eating my way around the world

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” --St. Augustine

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Location: Chicago, IL, United States

Twitter @nikonjunkie

16 June 2005

31 May 2005 :: London to Paris

Today, we depart our recent home at the Imperial Hotel for Paris. Either I'm becoming British, or the breakfast seems almost good today. Weaving our way out of Russell Square, we say goodbye to central London and start to drive through the suburbs. A couple of hours later, the white cliffs of Dover start appearing out the window, and you know you've reached the coast.

Joey tells us that much of the time they don't get stopped on the way into France since it's still within the E.U., but if the French border patrol realizes we're American, they'll stop us and pull us off the bus "just to get a look at the girls, because they're French, and that's what they do!" They stop us, file us through one by one, and sure enough - look us up & down. On the plus side, I have another stamp in my passport! We clamber back onto the bus.

After driving the coach straight onto a massive ferry, we all disembarked and go to walk around. It's lunchtime to me, but everyone in Europe eats later, so they're still serving breakfast. When on vacation, vacation rules apply: (1) Eat as much as you wish, and (2) Never pass up an opportunity to eat since you don't know when you're eating next. I tried to order something I hadn't already eaten that morning, so it's beans on toast (and yet more eggs). Surprisingly, they do not suck. The white cliffs of Dover out the salt-sprayed (grime-covered) windows of the ferry:

Our first sights of Paris - the town of Calais and the rest stop. I was too intimidated to order a snack en français, so I was glad I ate breakfast - twice.

Two clown cars in Paris play chicken at an intersection:

After checking in to the Campanile Bagnolet and dealing with the Elevators of Death, we take an evening bus tour of Paris. But first - holy smokes, Batman - there's a mall attached to our hotel! I manage to find my way into a few stores where exceptionally helpful people start babbling French at me. I feign ignorance and somehow manage to pay for and escape with the shampoo. I tell others of the mall. Word spreads. The women plan to return after the evening tour:

I have no recollection of what this building is (Dôme Church?), but hey, I'm in Paris!

All of a sudden, you look up and - whoa, there she is.

By the time I got my camera settings figured out (flash, damn you!), we left. :(

Our lives in GT's (capable) hands. We brave the Charles de Gaulle Etoile traffic circle (Audrey only screams twice):

If you've never been through this traffic circle, it's called etoile (star) because twelve (yes, twelve) streets fan off of it. I have no idea how anyone survives the circle, much less knows when to exit.

The Louvre

After a tour of the city at sunset, we head back to our hotel in BFE to enjoy dinner and a reception at the bar. Dinner kicks off with some strange, artfully arranged appetizer, which appears to be a beet & cole slaw sculpture of some sort. Despite not usually liking beets or cole slaw, I eat it. It's good. Roast chicken, lots of bread and some vegetables complete the dinner. I decide it's terrific, but maybe I was just starving. ;)

After dinner, we discover the bar not only has Kronenbourg 1664, but there's a mysterious concoction called Kir, an aperitif made from black currant liqueur and white wine. I have several of both. We're all having a great time laughing it up and getting to know everyone in the bar before we realize that our French bartender is sitting a few feet from us, waiting for us to get the hell out. We've closed down the bar, so we throw a few Euro on the tables before retiring to our rooms fat & happy.

Things I Learned Today:
1. George Strait popping up on your iPod as you zoom down the M20 with Citroëns and Vauxhalls passing you going the other way on the right is one of life's truly disorienting feelings.
2. Beware the sparkling bottled water. It's water! No, it's Alka-Seltzer! No, it's water!
3. Elevator capacities in Europe are generally vastly overstated. If it says maximum capacity is 10 persons or 700 kg, interpret that as 4 persons or 300 kg so that the elevator doesn't give out and trap you.
4. Per Joey, no insurance company in the world will insure a vehicle while on the traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe.
5. Kir might just be better than Kronenbourg 1664. I can't decide. Will have to have a few more of both to make up my mind.

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