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Chasing The American Dream

July 08, 2006


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Part I (click here)

Nearing 2 o’clock, my first order of business was to find lunch. Olivia told me to try the Sarah Bernhardt Café. She gave me some general directions, but I think I got my banks mixed up and I couldn’t find the place. She later told me I was on the wrong side of the Seine. I had walked another 15 minutes from D’ Orsay and looked at the map. The Notre Dame looked close, just down the river. But I knew better. It was further than it looked and with my aching legs, I knew I’d have to wait until next trip to visit it. So I crossed the Seine; I took a good look down the river for Notre Dame but all I saw (I think) was a complex of buildings called the Sainte Chapelle sitting in the middle of the now split Seine. It was time to head back in the direction I came. Next stop. The Louvre.

I can’t imagine how long it must take to go through all the exhibits in the Louvre. I mean, I just walked outside the grounds and the area is huge. There are multiple squares and courtyards and buildings running parallel in between the grounds. It’s really huge. I meandered through the squares and plazas. I saw people inside the museum and wondered what great piece of art they were looking at. Outside, tourists and locals were baking in the hot sun (I’d later research the temperature to find it was 88 degrees and the normal temperature for July 1st was only 73). I was staring at some sort of glass pyramid structure with fountains surrounding it. There were tons of people around soaking up the sun, getting tan. My rest stops were becoming more frequent thanks to the rash. I sat for a spell and people watched and just relished in the fact that I was actually in Paris sitting just outside the Louvre.

I got up and walked through and continued my search for the Champs Elysees. I walked under an Arc du Triumphed u Carrousel which looked to be a mini version of the big Arc. I walked through a garden-type area known as the Jardin des Tuileries in seach of food and drink and hopefully, ice. I came upon an outdoor café but it was more like dinner food. I simply wanted a cold drink and a nice sandwich on French bread. I settled for a Coke Light. When I asked for a cup of ice, I got a strange look from the cashier who handed me a paper cup with about three ice cubes in it. Oh well. And ahhhh. Did that ever taste good. I found a nice chair under a shady tree. The chair was actually tilted back perfectly for relaxing. I took a picture of my view of a garden and a huge building in the background. I shut my eyes and awoke 30 minutes later.

Now 2:45, it was time to move along. I didn’t have to take too many steps before the pain in my leg returned and reminded me why I was having to stop so often. Next in line was the Place de la Concorde that I passed on my way to D’Orsay only now I was on the other bank. I took some more pictures of the Obelisque and continued on my search for the Champs. Here, I got a little lost. I ended up on some highly secured military-looking area with many French police around. Tourists were trying to take pictures of whatever it was and they were told not to by the blue-clad cops. I continued down the rue called Gabriel and all I could see were huge hedges with wrought-iron gates and lots of security around. I came to a dead end around Franklin Roosevelt Avenue of all things. A turn to my left found me right in the middle of the Champs Elysees. It had been on my left all along about a block over.

I got out into the middle of the street between traffic so I could get a nice picture. There in the far far distance was where I was headed. The Arc du Triumphe. I took another minute to imagine all the Tour de France riders finishing up the historic ride right here where I was standing. OK. Overheated again. I needed another rest, and I really needed something to eat. I had no idea what the Champs was all about but basically it’s a shopping district. Familiar French names such as Louis Vittone, Cartier, and Mont Blanc. There were movie theatres and outdoor cafes. But something caught my eye. Ice cream. Cold ice cream. It was Haagen Daaz but I didn’t care. I got my two scoops for something like 7 Euros or $9, and I sat down outside and just enjoyed my ice cold treat. More people watching. What a treat. It was a nice break. I got some croissants to go and headed for the Arc de Triumph Etoile which was still quite a ways away.

If you’re ever standing in front of the Arc de Triumph circle, please don’t do what I did. For in front of the Arc is a mad-cap traffic circle which resembles a grand prix race track. There appears no rhyme or reason as to who has the right of way. It’s a free for all and cars are everywhere, merging, converging. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. I looked around for a pedestrian crossing but didn’t see one. I also didn’t see a soul crossing in order to get to the Arc. I wondered how the hell you were supposed to get over there without getting killed. I thought perhaps the ‘entrance’ was in the back, blocked from my view. I waited and waited for a break in the traffic but to no avail. I decided to take on a slower moving tourist bus and some smaller cars as I sprinted across the circle waving my arms for them to slow down. I can’t imagine what the drivers or the people watching me thought of this fear factor move. Nevertheless, I made it. Not bad for a guy with a rash. The Arc itself was a magnificent structure built in the Napoleon era with hundreds if not thousands of French generals’ names etched into the surface. There was a neat look-out place at the top of the Arc that I wanted to go to. Aaah, it wasn’t free. I needed to buy a billet (ticket). Like the mythical pedestrian crosswalk, I couldn’t find the ticket booth so I took my pictures and decided to leave. That’s when I saw a bunch of people walking to and from an area near the far side. Well, I found the ticket line and I found the crosswalk. The ticket line was long as was the day so I didn’t feel like waiting. As I continued, there was an underground tunnel you were supposed to take to get across the street. No wonder. LOL, it was a lot safer to be sure.

