Paris Overview

Paris is the most beautiful city on the planet, plain and simple.  The why is more difficult to nail down.  Budapest is almost identical to Paris but has the added beauty of Fishermans Bastion, Buda Castle, and Parliament.  Yet for some reason it does not surpass Paris.  I will have to leave it for the philosophers to debate.

Billy and Me                         Arc de Triumph

My first, and only, visit to Paris was with my elder brother.  We spent a few days exploring the City in 2005.  All the usual tourist spots were visited and were quite uninteresting, as most tourist traps are.  The most interesting and best stories pertain to the people we met and sights we saw outside the tourist areas.  We stayed in a hostel and as usual met some interesting fellow tourists.  There was a hot American girl, an adventurous Kiwi and Aussie, a racist Jew, a solo Brazilian female, and a Chinese brother and sister.

Staircase to Sacre Cour

The first day we spent sightseeing with the Kiwi, Aussie, and Jew.  It was fine but my brother and I found that going out alone was more interesting.  So after a night of drinking with the Chinese and Brazilian we headed into the city sans company.  In a park we met a tall beautiful girl sitting on a bench with a tall good looking guy.  We stuck up a conversation and found to our excitement that she was a Romanian Victorias Secret model and he was her brother.  I am quite certain my eyes glowed like the sun and my heart skipped a few hundred beats on this news(The finding out he was her brother, not that she was a model). They invited us to a party at a club that evening and we accepted.  Immediately after we parted ways I ran into another girl and we started talking.  It turned out that she was a dancer in some Paris national theatre or something like that.  We walked together for an hour or so and then she invited us both to a party at her flat with her friends.  Like morons we declined and we parted ways.  I will never forget your perfect legs my mystery Parisian dancer.

Billy, Me, Kiwi, and Israel Sacre Cour

That night we went to the club and to our surprise our names were actually on the VIP list.  Sadly we could not take advantage of this amazing opportunity as it was 150 degrees Centigrade inside with an oxygen content of 1%.  Neither of us could stand it and left before even meeting our host.  To this day I do not understand how people can survive and enjoy such and environment.  A shame really.

Paris Hostel

Notre Dame was as expected, the same goes for the Louvre(though the Mon Lisa was much smaller than I expected).  The Eiffel Tower and its surrounding park is impressive.  We didn’t go up the tower and instead went up to the top of the big ugly black office building, Tour Montparnasse.  The view was fantastic, and this was before I had lasik.  I could only dream of what the view would be like to me now.

Billy and Me Paris Catacombs

The crypts are what fascinated me the most.  Seeing all those bones in piles and trying to imagine that each one once lived a life with a family, going to work each day and having the same problems and thinking the same things that I think.  It was eerie, but the designs they made with the bones somehow took away from the sadness and creepiness of it all.  I highly recommend going down into the crypts when you visit Paris.

Me with Mona Lisa

So that was all.  Nothing I can really put into words beyond that Paris is the most romantic and beautiful city on the planet.

Paris: Meeting of Twins

Paris is one of the greatest cities on the planet.  You could argue that fact, but you would be wrong.   My first visit to the city was with my brother.  Now, my brothers and I look like we come from different factories.  Whether my mom cheated with the milkman is of no concern to me, as I only care about who raised me, but when the two of us travel together we look like a gay couple instead of brothers.  It is not an issue and yet does provide the impetus for some interesting conversations with people we come across.

At the Cafe.JPG

Every minute is memorable in Paris, as anyone who has been there will tell you.  I could write a small book of the few days I have spent there, telling about the girl in the hostel with a great body that answered her door just pouring out of the tiniest and tightest of towels.  Or meeting a Romanian model and her brother in a park and then going to a club with them that felt like it was 500 degrees with zero percent oxygen. How about sightseeing with a Kiwi, Aussie, and racist Jew? Drinking wine late into the night with Chinese and Argentinian students? Perhaps you would enjoy when I destroyed a food cart on the side of the street because the cook gave me a crepe filled with lime salt and a pepsi when I asked for a nutella crepe with lime miranda.  I mean seriously, how does someone working with tourists all day not speak a word of English?  Come on France, English has been the language of the world for a while now.  Get on board and stop hanging on to your past glory. And before you get upset, I didn’t really smash up his cart, but I really wanted to.

