Chronicles of the Bipolar Tourist: Introspective Paris

I just came back from a one week vacation in France. I started writing a tale of my travels and I think they are good enough to publish. It isn’t game related.  I’ll post an appendice right after where I’ll talk about potential NPCs and locales based on the people I interacted with and the places I saw.

It became rapidly apparent as I was riding Air France’s Les Cars from Orly airport that I wasn’t going to enjoy my trip to France like the average tourist would. While I’m not insensible to the City of Light’s astounding, architecture, I was thinking that sights alone would not my trip make. I was missing a certain childlike enthusiasm. It’s as if I wasn’t looking forward to it as I should. I brooded that I would need stories, meet interesting characters and discover unexpected delights for me to truly enjoy myself.

(Spoiler: I did)

In my defense, I was sleep-deprived. We’d flown in a 747 whose seat arrangement had been developed for people far below my 5’11”, 230 lbs frame and sleep disturbance is the fastest route to my mood swings.

As I sat in introspective silence, watching the buildings dance as the bus raced to the Arc de Triomphe, Dr. C asked me if I was ok. I smiled at her, not wanting to pull her into my inner dialogue, I rarely want to. Most of it was related to this passing bluesy moment. It bore little relevance to the outside world and I didn’t want to needlessly worry her. I told myself I’d broach the subject later in the week, if the feeling persisted. I didn’t want to make her think I wasn’t looking forward to what was to come. Yet the effects of my mood stabilizers, combined with my ever-nagging doubts about finding a job soon were making it harder to focus on the sheer potential for pleasure and awe that such a trip ought to be.

Even as I write these lines from the airport, a mere week after I landed in Europe, my current, somewhat melancholic mood drips through my prose, making me seem more interested about my inner dialogue than the sights of a city touted to be one of the most beautiful in the world. As I edit these lines, in a diametrically opposed mood, I’m trying to keep the original mood in and not slobber all over it with my current exuberance. Being bipolar is no easy business let me tell you.

After the hour-long bus drive from the airport, C. dragged my sorry, sleep-deprived carcass to a sweet little bakery. And boy did that help dissolve my brooding state! When I greeted a smiling toddler, happily munching on a croissant, I got my first real injection of enthusiasm as he waved back and said “Bonjour Monsieur!” That somehow made my already delicious Chausson aux Pommes taste a gazzillion times better.Regardless of my moodiness, Paris remains a fantastically beautiful city. Its tightly-packed, multi-storied classical buildings covered with ornate, even-spaced windows and balconies lend the city a timelessness I’ve rarely seen in my travels over Europe and North America. Even the tacky touristy sites tend to assault your senses with grandiosity and class.

We spent a day and a half in Paris, walking through so many arrondissements my head swam for days. We hit the usual touristy places: the Champs Elysées, the Trocadero, the Jardins des Tuileries, and of course, the sparkling Eiffel Tower at night. That last one was incredibly kitchy but oh so impressive.

Dr. C. was armed with a hefty sheaf of places to see, shop and eat at… Alas, as we hit closed restaurants and renamed bistros with significantly inferior food, we realized that things aren’t always as timeless as we expect in eternal Paris. Now, don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that the most mediocre of Paris restaurant food (junk food excluded) beats many of North America’s “good food” places.[i] I suspect I’ve developed a pickier palate ever since I started dating a foodie.

We ended up walking a lot… in spite of our jet-lagged bodies. Toward the end of our first afternoon, we decided to take the Navibus on the Seine to bring us closer to our Champs Elysées crib. As we boarded the boat, we silently laughed at an elderly Asian couple snoring their way through the ride right in front of us…Only for both of us to fall instantly asleep mere minutes after the boat left its Quai d’Orsay mooring.

In spite of the misleading list, we did have great meals in Paris, my favourite being a great steak frite at the Fontaine de Mars bistro, Paris’ oldest bistro, harking back to the very early 1900’s. Things were turning out just fine so far…

Highlights of Paris:

  • The Fontaine de Mars Bistro, where a bottle of good wine costs less than an entree.
  • The discoveries one can make by taking a small street at random.
  • The Hospitality of our friends.
Why don’t you share your Parisian stories! I’d love to read them! Hell, share any travel stories!

Pics: Mine! I’m getting better at this!


[i] Indianapolis, I’m looking at you.

Comments

  1. Paris was the first city I visited outside of North America, and I loved it. There’s a sense of history and time that people from the US/Canada simply can’t comprehend. If you’re a DM or a fantasy writer, there’s nothing that will inspire you than seeing what actual 2000 year old ruins look like, or Cathedrals with walls made of stained glass that leave you breathless, or seeing the actual palaces that kings lived in.

    If you’re looking for RPG ideas, I cannot recommend enough that you visit the Paris catacombs. They run ~1km underneath the city, and will redefine how you think of catacombs or necropolises in traditional fantasy.

    Also, if you’re speaking French with the locals, make sure you don’t confuse the verbs “baiser” and “baisser.” It can lead to some very awkward looks.

  2. I’ve always wanted to head over to Europe, glad you are chronicling your travels for us to share!

  3. Paris is a fantastic city. While I’ve had great times there, a lot of what I really love is just the tone of the city. One fun time I had was at a fondue restaurant known to be eccentric. It had long wooden tables placed end-to-end. To sit on the other side you had to walk on/over the table! They served wine in baby bottles and the owner sang and cracked jokes as he went from table to table. The people around us (packed elbow-to-elbow) all spoke French, and we tried to communicate back and forth. We didn’t do so well until one of them said something about Star Trek. I did the live long and prosper hand sign, and they all laughed, recognizing it. Then one of them said “Nanu, Nanu!” It was our turn to die laughing as they had segued from Star Trek to Mork and Mindy! Geek. The international language.

  4. @Jon: I haven’t visited the Catacombs yet, much like Notre Dame, I leave that a future trip there. I don’t think you can ever see all of Paris. 🙂

    @Greg: Paris is a must see in one’s life for sure.

    @Alpha:Awesome story, geeks are universal!

  5. Awesome. Thanks for sharing. I imagine many tourist like me making use of it. I am soon coming to stay aHotel Esmeralda Paris

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