Saturday, March 31, 2012

rakka and leff do europe 2012, day three, paris

ah, paris in the spring. what could be more romantic? especially for someone (you know, me) who was really into studying french in high school (not quite so much when i studied it in college), who smoked gitanes whenever possible, who read rimbaud at rimbaud's age, who still watches new wave films and french gangster movies while wearing too much black...well, you're getting the picture.

so when leffie booked us tickets on the eurostar i was kinda' over the moon. PARIS! I HAD NEVER BEEN TO PARIS! i was so going to LOVE paris! which, you know, I DID, um, until i actually made it to paris.


first things first, the eurostar is easy peasy. we got up waaay too early to get the second train into paris from st. pancras. here is leff all groggy and on the train.

we were both kind of excited about doing the whole chunnel thing because we are both kind of transit nerds but it was nbd. in fact, it wasn't even announced. everything just goes dark outside the windows and when it's STILL dark quite a bit later you think "huh. this must be the chunnel."

i did not even know i had made it to france until my phone told me.

i certainly wouldn't have known by looking out the window since we were surrounded by the fog.

leff got our carnet for the metro while we were still on the train. which was great except for the fact that he had to stand behind some whinging asshole from vancouver while he was waiting. (fun fact! the pacific northwest will try to ruin EVERYTHING for you, no matter how far away from it you manage to be.)

after 2.5 hours or so, we arrived at gare du nord.

and were immediately assaulted by scam artists. this is particularly funny as our hosts, both of whom were native parisians, had warned us about it. you know, with a sneer. still, no harm, no foul as leff just glared at the scammers while i snarled "non!" and threw elbows as we hurtled toward the metro entrance.

ugh, the metro. the paris metro reminds me of the d.c. metro in that you have to navigate by end destination rather than by direction. this makes me hate both of those systems. add into the fact that the paris version is hella' rickety, ugh, is not the tube.

still, i cannot bag on these nouveau stylings.

our first stop in paris was notre dame.

we arrived there via a shortcut along the seine.

check out this facade.

that is a facade to write home about, amirite? and right nearby? un canard.

these next few pictures of the cathedral are really quite funny. i will explain why in just a sec. um, here we have the entrance to the cathedral (which, OMG OTHER PEOPLE. WHY DO YOU NOT LOOK UP UNTIL I HAVE LOOKED UP FIRST? idiots.)

groin vaulting,

stained glass with an open pane,

the luscious rose window

and joan of arc.

now, why are they funny?  it is because they look tranquil. the cathedral appears unpopulated. HA HA! THIS IS SO NOT THE CASE! THIS IS WHAT IT IS LIKE AT NOTRE DAME.

and most of those people? ARE AMERICANS. AT THEIR WORST. being loud and oblivious and dressed in shorts.

this is where i'm going to flat out say it. the reason that i hated paris? it was because of all of the americans. i am not going to apologize for that statement as my fellow countrymen's behavior was, frankly, appalling at best.

ANYWAY, here is notre dame inside of notre dame.

also, nice shadows.

here we are behind the altarpiece.

and under the rose window.

there was a guadalupe shrine in one of the aisles.

i had planned on doing the walk near the gargoyles after seeing the cathedral but we were greeted by this mass of humanity upon exiting.

so this is as close as i got to the stone bastards.

leff and i were really annoyed at this point. not even a fake lascaux bull could cheer us up.

certainly seeing pompidou center in the distance didn't.

we were sad like this god.

BUT!!! things got better. the fog burned off a bit revealing the light that i had been looking for.

i can absolutely understand why someone would want to paint landscapes in paris. the light will slay you, it is so good.

also quite cheering was the cafe that we found. guess what, petit chats? i remembered enough french to be able to order food and bev. cafe creme, bitches.

we sat at the cafe for about an hour and a half and it was fabulous. our hosts had warned us that parisians were horrid. (remember, they are parisians themselves.) but, you know what? i don't agree. I LOVE PARISIANS! i found every one of them we conversed with to be kind and helpful. this is probably because i d'accorded it up and used hand motions instead of speaking english. so, PRO TIP! learn enough basic french to converse and things will be fine!!

after we had cooled off, it was time to head toward the louvre. i did not want to bother with attempting the museum as we were only in the city for one day and it takes, what, nine years to see everything in the louvre if that's all you do every day? * shoulder shrug * this view was good enough for me.

besides, seeing the i.m pei pyramid is just as good as going inside.


