Third Time’s the French Charm!

For some reason it took three visits, but after our third visit to Paris I came away realizing that you know what? The French are actually a very nice and friendly people!

I have no idea if my belief that they were rude, snooty, and snobbish was instilled by the ever-competitive Brits or the Americana belief system whereby everyone who’s not American must have something wrong with them, but for pretty much all my life I have felt some degree of disdain over the haughtiness of the French. Indeed, if you were to go back into this blog, I’m sure I poked fun at that more than once.

We’d definitely rather deal with pickpockets than mass shooters.

But after some very enjoyable restaurant meals with animated and friendly servers, as well as interacting with helpful guides at the Louvre and elsewhere, engaging in friendly banter when buying anything, or saying, “Bonjour” to strangers as we passed by and actually getting the same in response, it dawned on me that we’d been giving the French, and especially Parisians, the short shrift all this time. Obviously, in any big city there are going to be people in a hurry, or who are abrupt, or who want to pickpocket you, but overall this visit completely changed my outlook on the French. I’m sure they can all rest comfortably now.

The funny thing about Paris for us is that only the very first visit was planned. We went there again a few years ago when our flight from Crete to Athens was delayed, so we ended up booking a flight to Paris because the next flight to Lisbon was god-awful expensive for some reason, and decided to stay there most of another week (one of the benefits of being retired!). This time, we only went because my son and his family were coming to visit so we thought we’d show them one of the world’s most beautiful cities, but alas, major surgery scuttled those plans and they couldn’t make it this time. But we had non-cancellable tickets we didn’t want to let go to waste, so here we go again!

Obviously, once in Paris, the first thing you enjoy seeing is the Eiffel Tower, even if you’ve already seen it multiple times. As we drove in from the airport, I couldn’t help but wonder why it looked so skinny as compared to my memory of it. It really flummoxed me until Carolyn gently pointed out that what I was gawking at wasn’t the Eiffel Tower. “Oh, of course I knew that!” I said haughtily while quickly pocketing my iPhone.

One thing we did experience in Paris this trip was a lot of crazy traffic. Traffic jams were everywhere. We saw more car accidents in five days in Paris than we have the previous five years in Portugal. And we thought the Portuguese were crazy drivers! I have no idea if what we experienced was the norm or if everyone in Paris was upset that there was an American couple using their roads, but I was just glad that we didn’t have our own accident, especially since many car rental companies in Europe pull out a magnifying glass and try to charge you for even the smallest scratch when you return the car. We used Sixt this time, but never again. I think it may be their business model to rent cars with the tiniest of dings on them and then charge the customers 300 euros for a ten cent repair that isn’t even needed especially because no one would have noticed it in the first place. But now, with the power of the BaldSasquatch blog, we’ll bring them to their knees! Take that you Sixt bastards!

During our first foray into Paris we turned a corner and unexpectedly directly up ahead was that iconic structure. Despite the fact that we’ve seen it now a number of times, it still looks impressive. There’s little doubt you’re in Paris when you see the Eiffel Tower! Unless you’re in Las Vegas.

In the wild, cranes flock together for safety.

The architecture throughout Paris is so striking and beautiful. This visit reminded us that the center of Paris, with its gorgeous buildings, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the gardens, the museums, the River Seine, and so much more, makes it one of the most beguiling cities in the world. Even UNESCO is headquartered in Paris. I’m surprised they have the time to investigate any heritage sites outside of the city!

Everywhere you look, there are flowers, expansive gardens, magnificent old buildings, old farts posing, and even Doors of the Day.

As if that weren’t enough, they even have one of the world’s longest urban motorway tunnels. Once you’re in, you’re committed to a 10.1 km (6.3 mi) journey underground, claustrophobia or no. The ceiling is low because it’s only for cars… and truckers who have been pining away for a convertible.

I suppose this is appropriate time for a segue to show pictures of the Catacombs, because, you know, it’s underground, potential death lurks around every corner, and no one’s driving an AMC Pacer.

First, they make you walk down 3 or 4 or 50 flights of stairs (we lost count when thinking about walking back up) and then about a hundred miles (lots of kms in old people parlance) through this tunnel.

Once you survive that, you come face-to-face, er, skull-to-skull, with thousands of remnants of people who used to breathe, fight, make love, kick their dog… but never drove an AMC Pacer. And yet died anyway.

It’s estimated that there are over 200 miles of tunnels underneath Paris. The Catacombs were originally created due to overcrowding in the cemeteries. By the 18th century, they had grown so overcrowded those who lived close to them complained of strong odors and even started to get sick themselves. Kind of like living next to Steve Jobs in his fruitarian heyday.

This is called The Barrel. I always wanted to be a bone artist. I wonder if the Portuguese would mind if I dug up a few graves?

I swear I didn’t notice anything amiss until after we got home and I saw it on my laptop and photoshopped it.

My final analysis is that if you are really itching to see human bones, the Catacombs will do the trick, although the Chapel of Bones in in Evora, Portugal will scratch the same itch for a lot less money and a lot less walking underground. Since we are veterans of the Chapel of the Bones, it didn’t do as much for us as it might have. But who knows, we might feel different to-marrow.

We’ll finish off this chapter with something much more pleasant, and one of the things that no one can argue with: French food. We ate too many pastries, but you know, when in Rome, er- Paris…

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