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[personal profile] misspotter
The only things that weren't awesome about Paris were:
1. Pickpockets and Pedlars
Though we fortunately escaped unscathed, we were constantly hassled by pedlars trying to peddle everything from flowers to souvenirs. While this doesn't strike me as terribly different from Florence or Rome, the ones here were really in your face and not afraid to block your path. And the signs everywhere warning you to check your pockets, even in places where you had to pay roughly 10€ for admission, were really quite disturbing. I mean, seriously, pickpockets buy a ticket up the Eiffel Tower because they are so sure they will earn back the cost of their ticket?

2. No free wifi
This was the fault of the Marriott assuming that all people who stayed there could afford to pay 20 euros a day for Internet. Fortunately though, the Louvre had an Apple store (near their Lauderee!)

3. Gridlock
I live in Sydney. I'm used to traffic jams. I've seen how the Princes Highway can be an enormous parking lot and how backed up the Harbour Tunnel can be. But nothing prepared me for Paris (or Rome for that matter). Because not only do you have congestion, you have chaos. For example, the only rule about roundabouts is that you accelerate to get in and pray other people slow down to avoid you, because the roundabouts are giant monstrosities with things in the middle that prevent you from seeing the other side. Also, apparently three or four lanes of traffic can turn left despite there being no traffic lights or signs. But I guess it's just a sign that the city's ancient streets were never designed to deal with the glut of cars.

Now we've gotten all the yucky stuff out of the way, let me start gushing about Paris the way everyone usually does!

The drive to Paris was our longest yet - we left at about 7:45 in the morning and crossed the Swiss-French border just before 9am. We only reached Paris itself after 4pm (due to aforementioned atherosclerotic streets). By then, we were all too tired to go out shopping, and went our rooms instead to nap before dinner.

Dinner was served at a nearby 400-year-old restaurant. We started with a classic - French Onion Soup. I especially liked the melted cheese on top, even after my mother pointed out how gruyere has the highest fat content of hard cheese. The main course was fish with spinach, which was tasty but hard to eat because it had millions of tiny bones, the thickness of a strand of hair. Dessert though, was this coconut and raspberry parfait that was very welcome indeed in the swelteringly overheated room. I wish I'd gotten the Creme brûlée though, because it was the size of my face.

After dinner we had a bus tour around Paris followed by a cruise! This took us on a loop around the Seine, past all the big historic buildings. It was septilingual, being in French, English, Spanish, Italian, German, Korean and something else I couldn't figure! The Eiffel tower literally sparkled in front of us, we had the best view of all the bridges, and we even saw a few rodents racing along the river bank (which made me think of Ratatouille!)

I was so tired though, that I fell asleep on the bus ride back to the hotel even though our tour guide was still narrating.

Our only full day in Paris began with a short drive around the city. It was just after 8am, so we caught the sunrise, which was magnificent and soon gave way to blue, unclouded skies for our trip up the Eiffel tower. We were the first group up, and we had purchased tickets ahead of time, so we queued for less than five minutes! Our French guide even suggested that if we wanted to start a fight, we ought to wave our tickets at the people in the regular queue. Our tickets only took us up to the second level, but this was easily enough to give us a stunning view of the city. We took our cliched windswept photos, queued for the bathroom (or if you were a male, walked straight in and out) and shunned the 18-euro souvenir mugs. At the bottom, just before getting onto our bus again, our French guide suddenly ran his hands over my shoulders/arms and went, "what a fantastic colour! Very chic!" with reference to my bright pink coat. But my mother had to spoil the moment by going, "her boyfriend hates it!"

Next stop, the Louvre! We had a few minutes of free time to get some macarons, some McDonald's, and some wifi, before entering the museum. Unfortunately we didn't have much time for more than a brief look at a very few of the paintings. We didn't even get terribly close to the Mona Lisa because there were 10 rows of people in front of it. And we missed the Egyptian section, which I would've been really interested in. But we got to see lots of statues (which our guide made funny comments about bits falling off) including the hermaphrodite. And omg, the ceilings of the Louvre! Especially the ones with the corners decorated with the initials of important French monarchs.

My mother in particular found the crowds really unpleasant, but I was just glad it wasn't the high season (spring/summer). Also, I guess the big crowds give everyone a bit of anonymity. It probably explains the ridiculous amount of PDAs I caught sight of (even in the underground fortress of the Louvre where the most used to be ...can anyone think of a less romantic spot?)

After the Louvre we went for a tour of the French Quarter and Notre Dame. I would've loved to sing Disney songs there, but there was a sign asking for "silencio" and "安静". But it was a magnificent cathedral even without the colourful characters running around singing crazy songs like "Bells of Notre Dame" and "Hellfire".

