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So, this past week I traveled to Paris, France with my parents and brother. As I posted on the PPC Board, the first thing I noticed on arrival were the giant pigeons. I was not exaggerating (well, not very much) when I said those things were as big as my cat. I think Pax would have actually lost a fight with one of them, if we had brought her along. They were that big.

Army-pigeon

"Release me! That little baby has candy!"

Also, my father is no longer allowed to plan vacation days for the family, as he had us walk to the Eiffel Tower and back on the first day (that was a round trip of about six miles, because he can't read maps) and then to Notre Dame and back (about five miles total) on the second day. On the third day, we woke to our feet resembling crispy-fried taters and our legs and backs spontaneously combusting, so we decided to veg(etable) out for the day and sat in our rooms watching French-dubbed Nickelodeon cartoons from the late nineties and early tens.

Remember Robotboy? He sounds awesome in the French dub.

On the fourth day my dad woke everyone up by proudly proclaiming that he had used his cell phone and a friendly local cafe waiter to discover that bus fare is 1,90 euro a head and that the 95 and 96 buses could take us to Notre Dame and the Louvre (our trip for day four).

This proclamation was followed by a sound pillow beating. He still smells of lightly-perfumed feathers, though his nose isn't quite so red anymore.

So we rode the bus on the fourth day. It was wonderful - even if our drivers did seem to be playing chicken with pedestrians and other vehicles. I am never sitting with my back to the driver again.

France has scrolling ad signs, by the way. They're like small billboards, and have about five or six poster ads inside them that scroll every thirty seconds or so. There are also spinning ad signs, which feature two very large ads and spin at a reasonably slow rate. I kept up with one spinner at a saunter.

Although the giant "rubber" ad was a little disturbing - the thing even had hands and a smilley face. -shudders-

Right, so, the places we visited.

The Eiffel Tower is big in person. It's kind of like an airplane or a cruise ship: you don't realize just how massive it is until you're standing right under it. We only made it to the second floor; dad and my little brother were determined not to go any higher, I was dehydrated from walking all over the [PUDDING!] city, and mom was up for whatever. We blew about sixty euro on knickknacks for ourselves and friends back in the States, then went off in search of lunch. (My Eiffel Tower snowglobe got my brother into trouble in Washington, D.C. on the way home, as a side note. NOBODY MOVE! I HAVE A SNOWGLOBE!)

If you go to Paris and decide to eat at a little shop called Carmine's, don't order any pizza with the assumption that they will serve you slices. They will bring the equivalent of a Domino's medium pizza - uncut - and look at you with an expression that just screams, "Wow, you must be a big eater!"

I don't ever want to hear the words "margarita pizza" again...

The Notre Dame was...a really powerful experience for me. Being confirmed under the name Joan of Arc (and possessing a lifelong bond to the saint whose name I've taken on), I found myself transfixed on the twelve(?)-foot-tall statue of Jean d'Arc within the church itself. I could have stayed by Joan all day, but that wasn't really a good idea, since dad didn't notice that I'd stopped and I didn't want mom or my brother to fall too far behind while they waited for me.

Again, if you've never been to Notre Dame, be prepared to be...struck. I left the church in tears, and they weren't necessarily sad tears.

Actually, the only mar on the Notre Dame trip was the touristiness of it. It is still a functioning church, but everyone was wandering around snapping photos (with their flash on, which is explicitly prohibited within the church), talking and laughing loudly (again, there are signs that implore visitors to be quiet if not silent), and most disgustingly (in my mind) the memorabilia venders inside the church.

I know everyone's eager to take home a reminder of their trip to Notre Dame, and I saw at least six or seven people buy rosaries no doubt fashioned from fine wood and real silver, so there were at least that many of the faithful who visited and that's wonderful. It's just...the Bible rather explicitly states that buying and selling while within a place of worship or upon holy ground is disrespectful at best and a grievous sin at worst. Jesus himself flips tables when he catches moneychangers and bird-sellers in a temple and tells them outright, "Stop turning my Father's house into a den of moneychangers!"

It bugged me that people were so disrespectful, not only of the worshippers who were waiting for Mass to start, but also of the church itself. Sure, I bought memorabilia - at the shop across the street. I am not ashamed that my miniature of the Virgin and Child did not ever to my knowledge rest within the shadowy halls of Notre Dame.

Moving away from the heavy religious stuff, because I know everyone has different beliefs and it is not my intent to shove my own down anyone's throats. I prefer to shove pigeons down throats, instead. Bahaha.

After Notre Dame we took a tour of the Seine. Our tour guide was very perky and had an incredibly dry sense of humor; in reference to the Zouave soldier statue at the Pont de l'Alma (which is commonly used to measure flood levels), she quipped, "At one point, the water[s of the Seine] reached all the way to his neck, though fortunately, he could still breathe."

The Louvre was equally as wonderful as the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame, though the block of walking we still had to do following the bus ride (again because dad cannot read maps and did not realize our bus would have taken us straight to the Louvre's doorstep) was frought with peril in the form of very crafty panhandlers claiming to raise money for charity. One group of about five swarmed us; dad had to hit one to get him to back off, Lord knows how mom and my brother shooed their three aay, and mine pulled the highly intelligent stunt of backing me against a wall, all the while giving me the puppy face and repeating "please, madam, please" as he thrust pen and paper at me.

If my father had not chased him off at that point, I seriously think I might have slugged him - not out of any ill will, but because I told him no several times and even showed him my empty pockets with absolutely no success towards getting him to go away. At least those who weren't in that group left after one or two no's. Ugh.

Anyway, the Louvre was totally amazing, though we're all fairly certain we saw only roughly a fourth to a third of the exhibits inside. My favorite by far was the Winged Victory of the Samothrace. I may have to write a poem about it, something along the lines of, "winged victor, yet defeated at the end of all..."

You know, because of her head not being there.

WE GOT TO THE FRONT OF THE CROWD AT THE MONA LISA.

No one would move to let us through, so I finally grabbed my mom's hand - and she grabbed my brother - and towed them both through the crowd, feeling and apparently looking like a steamboat as I went. I think my instincts from high school haven't died off yet; the only thing I could think was, Who's moving, and how much closer is their spot than mine? It reminded me of cutting in the lunch line to stand with my friends. Whatever happened, we got a brilliant picture of the Mona Lisa, and mom is still thanking me for the front row seats. Yesh.

Also, we broke the camera. We literally went through two sets of new batteries in three days, and the memory card is totally full. I fear trying to turn it on again, because it might just say "[PUDDING!] it! I'm out!" and blow up.

And that would make me cry.

Also, the airplanes were...interesting. Our first three flights were great - televisions in the seat backs, drinks or snacks every half hour on the half-hour - but the fourth and final one sucked pudding. No televisions (unless you count the giant TV screens hanging from the ceilings), sparse food and drink offerings, poorly-trained orators making all of the, uhm, the, like, announcements, and the guy behind me KEPT BUMPING MY [PUDDING!] CHAIR.

But the take-offs and landings were all invariably fun. I like the whooshy feeling they made me have in my gut.

I'm going to bed now. My bed. My nice, warm, fluffy, broken-springs bed that smells of sweaty dog with the slightly-dirty blanket that reaks of cat fur. Mmm...

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