Sweat on the Seine (and other things I didn’t know, or prepare for, in Paris), part VIII

This is what you probably think of when you think of Paris.

This is what you probably think of when you think of Paris.

Who thinks of sweat when they think of Paris?

Not me. After all, didn’t Hemingway call Paris a “move-able feast”? He didn’t say a “sweaty feast.” And Audrey Hepburn famously said, “Paris is always a good idea.” She didn’t say it’s a good idea as long as you take along a good antiperspirant. All those years I envisioned visiting Paris, the City of Light, with a fantasy of me skipping along the Seine’s riverbank, tossing cherry blossoms in the air and singing, “Oh happy day!” But there I was, in reality, cruising the Seine River on a barge-like dinner boat, seated at a table covered in white linen with shimmering wine glasses and fancy china dishes. Castles and ornate statues and colorful flower gardens hailed us from the river’s shore. Our river boat didn’t have air conditioning on that humid and muggy day, with the temperature teetering around 97 degrees. So Jodee and I fanned ourselves with the menus, too warm to pay attention to the scenic view. Everyone on the boat fanned themselves in a huge mass of fluttering menus. Many of my fellow cruisers began dousing themselves with the ice water from their water glasses. First politely dipping their linen napkin in the water glass and dabbing the cool water on their face. But the dabbing didn’t do the job and the process evolved into drenching entire bodies with the water from their glass. “Waiter! More water, please! No, don’t pour it in my glass, just dump on my head, thank you.” Our tour guide had explained on the bus ride to Paris, “This weather is unusual for us. We usually have weather in the 70s this time of year.” Ohhh! Lucky (sarcasm) us! We get to experience a Paris heat wave. I admit, Paris is the most beautiful city on earth even when it’s boiling. No question. But stifling heat can take your mind off of beauty. Yes, even the beauty of Paris. And if that isn’t shocking to you, I don’t know what is.

 

Our view from our river boat cruise.

Our view from our river boat cruise. We admired the cool water more than the castle.

My view from where I sat on the river boat. The lady to my left brought her grandson to Paris with her since her husband passed away weeks before the trip she had planned with him.

My view from where I sat on the river boat. No one is yet complaining of the heat, but everyone is feeling it.

The Eiffel Tower, built in 1889 and made of 7,000 tons of iron, looks like a project made with a giant erector set.

I didn’t see it lit up at night in its dazzling allure, but during the day it doesn’t have a lot of dazzle going on. Unless you consider towering metal and a slow moving elevator going up and down an exciting spectacle. I expected something more, something that would cause my eyes to goggle in wide-eyed wonder and gasp,“Oh my gosh!” Instead, my eyes didn’t goggle nor did I gasp. I only said, “There it is.” Maybe at night when it glitters against the skyline, maybe that’s when you feel the oh-my-gosh romance of the iconic landmark. Personally, I thought the garden across the street from the Eiffel Tower much more impressive. “Oh! Look at these gorgeous dahlias, cosmos, rudbekias, sunflowers and hollyhocks here in this serene Parisian park!”

 

Woo-woo! Dahlias in Paris.

Woo-woo! Dahlias in Paris.

This park is across the street from the Eiffel Tower. No one lines up to see the flowers. They're all at Tower taking pictures,

This park is across the street from the Eiffel Tower. No one lines up to see these lovely flowers. They’re all at the Eiffel Tower taking pictures of metal.

Everyone speaks English in Paris.

You are told before your trip that it’s wise to know some French when in Paris. But why? I didn’t need to know any French, nor did I hear any French spoken. The only French I heard came from me when I said “bon jour” as I toasted my fellow passengers on the river boat. We clinked water glasses before dumping the water all over our bodies in cool rhapsody.

 

The trees lining the sidewalk on the Champs-Elysées display the artistic shape of huge ice cream bars.

Do you see the ice cream bar trees?

Do you see the ice cream bar trees?