It was time to head back to the Eiffel. There were three main roads according to the map and I headed down one of them. I got that lost feeling again as the buildings surrounded the road and I had no idea where Eiffel was. I saw a road sign that told me I had taken the outside road so I would need to take a right turn somewhere. Meanwhile I hadn’t rested since the ice cream and I was in really bad shape. Now the rash had spread to my left side. It was time for desperate measures. Luckily, I ran into another hypothecarie. The woman spoke a bit of English so I told her I needed some diaper rash cream for a baby. She pointed me to the baby products. Now all I had to do was read French to figure out which product to buy. No clue. I gave up. I didn’t want to risk putting cream on certain areas and having adverse results. Need I say more? I said merci to the woman who then asked me what was wrong with the baby. Uh, how do you explain diaper rash in French? I tried my best and she picked out a cream for me. I decided to take a chance and buy it.

I found a secluded spot and applied the cream. Yeah, in broad daylight. Can you believe this? Well let’s just say the results were not immediately felt. In fact, quite the opposite. That gentle baby cream was literally burning my ass off. I walked to the bank of the Seine and made my right turn, found a bench, and sat. It had been a long day. 4:30 and I’d overdone it as I had in NYC. I sat a good thirty minutes as the irritation subsided. Once again, three steps later, it was back. It seemed the only remedy for this was rest.

I saw the Eiffel and headed to my last stop, The Palais De Chaillot. The Palais offered another wonderful elevated view of Eiffel, so like a masochist, I decided to climb the stairs so I could take in the view. Before I took my climb, I noticed an amazing phenomena. There was a huge fountain display in front of the Palais. But the Parisians decided to turn it into a public swimming pool. People fully clothed were in the fountain pool cooling off from the 88 degree day. Guys in underwear, girls wearing panties and bras. Everything goes. It was like a day at the beach back home but here, I guess this was the only way to cool off. Quite a scene.

I climbed the stairs, took another rest, and snapped some final pictures. I ran into a couple from South Carolina who took my picture in exchange for theirs. I limped back down the stairs and headed across the Seine one last time. I marveled once again at Eiffel before heading home. I decided I’d walked enough. I looked at my Metro map and realized I could train it back to the station near the hotel. It was hot and I had to stand, but it beat the hell out of walking. It was a simple three-stop ride. I got off the train and walked down the stairs and there I was again. I was in the same exact spot I was in yesterday when I was completely lost. Only today, I knew exactly where I was going. I was confident; I’d walked miles trudging through this great city and I it felt great to know how to get to the hotel. What a difference a day makes.

I was done for the day. It was 5:30 and I was ready for rest. I stopped off at a Boulangerie and got some mini quiches to go with my croissants. Some more Coke Light at a local grocery and I was all set for the night. I made friends with the hotel clerk who told me she wanted to move to America. She was a doll; a real cutie. I behaved myself and told her to write me if she ever made it to the States.

The rest did me and my rash good. I ate my dinner and watched France beat Portugal in the World Cup. Pandemonium ensued. It was really crazy as I looked out my window and heard the cheers, roars, horns, and fireworks. The French were one win away from winning the Cup. How great for them. And how great for me to get the chance to visit Paris. I can’t wait to return and explore some more. Maybe next time I’ll utilize the Metro or taxi and save my legs. So I’m now an overseas traveler although if you look at my passport, there is no evidence of it. Paris security decided not to stamp me. That’s bothering me. Next time, I’m telling them to stamp me. I want the evidence to prove I’ve been to Paris. Evidence other than the rash I carry back with me. Insane, huh? Au Revoir.


  • So jealous that you were there for the France/Portugual match. So so so so jealous.

    Did you really watch the game? You said before that you couldn't get into it...

    I totally hope you're a soccer junkie now.

    By Blogger A, at 10:09 AM, July 09, 2006  

  • Glad to see you had fun, in spite of the rash, the heat, and the mad dash from arrondissement to arrondissement. Even happier to see that you would like to return. Paris is a wonderful, beautiful city, with much to see and savor. Much more than you could possibily do in one day - or even one week!

    Thank you for sharing the journey and the pictures.

    Mais maintenant: Allez les Bleus! Allez les Vieux!

    By Anonymous EAO, at 11:21 AM, July 09, 2006  

  • Yes A, I watched it. And I watched the final today, but it's a sad ending when you have to end such a tournament on penalty kicks. Can you imagine the Stanley Cup game 7 being decided in a shootout? Outlandish! EAO, can't wait to go back!

    By Blogger Plantation, at 7:12 PM, July 09, 2006  

  • You sound like you walked through Paris about 10 feet above the ground! You must have really enjoyed this. And how amazing to be in France during the France/Portugal game. Soccer fans are unbelievable aren't they!

    Be sure to pack your bathing suit when you come to Phoenix. It's supposed to be 107-111 this week. Yikes!!

    By Blogger Elizabeth, at 8:11 PM, July 09, 2006  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger catsteevens, at 2:41 PM, July 10, 2006  

  • HA! I did the exact same thing, EXACT, when I was there and tried to cross over to the Arc de Triumph. I ran across the street, holding on to my friend for dear life. And then we find the underground walkway after practically committing suicide.

    You were able to experience a once in a lifetime - 'cause it won't be another four years till the next World Cup, and even then, there is no guarantee that France will be in the semi-finals much less finals.

    As far as evidence that you were there - your memories - that's what you'll really cherish forver. Sounds like a wonderful trip!

    By Blogger catsteevens, at 2:44 PM, July 10, 2006  

  • Before you go to Europe in the summer again, pack some baby powder cornstarch. It's best for rashes and has no talc. I know the rash, I had the experience.

    Incredible Post! I've been to Europe, but have never been to France and now after reading this, I want to go!

    I hope you have more to write.

    By Blogger Mari, at 11:09 PM, July 10, 2006  

  • Cat, that's hilarious. Mari, thanks for the tip.

    By Blogger Plantation, at 2:08 AM, July 11, 2006  

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