This post was supposed to be about visiting the Eiffel tower and other touristy places in Paris, but then we kept running into wackjobs over and over, so now it’s also about the three crazy people I met in Paris.
Life’s like that sometimes, you know?
Searching for Unicorns at the Cluny Museum
Today, our class session was held at the Cluny Museum, or the National Museum of the Middle Ages.
It’s a very small art museum, with just a few rooms, but it contains the Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries, which are considered one of the greatest artistic projects of the Middle Ages.
Once we arrived, we entered the room with the tapestries, which was very dark. Lining the walls, there are six tapestries in total. Five of them depict the five senses, and the sixth one is a mystery! Our mission was to split into groups and figure out which sense our designated tapestry was supposed to represent.
My group arrived at the conclusion that our tapestry represents touch, because we were the last to present, and touch was the only sense left to choose from.
Finally, it came time to discuss the sixth, mystery tapestry. On this one, the Lady is putting some kind of garland into a box, while her pet lion and unicorn look on. In the background, there’s a tent with a french inscription on it.
Our professor asked if any of us could read it, and as my friend (who’s just finished taking french 3 at uni), raised her hand, an old woman piped up behind our group and answered the question. Through the rest of our session, she stayed with our group and the outbursts continued every time the professor asked a question, and sometimes when there was no question at all.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way she said: “the SOUL, THE SOUL, it represents THE SOUL!!” when he asked us what we thought the sixth tapestry symbolized.
I know what you’re thinking, and no, this isn’t one of the crazy people of Paris mentioned in the title, just you wait 🙂
Besides the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, the Cluny museum has all sorts of lovely stuff from medieval Paris. One of my favorite pieces is a bunch of golden flowers given to an aristocratic family by the Pope. What, exactly is the functionality of a metal flower? I don’t know, and I’ll get back to you if I figure it out.
Admission is €5 per person, but on some days they offer free entry. See here to learn when these days are.
After browsing through some radical illuminated manuscripts, we set off for a group lunch. The restaurant’s specialty is steak and pomme frites with this amazing savory sauce on top. My friend asked what kind of sauce it was, and they answered, “it’s a family recipe!” Needless to say, I was thrilled, because I’ve always wanted to try a traditional ‘family recipe’! To this day, I still don’t know what it was, but I suspect that there’s mustard in it.
Crazy Person #1: The Bicycle Baritone
After lunch, we had the rest of the day free, so we decided to make the most of our last day in Paris by hitting all of the top tourist spots, starting with Shakespeare and Company.
As we were innocently walking along the sidewalk, I began to hear a faint sound over the breeze. It sounded like singing. As we approached the source of the music, I was considerably less allured.
What we found was a man in a lime-green t-shirt on a bicycle, riding in circles in the middle of an intersection. He was singing… actually, no…yelling, something like:
It was incessant.
His circular path of motion was successfully blocking traffic in every direction, assuring that everyone involved was angry.
Reading back over this, it sounds made up. I can assure you that it’s not. For better or for worse (lalalalala).
Shakespeare & Company
When I looked it up on Google (because I forgot the name for a quick sec), Shakespeare & Company has been given the illustrious title of the most famous independent bookstore in the world.
It makes me so sad that you’re not allowed to take photos, because the inside of this bookstore is one of the coolest little places I’ve ever been.
Books of all kind are jammed into floor-to-celing shelves, and some of them are incredibly rare first-editions. In the spaces between the shelves, they’ve fashioned tiny reading nooks and crannies where you can tuck yourself away from the crowds. I found a book about witchcraft and read under a shelf for over an hour.
At one point, I was looking through a shelf of really old books (I love old-book smell, okay?), when I found a teal one called The Greatest Adventure. Since we’re on a pretty great adventure right now, I pulled it out and leafed through it. Then, I saw a old receipt caught in the crease between two of the middle pages.
On it was a written note that read something like this:
“Hello my dearest love! If you’re reading this, it means you’ve made it to Paris, the most beautiful city in the world. Hopefully, I am there with you… (the rest I can’t recall).”
Is that not the sweetest, most heart-wrenching thing you’ve ever heard??
Of course, I put the note back in the crease and the book right where I found it. I really hope that whoever was supposed to receive that note gets to Paris someday.
Crazy Person #2: Metro Michael Jackson
On a lighter note, we’re coming up on crazy person #2: Metro Mike!
After leaving Shakespeare & Co, we hopped on a westbound train to get to Champ de Mars, the park surrounding the Eiffel Tower. Now, I’ve been to New York before, so when the man in front of us boarded the train with a suitcase-shaped boom box, I already knew what was about to happen.
Sure enough, when the train started rolling, he greeted all of the other passengers with a grand: “Hello everybody!!!”. His boom box started playing some Michael Jackson song, and without further ado, Metro Mike began his performance.
