ok gang, sorry for the lack of updates. We somehow exposed ourselves to a virus that was unknown to the context of our biologies, and WHAMM-O... the flu! Both Shannon and I have been fairly out of commission for the past few days. We're now in Berlin, and I think we're on the mend.
Word to the wise, kids: be as healthy as humanly possible before going to Paris, a beautiful city it is, but it is not a good place to be sick.
Berlin, however, is kind of like a breath of fresh air after all that nonsense. It's open, bright, fresh and quiet!
And television in Berlin makes Paris its bitch for real.
Le Louvre is one hell of a large museum. We approached it from the eastern side, and entered into what I thought was the main courtyard of the museum. Sacre Bleu! What a large courtyard! It wasn't until we had been milling about for a little while that we realized that this wasn't the main courtyard at all, but the "small" inner courtyard. Through a few arches stood the giant glass pyramids and the real entrance to the Louvre.
A note on the pyramid: I guess it was and continues to be quite controversial, and I can understand why. It's this extremely modern structure smack in the middle of one of the most ornate and fanciest places on earth. I thought it was quite remarkable, though - it ties old and new together in a way that I didn't even know was possible. I'm not much of a 'classic art' fan by any stretch - but the addition of an ultra-modern glass sculpture that allows you to create your own views of classic architecture through a mesh of glass and wire = 100% great.
The musee itself is ungodly, unbelievably, stunningly large, and since it's the world's most visited museum, you can probably guess how many people were inside, all trying to get their 10 second glimpse of the Mona Lisa so they can check the square in the Sights of The Da-Vinci Code guidebook. The room that the Mona Lisa is in is pretty enormous, and it is nearly shoulder to shoulder with people. The areas of the Louvre that aren't crowded are pretty amazing, and I think it'd be nice to roll through there some night after the crowds have all gone home. It's a wonder of architecture and space, and the sculpture garden that is somewhere deep within the museum (I was lost almost 88% of the time while in the museum, so I couldn't really tell you exactly where. There's also an absolutely epic statue of a naked dude wrestling a snake, so it's got that going on too.
On the way to the Louvre, we also passed by this row of plant stores and pet stores, quite a few of them clustered together. The pet stores really hit home exactly how RICH Parisians are. Your usual suspects of purebred dogs and cats, except expensive beyond imagination. They had cats that cost 2800 euro, and with today's exchange rate you might as well just purchase a motorcycle. What I found particularly interesting was in addition to fancy dogs and cats, they also sold a complete menagerie of extremely exotic birds, chickens, ducks, quail, and many other birds of all colors, shapes and sizes that you can presumably spend thousands on to populate your fanciful backyard aviary with. Brawwk!
Just a general note on Paris - I have a hard time separating out the feeling that it's this enormous art and museum theme park. Pretty much the entire city is ornate and detailed to this impossible level and after a while it's exhausting looking at everything and thinking about the whys and hows. The city is absolutely gorgeous in every way, visually complex, and filled with some of the most interesting to watch citizens I've ever seen. It's really too bad I can't understand most of the words they say.
We also went to the French Mall, which was awesome because there wasn't a single store I recognized, and got to go to FNAC which for some reason I thought was a couture store but instead: AWESOME ELECTRONICS/CELLPHONE WONDERLAND. I was a little sad because by this time I'd already walked like a thousand miles in the louvre and the dogs were barkin'. So not so much time to browse european consumer electronics. Maybe tomorrow.
On the way back to the hotel, we also found the world's largest vending machine where a robotic arm will fetch all manner of european snacks, candies and drinks for you, place them into a little robot basket, and put them in a robot drawer. biddle-dit-pup-DING!
P.S. - despite hearing epic tales of racy French television, I've yet to see evidence of this. All I've seen so far are some game shows where people yell at each other and a show that's just like Murder She Wrote, except instead of an elderly detective, it stars a magical midget.
Paris Customs Officers decided to create a queuing system using large tropical plants as barriers. It did not accomplish their goal but instead just alternately tickled peoples' heads and made them jump over them to cut in the lines.
Getting to Paris at who knows o'clock, according to my body, boarding a train into town and immediately having an elderly ragbag Parisian busker get on at the next stop and loudly honk his way through a Paris song on his accordion.
Eating a lamb gyro (aptly named 'gyro plus') that in addition to everything that normally comes included with a gyro, also had french fries packed inside!
Notre Dame is without a doubt the most beautiful and ornate building I've ever seen.
Used the most mysterious toilet in the world. It had no hole for waste to go into, just this little receptical - I think that after you're finished the capsule seals itself up and sends in a deluge of water.
Lunch was purchased at a tiny store: loaf of bread, cheese, meat. Consumed on a bench in the Jardin du Plantes next to two girls who were clearly enjoying l'after soiree to conclude their saturday night.
There's design everywhere here - which is really awesome. The airport is epic.
We've decided to try to wage the good war against jetlag by staying up all night before our thrilling twelve hours in the air so we have a fighting chance of sleeping on the plane and hopefully waking up in France, ready to start the day. We roll in at 7:30AM FranceTime, so if we pull it off we might be ready to go. Since we can't check in for several hours, we're going to have to entertain ourselves by giggling until we can take a nap. So now I'm trying to stay awake by watching action movies all night.