10:30am – As the bright Paris sunshine poured through the window situated just above the bed, I awoke to unusually stuffy conditions. Crawling over Jacob’s still sleeping body and tripping over the entangled voltage converter, I went to search for the thermostat. After 15 minutes of checking every crevice and making sufficient noise to awaken Jacob, I realized that air conditioning isn’t par for the course in France. Fortunately, it’s cooler in northern France than in Tuscaloosa, so I pushed open the two windows and let the cool city breeze wander in.
“Let’s get ready!” I said to Jacob, not wanting to waste a second of our first full day.
The days stretch on unfathomably long in Paris. At home, the sun has fallen into the horizon by 8pm, but here, it’s blaringly bright until after the hour reads double digits. The combination of extended daylight and lingering jetlag made it difficult to fall sleep on our first night, so we were anxious to start exploring after resting longer than we had intended.
After donning the European couture we had bought back in the States, we boarded the metro heading toward the 4th arrondissement. Just as the alarm began to sound signaling the closing of the train doors, we saw a lady leap toward the metro. The buzz seemed to grow louder, more urgent. The doors were racing to a close with no sign of stopping. With less than a foot of distance between the sealing doors and her head, which was in the center of their path, the lady pulled out at the last second and the panels slammed violently shut. Seeing that she was safe, Jacob and I burst into a fit of post-shock laughter over the wildly dramatic near-disaster. We quickly realized from the disdainful stares we garnered that no one else had taken much note of the event.
Once the train got rolling, a simply-dressed beggar began wandering the hall of the carts.
“Un euro pour ma peineee” she sang, which translates to “A euro for my painnn.”
“Clever marketing,” I remarked to Jacob. “If you’re going to ask for money, might as well sing it.”
Impressed by her tactic – or maybe it was just to buy a pause in the melody-less song – we deposited a euro coin into her cup.
After climbing out of the metro tunnel, we found a local sandwich shop to grab a quick lunch. The sandwiches in France are served on a large baguette – perfectly toasted, yet magically moist on the inside. The top-notch cheese is more than just a cliché, too.
As part of the lunch combo, we could get a café after our meal. Knowing that this meant “coffee,” we promptly ordered two to help shake off the last dregs of jetlag. What arrived wasn’t a typical American cup of Joe. The tiny mugs were actually espresso shots, complete with two sugar cubes.
“They’re really good,” Jacob observed. “I almost want to order another one.”
We soon made our way to our destination, the Centre Pompidou – a cultural arts center that houses a library, research labs, and most importantly, a modern art museum.
“Un billet pour l’exposition, s’il vous plaît,” I said to the lady at the ticket booth.
“Are you studying here in Paris? You speak very good French!” she commended in French.
Feeling quite relieved and satisfied that my four years of study had paid off, I took my ticket and found Jacob so we could enter the Paul Klee exposition.
After browsing intricate pencil sketches, paintings, and manuscripts, I noticed a pale look in Jacob’s face.
“Are you feeling all right?” I asked.
“Not really,” he replied. “My leg won’t stop shaking. I’m not sure what’s wrong. I just need some fresh air.”
We exited the exposition and found a mezzanine café in the main lobby where we could sit for a moment and drink our Evian waters.
“I think that espresso shot really did me in,” Jacob said.
“You know, I’ve been feeling panicky myself,” I replied. “I guess the French like their coffee strong, too.”
We decided to head out after that to stave off any further espresso attacks. Nearby, we found the Hôtel de Ville, several churches (including Notre-Dame), and a beautiful bridge overlooking the Seine river. We were ready for dinner after our exploration, so we wandered into a nearby district we later discovered as Le Marais. Overflowing with cafés, bars, and brasseries, this lively shopping and food district was worth noting for tomorrow’s visit.
We headed home after dinner to rest up for Monday. But little did we know it would be our wildest day yet.
Stay tuned for day 3 of Peaks of Paris!