Friday, May 6, 2011

It's Not About the Money, Part One: They Speak Spanish in Paris? -- Episode 5

Hello, everyone, and welcome back. Sorry about the delay. I don't like giving excuses, but things have been a bit busy here with the end of the school year. Regular posting should commence now.

In case you missed it, you can find the previous episode here, and you can find the beginning of the series here.

Alright, now on with the last bits from Paris.

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris
In case you didn't recognize it.
 After the Louvre and the Eiffel, Lauren and I were starting to get a bit worn out. But there was still one place that we knew we had to go see before we left Paris the next morning. Obviously, that was Notre-Dame.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a walk involved before we could see it...

Lauren tries to eat Notre-Dame (seen peeking out above the bridge).
 ...quite a long walk, actually. Notre-Dame is situated on an island in the middle of the Seine River. The Eiffel sits right on the banks of the river. Sadly, they're on opposite sides of town.

As a reminder, our hostel is located another couple of blocks above the word "Montmarte" there.
Fortunately, although it was kind of a long walk late in the day, the route along the river took us past some lovely scenery and made for a more relaxing trek than it might have otherwise been. We also made a point of taking our time, realizing that we didn't want to wear ourselves out so early in the trip (we're only on the third day, after all).

Despite our best efforts, though, by the time we reached the cathedral, we were starting to get a little exhausted.
Our friend, the water man.

...and thirsty. Did I mention thirsty?

So here's one of the two oddities about human decency in Europe that Lauren and I... well, we were prepared for it. We just weren't prepared for how big of a deal it would be for us.

Anyway, back to the story. In Europe, apparently, water and bathrooms are not considered a required public service... or whatever law/courtesy exists in America/Britain that provides water and restrooms.

To repeat. All the public restrooms forced you to pay (not much, but still), and all the private restrooms (in restaurants and the like) were locked, making you buy something in order to get permission from the owner. Public water fountains (or simply water fountains in general) were more or less nonexistent, and you couldn't order a plain glass of tap water (except at The Thistle, which is why we love it there), it was always bottled.

So, yeah. Here's this guy, standing by the bridge that leads to Notre-Dame, with this cooler full of chilled water bottles. By that point, Lauren and I were so parched that we had no qualms about parting with two Euros for a couple bottles of water (and the water tasted so good after a couple of hours of walking).

After that day, despite the lackluster quality of the tap water at all of our hostels, Lauren and I endeavored to never leave in the morning without filling up our bottles with some water.

Of course they have a fence.
Not pictured: one hundred thousand
pigeons flocking just to the right.

We made it, though. And the cathedral really is as magnificent as you might imagine. It's all sitting right there looking iconic and magnificent, with hundreds and hundreds of people milling about around it. Quite a sight really.

...unfortunately, sights are a bit more difficult to convey in an entertaining fashion than stories are, so for now I think I'll settle for showing off some pictures. Maybe I'll think of a truly inspirational narrative to give about the cathedral at some point in the future, but I'm certainly not going to make you all sit around waiting for that (you've waited long enough for this post already).


A sharp contrast to other "enthronement" art that we had
been seeing, as this features Christ on the throne, not Mary.

Someone once said something about "the eyes of Notre-Dame."
They were right.

I love this guy. Such a character. Just hangin' out.
Again, there were pigeons EVERYWHERE around the cathedral.

This is Lauren's favorite sculpture: the headless guy.
There's no way she would have forgiven me if I had left him out.

Okay, really quick, I need to talk about one of the most frustrating aspects of the trip for me.

Photograph security.

Notre-Dame and many other sacred sites had prohibitions against photography. Some said that you can't take flash photography, some simply said that you can't take any photos at all. That's fine, I respect that. I understand that. Light applies force just as anything else does and these things are ancient structures/artifacts/relics/etc, which are under enough stress as it is from time, weather, and so on.

I get that.

However, it really, really bothers me when you have those rules and then fail to enforce them.

The worst example of this is coming up, but it was bother enough being in Notre-Dame and having it happen. You walk in, it's all serene and you feel the weight of time and history upon your shoulders...

...and then you turn a corner and there are seventy-five flashes flickering through the expansive hall as tourists try to get a picture of the rose window, or the flying buttresses, or... I don't know, the exhibition displays explaining that the cathedral is losing money (yeah, kinda depressing). And no one said anything! No priest or nun or usher or security guard or anyone ever said a thing. It was almost enough to make me try to talk people out of taking pictures, but I didn't. That's just how I felt.

I allowed myself one picture. It's hypocritical, I know, but I did. You can see it there above. I didn't use a flash, and I probably got a better picture than those who did, even if it is a little grainy. (What a lot of people don't seem to realize is that a flash is only good for illuminating the nearest ten to twenty feet before simply becoming useless. Also, in a lot of situations, using a flash in low-light can actually blind your camera by overloading it with the light from your flash, thus making it less sensitive to the more subtle nuances of color in a darker setting. *ahem* Okay, I'm done now.)

Rant over.

Our friend with the cotton candy.

After seeing Notre-Dame, it was time to make our way back to the hostel. Again, we tried taking a more leisurely pace. We navigated a new route simply so that we could see some more sights (and because it was actually an easier route than we had taken in the past). So we stopped to absorb the ones that interested us.

Also, we got cotton candy.

You know you're jealous.

I don't know who's idea it was to stick a carousal outside of
a government building, but it was a great idea.
This was a cafe literally two blocks down from Notre-Dame.
Oh. You figured that out already? How'd you guess?
Centre Georges Pompidou, housing the largest museum for
modern art in Europe. Also, it's built inside-out.
I love this poster. It's the ultimate poser poster.
We never saw a single one of the things on this
poster usually associated with Paris. I don't know
what the poster is advertising, but it just panders
to the tourist's vision of a Parisian (at least my
tourist's vision).

That's it from me. Lauren is going to be out of town this weekend, but new posts should resume by Wednesday at the latest. Until then, thank you for reading. Italy will be coming up next.


  1. yay headless man! He doesn't get enough love:)

  2. Headless man - John the Baptist, or Paul? Or did you never find out.

  3. I think it was John the Baptist, Mr. Kehe - Paul was elsewhere (if I recognized him properly), writing a book or something;)