Over last weekend, my two friends, John and Pete, and I made a last-minute decision to jump on a plane and spend a few days in Paris. Sleepless, we left for the airport early Thursday morning at 4am via the N16 bus from Plaza de Espana. Our flight left at 6:25am and we touched down in France at the Paris-Beauvais airport before 9am. From there, we had an hour-long bus ride to the city center. Upon arrival, we immediately began the search for a patisserie (bakery) to inhale authentic French baguettes. We then continued to explore the city on foot, meandering our way to the Eiffel Tower. We checked into our hotel around 1pm and passed out as soon as we got into our room. I even slept on the floor until my sofa bed arrived an hour or so later. We woke up around 5pm and decided to explore more. We journeyed on into the Pigalle neighborhood, away from the expensive downtown area. Here we had great Vietnamese Kebobs and began to observe the lively nightlife. We were already tired, so we didn’t stay out too late and returned to the hotel around midnight.
Day two: We all woke up at 7:30 to eat a “complimentary” breakfast at the hotel and use the lobby Wi-Fi to plan out our day. Pete and John decided to take a nap, tired from all the walking the night before. I did a couple sketches in my Sketchbook and woke them up around 11am. Our plan for the day was to meet up with John and Pete’s friend and tour guide, Simon. He was the valedictorian of Pete and John’s class at Parsons University in NYC, but was deported back to his home of France due to not having a work visa post-college. We met this Frenchman outside of a brasserie. He brought us to a Café where they served Paris-made gelato. It was amazing, but I got the strawberry flavor, which was more of a sorbet. It would be difficult to compare it to creamier Italian or Spanish-made gelato. From there, we ventured along the Seine River to Notre Dame, which is celebrating its 850th year in existence. We did not go into the Louvre due to a five-hour wait to get in. However, I would have liked to see the Mona Lisa just to say that I have. We stopped back at our hotel to exchange camera gear and then headed to Simon’s apartment, where we had French wine and ate more baguettes that we picked up on the way. Simon had a nice studio-style apartment not too far from the Pigalle area.
Simon had plans for the night, so we departed from his apartment to the rainy streets of Paris en route for another café to make our own plans for the night. We found it very hard to find a caffeinated espresso for fewer than 4 euros. We decided to eat dinner and grab some drinks in the cheaper Pigalle area once again. This time we went to a bar that served American-inspired burgers. John and Pete got the Obama and California Burgers, respectively. The bar even had Brooklyn lager, a nice departure from Barcelona bar’s typical lack of beer variety. The food and drinks were good, but the service was terrible. We waited 45 minutes after finishing our meal for the check and even tried asking numerous bartenders. We were sitting right at the bar and it wasn’t that crowded. We knew the cost of our consumption, so we left that plus a 7% tip on the bar, then left. As soon as we stepped out the door, our waiter/bartender ran out and told us we couldn’t leave like that. We told him the money was on the bar and walked away from the situation, the little Frenchman was not pleased, to say the least. We went to a number of bars that night, and on the long walk back to our apartment, we randomly walked by supposedly the “best” club in Paris, Social Club. It was 18 euros to just walk in the door and I really didn’t want to go, but Pete had a bit to drink and John wanted to shoot photos, so we went in anyway. I am a sucker for the line “we are only here once”, plus they paid my way into the club. I had not been drinking much that night, and was amazed by the number of people that were obviously on drugs in the club, dancing like zombies. We ended up getting separated from Pete after John and I quickly left him in the hellish smoke room. He thought it was a great place for photos. Imagine a large oven with lots of smoke and people and you get the smoking room at Social Club. It was awesome because it was that terrible. After looking for Pete for a couple hours while dodging the drugged club scene, John and I left for the apartment. Pete was already there, typical. Pete’s nickname in grade school was “Sketchy Pete”, but this trip he earned the title of “Sneaky Pete”. (The post-graduation name he desired was “Pistol Pete”, but this didn’t fit the given situation.)
Day 3: We woke up just before checkout, mistakenly ate the breakfast, and walked to the Centre Pompidou Modern Art Museum. The museum was interesting to say the least. I appreciated some of Roy Lichtenstein’s work they had on exhibition. Lichtenstein designed the Barcelona Head for the 1992 Olympics, and was obviously very influenced by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. However, a lot of the modern art there was a bit past my comprehension. One display was just three blank white canvases on a wall. Some displays at least showed process, like one of Lichtenstein’s displays that showed a realistic screen printed image of a bull gradually be abstracted into basic forms over multiple canvases. Honestly, I enjoyed the view from Paris from the top floor of the Museum more than the art itself. From the Museum, we took the metro to where we would catch the bus to the Beauvais Airport. I grabbed a Croque Monsieur on the way, a traditional French sandwich similar to a grilled cheese. We got to the airport in the nick of time and touched down in Barcelona around 11pm. Trip success!
N.B. Thanks to John’s mother being a Silver member of the Mariott, we got this very expensive room for very cheap. The hotel was located a stone’s throw form the Louvre Museum and the Seine River. There was a great spa-inspired pool with a gym and sauna as well. However, there is always a catch. When we checked in, we were told that we got complimentary breakfasts. There was no specification as to when or how many free breakfasts, so we assumed it was for both mornings we were at the hotel. We all ate the breakfast on the first day, and on the second, just Pete and I went. When we checked out, there was an additional 90 euros on the bill for the extra breakfast. They claimed that since we were a party of 3, they had to charge us the standard rate of 30 euros each, despite John’s absence. That was the most expensive breakfast of my life.