Saturday, July 10, 2010

More and less of the same

If England was like going to a place where everything was just a bit off from the norm, then France takes everything and skews it again, just in different directions. Driving is back on the right side of the streets, so we're less likely to accidentally step in front of a bus. But the language barrier is occasionally real and palpable as we look in boutique shops, or just want a cold water. (What is it with Europe and room temperature drinks?)

The travel was super easy. In fact; it was scarily simple to enter this country. You get off the plane, a man looks at your passport, stamps it, and off you go. Not a single word was said to anyone in line before me, or after. I guess they really have an open policy of visiting France. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but it certainly doesn't seem very secure.

Our only trouble of the whole trip so far occurred at the hotel when they didn't have our reservation. Thankfully, we have our documents showing we are prepaid. They simply entered us into the system, and even gave us an "upgrade". If you visit Europe, and don't stay in a American style hotel, be prepared for surprises. Our hotel here is nice, but frankly even with an upgrade, this room is about the size of my first one bedroom studio back in Columbus; only with nicer wallpaper. It's a nice hotel, but certainly not what I thought I was getting for what I paid. I'll definitely book my own rooms next trip here.

France itself is exactly like I pictured it; the old architecture, the Arc d' Triumph, and the "Royale with cheese". That's right, my first meal in France was at McDonald's, and I'm proud of it. I have now fulfilled every Pulp Fiction fans dream of ordering a Royale with Cheese. Or rather, I was going to, but they had better looking sandwiches not available in America, so I got one of those instead. But I could have gotten one, so that's what counts.

Sadly, when it comes to what I can't get here, it seems that there is not a store here in the middle of Paris that specializes in Le Tour merchandise. The tourist shops all have some jerseys, and I even found some that are 2X, but none with this years date. They told me they don't sell the dated ones so they can keep selling them all the time. We found a bike shop, but they only had some from 2006, the year Landis doped his way to a win. Not exactly what I'm looking for. If worse comes to worse, I'll order one from the official site the last day we're here so it can at least be ordered from France. But I'll hold out hope til then.

We spent most of yesterday on the Champs-Elysees looking for an expensive handbag for Rach and my jersey. We went 0 for 2 on that front for most of yesterday. Rach wanted to turn in early, so I was given free roam of the city. Because I didn't want to venture into areas that I wanted to see with Rach, I stayed on the Champs and looked at the travelers and the remaining open shops. That's when the street vendors came out.

The street vendors here aren't like the ones from Boston or New York. Apparently, it isn't just illegal here, they actually go after the people doing it. So the folks selling wares have straps on their little mats and when they get word the cops are coming they just pull up on the strings and take off. Fortunately, a couple of guys selling knock off purses were set up long enough for me to pick one up. I'm not looking to get out of buying Rach a nice one, but if she can't find a bigger bag we can swing, at least she'll have one from here that will work.

Finally, while I didn't get a chance to ride a bike in England, I will most certainly get to ride here in France. The bike share program I read about is real, active, and all over the place. We're likely going to take part in it tomorrow, but I'll provide details of what I've learned about in my next entry.


- Splurged a bit yesterday on the food, today I'm back on the wagon. Hopefully it will all balance out as we've simply been too gassed from all the walking to get a workout into our schedule. We'll be riding bikes on Sunday or Monday, so we'll at least get a chance to do that.

- At one point before I got into triathlons, I was strictly a competitive walker. I could walk fast and for long distances. Oh how times have changed. My feet have hurt every day since we started the trip, and I've been wearing my best workout shoes (which are now completely trashed). I'll have to try to balance recovery time and training next week as we do final prep for the MA State tri.

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