Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Romantic emergency? Forgot that your girlfriend was arriving on the 2 o'clock train? Don´t worry, for these kinds of situations, all you need is to head over to the nearest flower vending machine, and your problem is solved!

Who knew that the French were so romantic AND practical at the same time! :)

Anyway, today I spent a fair amount of time sorting out some credit card troubles. Since I had lost my wallet in Spain I had done without it, and did not get a replacement because of the difficulty of finding a more or less "permanent-like" address where the replacement could be sent (I still fondly recall the nightmares when the bank card was to be delivered). But with friends in Paris I had asked the credit card company to send a replacement to Edwin's apartment, and it had not yet arrived. As it turns out, it was in France, at their delivery center about 20 kms away from the city, but it could not be delivered in the morning due to some building access code confusion, and someone from the credit card company had requested that if no delivery to please send the card back to the U.S.

Naturally, this would've been a bad thing. So long as the card remained in France, I may pick it up, but if it went back to the U.S., no chance at least for a few more weeks, and then some stress to boot.

Well, French customer service (I had to call the customer service for UPS, which was the company delivering my letter containing the card) is just as inefficient as American one, but at least here they're more polite about it. For one thing, they genuinely seem to care, and additionally since calling customer service numbers here runs you about 10 Euro cents a minute (it is like calling a 900 number in the U.S.!), when they see that the call is going to take a long time instead of putting you on hold they ask you for your number so that *they* can call you back (and they always call you back with the resolution within the hour!).

Which is fine and dandy, except that today I forgot my cell phone in the hostel, and I was calling up customer service from the train station on the way to teeny weeny UNESCO World Heritage Site medieval town of Provins.

Blech. Big mess. The final scoop: they will attempt to deliver tomorrow again. Hopefully this will happen before I leave (I ride away from Paris tomorrow, as I am already way over schedule), as I do not want to start riding after 10 a.m. considering the length of the next stage.

Provins: o.k. town, not particularly exciting (or maybe I'm simply starting to get tired of all these European tiny medieval towns, or the heat is shortening my patience for them, at any rate), saw their ramparts and their underground galleries that served as hospital and refuge for pilgrims and beggars, missed (on purpose) the tourist shows of joust re-creations and birds of prey exhibit, but mostly spent most of the time in busses and trains and waiting for the connections (tiny towns are a bit like that---connections don't happen very frequently).

Upon returning to Paris, though, I took the afternoon to see the rest of the city that I hadn't seen in the previous days, including what I stupidly and regrettably had left for last: the area of Montmartre.

Most of Paris, you see, is a bit like Milano or New York or any other big city--fast-paced and chaotic, big buildings and traffic and people busily going somewhere important, and nothing too exotic or exciting, really (other than the museums and a spread out building or area here or there). I was telling Dorothee and Edwin just a few days ago, in fact, that Paris is not at all like the movies, that it is not at all that romantic, oblique-lighted beautiful bridge and fog and umbrellas in the Champs Elysees that you see in the paintings sold at the shops, no, just a normal city, in fact.

But I had spoken too soon, you see, for here in Montmartre, it is!!

Even in spite of all the tourists, Montmartre is a quiet little haven a little bit like the area over near the Coit Tower or the Upper Richmond district in San Francisco. If I ever were to live in Paris, it would have to be here, no other place would do (though I'm sure the rents here are outrageous!). I really wish I could've spent more time wandering Montmartre's streets and hanging out at its cafe's and enjoying the views of Paris down below, but regrettably I left it for rather late (But I blame the Let's Go for not emphasizing this neighborhood properly!), which was a real pity.

{sigh}. So, how does a girl spend her last night in Paris? Atop the Eiffel Tower for an unparalleled nighttime view of the city? A kiss with a handsome gentleman on Pont Neuf as the sun sets over the waters of the Seine? A visit to the stratospherically expensive and extravagant cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge? A dinner in one of Paris' finest restaurants?


What I did in the end I'm keeping to myself. :).

What I will tell you is that it was nice, and mysterious, and surprising, and interesting, and exciting, and scary, and funny, and....lots of many other things.

But that's as far as the details go.


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