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Paris

FR 22 DUB-BVA 30 Dec 0700-0925

I was greeted in the cornfields of Beauvais with the beginnings of a French blizzard–an unusual event which made the long line for coach tickets feel just a bit less friendly. I’m glad I brought gloves, coat, and ear protection. When I got to the stop in Paris the snow was whipping around for real, and it lent a different sort of glow than one would expect from Paris. Until it melted into a miserable gray-black sludgy muck in a couple hours and everything was back to normal.

In Paris, I stayed with Alison from Baton Rouge, whom I hadn’t quite met… but we fixed that. I met her visiting brother Matt, roommate Elaine, and also a few (mostly temporary) locals at a rocking New Year’s house party, to be mentioned soon.

Alison’s apartment was fabulously located, maybe 30 steps or so from a Métro stop (Rambuteau), practically on top of the Centre Pompidou, and a very short walk from the Hôtel de Ville (city hall, where a pretty sweet-looking temporary skating rink tempted daily) and Nôtre Dame. It also had the requisite character for the location–the gigantic porthole in the shower, the peeling ceiling, and a wonderful clothes-drying radiator that made sleeping in the hallway even warmer than a walk in the park.

Said New Year’s party took us from good cajun seasoning, King Cake, and a fabulously-stocked selection of champagne and other things classily arranged in the window gutter to the infinite subterranean labyrinths of Châtelet-Les Halles to the Champs-Elysées where Frenchmen indulged a freelance fireworks fetish and the rest of us ducked.

Ran into a mini-riot with bottle-throwing and riot police which got me a little hopped up on adrenaline and moody for the rest of the evening, but that’s part of the experience, isn’t it?

Of course the New Year wasn’t all: I got to see Paris more properly than the last time I was there (a couple days or so at the end of my Spain jaunt in 2004). My French has improved dramatically since then (which is to say that I can tell people I can’t speak French quite snappily) and I got pretty good at navigating the RATP. Matt and I visited Alison and her English students at one of the Louvre‘s free youth Fridays, and I got good mileage out of my traditional avenue-walking. Notable sights seen include the Jardins of Tuileries and Luxembourg, the Sorbonne, the Musée nationale du Moyen Age, night walking along the Seine and a couple of its bridges, and of course all of the lovely arches and pointy things on the Champs.

The four of us living in the apartment for the week also went up to Sacré-Cœur on Montmartre and stumbled into a Mass. Thanks to hearing in tongues years of indoctrination, I understood the priest perfectly although I’m not an expert in French ecclesiastical terminology. There were lots of fun markets (and many more fun stairs) on the hill. We later made the pilgrimage to Jim Morrison’s tomb (and looked for our last names—I wasn’t too lucky) at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise.

That’s all out of order but it captures most of the important parts of my stay.

Learning about lemon and sugar crèpes was an important part too.

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