We would've liked to go shopping afterwards, but shops tend to be closed on Sunday's. So we got a few souvenirs and headed back to the hotel to have a rest before our Moulin Rouge outing.

Now...the "Red Windmill"...I would really like to describe this in detail to you because you can't take cameras in. As soon as you enter, you're met with an array of posters advertising both tonight's delights and those of 100 years ago. They don't have tickets, but they have entry cards which you have to give back. The main room is a sea of tables and chairs, set out on rises so even the people at the back have a decent view. We we about 10m from the stage.

We were served dinner first - crusty French bread and vegetable soup followed by fish in white sauce followed by a triple-layer chocolate mousse that, along with the tiramisu in Venice and the gingerbread in Engelberg and the chocolate cake in Belgium, has established itself on my shelf of desserts of my dreams. It was rich, creamy, chocolates, melted on your tongue, and came topped with these chocolate-coated puffed rice balls. I wish I could've taken a photo because oh my god, it was the most glorious dessert yet. And the bottom white chocolate layer had a hint of vanilla in it, which made me think of Creme caramel. There was also a small piece of chocolate on top with the words "Dalloyau Paris", so perhaps that was the brand? Usually I'm a sugar monster, but this one I had trouble finishing quickly. But I had to, because we weren't left with much time to check out the gift shop. And I absolutely had to go! Because I wanted t-shirts for me and for my housemate. For some reason they were low on stock, so I couldn't get us matching shirts, but I thought hers was kind of cuter and has a positive body image message, so...

Oh yeah, the white wine was pretty good too. Only I'm trying to go easy on the alcohol, having had way too much Chianti and limoncello back in Italy. So I drank mainly pineapple juice at the Moulin Rouge. But even without the alcohol I was definitely able to soak up the atmosphere. The heart-shaped balustrades, the lacy lampshades, even the photographer was a cute girl in a gorgeous black dress, the band with the singer who made 2 costume changes throughout dinner (I particularly liked her blue dress), the low lighting that got even darker once the show started...

I've seen the Nicole Kidman/Ewan Mcgregor movie many times, but was warned that the real Moulin Rouge is nothing like it. And it wasn't - the movie's costumes are far classier. Not that I'm complaining! The g-strings and lack of bras really showcased the dancers' highly athletic bodies. And it's quite a feat to dance gracefully with minimal clothes (as someone who's done "Miss Saigon") and avoid unflattering poses. The only thing I didn't like about the costumes is that with that little fabric, there was nowhere to put the microphone transmitter, so all the girls were lip-syncing (with the exception of one number where they were wearing ankle-length skirts, and I'm prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt). Also, the fake microphones annoy me. I mean, it's so obvious that there's no cables going anywhere, so why bother? Ah well, I guess it's part of the show. And it's probably better that they lip sync as singing while doing the cancan is probably harder than even doing the "Whip It" skipping number from Legally Blonde. No, the point of Moulin Rouge is not to be a musical masterpiece. Or really a dancing masterpiece (I've actually seen tighter dances on broadway and such, here I couldn't help noticing that a lot of the girls and guys had slightly different styles). So it's okay. Also, holy crap, they have to do the whole thing twice a night...after we left there was an 11pm show!

So yeah, the costumes. Those sequins and feathers really made the show! And from stripper pants to tails that could be controlled by strings to snaky headdresses to cancan dresses with miles and miles of ruffles to the giant light-up wings of the finale...they were not just fun to look at, they were also examples of clever engineering (though I'd love to know how they did their quick changes so smoothly! The seamed stockings probably helped...). As were the sets...they went to India, to a dance hall circa 1950 (complete with swing music, though I'm sure the girls' skirts weren't quite that short), and a PIRATE SHIP! Yeah, I kept thinking about how much my boyfriend would've liked that scene...

There were a couple of non-singing/dancing acts too - a juggler, a pair of acrobats who did a routine to "Singing in the Rain", a girl who swam with snakes (yes, they have an aquarium!) and this beat boxer comedian who made a movie with audience participation who wasn't really that funny. So yeah, it wasn't just about the girls! I liked the main male singer - who was definitely singing live because a) he wasn't perfect, b) he had a real microphone transmitter that gave a square butt and c) his abdominal muscles were moving in time with the breathing in the music (that's another dead giveaway that people are lip syncing!). Almost all the songs were French, but I recognised "I Will Survive", "In The Mood" and "Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing)".

I hit the bed almost immediately after getting back to the hotel, which was at almost midnight. We then had to be up at 6 and out by 7:30 for our trek back to bonny England.

February 2013

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