Paris

I got to Paris at about 11pm, and they stop running the Metro at midnight, and stop selling Metro tickets at 10pm. I thought I could try to sneak on the Metro and make it to the stop where the hostel I was looking for was at. This was risky as the Metro might stop before I made it to my destination, and I might be stuck at a transfer point that I didnít know anything about. I wandered out, and figured I'd take the first hotel I could find and stay the night. Its always easier to find a new place in the day time anyway. I found a nice hotel, and got a room. It was only 325 francs ($54). It was cool. After spending a week in hostels, it was nice to spread out, in my own room, with my own bathroom. Ahhh.

The next morning, I set out for the "3 Ducks Hostel". It was pretty easy to find. I got a bed, and asked the guy behind the counter if I could go put my bag in my room. He said that they had a lockout policy where you weren't allowed to go in to the rooms until 5pm. I asked if there was somewhere I could put my bag, and he pointed me to an unlocked room. He wanted me to put all my worldly possessions in this unlocked room. When I asked him if there was somewhere more secure, he replied "No one wants your shit, man, they've all got too much of their own". He was right, as I put my bag in the room , it wouldnít occur to steal anything, partly because I wouldnít do that, but even if I was a thief, where would I carry any of this?

After putting my bag down, I went to go have a coffee in the hostel bar, in which there were only 2 other people, a girl sitting by herself, and a guy doing the same. Before I could say hi to either one of them, another guy comes running through and shouts to the first guy, "C'mon, I only have about an hour and a half, lets go to the top of the Eiffel Tower." I asked if I could join, and they said sure.

The three of us trekked to the Eiffel Tower, which was only a 10 minute walk. The two guys were both from the states. Chip was from Massachusetts, and Joe was from Tennessee. Chip was the one who had to leave to catch a plane in an hour and a half, and after seeing the line to go up the tower, decided he'd just head out. That left me and Joe. I asked him what his plan was for the day, and he said that he just wanted to walk around. Sounded good. We set off for a large gold building that caught our attention (right). It turned out to be Napoleons tomb. Inside, we found that they had a very large WWII war museum, which Joe was very interested in, and I was not. Luckily, we met up with the girl that was in the hostel, who's name was Gabby.

Gabby had her guide book out, and had 6 places checked off that she WAS going to see today. One of which was Jim Morrisons grave. I couldnít resist. Joe got to go to his WWII museum, and I got to trek around with Gabby all day. She was a lot of fun, and a great person to travel with. First of all, she had this great mini-itinerary, and stuck to it, and she had cool places to see. On top of that she was real interesting, and a great person to spend a day with.

Our first stop was Rodin's house. For those who donít know (as I didnít), Rodin is a famous sculptor. His house had been turned in to an elaborate museum of his work, and also was famous for his gardens, which were not in bloom. The house also had some paintings: 2 Van Goghs, one Renoir, and one Monet.

Next, we went to a church (excuse me, cathedral) that was built in 1162, called Saint Germain-Des-Pres. This was the first cathedral that I went in to. You see so many pictures of these cathedrals in books, but really nothing can prepare you for that feeling that you get walking in to your first one. It was one of the most magnificent sights I'd ever seen. Gabby, who had been to Notre Dame the day before, said that she was more impressed with this cathedral than with Notre Dame. As we were walking around, a choir that seemed almost to be hiding in the back began to sing (chant?). It was awesome. As if it hadn't been awesome enough to have all the senses moved at one time. The visual beauty, and then the chanting. Awesome.

Next we went to the Latin Quarter. Pretty fun area of town. We went to a bookstore that had been around since the 1500's. It was a place where monks lived back then, but wasnít a monastery. Figure that one out. Anyway, back when the building was owned by monks, the owner wasnít really the owner, he was said to be the "lamplighter", as it was imperative that the lamps be lit every night. It was a neat story which I wish I remembered better. In short, the guy at the bookstore (the owner) didnít consider himself the owner, just the lamplighter of the present day. You donít buy the building, you buy the privilege of being the lamplighter of it. Something like that. It was a cool story. Furthermore, it was the coolest bookstore I'd ever seen. It was set up almost like a maze, with books just everywhere. Not categorized by author, but they were in sections by subject. Or at least sort of. Some books were shelved, some were stacked. Some stacks were waist high. It was as if someone had just collected books over the years and stored them there. Very cool.

We then went to grab coffee in a coffee shop. It was pretty much as I had pictured it. Tiny cups, good coffee, and a waiter I could refer to as 'garcon', like in Pulp Fiction. Gabby and I talked for a long time. She is majoring in Japanese at Amherst, in Massachusetts. I told her we'd get together sometime as it wasnít that far. Hopefully someday, we will.

