Thursday, November 26, 2009

...and Boy, are my Arms Tired.

The jet lag is a lot harder to overcome, flying east, than it is on the return trip. I'm not sure exactly why that is - but it's always a much longer struggle for me to figure out the time zone once we're in Europe than it is after returning home again.

That said... coming home took 20 hours of nonstop traveling, so it took some recovery time, too. Even though I wanted to get the last day in Paris written up and posted sooner, my brain and fingers just wouldn't cooperate. Between the horrible all-wrong day that I stumbled through immediately after getting home (ever try to have a cordial chat with your kid's school principal, following a painfully cute kindergarten Thanksgiving play, when you're so tired you're nervous about blinking for too long and your tights have just sprung a run?) and then the excesses of Thanksgiving at my father's, it took a while to get the systems realigned. And so...

In theory, our last day in Paris would involve waking up early to get the most out of the day. In practice, we were all hitting our own respective walls of fatigue and overstimulation, so we had to accept "before noon" as being "early enough." I've always tried to adhere to a three-day rule of travel: go out and sight-see, do things, experience the vacation hard-core for three days, and then plan to take the fourth day off, something that involves a lot of sitting or lying down, preferably in the presence of a pool, ocean or masseuse. Repeat as necessary. But for this trip, the fourth day was also our last day abroad, so there was a sense that we needed to try and get as much done as we could.


So, we were, eventually, up and at 'em, and headed to the oldest part of Paris, near Notre Dame and the Palais du Justice. En route, my mother and sister indulged in some illegal activity, according to the sign:


I still don't know exactly what the sign was actually forbidding, but I thought it was probably safe to share the photo now that we're back in the US. I doubt hand-holding is an extraditable offense.

Our destination for the day was Saint Chapelle, this beyond-gorgeous medieval building. It's hard to get a decent photo from the outside, because it's quite massive, and quite close to the neighboring buildings.


What was most impressive - and a little sad - to me was the evidence of the building's inevitable crumbling over time, despite ongoing efforts toward restoration.


There are only two rooms open to the public, a large open upper chapel and a smaller lower chapel used for entry/exit as well as gift shop. I tell you what, my camera breathed an audible sigh of relief at only having two rooms to photograph. As it was, I think I probably strained a few camera muscles during the visit.

First, the Upper Chapel:


Even the stairs on the way back down to the Lower Chapel are picturesque:


And then, the Lower Chapel:


I can't think why I'd never been to Sainte Chapelle before; my only guess is that it's fairly small, and it's tucked away on the grounds of the Palais du Justice, which is still an active courthouse. You can take tours, but we've always opted to stick around outside, take a few photos, and then wander elsewhere. I imagine it's worth a tour, on its own, someday - it does figure prominently in Victor Hugo's Notre Dame du Paris (a.k.a., The Hunchback of Notre Dame), if I recall correctly - but we haven't gotten inside yet.


From there, we had a delightfully long lunch - and for those thinking of traveling to Paris, there is apparently an official city salad dressing, so be forewarned. It tastes a bit like Caesar dressing, often with a kick of horseradish, and they put it on any poor, unsuspecting raw vegetable they can find. It's not bad, but it does get a little old after a few days.


We talked about going to Les Invalides or the grounds of the Tuileries, but it was now mid- to late afternoon and places were closing for the day. My mother and sisters felt obligated to do some fashion-clothes-perfume type shopping while in Paris; I had no desire to look at clothes I can't wear now anyway and wanted to go back to pack my bags and nap for a while before dinner, so we parted for a few hours. But not before staring, baffled, at the window display for the friendly neighborhood exterminator:


Once more into the Metro, and back to the hotel...


A few hours later, we wound up at a seriously wonderful Italian restaurant (yes, I get the irony, Italian restaurant, Paris... but it was an easy walk from the hotel and we were starving) with the kind of food that leaves you perfectly willing to pick up the plate to lick every last taste, if only you weren't too full to do so.

The next day consisted entirely of traveling, from the 4:00a cab to the airport to the 45-minute wait for them to open the check-in counter to take our luggage, to the brief, crowded layover in Dublin (too short to actually experience the country at all, but the signs are in Gaelic and the accents are lovely, and I'm determined that the British Isles will be the site of our next international adventure), to the long delays in New York City... but eventually, we were able to get to our respective homes.


I should, in the next month or so, be able to get a hold of photos from my sisters' and mother's cameras, so I'll share some of those here (especially those that include me, just to prove to my kids that I was actually on the trip). And then this blog will sit, sad and lonely, until next time...

Au revoir!


Sade said...

The sign doesn't forbid anything, it just means that it's the end of a pedestrian area.

Can you believe I'm 1 hour away from Paris and I still haven't been there?

SHELLY said...

A couple of thoughts:

A. You are taller than I imagined.
2. That extermination scene is exactly like something in the movie "Ratatouille".
D. I will ask my Parisian friend what that sign means. Um, er........nevermind, I just noticed that Sade answered that.