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— DAY 9 —
Park, Paparazzi, and Buddha
April 15

Today, OH JOY, I slept in! 11:00! I still only got 6½ hours, but that's more than 1½!

After rising and readying, I went down to the meeting office, where our equipment was being picked up and Richard and Zippy were looking feverishly online for a hotel. Yes, we had not found a place at which to stay when we moved into the city. Oops!

We found a place, though, that seemed okay (it has Wi-Fi!), and we booked it just in the nick of time, as the France Telecom guys came to rip out the internet connection.

I'm sure the hotel will be good, because everything done at the last minute is perfection.

Now it was finally off to the park itself! Carol and Tresa were already there, so we had to meet them.

The Empty Village. You are Number Six.

On the way, Disney Village was utterly deserted, and in the daylight, it looked run down. As a Disney stockholder, I was mortified!

Remember this place? From last year? The heartache it caused? The despair?

If you are a regular reader of this feature—and who isn't?—you may recall that I missed the nighttime even here a few days ago, where the newly remodeled Space Mountain was open for our group to ride.

Space. Now Remodeled!

Well, HA HA! I finally got to ride it myself! And it was pretty amazing. I did not ride this version before, so I have no idea what it was like, but now it's great fun. Compared to the other two Space Mountains, the effects were better, the music was epic (almost to the point of being silly, but, hey, I liked it), it was darker so you had no idea what was going to happen next... Oh, yes. If they do anything like this to the Space Mountain in Anaheim, which itself has been closed for a couple years, I can not wait to ride it.

Baltimore Gun Club. Why?

The canon-looking part of the ride that is meant to be launching you into space has "Baltimore Gun Club" on its side. The name appears again inside while waiting to board the cars.

The ride was originally designed around a Jules Verne theme. That was nice because it looked cool and appeased the French, who didn't want this park here in the first place.

So how do Baltimore, known for its ______________, and Jules Verne fit together? As I think about it, there were no mentions of Jules at all in the ride. So maybe he's out and Baltimore is in. Can there be a cave wonder outside the Cave of Wonders?

(Oh, and no, I'm not sure what Baltimore is known for. Certainly not the Orioles.)

Richard, Chuck and I had cleverly gotten Fast Passes before getting on the ride so that we could ride a second time without waiting in line! Such bright lads!

Turns out Richard was not keen to ride the ride again. But, as you may well imagine, Chuck and I were super keen to do so.

Turns out, too, that the Fast Pass line joined the regular line long before traffic was stopped. So there was 100% no point in having bothered with the Passes.

Never mind! Planning ahead is always the right thing to do, and the choice of successful people. Unless you're booking a hotel in a foreign country. Then the absolute best thing to do is wing it.

It was raining as Chuckles and I exited the ride the second time. Cleverly, I had bought a second replacement umbrella the night before, when it was also raining. ("Are you high? It's Paris in spring!") The others were soon smitten with my parapluie, and perhaps just a smidge jealous. Oh, and wet. So three of them bought very similar, if not the same... In fact, okay, the exact same umbrella that I had.

I had become a trend-setter. It felt great. Up next: See-through windows! They'll be a smash!

Waiting for the others to make their purchase(s), Carol and I played a game where we pretended our umbrellas did not work!

But it was a boring game so we stopped.

Drama Under the Parapluies

Next was food. I had a pizza with potatoes, something that was supposed to be bacon, and sour cream. It was very... creamy.

When I ordered the pizza, I said the name of it in French, and the lady told me, "I speak English." There wasn't even an English name for this pizza on the menu! What did she expect me to say? I was kinda hurt, so I resorted to revenge. I translated the French name as an English-speaking person like myself might: Pizza with lard and sour cream.


Mahna Mahna!

Then we rode Phantom Manor. Last year, I panned the ride. It has not improved in the intervening 11 months. (I was wrong about one thing, but in my wrongness, the poorness of the ride increases: The bride holds the candlestick before you get to the hallway, and then the floating candlestick just sits there by itself, not moving at all. Lame!)