Then we went to Jim Morrison's grave. I thought I'd have this real profound feeling of seeing my own burial place. [For those unaware, I've had this idea for the past 10 years or so, that I am the re-incarnation of Jim Morrison. This is already to long to go in to the details on that one, but itís a fact, I can prove it]. It was a real neat grave yard. Gabby and I walked around just kind of getting lost. There were tons 'o famous people buried there. Chopin, etc.

The next place that we went was the Sacre Coeur. This was the highest point in Paris. 15 meters higher than the top of the Eiffel Tower. The view was magnificent. The cathedral itself was magnificent as well.

At this point in the day, we had been walking since early morning, it was dark, and we had to have covered 10-12 miles. At least. We rarely metro'd anywhere. A lot of walking, and it all seemed to be uphill somehow. Also, when Gabby walks, she takes full advantage of the fact that in this town pedestrians always have the right of way. She'll brazenly walk in to speeding traffic, and they just stop. Nutty.

On the way home, we were looking for a cash machine, and somehow ended up in Paris' red light district. Nothing like Amsterdam.

We took the Metro (finally) to the Champs Elysees. When we got off the Metro, the first thing I saw was the Arc D' Triomphe. We walked the other direction away from it, looking for this Toyota showroom, which had internet access. We get there, and the guy at the door says, "Come inside and see our internet". He said it in French, but we could get the idea. Basically, the internet is scarce enough where its an attraction to draw people in to the showroom. Crazy. Well, after a short wait, we get on a couple of the stations. Apart from people looking over my shoulder to see what this "internet thingy" was, it was a nice place to mail from. The keyboard was reminiscent of the old "speak-n-spells" in that is was one flat surface, with painted circles to indicate where the keys were. They were not "querty" keys either, so my amazing typing skills were of no use. Actually, being a hunt-n-peck typist kind of helped. I was able to check mail from a co-worker who told me of the upward trend in our company's stock. I was elated to say the least. We sent out our mail and walked home.

On the way home, we walked beneath the Eiffel Tower, and it was at this point, I took my small day pack (book bag) off my back, spun around swinging the bag and half-said / half-shouted, "I cant believe I'm here!!!". It was one of those moments you donít forget.

That night, we were all sitting in the bar in the hostel getting pretty well lit. Gabby was saying her good-byes as she was leaving the next day for some other European city. As we were all talking, we decided that it would be best if we went out and had some fun in this town. Gabby said she couldnít join as she had an early train to catch. We convinced her to come out. We decided to get a few bottles of wine, and go run amok. As people were bucking up for wine, I plopped down a few bottles of wine on the table (wine was rather cheap there) and said, "Grab one, and lets go. These are compliments of Bernie Ebbers". For non UUNETrs, Bernie is the CEO of our company, and along with John Sidgmore is largely credited with the rise in our stock price. We drank to Bernie that night. A gave a brief description of why we were, but didnít go in to much detail. We finished the last bottle under the Eiffel Tower, passing the bottle from person to person. We walked past the Eiffel Tower on to some Greek buildings across the bridge. As we turned around to look at the tower, we noticed that the countdown to the millenium, which was at 378 days to go was flashing, which normally it wasnít. We looked at our watches, and saw that it was midnight. In about 20 seconds, it changed to 377. I took that as some sort of sign that something was on our side that night, and that we would be having some fun.

We walked on further, got some beer, and then some more Vin d'Bernie. I was feeling generous, buying the good wine at 22 francs ($4). We got pretty looped and just kept walking. We went to the Arc D' Triomphe. The traffic there was not to be believed. It wasnít moving. The circle around it has about 6-7 lanes. The outside lane was moving about 5mph, the others weren't moving. At all. They just all sat there honking. People with cars pointing at every angle. It was the biggest traffic mess I have ever seen. We walked through the traffic, and to the Arc. Jordan had told us that when an army conquers France, they will all walk side by side, in a specific direction through the Arc, indicating that they have taken the town. If, during battle, the invading army loses, they are forced out, and made to march the other direction through the Arc. I donít know how much truth there is to that story, because if I'm a losing army, I'm getting out of town, regardless of whether I'm going under the Arc. All the same, we lined up, and marched through the Arc, signifying that we had conquered Paris. It felt neat. Or perhaps we were just really drunk, either way, we were having fun.