ANYway, arc de triomphe du carrousel, luxor obelisk, arc de triomphe de l'etoile. there they are.

and here is d'orsay.

and, um, the horsay outside of d'orsay.

with a rhino for good measure.

leff and i decided that it might be fun to walk to the eiffel tower. HA! HAHA! do not do this. i mean, you get to see paris, right?

but, and this is so painful for me to admit, paris is kinda' dull to look at? UGH, I AM SORRY!! it is just so homogeneous.  i mean, i get it, paris. you are pretty. CAN YOU NOT HAVE A SCAR OR SOMETHING INTERESTING THOUGH? imperfections make things sexier?

after stumbling around for a while and heading into a marche which was not so super, we sort of...happened upon the tower.  this is the conversation.

leff:  ou est this thing? i can't believe we can't find it. * taking pictures of sidewalks or something *

me:  * walking off a bit, looking around corner of building * uh, leff? attend?  you might want to see this?

leff:  huh. THERE est the thing! * taking this fuck you eiffel tower picture *

so yeah, la tour effiel.

what can i tell you about this? well, HA HA! IT IS NOT A PEACEFUL PLACE TO BE!! leff and i sat on a bench to eat a snack and *BOOM* *SCREAMING* *CANNON SHOTS*

me to leff: are those POLICE IN RIOT GEAR?!?! * texting frantically to let someone know what's up in case we accidentally get arrested and/or tear gassed*


leff: jesus fucking christ. THOSE ARE FLARES!??!


me:  * receiving text message reading "bloody nora!" * *through gritted teeth* i fucking hate paris.

the tower is pretty though?  although, guess what is under its skirts.

that is right! AMERICANS! AND BUSKERS!!  ARGH!@##

at this point leff and i had, quite frankly, had enough. so we boarded a batobus full of americans and one british dude who was so drunk that he fell out of his chair and cruised the seine. it was as restful as paris could be. (and it was funny as leff kept snarling "guild much?!?" in my ear as he was cranky and quite tired of seeing gold covered things at this point.)

saw an invader on the banks of the seine. you know, fwiw.

we disembarked at notre dame as we thought we'd give it another shot since it was late afternoon and, SURELY, all of the americans were at the eiffel tower, right?  turns out that they were.

but, OMG, PARIS! HA HA! YOU ARE TOO MUCH! there was really a goddamned accordion player. i had to sit down because i was laughing so hard.

anyway, notre dame in the evening is spectacular. the direction of the light is just right for the stained glass.

and chanty type music is played so it is possible to relax a bit in the coolness of the cathedral. aaaaah! *contented sigh*


it was at this point that i just gave up, looked at leff and said "do you just want to go back to gare du nord? i want to get back to london." he agreed.

we passed shakespeare and company on the way to the metro stop. look at this traffic and you will understand why no one is getting a victor hugo book mailed to them. sorry, peeps!

i should also mention that no trip to paris is complete without seeing 1) a metro mole person 2) the masturbating sleeping bag dude. this is how you know you've really made it.


1) americans aside, i think that i could like paris. i would maybe visit it in november? yeah, that sounds like it might work.

2) leff and i hardly spoke in paris. it's a defense mechanism? we used our personal sign language and whispered to each other. i know, i know, it is weird but it also keeps people from guessing your country of origin. and i enjoy not having that knowledge public until it is absolutely necessary.