Everyone hated it, I think, so we went to Pirates. Then it was time to go.

Fake castle, real view.

On the way to Main Street (which in this park has been improperly translated as "Rue des Mains," or "Street of the Hands"*), I noticed that you could go inside and upstairs in the big castle! AAAAAH! We had to go.

The view was nice. If this place ever goes on sale, I think I'll make a bid.

Something exciting was about to happen. We were about to experience a true DINNER ON THE TOWN! Yes, the popular feature from last year makes a comeback for one night only! (Or maybe two nights, but who can say for sure...)

We therefore had to leave Disneyland, go back to our rooms to change, and meet our driver to take us into Paris.

Our car was meeting us at the convention center entrance, so we had to make our way there. As we each came down, we were accosted by four guys behaving much like I would love to have been able to had I been able. Two guys were dressed like secret service agents, and they were ominously but jokingly inspecting people. They had over-emphasized earpieces, and tiny plastic cameras with which they would do "retina scans."

The other two guys were paparazzi, decked out in hilariously exaggerated outfits. Their cameras were big, with huge lenses. One guy had a black box on his back, which had blinking lights and antennae.

A crazy scene Empty Chris gets through
Huge Cameras. Huge Laughs. Empty Secret yet Jovial Service

It was utter madness, and it was fantastic!

Turns out there was some function going on, and this crew was the welcome party. It was so clever. I had never seen anything quite like this. During the BVHE-I sales meeting in Anaheim last year, which was during the Oscars, a similar thing had been done, where the guests arrived at the dinner/Oscar party and were greeted by press and photographers. It was very cool and very well done! This was wacky, however, and if this was something Disneyland Paris had come up with, I was impressed.

Dinner tonight was in Paris at a place called Buddha Bar, which was right across the street from the American embassy. But who cares about that. What does matter is this: Why is it called Buddha Bar?

Rub my belly and get 2-for-1!

Could this be why? Did some restauranteur just happen to have a twenty-foot tall Buddha statue in her garage and could not figure out what to do with it until inspiration struck one night during a thunderstorm that caused all the power to go out in her house and the food in the fridge to spoil and she was forced to go out to eat to a place that had good Asian cuisine and she said, "Oh, hey, this would be a good idea for my next place and oh hey my goodness, I just happen to have my old Buddha from my years at the Sorbonne culinary school, and that's Asian, so maybe I could throw it all together and have a bar for drinks and I could call the place Buddha Bar?"

Probably not, but it would make a good trivia answer.

Back to Opulence

Now this is what we'd been missing! After a week of almost consistent food malaise, it was nice to be back in one of those trendy basement establishments that exudes style and cool. I can see why people get hooked on this kind of lifestyle. I hope to enjoy more meals like this in my life, but I hope to never get spoiled by it.

Joel Binder, whom you may remember from last year, was there, and this was the first time I had really gotten to hang out with him this time.

The food was wonderful. For the first time in my life, I had Kobe beef. (Yes, I made a Lakers joke, but it was soundly Mahna Mahnaed.) The meat was so tender and delicious! Friggin' YUM! And the mashed potatoes were something beyond what normal mashed potatoes are. They reminded me, in fact, of the potato pirogies my mom makes. God, they were good.

The unfortunate drawback to the night was the horrible chairs. They were very uncomfortable. The seat was too shallow. Chris said he had trouble, for perhaps obvious reasons. Then Chuck piped in about it.

Chuck: "Yeah, it's uncomfortable, but I have no butt."

Chris: "That explains some of the stuff that comes out of your mouth."

After being the butt (sorry) of Chuck's fat jokes all week, this was sweet payback time for Chris. I mean, Chris himself jokes about his weight all the time, as does Richard and even Chris' employees. But Chuck relishes the moments when he can toss out a zinger. So this comeback was, I believe, the Kobe beef of comebacks.

