come to the U.S. and ask why everyone is so accommodating. I actually saw one woman at the Air France counter in Nice flat-out refuse to talk to a girl who was obviously running late for a flight. This was pretty typical.