Another Frantic Taxi Ride to a Ryanair Airport, AHHH!

Lessons learned: Ryanair shuttle companies are shit. Okay, so the company isn’t Ryanair, but I still blame them. Because I can.

So, our flight from the Paris Beauvais airport was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and the shuttle company had told us to plan 1 hour and 15 minutes for the trip. I therefore decided that getting on the 6:30 bus would give us plenty of time. So we woke up and hauled across Pairs, running through the Metro and making new friends with other Americans trying to fly out that morning too.

Now here the fun starts…We lined up ever so politely to buy our shuttle tickets and then joined the clusterfuck by the buses–and found out just how bad they’d fucked everyone over.

So, the bus company had a strict policy of only allowing people on 1, yeah 1, specific bus–the bus exactly 3 hours before their flight–and too damn bad if you’d bought a ticket already. The asshole German guy in charge, admittedly getting a raft of shit from everyone, had no intention of being helpful, not even to the people who’d only missed their bus by 10 minutes. As Rae and I were 1 hour “late” we were royally screwed.

So after getting a German death glare for daring to exist, I found our American friends from the subway (poor things had missed their bus by 5 minutes) and we agreed to cab share to Beauvais. Naturally, there was a convenient group of taxis really close and, while the rest of the world milled around like especially stupid and pissed off ants, we pounced on a taxi and headed off, really tired and grumpily.

I was strongly reminded of another taxi trip to a stupid Ryan-airport, though this driver knew EXACTLY where he was going, which was made abundantly clear to me when we passed one of the fucking buses and he began to gesture in amusement while chatting in French. Since I speak just enough French to order wine and not much else, I communicated my feelings with a rude gesture toward the bus, which amused the driver to no end.
“You go to Beauvais a lot?” I asked him, motioning toward the fucking bus, now passed. He nodded and said something about 11 guys in his company going to Beauvais every day. I snorted, guessing exactly why that was. And then, he said something about his company and the bus, which either means that the bus company and taxi are owned by the same people, or that they’re in cahoots and call the taxis when a big crowd of grumpy tourists gathers at the bus stop.

Conspiracies or no, we made it to the airport on time and a ridiculous fare of 140€ later, were on a plane to Milano. Of course, that was Milan (Bergamo) in Ryanair world, so we had another airport shuttle waiting for us at the end of the plane ride.

The Louvre is Full of Tourists: Paris pt III

On the 10th, we caffeinated and hopped the Metro back into Paris. The ticket gate was “accidentally” wedged open, providing free transportation to all! (No, of course we would never take advantage of such things 🙂 This was Louvre day, a bit of terrible planning on our parts as it was also Sunday and sure to be packed with tourists stepping on my toes.
First, we went to the Arts Decorifs for Rachael and her Marc Jacobs/Louis Vuitton exhibit. Much to her delight, her student ID actually got her inside for free–and she then spent a happy time drooling over suitcases and the crazy shit that is high fashion. I have to admit, I like the Louis Vuitton pattern, not that I could ever, EVER afford it.
After, we marched through the plaza and bypassed the pyramids and their masses of stupid tourists and found the secret side entrance. (it’s good to have insider tips from Parisians) where we didn’t wait at all, no line whatsoever. Also, I didn’t pay, AGAIN. I swear, my TIE has saved me so much money this  summer, it’s almost worth the pain in the ass bureaucracy I had to go through to get it.

We saw an overwhelming amount of paintings, some amazingly gorgeous and even the infamously little Mona Lisa.

There were a bunch of tourists everywhere, of course, but all in all it wasn’t too badly crowded. Eventually, Rae and I got our exhausted selves free of the Louvre at about 4:00–dreaming of food and plotting our escape. Or so we thought! We got out of the unending rooms of French paintings (and overly chatty French guards who kept popping up and offering unsolicited information about the paintings) only to realize…we’d just seen 1 wing of the museum!

We made the sanity-saving decision to leave anyways and went wandering in search of food, finding yummy falafel.

On our last full day in Paris, my card didn’t save me any money because we’d stopped going into museums and monuments. Instead we wandered up to Monmarte and the Sacre Coure, getting derailed by Rachael finding her Mecca, an entire neighborhood that seemed to consist of nothing but fabric stores.

We eventually made it to the top of the hill, observed the amazingly touristy restaurants in the area, took our pictures (required of course by tourist law) whenever there was a gap in the tourist crowds and then climbed down the slippery steps to eat lunch. We watched in amused disgust as some guy next to us ate what looked like raw hamburger.
To finish up our cathedral day, we went downhill to Notre Dame to actually see the inside of the cathedral, sitting down for half of the vespers (me to listen to French hymns and Rach to take a quick nap).
Bored of churches, we went out into the Latin Quarter–where I was distracted momentarily by the Shakespeare & Co bookstore (Rae says we were there for an hour…Lies!) and convinced myself that the backpack can’t carry all the books I wanted to buy.

We got back to Saint Denis with time to see it’s medieval Basilica (though not early enough to get inside, damn!) as well as a bunch of stores selling ugly polyester dresses.

