Wednesday, December 17, 2008


So my friend Dana arrived from Oakland on Monday. I went in to Paris and met him for a day/night of grown-up time in Paris before bringing him back to Rouen for a week. Dana and I have been friends since high school. He lived in Santa Cruz, California, where I spent summers and holidays with my dad. Dana and I have always seemed unlikely friends, and yet he is one of only a handful of people I can say I’ve been friends with for over 20 years.

Dana and I have almost nothing in common except for a shared history and a fondness for 80s music. He is a large Filipino man with mod tendencies and a fondness for zombie movies. Thing is, he makes me laugh harder than any other friend I have. (In fact, the only other person who makes me laugh as much is my mother.) I have no idea what it is about him, but during the 24 hours or so we were in Paris I laughed nonstop. And I was strikingly aware of how different that felt that my usual days. It’s so nice to be able to have a sense of humor and so hard sometimes to do so with a 3-year-old. It’s really something I need to work on—lightening up.

Despite Dana’s jet-lag, we wandered around Paris for about 11 hours. He had never been there and had a must see list of the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower. We met at the hotel (Hôtel Eber, a perfectly fine, cheaper place in the 7th arrondissement) and decided to head to the Louvre. Dana wanted to see the Renaissance paintings, and I’m always game for a world-class museum. I think Dana had no idea what he was getting himself into. We wandered around for 5 hours and still didn’t see an entire section. We worked in a few of the greats that he had studied in art history class, and I was able to sneak in the last part of the 3-part Picasso show going on around Paris (this one was his influence from Delacroix—just showing a handful of paintings and sketches. I still must make it to the Picasso museum this trip).

After the Louvre I decided to take Dana to a brasserie I like that serves good vin chaud right next door to Notre Dame. We didn’t expect the cathedral to be open, but we actually found ourselves able to walk right in during a mass. There was a soprano singing a hymn, and the overwhelming smell of incense burning. We sat for a few minutes and then wandered around a bit before heading back into the cold night air for our next destination, dinner.

We stuffed ourselves full of classic French brasserie food (escargots, duck, and a crèpe for Dana; onion soup, salmon, and crème brulée for me) and then decided to head back to our neighborhood. On a whim, we decided to see how far it was to walk to the Tour Eiffel. Not far at all it tuned out, and so we were able to hit all 3 of Dana’s Paris sights on Day 1. When we got to the tower, it was all lit up in blue lights. This is apparently a special thing they’re doing while France is the head of the EU, and will change any day now. Since there were no lines, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to ride all the way to the top of the tower. If either of us had been paying attention, we would have realized that since we couldn’t see the top of the tower, due to fog, we wouldn’t be able to see anything from the top either!

Instead we had a terrifying, hilarious ride up to the top (alone, with an elevator operator who kept his face pressed into the corner the entire ride!). At one point, when we were higher than anyone should be without an airplane and we’d both realized how bizarre this guy was, Dana turned to me and said “Well, I’m scared shitless”. For some reason the way he said it just cracked me up and we laughed the rest of the way to the top (where there was literally zero visibility).

After that we headed back to the hotel where Dana crashed as soon as his head hit the pillow. The following day we slept in till 10am (ah, what a luxury!) and then roamed around Paris aimlessly for a few hours before taking the train home to Rouen.

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