the morning we left for paris, guillaume had to drag me off the couch because i didn’t sleep the night before. naturally, i was incredibly cranky but as we neared paris i brightened up a bit. you see, somehow being in a city changed my feelings of culture shock. metropolitan areas all have the same vibe in that there are people and cars and activity. even though the brands are different, the hustle and bustle can be extremely comforting to a city rat like me. we stayed at a friends’ apartment and took the metro everyday to all the places i’ve read about from the art history textbooks to hemingway. our first night, we went to the sacre coeur to see the skyline at night. this church is on one of the highest hills in paris, and was a huge problem with the working class of paris when it was built because of the sheer scale and money put into it. so, being working class heroes, we sat on the steps of the church and listened to the clash while drinking wine. then we walked around montmarte and ventured through the red light district to moulin rouge. these few things were enough to make me adore paris, but the next day we had a picnic in luxembourg gardens, and ambled through until we happened to stumble on the lilas, which is the cafe hemingway wrote in during his expatriate days. it was unexpected and i have to say i was overcome. coincidentally, i was reading a moveable feast that morning. all of guillaume’s friends live near to or in paris, so we went to see the young parisians that night. one thing i should’ve learned before i jetsetted off to france was how to speak the language but pantomime is a valuable tool, and so is wine. one thing everyone in the world understands is a toast. and if you ever want to make friends, sing rock and roll or get them to sing the la marsailles. it’s a crowd pleaser. we went to the notre dame which was cool. a little boy ran up to me and started asking me in french what the name of the church was, and guigui was a doll, explaining to the little tyke that it was called notre dame and that i was american. i think he was asking his mom and she pointed to me and said ask that nice young lady. just me and the little boy’s luck. i was out of books so we found a big bookstore that had english titles, then went to shakespeare and co., where i was a little starstruck so we just browsed. again, hemingway. we went and put our metro tickets on serge gainsbourg’s tomb, respectfully talked by jean-paul satre‘s grave, then made the pilgrimage to jim morrison’s grave. i smoked a marlboro and left the graffitti ‘vini,vidi,vici’. we did go to louvre. i saw all of the stuff you are supposed to: la jacombe or as we like to say, mona lisa, the winged nike or victory, and the venus de milo. we looked at all the paintings from the french revolution and the coolest part of the whole museum is the foundation of the medievel castle they found while excavating for the pyramid they built for the modern wing. guillaume made me hysterical while we were walking through by humming the darth vadar theme from star wars. we went to another small museum with an incredibly cool exhibition on the working class of paris during the 19th century. it was a highlight of our trip. you know they call brassknuckles points americains? apt. i have seen so much stuff, i can’t remember it all. i forgot the camera. oh, versailles. the opulence of this palace is pretty thought-provoking. my main comment about it is that if i had marched from the slums of paris to the palace at versailles, i wouldn’t be angry, i’d just be tired, and maybe hungry. puts the french revolution into perspective. marie antoinette didn’t say let them eat cake. she said give them my pain au chocolat. silly girl. after that, a few of us rented a house in champagne for a few days. beautiful country. the owner of the house owned a vineyard so we went and toured it and his cave, but i didn’t learn a thing since, again, i don’t speak french. we did go to the moet caves where dom perignon is bottled, and held up our poor tour guide by laughing the entire time. we were like the bad kids on the school field trip, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves even if the rest of the tour didn’t. on our way back to berck we went to the reims cathedral which is the first real world war damage i’ve seen. they’ve reconstructed most of it, but you can still see where nazi germans’ bombs hit. the thing that occurs to me with the old architecture is that my entire life i’ve never seen anything older than 200 years. 1000 year old church? it’s incredible to think of it from any point of view. but all people love gargoyles. the french kids i was with loved them and then i heard an american say oh look, the gargoyles are awesome! we then felt the need to translate i love the gargoyles into every language we collectively knew. german was my favorite because i envisioned a young hitler youth saying to his friends, but wait, the church has awesome gargoyles, maybe we shouldn’t bomb it. i have now driven in europe, too. we worked it out, and the highway speed limit in france is 100mph. sorry family, but it was a lot of fun. honestly, the metro at rush hour is more dangerous. and we did get to witness a few bomb scares, though no strikes. c’est la vie!