Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Paris 1 - Back to the stone (pre internet) age or "Macaron is a cookie!"

We went into a pâtisserie and J asked for cookies. Those with colors. The shop-kipping girl stared at her and briefly said in English: "It's a macaron!"
This summarized certain aspects of our trip to Paris:
French people do speak English. All the stories about French people not able or wiling to talk English were proven wrong
If you don't know how things exactly work in Paris, you are gonna get into trouble. Actually, even if you do know, you may run into difficulties 
Now that we were sure that French secret services finally got our tail, we started counting back towards our return, though nothing prepared us to the experience on our way back. 

But first thing first. Let's start from the beginning. 

From inception, the trip to Paris proved difficult. In Amsterdam there was an accommodation problem. Everything was full, but the interaction with the house owners was quick and efficient (quite like all the staying there). 
We wrote to several owners in AirBnB and got no replies, for which I wrote to another few found through TripAdvisor. In the morning of Friday I went to my class and J went for a medical check-up. Moments before we left towards the train station, we got a confirmation. Now, we a confirmed place to sleep in Paris we expected to enjoy the promised great weather.
Udi, my high-school friend living in Paris warned us: "the certainty factor here aspires to zero...
Well, he was right. On the bus to the train station we got a SMS from the Parisian fellow saying " don't have a place to sleep". This got us into a mice run which emphasized all that we grieved about till now in this Europe visit. While we were still in Belgium we could check for emails from B&B on our mobile. However, why would someone here answer an email?

Later, there was no open Wi-Fi anywhere neither in France nor in Belgium. Every single hot-spot marked as 'Open' requires web browser authentication based on your home ADSL/cable account with one of the local providers. When we finally found a free network in Starbucks in the Louver museum, it required to fill-in a form of numerous fields with personal details b/c of national security reasons, only later enter a long username and a longer password from the ticket we got at the counter. Once connected, got forbid you shouldn't leave the browser or open another tab, otherwise it gets disconnected and you have only 3 connection attempts after which you get blocked and have to beg for another username at the counter.
Europe :-/
Later, my professor talks about why does Europe lag behind in innovation….
In general, European web sites have some issues with usability. E.g. the Belgium trains web site, allows you to plan your route with an acceptable interface.  However, if you want to check for the prices of a certain trip, you need to get back to the homepage and search for  the price separately….

Ayelet & Udi helped us by remote control to find a room for the first night in a youth hostel. It was beautifully located in an old mansion and breakfast is served in the cellars of the building. Definitely cool. Add to it the fact that we had a place to sleep and we were quite happy. The downside, no towels, frakking cold (huge rooms and little heating), no double beds and need to pay for internet ("Only in the morning, in the meantime you can use the internet kiosk machine in the corridor - 1 euro for 15 minutes). The next night we settled in a really nice studio 5 minutes walk from the Bastille square.

Some of you probably know that J and I planned to be in Paris a few years ago, a scenario which was slightly obstructed by an airport strike. So, finally arriving to Paris was quite an  event. Well, the first time we missed the plane, now the bus took over 5 hours instead of 4, the toilet was broken and instead of enjoying the ride I was on the phone for accommodation. Good that we aren't superstitious.

As soon as we landed in the hostel, I went out to grab some food for us. I was happy to see numerous 'Chinese'/'Vietnamese' restaurants.  I was sure I'll find a hot vegetarian plate for J. Sure…..I had plans...well, Paris has other thoughts. In one place the answer was they have none, and in the other it was 'Yes, indeed we had a one tofu plate but it's over." Needless to mention that even at 23:00 all the other plates buckets in the counter were full. Even the rice was with ham or shrimps. What did Paris do to the Asian vegetarian dishes? Nothing without meat?

Our first morning was a very cold, foggy and very windy. A perfect day for the Louvre. We knew it's the biggest and most important one. Soon, we found out it's also one of the most beautiful and well maintained ones. We focused on 3 things: get connected to the Starbuck's Wi-Fi, meeting our above mentioned friends and their most cute offspring and the ancient middle east collection. It was very impressive. The collection including Hammurabi's code, countless Pharaonic artifacts and other made an amazing picture of the French led archeology in our region and a kind of "Luna Park" for history and archeology lovers. The glass pyramid about which we heard so much grievances is in our opinion a nice modern addition, well executed and gives the museum a modern touch that many others lack. The main issue we found with the museum, was the ever returning problem we found in Paris...signs...We wanted to get to a certain part and couldn't with the map alone, we had to ask. It didn't occur to us in the past. Ghrrrr...human interaction :-)

Later, we walked all the way around the museum's quarter and from the Tuileries Gardens via Champs-Élysées avenue to the Arc of Triumph. We bought some food and collapsed in our new sleeping place. Later that night D went to the hostel to get the backpack and we fall into a demential TV watching (Italian children talent contest). 

Oct-22 to Oct-24

No comments:

Post a Comment