The trees almost make you feel like you’re in Candyland, except the sidewalks are so crowded that it feels more like a war zone and ice cream bar-shaped trees don’t fit the combat scene. You’re too busy swinging your fists and pummeling your way through the hoards of tourists along the famed avenue that you have no time to admire the fancy ice cream trees. “Excuse me! Let me by, please. I just want to see the Paris Disney store a few blocks down. Excuuuuse me! (whack!)” In addition, the gypsies don’t make it easy. They crouch in a folded position with their face pressed to the pavement, smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk. They have a cup for you to show your generosity by placing your money inside while tripping over them. I’ve never seen crouching gypsies before and I thought I’d seen everything since I’ve been to the Vegas strip quite a few times. This unusual solicitation of gypsies is never mentioned in travel brochures.

The Champs-Elysées features high-end shops and posh car dealerships as well as a slew of charming cafes.

The Arc de Triomphe sits at the end of the the Avenue des Champs Elysees, unchanged over time. The same as it was when Hitler marched through it celebrating German victory over France.

The Arc de Triomphe sits at the end of the the Avenue des Champs Elysees, unchanged over time. The same as it was when Hitler marched through it celebrating German victory over France. Today, people use it as a place for warm up, preparing  for the battle that awaits on the famous avenue’s sidewalk.

The shops along the Avenue include Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Tiffany’s and many other expensive stores. Most people can’t afford to step inside. Therefore everyone stays outside and shoves and pushes their way along the avenue where an injury from over-crowding is more likely, but injury or not, it’s much cheaper.

The buildings in Paris have real gold in their architecture.

One building has 54 pounds of gold on its roof. Can you imagine if you work in the building and you think you deserve a raise and the boss says, “No”? How tempted might you, the hypothetical employee, be to go outside and chisel a few extra thousand bucks off one of the roof tiles?

The statues are real gold. Paris doesn't use fake materials in their architecture.

I’ve never been to a city where I’ve seen gold statues on the roof. Here in Arizona we see real-live pigeons on the roof, that’s it.

To live on a small houseboat in Paris, you will pay 1500 Euros ($1,704 in U.S. dollars) or more, and that’s without air conditioning.

This isn’t that shocking, I realize. But it could be if you hoped to live on a houseboat in Paris for a more reasonable price. I love the ‘no parking sign’ posted by this houseboat. As if someone could drive their car in between the hedge and the houseboat and park.

it may not be the ritz for 1500 Euros a month, but it's location, location, location.

It may not be the ritz for 1500 Euros a month, but it’s location, location, location that’s important.

The gas stations on the road to Paris look like the ones we have in America, but with one difference.

They have Tic Tacs at the register and beer and water in a glass refrigerated case. But the restrooms are cleaner with doll-sized toilets that require squatting. Good exercise, though, for the leg muscles.

I was so traumatized by the tiny toilet, I didn't get a picture of it. Therefore as a coping technique, I'd like to share this picture of a big kitchen. It's Monet's kitchen and you can tour it along with the rest his home and gardens at Giverney, France. This picture gives me happy thoughts and helps me forget traumatic toilets.

I didn’t get a picture of the tiny toilet. Therefore, as a coping technique, I’d like to share this picture of a big kitchen. It’s Claude Monet’s kitchen and you can tour it along with the rest of his home and gardens in Giverney, France. This picture gives me happy thoughts and helps me forget traumatic squatting experiences with tiny toilets.

Paris streets don’t have asphalt.

They have picturesque cobblestones that would make anyone think twice about wearing high heels when crossing the street. The cobblestones work great, however, for an art deco photo.

Paris has beautiful streets.

Paris has beautiful streets. (photo by Bronwyn)

Even though you may find crowds and heat and crouching gypsies in Paris, there’s still no city like it. Paris offers picture postcard moments and earthly delights. And who wouldn’t want to alter their life course for a warm, buttery croissant fresh from a Paris bakery, savoring each bite while fanning themselves with their menu? I know I would, except I had a bus to catch and so I didn’t get the chance.

I would happily alter my life course for coffee and croissant in Paris.

I would happily alter my life course for coffee and croissant in Paris.

 

Au revoir mon ami.♥♥♥Paris J,R, B close-up Eiffel Tower

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