We decided to head back as the hostel had a curfew (the only one that I stayed at that did). We stopped by a McDonalds on the way home, and I had to order a "Royale with Cheese" just to do it. They had the Monopoly game going on, and the board looked weird with all the French names on it. We stayed in McDonalds until we got kicked out for having the bottle of wine. We made it back to the hostel just in time not to be locked out (lockout at 2am) which would have meant no entry until 7am.

The next morning, I had a hangover like no other, but for some reason, I felt it was a good idea to get up early, take advantage of the free breakfast from the hostel, and then go back to bed. I get up and see the 2 Australian girls I had met in Amsterdam (Mel and Amy -- pictured to the right in front of the Eiffel Tower). I had thought they had said they were coming in at 8pm, but I guess they said 8am. Good thing I got up early. I had my coffee, and decided to set out for the day again. Today was rainy, and not quite as good a day for walking around. We went to the Eiffel Tower, and this time I went up because the line was short. Amy and Mel wouldn't join eventhough I offered to pay. The view (left) was nice, but it was overcast. From there we walked to the Arc. This time the traffic was crazy. People speeding in and out. In the minute that we stood there, we saw about 6 near accidents. Very near. I told them what someone had said the night before, that no insurance agency in the world will insure you for an accident on this circle. Now I could see why. All policies have clauses, that exclude that circle from the coverage area. We stupidly decided to run across it. Once we got there (barley) we found that there's a foot tunnel that leads under the roadway, and felt it was best if we took this back to the outside of the circle. Before leaving, we took some pictures of the eternal flame, and the tomb of the unknown soldier (right). Then we walked to the Louvre (below). By this time we were very wet, and it was really cold, and the line to go in was long. The girls had a strict budget and didnít want to go in anyway. We got a metro back to the area of the hostel.

As we walked back from the Metro stop, we visited this little French market to get something to eat. It was kind of like a farmers market. There were lots of vendors selling fruit, and some selling meats. The people selling meats had large slabs of meat for sale. Some slabs still had the fur on, some didnít. Guess its all a matter of how you like it. The same went for the chickens. They were available plucked, or unplucked. Heads and feet, or no heads and feet. Again, I guess this is a matter of personal preference. Personally, I prefer Purdue chickens, wrapped in cellophane. No fur, please. I did get some cooked chicken, and some potatoes. Real good. By this point, I was talking French with most of the people in the market, and they would respond to my comments in English. We went back to the hostel, ate, and sat around talking for a good few hours.

By this point, I was tired. Really tired. We had gotten in late the night before, and many of us stayed up talking until about 4am, and then that mis-hap with getting up early. I was going to powernap. I tried, but it didnít work. I was awoken by a couple from California who were moving in. They were apologetic, but it was ok, I wasnít sleeping. I decided to get up, and soon after I was told that we were going out to a nice French restaurant to celebrate Omar's last night in town. Omar was an Australian who we had hung out with the past couple days. We found a real nice restaurant, and had a great meal.

We went back to the hostel, and things were pretty relaxed. At this point, I asked Mel if she wanted to go see the Eiffel Tower at night (Amy was tired). She agreed. When we got there, there was NO line, which was unusual. I asked her to go up with me, but she strongly declined, as she didnít have it in her budget, and she refused to let me pay. I bought 2 tickets and told her that she could take one, or I would pass it to the next person that walked by. She reluctantly took it. The view was incredible. It was cold as heck, but well worth it. At the top, I asked Mel if she was interested in wandering aimlessly through the city, as I was. She agreed, so we picked a point that looked neat from the Tower and decided to find it. It looked from the tower to resemble Times Square, NYC, from above. Lots of neon. We set out looking for it, with the only map we had in our heads, recalling what we had seen from the tower. We found the little neon area about a 30-40minute walk away. It was more a movie district than anything else. Pretty neat to see. We then decided to head back, as I was super tired at this point.

We get back to the hostel and walk in to the bar (which you had to walk through to get to the rooms) to get a welcome fit for Norm Peterson as he walked in to Cheers. Funny how you know everyone in a couple of days. People asked me to have just one beer, but I declined, as I needed sleep. In my room, I thought about that decision, and decided one beer would not hurt. One turned in to two which turned in to 10. By the time 2am came around, I was well past the point of being tired, and was running on sheer stupidity. 4 different Australians (Amanda, Mirk, Kate, Chris) said that they were going out (realizing with the lock-out that they would not be allowed back in until 7am) and they dared anyone else to come with. If they had worded it any other way, I wouldnít have gone. I cant live down a dare. As I was getting my coat, I told my roommates what I was doing, and even said, "I know this sounds fun now, but at 4am, I'm really going to regret this."

