Thursday, December 2, 2010

France 2010: How to use an Umbrella in Extreme Weather Situations

First of all, I am so so sorry that I haven't updated my blog in so long.  I have been WAY too busy jetting around Europe and having an amazing time.  So to update you on my adventures since my last blog post...

At the beginning of November, I flew into Aix-en-Provence in the south of France to meet up with my roommate, Megan, for the weekend.  We stayed in Aix for a night and had fancy French food, fancy French wine, and met fancy French people.  After dinner we went out for some drinks where I proceeded to practice the three French phrases that I know.  I think if I informed one more French person that they "are my little grapefruit," Megan would have left me in France.  We woke up early the next morning to catch our train to Paris.  

The three hour train ride to Paris seemed like nothing because of my transportation narcolepsy.  I slept for the entire time.  One of the initial observations that I made about Paris was that it is gloomy.  I do not think this is solely because it rained the ENTIRE time we were there, but also the buildings, the people, everything is gloomy.  But I thought to myself "good thing I brought my umbrella!" Wrong.  Pretty fast I learned that this little Colorado girl has no idea how to use an umbrella.  Umbrellas work great when the water is falling straight down from the sky.  In Paris, it seems that the rain fancies coming down at you from the side.  So logically, I tilted my umbrella to the side to block the rain, when the wind caught the edge of my umbrella and flipped it inside-out.  I felt like I was in a movie, because umbrellas don't get flipped inside-out in real life (at least not in nice and dry Colorado).  If I had a dollar for every time my umbrella flipped inside-out or I had to chase it down the street, I would have at least ten dollars.  Needless to say, I was soaking wet for a full 72 hours. 

We took a cab to our hotel and immediately set off for the Louvre Museum, because that was at the top of the list for things to do in Paris.  The extent of my knowledge of the Louvre comes from reading the Da Vinci Code, but I was still very excited to see it!  We took the metro to a stop a couple of blocks from the Louvre and walked toward it.  One of the first things we saw were the giant pyramids.  

Once inside, we went on a single-minded quest to find the Mona Lisa.  Luckily, we were not the only tourists fervently searching for Mona, so we just followed the masses of people.  We found Mona and she is beautiful.  Yes, she is smaller than I would have expected, and there are about a bazillion guards making sure that you do not get within 12 feet of the painting, but she was still breath-taking.  We fought our way to the front of the pack to get a good look at her and to take some pictures (without the flash).  Here is a picture of me and MONA:

 We left the Louvre and went out to dinner with my friend Maddie who is studying in Paris.  At this dinner, I had my first experience with mean French people.  Our waitress at dinner brought us our bill and it was forty euros more than it was supposed to be.  Thank goodness we had Maddie with us to attempt to figure this out while speaking French.  After about 20 minutes of being yelled at in a combination of French and English by this awful awful woman for being stupid and clever Americans, she stormed off and said "Fine! Pay whatever you want to pay!"  So we did.  We paid for all of our meals, plus an extra 30 euros.  But we shorted the waitress 10 euros solely to make a point.  Occurrences like this simply reinforce the stereotypes that I have in my mind about French people. 

The next morning, Megan and I ventured to the Eiffel Tower to be extra-touristy.  We took the elevator to the top, took lots of pictures, and saw two different people get pick-pocketed.  The elevator is interesting because it moves on a diagonal through the towers at the base, then you have to change elevators at the first observation deck and take a vertical elevator to the top.  The view of the city from the top was beautiful, but the weather made it so there was limited visibility.  I really enjoyed the Eiffel Tower, even though it felt as though I would never be warm again in my entire life.  

That night we went to dinner and went to bed early because Megan had to take the train back to Aix really early the next morning.  My flight wasn't until late that night, so I had a full day of French tourism.  I planned to go to Musee D'Orsay because it was indoors, warm, and heated.  I trekked there on the metro in the pouring rain across town, only to see the sign stating that Musee D'Orsay is "closed on Mondays."  At this point I wanted to cry.  I was alone in France, cold, wet, and my museum was closed.  Luckily, I knew exactly two other places to go in Paris.  First, I used my superb map-using abilities to find the Arc de Triomphe.  Once there, I took some pictures, asked a stranger to take a picture of me, and then took refuge from the monsoon underneath the Arc.  My umbrella blew into the street while I was there alone and I had to go chasing after it, with mean French people pointing and laughing.  Here is a picture of me attempting to fight the elements while a stranger is taking a picture:

After that I trekked across town again to Notre Dame.  By the time I got there, I was so cold and so wet that I took about ten pictures (none of which have me in them) and heading back to the metro.  

Except I got lost on my way back to the Metro and no one wanted to help this lonely American girl was bore a striking resemblance to a wet dog.  So I wandered around for a while before I found the metro stop.  After Norte Dame, I headed back to the hotel, got my suitcase and took a train to the airport.  I got to the airport three and a half hours before my flight because I was so incredibly tired of being out in the rain and the wind and I didn't know where else to go.  I was so happy to get back to Madrid where it rarely rains.  

Moral of the story: The rain in Spain does NOT fall mainly on the plain.  It falls in Paris. 

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