Sunday, June 21, 2009

What a difference a week makes...

Life is funny: one day I was strolling down the Champs-Elysees, and then, suddenly, I was back in northern California at 4500 ft., setting chokers in the Sierra Nevadas. 

 I had a great time at Sara and Noah's wedding and I felt honored to be a part of it. I read this Homer quote a while ago that a good marriage was a source of consternation for the couple's enemies and source of joy for their friends. Sara and Noah gettin' hitched definitely brought a lot of joy to a lot of people. 

Being back has been great. I'm not really working a whole lot; every now and then I'll head up to the woods to help out if my dad needs an extra set of hand. But for the most part, I'm just relaxing and catching up with friends. I've been reading a lot as well. I've been reading quite a bit  of Cormac McCarthy; it's very American and I love it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Oh, Champs-Elysees"

I left St. Pete on June 1st and began to make my way back to the USA. After a quick layover at Warsaw's Chopin Airport (they played nocturnes in the plane while it was on the ground), I arrived in Paris in the early evening. I made it to my hotel with a minimum of hassle and expense (way to go Roissy-Opera bus). Unfortunately, this was the only good deal I found in Paris. The first word that comes to mind when I describe my time there is "expensive." 3 euros for .33 liter (small can) of Orangina? 8 euros for two slices of salami and a fistful of sprouts? To put in perspective how expensive it was, I was relieved to get into CDG Airport where everything was so much cheaper.

But I feel good with how I used my time there. After checking in, I went and walked around saw the gardens in front of the Louvre (just the outside, it was closed when I got there), walked along the Seine to Notre Dame, and found a bistro (which comes from the Russian word "bystro") to have my two slices of salami and fistfull of sprouts. They didn't have an English menu, but the waitress was Czech and could understand my Russian. I got up early the next morning and walked to Montmarte. I wanted to go early before all the other tourists (and people preying on tourists) were awake. So, I got to the Sacre Couer, a location in the film "Amelie," a little after 7 AM and had the place almost to myself (except for 3 Australian tourists). Afterward, I went back to the city center to wait for a friend who was supposed to meet me. While waiting, I was approached by a beggar. Speak English, she asked. Net, I said. She then explained in French mixed with English that she needed money for food and that I should give her that money. I had just taken a big bite out of croissant I had just bought. I offered her that croissant. She pushed it aside and asked for money again. I told her (in Russian) that I had no money, but if she wanted to eat, she could have my croissant. She ended up taking my croissant. 

My friend never did make it; he ended up catching a later train to Paris, so he didn't make it into the city until evening. So, I went to the Musee D'orsay for the afternoon. There was a bit of a line to get in, but it moved pretty quick. I was privileged enough to be in line behind a stereotypical group of ugly Americans; complete mooks. But, I was very pleased once I got in the museum. I give it a thumbs up. I then walked back to the coutyard of the Louvre to meet my friend, as this was our secondary meeting place. I walked the whole time I was there because I was too afraid to ride a bike in traffic and the Parisian Metro looked very complicated and was very expensive. Anyway, my friend didn't make it to that meeting either, so I strolled down the Champs-Elysees toward the Arc de Triumph. I then hung a left and headed towards the Eiffel Tower. Once I arrived there, I had accomplished all of the sightseeing I had planned and began the long, long walk back to my hotel. Along the way I passed a statue of Lafayette; I got a kick out of that.