2005-09-26: Merci


September 26th, Day 3

Breakfast this morning was in the basement again. It was more pastry. To make it seem interesting I had them in a different order. I'm sure holiday breakfasts are meant to be about eating as much bacon as your arteries can handle. But we weren't here to eat breakfast so we took off for the days activities.

The first activity involved returning to one of those French queues. I wanted to see where our train trip was for the next day (Gare du Nord, where Gare is pronounced gah-ray). And I had to buy the tickets for that trip. Gare du Nord caters for a fair number of foreigners and as such they had automatic ticket machines that would show text in English (unlike the state mandated French that all French seem to use). I was happily buying tickets when I remembered that the money I was using was meant to go to rent that was going to be taken. So I stopped and started to do sums in my head to see if I would have enough money left for the rent (yes, me, having to worry about having enough money for rent). While at the train station Edyta had to go to the toilet so we used a McClean, a 1 euro per stall toilet. It was also a toilet block that had the most overpowering smell of urinal cake I've ever smelt. One security guard emerged from the toilet laughing and gasping at the over-powering smell. Edyta noticed it too, but due to the normal lack of urinal cakes in women's toilets (as I understand it) couldn't place the smell.

Notre Dame's market gardens

We left from Gare du Nord to re-start our touring at Notre Dame. It turns out Notre Dame was the big impressive church we didn't go into the day before. This time the lines going through it were moving better so we did a quick walk through there. It was a big dark church. The French churches are different to English ones, except the both seem to have people actually trying to pray while tourists clamber all over the place ignoring the no-photo signs everywhere. The "Do you speak English?" beggar came around again still trying to work the crowd. I answered her with "No" this time.


We hopped on the tour bus to find the first port for the river cruise we wanted to take. We got off the bus but didn't know how to get down to the port, we ended up walking back along a road and down a ramp to the docks. There was one stop there for one company but I expected to find more so we walked further along the dock. There was nothing at that end so we walked all the way back to the other dock. I got our ticket and we waited for the next boat (having just missed a boat). The river cruise started off badly from there. Edyta was hungry (it was a bit past lunch now) and needed a toilet. I found one for her but she didn't want to walk all the way back along the docks to it. So we got off the next stop on the boat and started walking to find a toilet. The French didn't even provide their pay booths out there. We eventually went into a caf? where Edyta used their facilities and I sat down to look through the menu. Then I was told she didn't want to eat there because of all the creepy old men around. So still grumpy we wandered off to find food. We found a caf? a little further down behind the modern art museum where Edyta had a toasted cheese and ham (and an egg on top) sandwich. Now that she was fed and relieved she started to become happy, but now I was left grumpy for having been the target of her grumpy vendetta most of the morning.

Modern Art Gallery, Old Post Office

We walked past the museum and found ourselves back at the first boat stop we had taken. We clambered back on the boat for a river tour past most of Paris' land marks. The river trip also showed some interesting and truly French aspects of the city. At one bend in the river the rivers edge was full of toned men wearing very little g-strings sunning themselves to keep that natural tan look. We went under some bridges where the homeless people had set up - but these weren't a collection of cardboard boxes and shopping trolleys. Here they had some nice looking tents and even had set up outside dining areas.

We left the boat at the Eiffel Tower and took the bus back to Notre Dame. We were going to head to the Lourve but first Edyta wanted a bite to eat. We had a crepe to hold us over till tea. While Edyta went to the toilet I left a 20 euro cent tip (the meal was only 5 euro dollars). The gracious French took it, went into the kitchen to talk to his mate who was smoking away and then started to clearly show he thought I was a cheap scape (I am, but that is not for the French to decide). His mate was holding him back from coming back over to me. Screw the French! They don't deserve my money. For what? Slow service; smoking in the kitchen? Sacra blur them I say! Anyway we left from there to go on a river cruise.

We boarded the bus again and went to the Lourve. We walked into this massive building at about 4pm only to discover the museum was only open for another hour. Given the size of the place and the cost of entering we decided it wasn't worth it. We browsed through the shopping centre down there before heading over the river to St Michel's for tea. We sat at a pizza place. The waiter brought us the menu and after we had ordered (in English) I said "Merci" (as we had learned to do). He immediately said "Ah, you speak French" and then went on to say something but I didn't know a single word of it. He may have been insulting me but he seemed much more pleasant than the waiter from earlier in the day. We had a fantastic pizza (with an egg in the middle, the French just shove those things anywhere) and followed it with a great dessert. The waiter returned and spoke in French, at which point I had to admit knowing nothing more than "Merci" and "Oui". He gave me the bill and we paid it but this time I left no tip. No more tips for the French.

Lourve courtyard

We were in the Latin quarter, famed knowledgeable part of Paris. So we wandered some of the book stores of the area but Edyta quickly bored of that when she found all the books were in French. I was amusing myself with looking through Manga translated into French. We wandered around some more and came across a Canadian flag flying in a small alleyway above a book store. I thought the store might have English books (unless this was a French Canadian). What we found was truly astounding. This tiny grotto of a shop was filled top to bottom with books. The books towered up from the floor on overburdened shelves to the ceiling. There was no sign of the walls behind the books. To cram more books into the store there were piles in front of the shelves and in the centre walkways. As the one floor wasn't enough the basement also had a similar mess of books. The books ranged over everything and I saw some that were 60 years old (old homeland defence manuals from WWII). It was an incredible sight. We left this book store thinking that would have to be the most amazing find of wandering the streets. But then we found a tourist souvenir store that seemed to snake between several buildings; each time you got to the end of a room you discovered a passageway leading to another room.

From the Latin quarter we wandered around in to some other areas that were getting familiar to us but we soon bored of walking past closed buildings and returned to the hotel. There wasn't much on TV that night. I watched a bit of a Bill Murray movie but with a French voice dubbed over him it just didn't feel the same (not that I recognized the movie anyway). We went to sleep and set the alarm, for the following day was our move from Paris to Lille.