The food was good. The dinner lasted over 3 hours, of course. The talk was great. And, oh, man, it was nice to not be stuck in our hotel!

The rest of the night was spent in the bar part of Buddha Bar. However, time is out, and I have nothing more of interest to say except something about how all these trendy European basement restaurants have custom-made urinals in the men's room. This one was cement with some kind of metal top and the water flushed into a trough underneath.

You know I have a picture of this on my cell phone, don't you?


Custom-Made Urinating Cubicles
Tiny Fleurs

— DAY 10 —
The French are Cold
April 16

My God, another cold day in France! No matter. We left Hotel New York today, and we could not have been happier. You just couldn't tell because we were all so tired. But I can say that it was very exciting to drive into the cité and unload our stuff in a true Parisian hotel.

Well, okay, not truly Parisian. It is a Quality Inn. But it still has a tiny elevator and tiny rooms and is tiny in general, so I'll consider it legit.

Walking into this hotel, Richard and I felt a great sense of relief. Last year, when we walked into our post-meeting hotel, it was like a wet layer of doom was suddenly painted all over us. I put on my happy face, and in the end, I found the place to be fine, but it was small and dirty and run-down and exuded an air of eeeew.

This time, our hotel is bright, clean, new(er), and definitely has no eeeew.

Oddly, though, my room is smaller. I swear. I'll get a pic of it tomorrow when it's light and we'll see. But like I said, this room is clean and modern and has a nice view of Rue de Constantinople. (No They Might Be Giants jokes, please. They've all been done already.) Oh, and the hotel used the same Wi-Fi service we had at Disneyland, so I don't have to buy different service! YOW!

Now, since I was up all night last night, I told myself to stick to the basics tonight so I can wander Paris tomorrow with energy and spunk. In the car on the way to Paris, I told everyone that I was not going to take any pictures, and that if anything interesting started to happen, I'd simply turn away, put my hands in my ears, and hum to myself. It was my goal to have a day not worth reporting on.

So saying, here's a picture. Am I a dork, or what?


The Eiffel Gang


Carol and Tresa are in another hotel across the city, so we went our separate ways, checked in, then met again at the Eiffel Tower. It was so cold. Yes, cold. We went right to the top, of course, and though the view was amazing, the wind and the chill took the linger out of us.

Crepes On High

We recuperated, however, at the deuxième étage, where acceptably palatable French-type sandwiches and chocolate chaud were on hand for a nominal fee... if you define "nominal" as "exorbitantly expensive."

As we were eating, a girl in a red coat approached us. Sadly, thanks to the signs everywhere that said "Beware of Pickpockets," I thought, "Who is this girl? What does she want? Money? Food? A ride to take her pregnant friend to the hospital? A fresh human liver for the black market transplant trade?"

What she wanted was so much more charming than that. She was getting married soon, and her group of friends, whom I now noticed really for the first time, were taking her around and forcing her to do embarrassing things with strangers. It was a bachelorette treasure hunt, of sorts.

She said she needed to get four guys to pledge their undying love for her. Photos were to be taken for proof of her desirability.

With giggles and a mix of English and French, we all agreed that I'd do so, for her sake. How could I force this poor girl to have to hunt for someone else by saying no?

I got down on my knees, and, with what I hoped were the proper French phrases, I told her I loved her and that I gave her all my heart. Then I kissed her hand. Flashbulbs went off, there was laughter, and all of us, smiling, thanked each other. I wished her good luck, since I could not remember the word for "congratulations," and the girls moved off on some other quest.

Unfortunately, my friends all missed the photo op, except Chuck, who was using a disposable film camera. So I have nothing to show you of this event. I promise to post it here when I scan in Chuck's picture.

Soon after the romantic scene, something drew Chris' attention, and we all rushed outside. Huge plumes of black smoke were rising from the La Défense section of the city. While it was hard to say for sure, it seemed to be in the vicinity of the hotel at which we had originally intended to stay. Gulp!

