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Bit By Bit Spending some months in Europe. Let's see how it goes... Check ya later, Barry.


USA | Tuesday, 16 February 2010 | Views [251] | Comments [1]

Paris is an expensive city. On top of that, the exchange rate from US dollars to the euro is just outrageous.  And on top of that, the price for things is about what they would be in America, only with a euro sign instead of the dollar sign, meaning they are that much more over-priced.  And yet, everyone still has extra change for their coffees and pastries.  Except for us, that is.  When we are on the go, it isn't unusual for our first meal to be near dinner time, and some random snacks after that or make-shift dinners.  The markets in Spain were a litle less forgiving, forcing us to come up with random combinations in hopes of having a slightly balanced meal: raw cucumbers, pre-packaged diced ham, pears and potato chips. We already mentioned the cup of soup, canned mussells, and pringles. 

Here in Paris we are living the life, as far as make-shift suppers go.  We only eat out about once a day, and when we do the servings are reasonable and healthy.  There is none of the American eat until-you-are-about-to-burst.  For example, Rebecca's salmon the other day was accompanied by three halves of boiled potao, all bathing in a wondrous and buttery scallop sauce.  Michael's seared duck filets came with a handful of fried potatoes spiced to perfection.  Breakfast is provided by the hotel, and is simple yet scrumptious.  Our choice of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate (we get the hot chocolate for some calcium), and half a baguette each.  Jam, butter, cheese spread, or nutella.  A shot glass full of fruit cocktail, and a cup of orange juice.  For some reason, it is one of the best breakfasts we have ever had, although we add to it with our own lunch meat to make it last a little longer in the old system.  The market down the street provides the supplies for our evening meal, which we have had for the four nights we've been here (and we just extended to a fifth). The hotel here also allows us the use of their fully functioning kitchen and wares.  This means that we can dice up some tomatoes and onions to make the most amazing bruschetta, flavored by spreadable cheese and accompanied by a pre-made vegetable broth/soup.  Washed down with some nice scalding tea from an iron kettle, and digested while watching good old American Idol.  No one that we liked made it through Hollywood Week...

In Paris it is cheaper for more than one person to stay in a hotel, and as soon as we arrived here we set out for one that really stood out in one of our guide books.  (By the way, our guide books have been invaluable.  Especially Let's Go! Europe, compliments of Rick and Kristin from DINKS: thanks a bunch! It literally tells what streets buildings are on, what bus/metro to take to get there, and how much you will be spending; all for restaurants, lodging, and entertainment.  It also supplies the reader with a few pages of history on the specific country).  The hotel we were aiming for not only provided breakfast, but free wi-fi and use of their laundry facilities.  Not to mention the free use of their kitchen, which we found out upon arrival.  

It is a good thing that we got into Paris so early in the day, because the subway system turned out to be the most challenging yet.  Underground is a labrynth of chambers, connected by flights of stairs that connect to long corridors connected to long corridors.  We go up sometimes to go down a few minutes later, and travel through a tunnel that seems a block long before going up again, wading through an underground shopping plaza, before going up agin and back down and up one more time with several lefts and rights interspersed before reaching a platform that turns out to be going in the opposite direction you want to be going.  So figuring out how to get to the other side without playing chicken across the tracks is another challenge.  Trains come and go every two or three minutes. And in a city like Paris we have never seen more than two ticket booths per metro, some of them only having one.  And it is not uncommon for that one ticket booth to be broken, but a homeless person is conveniently selling a stack of tickets nearby for only ten cents extra.  "It's broken..." they tell you in French, hovering over your shoulder, and waiting for you to give up pushing buttons and purchase one of theirs. Which you have to do, because of course there is only one ticket booth.  Wherever they get their stack is a mystery, but the tickets are legit.

The homeless seek refuge in the metro system, as it is the only warm place away from the bitter cold and winds.  They spread out their sleeping bags and camp out as if they are home, and in all reality they are.  On the streets, some of them lay in the middle of the sidewalk, and a large percentage of them keep dogs tied up near their things.  It seems that curling up next to man's best friend on the side of a freezing Parisian street, thousands of people walking by and feeling free to drop some change if need be, is a better alternative to being alone and in a corner.  Sometimes, in the metro, musicians post up and play for spare change.  Sometimes they hop from train to train, blessing all with loud and live music, good or not (we saw this in Spain too).

There has been no shortage of the [attempted] scams.  Our guide books gave many examples, and we have seen many more.  In the larger stations it's people that start out by asking us if we speak English.  And then please, could we help them, I am from Greece and I am stuck here and I need to make a call back home, I need to please help me, only fifty cents.  On the streets it is people asking if we speak English, and then unfolding a postcard that tells a tale of woe and despair. My sister and I have been stuck here for two months.  We come from Kuwait, and our mother is dead.  Today we go walking by a man who says, "Oo la la!" (yes, the French really say this) and bends down to pick up a ring.  The ring is a fake, see, but he wants you to think he just made an amazing find.  He then tries to get you to buy the ring, biting it and gesturing and chattering pathetically even as you retreat with raised hands and a firm voice. We turned around and watched him drop the same ring, over and over, pacing the same few feet as new people passed by.  Thankfully, we didn't see anyone buy it.  

As previously mentioned, we jumped subway after subway upon arrival, studying the maps on the walls, trying to figure out how to get to the tourist office, and once we got there, to the hotel.  It was three hours later that we finally walked through the front doors of Hotel Marignan.  It is funny that the wandering rarely bothers us.  Only if it's late, or if we are hungry or tired do we wish to be done with the wandering.  It feels good to get on and get off at leisure, no reservation to keep, nothing making us spur on, no time to waste.

How are the people? you might ask. They say bonjour and merci, au revoir and misseur.  They are not rude to us, but we are not rude to them.  Our first restaurant experience was a terrible one indeed, and we wonder if we get the crappy service because we are foreigners.  We honest to goodness almost walked out on our bill.  The door was right there and we were so close, we could just up and walk out, we had been waiting for our check for almost an hour.  But he would see us leave, there would be time for the police to chase us down, and we would be stuck in a French prison without even a phone call home because we were arrogant, thieving Americans.  So we stayed put and left a crappy tip.  There is no proof for our theory, though, and no way to stop it besides, so we continue to stumble through the words and use the French ones we know. We are trying, and they can tell.  The small restaurant across the street has good food for a good price, and the servers are competent. We will continue to go there, it seems.

We will stay here another night.  The relaxing is just too good... 

More about our adventures in Paris tomorrow.



Great read! Thanks for all the detail. Stay blessed & safe; prayers always and covered over both of you.
Much love.

  MOM Feb 17, 2010 12:21 AM

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