We head out trying to find a club called "Queen". As we began to walk towards where we could find a taxi, we passed another "3 Ducks" resident named Vivek, running at full speed, trying to get back in. We said, as he passed, "you're too late, its locked, come with us". He did. Well, he didnít have much of a choice. "Queen" was rumored to be a gay club. If they had good techno, and a place to check my coat, and room to dance, I didnít care. I could live out 5 hours if I had something to dance to. Well, we go to the club and realize that Mirk (thatís how he pronounced it, and claimed it was spelled, but I assume it was plain ol' Mark) wasnít going to get in wearing sweats and sweatpants. The bouncer said to try "Montecristo". So we did. They didnít want to let in Mirk either, but as we had 6 people with us, and cover was 60 francs, they figured they could let us in. WellÖÖ Montecristo turned out to be a meringue/ samba club. Everyone in there was dancing to it, and dancing well. All the tables were occupied except for a few that said "reserved". Kate walks up to one, grabs the sign, throws it on the floor, and says "lets sit here". People are standing everywhere and looking at us as if they're mad because they could tell it wasnít reserved for us. We tried to dance, but none of us could dance to that music, and they had no coat check. I wasnít going to leave my jacket lying around, more because my camera was in there than anything else.

At about 4am, I had had enough. I was out of money, rather hot, getting bored, and sobering up dangerously fast. I turned to Vivek, and said, "I'm going back to the hostel and breaking in". He said he'd join. The Aussies decided to stay. I hadn't realized earlier that they were paired up (dating), so it made us feel like 5th and 6th wheels.

We got back at 4:30 or so, and looked at the fence. It was much higher than I remembered, and the spikes atop were much more pointy then we remembered. We pushed on the gate, but nothing happened. Vivek tried to climb the gate, but it was solid steel (no where to grip) and the flower pot he was standing on kept tipping over. I tried putting my pocket knife in the keyhole and turned it. Something went 'click'. We pushed on the gate a little harder than before and it opened. I'm not sure if I opened it or not, and here's why. Vivek and I had walked home, and the Aussies cabbed it home. They were somehow able to propel Mirk over the gate, and he opened the gate, but he cant remember if it was locked or not. They have no idea when they left the club or arrived at the hostel, but it could have been before us. So I'll never really know if we picked the lock or if it was open from Mirk getting in. I'd like to think that I picked it.

The next day I decided I would sleep in. I did, until 9:30. Somehow I get in this mode, and I just donít sleep. I get too excited. There's too much to do, and sleep interferes with it all. Jordan and James said that they were headed out to go to a market on the other side of town. It sounded fun, and sounded like somewhere that I could get a ring. [For those that donít know, I wear silver rings. Each ring has a story behind it. A story of meaning, usually from some sort of adventure.] Somehow, this ring didnít seem right. I needed a ring from my Europe trip, but this was too bland of a story. I just went to a market and bought it. 2 of the other 3 that I wear, I found randomly at times I wanted to remember. Others have been gifts, and others have had a story behind how I purchased them. Most of my rings are medium sized, and I wanted a large one to kind of offset them. I found a large one, and bought it. It was a cool ring.

I went back to the hostel, and sat in the bar. I met a girl named Lindsay from California who was studying in Italy for a semester and decided to see Paris on her way back to Calif. She was pretty cool, and we ended up hanging out most of the evening, and had a nice dinner together.

Later on that night, the couple in my room from California had told me they were going out to a few bars. The girl in that couple actually lived in Paris for the last 7 months, so I figured it might be nice to go out with a semi-local. We walked by NotreDame (right), and tried to get in to see the monks do their Gregorian chant, but it was all sold out. We kept walking, and went past an outdoor skating rink. The neatest thing about this rink, was the fact that nearby, there was a 10-foot disco ball hanging over the street with many lights on it, trying to give the illusion of snow. It was very cool, along with the fact that all the trees were painted with fake snow, it really made you think it was snowy outside. Neat effect.

Well, we went to the bar, and after 2 drinks, my sleeplessness caught up with me, and I decided to leave. Most of the reason I wanted to go was in hopes of meeting locals. I had met so many travelers at this point, but really no locals. We weren't at the type of bar condusive to meeting people, and with limited French skills, I decided it was time to head home.

I really liked Paris. It was somewhere that I could see myself living for a year. Yeah, I think that would be neat. It was a clean city and all the women are all beautiful, and everyone dresses well. The architecture is beautiful, and the city is pretty fun. Contrary to what people say, the French all seemed pretty nice.

The phone cards they had (which were necessary to use ANY public phone) were neat, as they all had microchips imbedded in them.

Next, I headed to.....