|We left Frankfurt, content that we had given the city another shot. We took a train into Paris and prepared ourselves for all the attitude we were about to encounter. It was made blatantly obvious to us that we had crossed over the German border into French territory when the voice over the loudspeaker on the train didn't bother to translate the French into any other languages. (In Germany they translated into French and English, and don't even get me started with Belgium and the Netherlands...there's about five different languages accounted for.) We looked at each other and shrugged. Welcome to France.
We checked into our hotel, the Grand Hotel Magenta. Oh God. Nothing, and I mean nothing, about this hotel was grand. I wish everyone I knew could have been in this room with me, to experience what I experienced.
*The furniture (sparse, mind you) was bolted to either the floor or the wall
*The bedspreads were smelly, faded, and looked like they had survived both world wars
*There was no bathroom. None.
*One radiator, nowhere near the drafty windows
*Blinds that didn't shut. This would not be as much of a problem if we didn't have pervy neighbors watching us change and shining their laser pointers on us all night long
*One working light. One.
*Hotdog shaped pillows. Yes, a sort of rolled contraption that made it impossible to sleep comfortably.
For this, we paid about 30 euros a night each. And believe it or not, this was the cheapest place we could find in the city.
The next day we went to Versailles, still smelly since we were not able to shower, and incredibly tired. But the chateau was amazing. Louis was pretty full of himself, he had alot of statues and portraits made of himself looking puffed up and self-righteous.
Also, the Hall of Mirrors was partly under construction, which apparently is the coolest thing at Versailles, so we were slightly disappointed. But, it was fun to see a piece of history in actuality and imagine what it would have been like to live in the riches and splendor of such a place.
Later that day we were able to check into our new room, the room we were paying about 70 euros more for in order to have a bathroom. This new room was almost as bad as the first, except it had a toilet. And a shower. However, here are some new highlights of room 43 at the Grand Hotel Magenta:
*A sink with a faucet that is detatched. This means you have to be really careful every time you turn it on, or it will just fall off.
*A shower with no holder for the shower head and no curtain. This means that water ends up everywhere after your shower and that you have to simultaneously hold the shower head over your cold naked body while attempting to lather with the free hand. Very tricky.
*A sink and shower that do not drain. This means you have to bathe in a foot and a half of standing water in which floats the grime of Paris.
But, we did have a TV (with shows all in French) and a phone that didn't work. So you know, we were basically living the good life.
Also, I was absolutely taken aback by the dirt, poverty, and depressing nature of the city. All this time I had built France up to be a magical city, a city for lovers, a city of architectural and artistic gems. And it does have those things. In a very small section of the city.
But the rest of Paris is appalling. I saw a man urinating on the metro wall in front of all the morning commuters, with no one blinking an eye. I stepped in vomit on the subway train. I had no idea how long it had been there, causing the most awful stench, but more than one person had stepped in it and smeared it across the floor. I saw so many people in the subways and on the streets that had no homes and little possessions, begging shamelessly for money, food, cigarettes. And I encountered alot of attitude. There was no one there who went out of their way to help us, unlike every other city we had been to thus far. People were short, exasperated, and dull.
I'm sure it would have been a different experience had I come to Paris with loads of money, staying in five star hotels and eating fine French cuisine. Because they love Americans with money. But, alas, I was a peon. A nobody. And that's how I was treated the whole time I was there.
I did see some amazing things while we were in Paris: The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the musee du Louvre, the musee d'Orsay, Notre Dame. They were all incredible, and I felt lucky that I was able to see them. But my time in Paris was darkened by most of the experiences I had, which were negative on the whole.
We spent New Years in Paris on the Champs Elysee, which was CRAZY.
We knew about the riots that had occurred a month or so before, and knew there was a chance that New Years could get out of control. So we stayed alert and made sure we had a way to get out if things started getting heated. But, apart from a really rowdy celebration, nothing bad happened. We did, however, get mauled by large groups of French men who would run down the streets trying to get ahold of girls to kiss them at midnight. I think I scratched one guy's face because he was so intent on planting one on me. It was a little out of control. But it was fun.
When we left Paris on the 3rd, I was more than ready to go. It was exhausting for me to put up with that much abrasiveness for so long. I wanted to be around people that smiled at me and in an atmosphere where people laughed and joked and were generally congenial to each other.
So, we went to Brussels.