A Distant Fire

A welfare hotel fire in Paris a couple days earlier had made enough news for my Mom to call me while I was at Disneyland yesterday to make sure I was okay. Hooray for international roaming! That fire is still in the headlines, and I can not yet find any info on the fire we saw today.

Not long after this exciting event, we ran into the bachelorette girls again in the post office on the Tour while we were mailing post cards. I guess since we'd proved helpful before, the girl this time asked Chuck what advice he'd give her on marriage. He gave sweet answers that made the entire group laugh and go "Awww!" Trust, honesty, and "just be friends" were his pearls of wisdom. It was touching, actually. He certainly didn't get Mahna Mahnaed.

I do NOT have a harem!

I could not let a second moment like this go without a record, so I asked if I could get a picture. This time, the girl got on her knees and made overtures of love toward me.

My God, was it so cute! This is the kind of stuff that makes life happy and worthwhile.

As they left this time, I asked what the word for "congratulations" was. "Félicitations," they said. How could I have forgotten?

Wandering French bachelorettes, staged propositions of l'amour, large urban fires...

So much for an uneventful day.

Well, look out, 'cause I'm picking up the pace!

After our epic and exciting stay at La Tour Eiffel, we walked toward the train station for our next activity. I couldn't help but snap this picture of Paris' famous winter flowers. Yes, winter. It's too cold here to be spring!

I guess it IS spring. Who woulda thunk?

We made an unplanned stop—though really we had no plans at all, so I should call it a spontaneous stop—at a statue of the flame from the Statue of Liberty (a statue of a statue!). Originally erected to commemorate the 100th anniversary of France's gift to the U.S., it has become a new memorial to Princess Di, who died in the tunnel which runs under the flame.

Liberty and Di Empty Di, flame, Elton John, candle, wind, tunnel... It all makes sense in the end.


Just for Art's Sake

We passed this sign on the way back to the train station.

Our next stop was Notre Dame, which was not as cluttered with renovation detritus as last year. We made it there in time to see the beginnings of a mass. There was singing and organ playing and incense balls and a priest and everything! And this was just the opening act. We were out before the actual mass began.

Auto domini sanctus etc.

Prayer and Claim Check

Okay, I may be no genius when it comes to things religious, but isn't it somewhat blasphemous to use a saint's side chapel as a coat check rack storage unit?

Once out of Notre Dame, we wandered and by chance ended up back at L'Hôtel de Ville, where we'd tried to pick up a cab on Day 3. Look what was there! A double-layer carrousel! How incredibly cool! I may have to go back and ride it.

Auto domini sanctus etc.

Paris 2012? Paris FOREVER!

I think I mentioned last year that Paris is vying to host the 2012 Olympics. This year, even more of the logos are up promoting their candidacy. (You can see one on the Tour Eiffel in the flower pic.) I like this logo. It's very French. A quick analysis of the design—ironically too complicated to describe here—led me to the conclusion that, for the heart, green was the best color of the five. Spock would be pleased, were he capable.

Our wandering, which had become food-goal-oriented, now took on an impatient air because there were simply too many restaurants from which to choose. That did not stop Carol and I from stopping to take a picture of her next to the lips element of the Miro fountain by the Pompidou.

Carol, lips, and water.

Carol and Tresa finally did what any sensible American would have done when faced with too many choices: They asked a guy in a photocopy shop. Luckily, the guy's advice was good. We had a very good meal at a small café. The waiter and host, besides being lookers (the waiter was a double-taker if I ever saw one), were very nice and tolerant of us Americans. I had a filet, and though it was no €56 Kobe steak, it was mighty tasty. The real chocolat chaud was awesome, and my dessert was great.

We lingered, we talked and joked, we drank and ate well... For what more could we have asked?

Richard, Chuck, and Chris are leaving tomorrow, but Carol and Tresa are staying on another day. I made plans to meet with the ladies tomorrow, then us guys headed back to our quality Quality Inn.