3) the bread in paris is just as wonderful as you're heard. the same holds true for the coffee and the cheese. incredibly, we did not have wine. which WHAT?! but *shoulder shrug*

4) in the battle of paris v london? i choose london. i heart london so fucking much. in the battle of cardiff v london? cardiff wins. but more about that in a later post. *shoulder shrug*

5) *shoulder shrug*

tomorrow! leff and i are back in london! regent's park! we start stalking the bt tower! bookstores! a bakery! it was a light day with not so much *BOOM* *SCREAMING* *CANNON SHOTS* which was a nice change.

Friday, March 30, 2012

rakka and leff do europe 2012, day two, london

day two of our vacation began as a foggy day in london town. (thank you, thank you). we tubed it to london bridge which was actually not falling down

so that we could meander around the city. our original intention was to get up early enough to watch bankers commute but, well, sleeping is somewhat important. occasionally.

the other reason for north banking it was st. paul's.

hearts you, wrenny!

we stopped for coffee at a place next to st andrew's by the wardrobe? is that the name of this place? i don't know??

what i do know is that it's got fan vaulting and there are people buried right in front of the church which means that there are bones near the coffee!!!  AAAAAAH HAUUUNTED COOOFEEEE!!!

there's a nice little park near st. paul's where you can sit and watch pigeons trying to cage crumbs from investment bankers. you can also drink coffee and listen to the cathedral's bells.

have i mentioned the foggy smog? it greatly reduced visibility. we could barely see the tate modern.

two of the galleries were closed at st paul's at the time of our visit, so leff and i spent quite a while outside of the building.

leff has audio of the bells but, for now, this video will have to suffice for atmosphere.

after feeling the fury of the gift shop (where i bought a postcard of st paul's during the blitz. WHAT?! I LOVE THAT IMAGE!!) we did a bit more wandering around the city. sadly, i didn't take many pictures of the roman streets because i was too busy, you know, being there so this crappy picture will have to suffice. deal with it.

leff and i grabbed pret (pret! preeet! PRET! ) and headed to the south bank for lunch. were you aware?  ALL OF LONDON JOGS ON ITS LUNCH BREAK! here is one of them thar londoners doing that thar thing i just mentioned.

after lunch it was art time! we crossed the millenium bridge (which is something i've been trying to do for two years. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!)

and accidentally ended up in a german movie of some sort.

i have no idea why my camera went all craphipstamtic on me but, well, ATMOSPHERE, BITCHES! london fog, IT IS A THING!

leff and i had planned on catching the kusama exhibit but we were worn to nubbins. we did a small bit of looking,

saw some giant red balls

and skeedadled back to the strata to regroup/take a nap. on the way we were stalked by a man in red trousers!


after sleeping away the better part of an afternoon, leff and i went to a greek restaurant in the elephant and castle. GIANT BEEEEEANS!! I LOOOVE GIANT BEEEEANS!!!

also, this salad was HUGE! i could not eat it all. (but i tried. THE FETA WAS SO GOOD!!)

it was a REALLY good meal even though i think we weirded out the staff a bit because we were americans. (people are not really used to americans being in the e&c. * shoulder shrug * we tried to not be ugly ones so, YOU ARE WELCOME, FELLOW COUNTRYMEN! NOW STOP WEARING SHORTS, SANDALS AND BASEBALL CAPS WHEN YOU ARE ABROAD AS A FAVOR TO ME!!)

bullets for the day:

* i really do not like the elevators to get to the platforms at the elephant and castle tube stop. they're a little too close to the entryway? there is always a bottleneck? i do not know how this could be fixed without redoing the entire station?

* standing under the millenium bridge is fun because the sound of feet crossing is fantastic. leff has audio. i'll post a link as soon as he uploads it.

* the thames was at super low tide while we were in the city. i thought about climbing down the ladder onto the banks of the river but i had a feeling that most pubs would have frowned upon a muddy american chick on the prowl for cask ale. i might've had some roman coins but beer is better.

tomorrow on the rakka and leff show, european edition:  we hop on the eurostar to paris! will i remember enough french to keep us from starving?  did we take the batobus? ARE ALL OF THE AMERICANS ALWAYS THERE?!  check back soon, same bat time, same bat channel!