Dinner was delicious supermarket pasta and us hearing about Andromeda’s experience unintentionally volunteering herself as a vote-counter in the local elections. And then we passed out incredibly early, preparing for our unpleasant 4:45 a.m. wakeup…and the unanticipated pain in the ass that came with flying to Italy…

 

All Over the Place: Paris pt II

The following day in Paris was a shopping day! That means that after a lazy late breakfast, French croissants and bacon, yum, we watched Nico buy several pairs of beautiful shoes as Rachael drooled over studded Louboutin shoes. We managed to find all the high shops, from Prada and Gucci to a bunch I’ve never heard of. The day also included a trip to the wonderful Decathalon for new shoe inserts for my pathetic, almost-dead tennies and golf stuff for Nico. Now, Nico’s backpack was already full of shoes from shopping all day, so he took the opportunity to ask me: “Can you carry my balls in your purse?” Nuff said…

The evening we proceeded to have a mini-dance party in Nico’s flat. The usual mixture of dancing on tables and drinking champagne–plus Nico attempted to teach Rae how to dance. That went as well as you’d expect. We also made fat crepes and devoured them, enjoying our last night in Nico’s place.

The next morning, Rach and I packed up our bags before heading off to the Versailles for the day. We had good intentions, even setting an alarm, that turned out to be unneccessary as I couldn’t sleep. (Note to self: make sure air mattresses are always fully inflated). Of course, the palace was full of tourists, with the ticket line taking a nice annoying 15 minutes. I didn’t have to pay, again, and Rae did. Again. We picnicked on a convenient wall and laughed at the tourists, and then, in a great display of karma, we turned around and saw the line to get inside. It snaked up and down the entire courtyard 3 times. Great timing for a lunch break, huh?
But we finally got inside and Rae proceeded to take pictures of every bit of carving or painting. We both had a special moment of nerdy glee when we got to the Hall of Mirrors. Now, as Rach actually had to pay (haha) to get into the gardens, we opted to head back to Paris instead, plotting more adventures. Of course in the interim, Rae needed her coffee and went into a convenient Starbucks, boo. On the train back to the city, a little American boy made my day by noticing: “It’s funny that everyone says, ‘wee-wee.'”

We made it to the Arc de Triumph and took pictures of all of Paris, ones that actually included the Eiffel Tower  (thanks for that tip, Katie).

We then ran back to Nico’s to grab our packs before heading to our new place in the suburb of Saint Denis. Disclaimer: Saint Denis is a fantastic place and we had a good time there. It’s also known as the sketchiest part of the Paris area. And the train happens to let you off in the most sketch part of the city. In a great bit of bad timing, Rachael had decided to wear a miniskirt that day, which just added to the attention we got from the locals. So there we were, marching down the streets of Saint Denis, probably the only white people in several blocks at least, and hauling our giant conspicuous backpacks. Still, possible sketchiness of the neighborhood aside, it was fun and our hosts Andromeda and Mateo were great. They’re more well-traveled than I’ll ever be (maybe 🙂 and are very Portlander in their interest in organic, local food and sustainability. We all drank beers and compared travel stories before crashing.

“You’re French–where’s your beret?” Paris p I

We arrived in Paris a little after 11 a.m. completely exhausted due to a combination of sleeping at the Madrid airport and a really long shuttle trip. Luckily, our host was going to be home at 1, so we didn’t have to kill time in Paris, lugging backpacks around. We met the famous Nico, and learned that we were his 100th and 101th guests! Nico is an engineer to pay the bills and an enthusiastic musician as well as an expert-level couchsurfer. After giving us a basic rundown on the sity, he was off and so were we, into the ever-changing Parisian weather (think Oregonian in nature, gray rainy, sun, change again). We wandered around the center, still exhausted, and found a patch of dryish grass with a view of the Louvre and the top spire of the Eiffel Tower and took a powernap.
That evening, we joined Nico and visited on of his bars, devouring massive amounts of cheeses and cheap French box-wine. Now, I can’t speak French to save my life, but I managed to guess the words for “red wine” when ordering a refill. We then made our way to the Paris version of an indie music bar (complete with an airless basement and a fedora-wearing singer) where Nico in all his tallness was the only one able to actually see the stage. We found a superchocolate crepe and messily ate it and wandering into an Irish bar to drink Guiness and listen to Irish Parisian cuss at each other.

Day 2 was the day of museums and picnics. We went to the Orsay Modern Art Museum and in an example of things to come, I flashed my Spanish TIE and got in for free while Rae grumpily paid the ticket price. I did manage to confuse one particularly slow guard:
“I need your student ID”
“This is my student ID.” It even says Estudiante in big green letters.
“Then I need your residence card.”
“This IS my residence card.”
And so on…One grumpy French glare later, I was in! We nerded out to some great Impressionist paintings and I suffered through the Art Noveau section. We ate some French pasta and Rae learned that simply ordering “pesto” gets you nowhere when at the French version of Noodles and Co.
We then failed at getting into Notre Dame, got a little lost in the 19th when I made a wrong turn, and finally met up with Nico and the girls for a picnic near a canal. I failed at the “Patonk!” game, but happily drank wine out of a bottle like a  bum (forgot the corkscrew). When the sun set, we went down to the Eiffel Tower to watch Nico’s tax euros at work–it lights up like a Christmas tree every hour. Dodging the annoying vendors–No, I don’t want a mini-tower made of tinfoil, we walked along the Seine until we found ourselves by a street full of high fashion shops. After Rae finished salivating on the windows, we metro-ed back to Bolivar and bed.