And do I need to tell you what I did next? Well, you're reading it. I will not tell you that the next thing I did is go to bed. Bonne nuit!

Tiny Fleurs

— DAY 11 —
Food, Art, Food, and Food
April 17

Is it bigger than a bread box?

So here's my Quality room. Tiny! There's nothing behind me in that pic other than a small bathroom. I am only paying $120 a night, so what did I expect?

Like I said, it's excellent to be in a clean and comfy place.

The view ain't so bad this time, either. Last time, the view was something less than... well, a view.

As this was Sunday morning (late Sunday morning), the streets were very empty and the shops closed.

Empty Paris Street

A side of opulence, please!

I met Carol and Tresa at the Musée d'Orsay, the cool place I went last year with Richard.

They had been there awhile so when I arrived, we ate at the nice restaurant there.

And when I say nice, I mean nice! Just look at this place!

The d'Orsay used to be a train station. So why fancy room like this? The only thing we could think was that it was a Red Carpet Club, except that here, they serve better food.

Turns out the d'Orsay was a hotel after it was a train station, so this and another opulent room we saw were from that era.

The food was very good. Being surrounded by art, the food needed to be arty too, lest it feel jealous. Look at the painterly application of garnishes on this pumpkin and mushroom soup. Purty!

Impressionist Soup

After lunch, we did some wandering around the museum. I saw some stuff I hadn't before, since we'd been so rushed, and some stuff it was great to see again.

Like last time, I am going to put up some stuff here to give a sampling of what I saw. The first couple are überfamous, and some I discovered for the first time. (I don't know why I feel compelled to mention that the width of the page is about to change temporarily, but I do, and it is. Please widen your eyes accordingly.)

Whistler's Mammy Empty van Gogh's Paul Gachet
James McNeill Whistler
"Arrangement in Grey and Black:
Portrait of the Painter's Mother" (1871)
  Vincent van Gogh
"Portrait of Dr. Paul Gachet" (1890)
Monet's Rouen 1 Monet's Rouen 2 Monet's Rouen 3
Claude Monet
"La Cathédrale de Rouen" (1892)
Harmonie Bleu
Claude Monet
"La Cathédrale de Rouen" (1893)
Harmonie Bleu et Or
Claude Monet
"La Cathédrale de Rouen" (1892)
Harmonie Gris
Caillebotte's Raboteurs
Gustave Caillebotte
"Raboteurs de Parquets" (1875)

The painting above struck me last year, but this year it really struck me because the one thing I didn't do during the recent renovation of my apartment is the wood floors. Aside from a tiny power sander, I would have been doing it this way! Thank God sanity intervened.

The next painting was a new discovery. I was mesmerized by its detail, composition, drama, and emotion.

Since the little picture does not do it justice, click on it for to open a page with a larger view that will do it more justice but not much.

Lhermitte's Moissonneurs
Léon Lhermitte
"La Paye des Moissonneurs" (1882)

The next piece I found riveting also, maybe even more so. I found it unique. For a religious-themed painting, it's devoid of fanfare and pomp. The drama comes from the motion of the figures and from the looks on their faces. The brushwork is rough but precise.

For a much larger close-up detailo, click on the pic. The quality was the best I could achieve with the flashless digital pic I took.

Burnand's Pierre et Jean
Eugéne Burnand
"Les Disciples Pierre et Jean Courant au Sépulcre le Matin de la Résurrection" (1898)

The rough translation of the title (rough because it's mine) is "The Disciples Peter and John Run to the Sepulcre the Morning of the Resurrection."

Thus the drama and urgency. Very little can match such excitement, except, of course, "Jake and Jim Run to Best Buy the Morning of the Release of the PSP."

A couple final pics from d'Orsay before moving on.

First, the glass panels behind the huge station clock in the main gallery has been turned into a cool shadow puppet piece.

Wafting Creepies
Some Guy
"I Do Not Know the Title of This Piece Other than It Has 'Blcak Cat' In It" (2005?)