Barbi, Marni, and Me.jpg

No, the story I’ve settled on for today is the meeting of two twins.  It actually takes place while in line for the aforementioned crepe.  My brother and I were discussing with each other how beautiful the French women were, and using the two women in front of us as examples.  After the usual pep talk to get ready for battle we moved in, and lo and behold, they spoke in New York accents. Strange for French girls to have New York accents, but I do not judge.

Barbi, Marni, Billy, and Me.jpg

We started talking about our respective trips and all the usual first meeting subjects.  We walked for a while and then stopped to sit outside of a Parisian cafe.  These twin sisters from New York City were quite interesting and all was well with the world for those few hours.  We drank espresso and talked as the sky got darker and darker.  The subjects did and do not matter.  The words flowed smoothly and all was happy and perfect.  Pictures were taken, phone numbers were exchanged, and the two groups of siblings parted ways into the dark and quiet streets of the iconic city, never to meet again.

 

Normandy Beach

Hundreds of ships hide in the distance, invisible through the fog.  Whistling and deafening explosions are all around from bombs and shells landing nearby.  I suppress my fear as I watch the allies land on the beach in front of me  from my pillbox.

Me overlooking Normandy Beach.jpg

The reality is that I am standing in a damp and cool sixty year old concrete bunker on a beautiful and sunny French day.  My imagination, with the help of books and films such as Saving Private Ryan, have taken me back to D-Day as only being on the spot can do.  I feel the fear on both sides of the battle, the wondering of how the hell I got into this mess and what I’m really fighting for.  My family at home quickly flashes through my mind.  Will they miss me?  Have a been a good person?  Why is this happening to us?  Why here?  I look at the guys around me.  Fear in all of their eyes.   Dammit.

Me on Normandy Beach.jpg

The power of being on the spot is fantastic and overwhelming.  Granted, it is just another piece of land with few signs of having ever being a battleground.  The naked French men strolling on the beach might distract a lesser mind or interrupt their dream sequence, but not me.  I can feel the damp of the day even though it is warm.  I smell and taste the acrid smoke of gunpowder though the sea air today is fresh and clean.  It is 06 June 1944 to me and nothing can break the spell until I am ready to leave it.

Normandy Cemetary 3.jpg

World War II is my favorite part of history.  I love all parts of it.  Why I cannot explain, but it is so.  The only other time I have been transported to the past is when I lived in Warsaw.   I take no sides of the event.  Russia was cruel but also a horrible victim.  Ukraine and Poland were decimated. The Jews were slaughtered, though so were many other groups that get much less recognition.  Germans civilians were carpet bombed and abused.  It wasn’t all their fault either as I can see many countries today falling in the same trap of fear and blaming others for their problems. But I digress.

Billy in Normandy Beach bunker.jpg

Normandy Beach is a beautiful and well kept area of France.  The beach is hallow and beautiful.  Structures non-military are few and far between.  The cemetery is perfectly done.  There is really not much to be said about the area.  If World War II interests you, then spend a day here.  Touch the crosses in the cemetery and imagine where that man came from and what his thoughts were that day.  Go to the pillboxes overlooking the sea and try to put yourself in that soldiers boots, knowing that today was your last on this earth. Think of your wife, children, brothers, sisters, father and mother and know you will never see them again.  Take your shoes off, walk on the beach, and picture boys scared to death as they land where you are walking.  Look towards the hill and take in how much open, soft sand there is between you and any bit of cover.  If none of this strikes a chord with you, skip Normandy Beach.