When I arrived in Paris I was sick. The week before I left New Zealand I’d caught some sort of bad cold. I was over the worst of it, but I was still tired and snotty and sweaty and had a bad cough.
The first sight that greeted me as I emerged from the metro station was a crazy guy freaking out in a phone box. He was talking to someone who obviously wasn’t saying what he wanted to hear. He started yelling and screaming. The phone call ended, but his anger remained. He started throwing rubbish bags around, getting litter all over the Place De La Nation.
Oh yes, welcome to Paris.
So the first 24 hours in Paris were shit. I felt miserable, the hotel had no air conditioning, which normally wouldn’t have been a problem, but having a slight fever in the middle of a hot Parisian summer meant that I couldn’t get any sleep.
But happiness smiled upon me. My brother was very cool in helping his poor, unfortunate sister and soon I had a new hotel room.
So the first thing I did once I’d got my feet on the ground was go for a walk. One of the first things I did was visit the mini Statue of Liberty. It was a little bit freaky seeing it emerging from behind the bridge that passes behind it. It felt a bit like the end of “Planet of the Apes,” like, “Woah, it’s the Statue of Liberty! That means I’m still on Earth! You animals, et cetera.”
Next, the Eiffel Tower. On the way there my bro and I happened to walk through a bunch of tear gas that the police had let off to quell a nearby protest. I felt very urban holding a tissue over my face as we hurried to the underground.
The Eiffel Tower is two things. First, it’s the tower as viewed from a distance. The icon of Paris. The object young lovers gaze up at as they lie together on the grass. It’s the postcard, the tacky souvenirs, the ever-present landmark. But it’s also a presenter of panorama. When you go up the tower the one thing you can’t see is the tower’s famous shape.
The top viewing level is much like the viewing platforms of other really tall building all around the world. The lower levels are more interesting, mostly because there’s so much room. Unlike the straight up and down of the Sky Tower in Auckland, the Eiffel Tower’s pyramid shape means that there’s room for cafes, shops, art displays, a restaurant, an events room, an AV display, models of the technical workings and a plethora of crappy metal models of the tower for sale.
Then I went to Euro Disney. Actually, it’s called Disneyland Paris now. Apparently Euro has too many trashy connotation, where as Paris is elegant and classy. Just like Disneyland.
My brother refused to go with me, instead spending the day visiting art galleries, museums and historically significant buildings. I mean, Notre Dame is an impressive building, but does it have automated singing pirates? No. I love the Pirates of the Caribbean ride so much that I went on twice. The best thing about it was that the pirates were singing and har-harrring in both English and French. Disneyland was fun. And I got a little teary-eyed when I saw the lone Maori doll twirling her poi in “It’s a small world”.
I visited the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa, but I soon got sick of all the old stuff. I loved the Pompidou Centre – the modern art museum. I just seem to connect more with modern art. And I visited Jim Morrison’s grave and paid my respects to the lizard king. I wanted to scrawl a declaration of love on his tomb, but apparently that’s illegal. Oscar Wilde’s grave is also there, but it was covered in lipstick kisses.
I went for a stroll along the banks of the Seine, but discovered that I have a minor fear of walking under bridges next to water. And besides, it smelt like pee.
I watched a bit of French TV. I was delighted to discover “A la Recherche de la Nouvelle Star” aka French (Pop) Idol. There was this really cute contestant called Jonatan. All the girls in the audience screamed when he performed, and I had this idea he’d probably win. He did.
There was a also a daily show that was one of those TV commercials from the around the shows. Except it was French, so the host got naked once, and some of the ads were a bit rude. There was an old Perrier ad where an elegant woman’s hand began to stroke the Perrier bottle, causing it to grow bigger. The stroking continued, until finally the Perrier bottle couldn’t take it anymore and spurted out its fizzy goodness. Crikey! I also saw a real ad for a Nestle ice cream that had a brief glimpse of a naked bosom. Not to mention the strange soft core porn music videos.
By the end of my Parisian adventure I’d slowly warmed to the city’s charms. I liked Paris, and I think it possibly liked me.