Monday, July 4, 2011

Sometimes The Silver Lining is Impossible to Miss

The absolute highlight of Paris so far crept up on us without us knowing. Being driven along in a taxi late at night, the trees eased and faded out, and there she was. The Eiffel Tower sparkles every hour on the hour, did you know that? I didn’t, until I saw it. As the taxi wove through traffic, the driver so used to the sight he was oblivious, the lights glittered and the Tower stood proud, like a girl spinning in a new dress.

I managed to get a single photo of it, paused at changing lights for a split second. I sat there, enjoying the moment, deleting the several other unsuccessful attempts at photos. I looked away for just a second and was confronted by the Arc de Triomphe – which is huge by the way – again lit up against the night sky. The imposing yet beautiful nature of the structure distracted me from the fact we were on one of the world’s most dangerous roundabouts, and then the Arc was gone.

It’s just unfortunate that all this glory only happened because we had just spent 6 hours in hospital.

Rewind 6 hours. Day was turning to evening and we were considering where to have dinner. We had caught a train to the city that morning and been instantly lost. The streets in Paris curve every which way and a lot of the romantic, artistic vibe of the city comes from the fact that you can lose yourself in it. I just didn’t realize they meant literally. Street signs hide in the least obvious places, buildings and statues and hanging baskets and monuments tangle amongst themselves.

It sounds beautiful and it is, but on the second 40 degree day in a row and hot on the heels of the most stressful day of our trip so far, all I wanted was to find the damn river so I could get some bearings.

Throughout the day we managed to find Notre Dame, the Fountain of St Michel, the Pantheon and Luxembourg Gardens. We didn’t go in to Notre Dame or the Pantheon due to the massive queues. We just relished in their size and detail and moved on. We ate crepes and Croque Monsieur, wandered the streets, cursed the heat and melted into the shade. Overwhelmingly though, the thing we did most was Get Out of the Way.

I had expected Paris to be busy but to be relaxing, a place where you could sit and watch the world go by, meander and take it all in. Not so, at least not in that part of town. Maybe we fill find what I’m looking for somewhere else, but that day we did not.

And so we found ourselves wandering back towards the Louvre, not entirely sure of our ultimate direction. We stopped for photos of the pyramids and the ridiculous expanse that is the museum, and Courtney wanted to pose for one more photo.

Kids, don’t climb lampposts in jandels.

The cops that stopped us from desperately trying to hail a cab in the middle of a very busy street were lovely. They thought it was hilarious that the manner in which Courtney hurt his foot was to slip down on the metal spine of a decorative fish and gouge himself. They also kept saying New Zealand men were strong. They were right, if by strong you meant dumb enough to gouge your foot and then climb the post again. Courts didn’t even tell me he had done anything, just climbed again and posed, because damned if he was wasting his injury on not achieving his goal. He climbed down and then calmly advised that we needed to find a doctor. So calmly, that until I saw the blood I thought he was joking.

The wonderful cops, including some on rollerblades, called the ‘firemen’ for us (broken English for ‘ambulance’) and stayed with us right until the point that the ambulance officers decided Courtney needed to go to a hospital.

6 hours, 7 stitches, a thunderstorm, a smuggled scalpel (thanks to a lovely or insane doctor who knew it would be hard for us to get back to get the stitches taken out) and a couple of crazy homeless people later, we stumbled out, hailed a cab, and were enroute to the Eiffel Tower. We just didn’t know it.

Sometimes it’s nice when the silver lining sparkles so you can’t miss it.

Penelope_nz's Paris, France photoset Penelope_nz's Paris, France photoset