The shadows move and float. It's cute! The cutouts behind the glass are suspended with string, and a bunch of standard-isse desk fans cause them to move. Very fun!

I know MY three wishes...

I'm just putting this up here because I like it. Somehow, this guy's a genie. I can credit the artist (René de Saint-Marceaux) with skill but not with originality. Come on. That's no genie!

Next, we walked to the Louvre. On the way, we stopped to regard the Tuileries. It was packed with people, though not in this pic. Please believe me.

Today ended up being gorgeous and very springy indeed. Hooray!

Real Springtime

Louvre Greeter?

"Welcome to the Louvre, sir. Do you need a shopping cart?"

Here's the underground pyramid—which I did not know existed—underground.

Touch the Power of Geometry

Sunnier than Giza

I understand the Louvre pyramids are in The DaVinci Code... along with other French mysteries like horrible toilet design and porn on free-access TV.

I had to sign a waiver saying that if I wanted to include any pictures of the Mona Lisa, I'd also have to include at least one other cliché artwork. Winged Victory seemeed appropriate.

(Thank goodness in this case cliché is also stunningly beautiful.)

Flying Blind

Sweet Lady of Italy


The Mona Lisa has a new home, though new may be 15 years for all I know. Last time I saw it, it was hard to see when it got crowded. This time, it was easier.

The case it was in looked so movie-set secure that I'm sure it could have held the famous Pink Panther diamond without any worries. Of course, then we would not have had any Inspector Cluseau.

Mona is like a queen. She greets the crowd 'cause she has to. She smiles vaguely and stares off 'cause it's how royalty behaves. Inside, she's probably sick of us all.

An Audience with Mona

We only had an hour to see the museum. HA HA HA! But we saw what we could, and I plan to return today (tomorrow (no, today!)), if possible to see more.

Not So Happy Easter

In the African art section, you enter a gallery, and BOOM! An Easter Island head. Though I had to look it up just now to make sure it was from Easter Island. The French call it "l'Île des Pâques."

The Louve closed, we jaunted over to l'Opéra. It is a stunning building, and we caught it right as the sun was setting behind the surrounding buildings. Gorgeous.

Sing for Me, Your Angel of Music.

Blinded by the sights, deafened by the singing.

The previous picture does not show off the splendor of the gold on the building. Hopefully this one does a little better job.

After this, we went to the Champs Élysées to walk around. I showed Tresa and Carol Ladurée, the pastry place we ate at twice last time I was here.

I got hooked on macarons, which are little cookie-like things that are not the macaroons we know in the States. Macarons are two merangue cookies with fillings of different varieties sandwiched between. My GOD! They were so good, we turned right around and got back in line (yes, in line!) for more.

Oh, and Ken, I got a Réligieuse. It's here beside me in its fancy box, yet to be eaten. It will be my reward for when I finish this update!

We saw l'Arc de Triomphe, then did what is our new passtime: Wandering around looking for a place to eat. It's interesting how it's harder to pick a place to eat in another country. There are certain signs you follow in your home country to try to make a decision on if a place is good or not and if you should eat there. In another country, I find myself doubting my instincs.

We finally decided, after a lot of wandering, to go to the Moulin Rouge area so Carol and Tresa could see it. There, we finally settled on a small bistro with a guy playing piano. Cute! Ah, but the food was only okay. Well, it was fun nonetheless.

I didn't see the Moulin Rouge at night last year. Here it is in its proper nighttime setting.

Red Red Blades

At the Blanche Metro station, Carol and Tresa and I said our good byes. They are jetting back to the States tomorrow, and I am here all alone. But it's going to be fun! I think I've decided to not take any day trips on buses or anything so that I can walk around Paris and see whatever I want to see. If it ends up being as nice as it was yesterday (not in the forecast, sadly), I want to just sit in a park—the Tuileries, maybe— and read a book! Wouldn't that be cool?

Rest assured, restless public, whatever I do, it will be mercilessly recorded here.

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