What he lacked in remembering most of the lyrics, he made up for in pure star-quality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure he knew the chorus, but during the verses, he would mumble a little bit, and show off his killer MJ moves. I couldn’t see a lot of this performance because I was doing my best not to react or engage for fear of being targeted for tips, but luckily, he had my full attention for the grand finale.
Either he had given up trying to remember the lyrics entirely, or he was so entranced by his own star-power that he began a series of the most passionate jumps I’ve ever seen. I can’t really describe what this looked like in words, but it resembled something like this:
I think that the only thing funnier than Metro Mike’s performance was the fact that no one on the train even seemed to register that he was there. It makes me wonder what other crazy stuff they’ve seen.
Enjoying the Eiffel Tower at Champ de Mars
The train station opens up right at Champ de Mars, which I’d describe as A rectangular lawn bordered by trees, with the Eiffel Tower on one end and a military building on the other. It’s free to enter, which was a pleasant surprise, and on an October afternoon, it was delightfully quiet. My friends and I found a spot on the grass and just marveled at how massive the tower really is. It’s way, way bigger than I’d imagined! Then, we had an impromptu photo-shoot. Because you’re not allowed to be a student abroad if you don’t take a jumping pic in front of the Eiffel Tower 🙂
The only unpleasant part about our afternoon at the Eiffel Tower was that we were being approached by touts constantly. They were polite enough, and I suppose this is just to be expected in such a popular tourist spot.
One thing I didn’t understand, though, was that they all sell the EXACT SAME stuff (think: light-up Eiffel Tower statues, selfie sticks, and those godforsaken splat-toys that squeak when you hurl them on the ground). I’m no business major, but I think profits would improve with a little variety!
A Quick Stop at Trocadéro Gardens
After leaving Champ de Mars, we walked around to the other side of the Eiffel Tower, which is right on the Seine river. We crossed the Pond d’léna bridge to get to the Trocadéro Gardens, where they’ve got some stunning views of the tower and the Parisian skyline. We found the best viewpoint to be at the top of the stairs at the Palais de Chaillot.
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triompe is just up the street from the Trocadéro Gardens, so we chose to make a quick stop there before getting back on the train.
From a distance, The top of the arch looked super bumpy, and I thought that maybe there were statues up there. Nope! Turns out it was a ton of people standing up there.
In all honesty, I have no clue how they got up there considering the Arc de Triomphe sits right in the middle of an insanely busy roundabout. I didn’t dare try and cross the street to get a closer look, but like the Eiffel Tower, it’s so unexpectedly massive that I didn’t need to. To sweeten the deal, we got crêpes from a street vendor and stood there on the side walk just looking at the Arc. Mine was strawberry Nutella, and I couldn’t have been happier.
Trying some Vin Chaude
Even though we’d jam-packed a lot of sight seeing into today, it’s my last day in Paris, and so it was decided that we’d finish off the night with some Vin Chaude (hot/spiced/mulled wine). Just as the name suggests, it’s hot wine with spices and citrus fruit added to it, a perfect drink for a chilly night like this one.
Just like at Les Deux Magots, we sat outside facing the street under the orangey glow of heating lamps.
We’d just gotten our drinks when Crazy person of #3 arrived on the scene.
Crazy Person #3: A Hateful Hooligan
Furious shouting erupted from across the street. It was an old fellow, around 50 years old yelling incessantly. To himself or the people around him, I have no idea. What I did know, however, was that he was spouting some awful, terrible Neo-n*zi rhetoric. Unlike the other two crazy people we encountered, who seemed pretty harmless, this guy actually scared us, and we debated leaving. Thankfully, he left the street we were on, but we could still hear his insane rambling from several blocks away.
Back to the Spiced Wine
After he left, we were pretty shaken but still able to enjoy our wine. Personally, it was a bit tangy and dry for me, but I’m glad I tried it! It definitely did its job by warming me up. 🙂
Today was a really good day. I was so greatful to have gotten around to seeing some of the main attractions in Paris, like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, although I probably could have done without all of the crazy people. Still, I think some of them will be fun memories to look back on.
Overall, Paris is a great city, and especially in early October. I had some of the best food of my life here (fondue, brie, and escargot are must-tries just to name a few), and although I’m sad to go, Paris has made me especially excited to see what else France has to offer!
Tomorrow, we’re leaving Paris for Beaune, and I’m excited to see how the Burgundy region of France differs from Parisian France. On the way, we’ll be stopping in the commune of Vézelay, and the Abbey de Fontenay. Thankfully, I don’t think there will be any crazy people in either of those places, at least compared to Paris.
What about you guys? Have you ever encountered crazy people in Paris, or somewhere else you’ve traveled? If so, what did you do? Tell me your stories in the comments, I’d love to hear them! 🙂