Sunday, October 23, 2011

We set our alarm for 7am to wake up for Rugby. France and New Zealand were playing for the final, and we figured it would be fun to watch the final in Paris, even if we didn't know squat about Rugby. We actually woke up 15-20 minutes before our alarm - we were hopeful that our bodies had already adjusted to the time difference. It was still dark when we got up, and actually still dark at 8am when we left the hotel room to walk over to the pub.

On the way over to O'Briens, we walked up Rue Cler, which is the local street market. But even at 8am, they were just setting up shop, which isn't that odd considering people probably wouldn't do a lot of shopping in the dark. Even the Starbucks wasn't open, which was incredible. We got to the bar a little after 8, for a game we thought was starting at 9. So we needed to figure out a Plan B. We started to walk back towards the hotel, and near the Starbucks we saw a television on in one of the stores showing the French Team van going to the game, showing a start time of 10am. So apparently we were an hour ahead of time.

So we decided to have breakfast and then try O'Briens again. We had breakfast at the Central Cafe on Rue Cler, not far from our hotel. It was touristy, but nice enough, and the food and drink were good. We walked back to the pub at around 9:20. This time, not only was it open, it was packed. We had to stand in the corner right near the front entrance. The only advantage was that we could get crowded from 2 directions instead of 4. The pub kept getting more full and more full, until there was basically no room to move anywhere in the bar. Crystal couldn't see that well, but did eventually realize that she had a pretty good view if she looked in the reflection of one of the paintings on the wall. Alas, that was late in the game when she realized this.

The game did start at 10, and the crowd sang along with national anthem, which was nice. They should always have large crowds sing the anthem instead of just a single person. While we had little idea what was going on, it was at least a boisterous first half. But there was not much scoring, just 5-0 New Zealand. They could have been up more, but they missed a number of kicks. At halftime, half the bar went out for a smoke break, and then the people who had been standing near the front door streamed in torwards the back of the bar. So at the beginning of the second half, it was less crowded, even though there was the same number of people.

New Zealand went up 8-0, but then France scored to make it 8-5 and then 8-7, and the crowd went crazy. There was a drunk guy got progressively louder and louder, constant chanting. We had no idea what he was saying, but it was likely (mostly) harmless since no one seemed offended and nobody tried to kick him out. France had a chance to go up 10-8, but missed a long kick. Later, France had the ball with 5-10 minutes left and went down the field, but never got that close to scoring. Finally, New Zealand (who was playing at home in Auckland) got the ball back with about 2-3 minutes left, ran out the clock. More than a little bummed, the people streamed out of the bar relatively quietly. Kudos to the French fans for cheering for the victors.

We went back to hotel to grab some stuff, then went out for actual tourist stuff. Somehow, in standing in the bar for 2 hours, Justin realized that his back was in bad shape, so he was gimping around. Our first stop was the Invalides area. We walked in/around/through Hotel de Invalides, which now houses Napolean's tomb. He originally had it built to be a hotel for wounded and other disabled soldiers. In the center courtyard, there was a military band playing. With all the military in San Diego, we wondered why we never saw or heard of this sort of thing in San Diego.

We headed north out of Invalides, down this large road with large grassy areas on both sides. When we got to the Seine, we walked over a bridge we had seen on the cruise the night before. All of the bridges are different, but this one seemed the fanciest, with 4 large statues, one in each corner, with either gold paint or gold leaf on them. We wondered why this one seemed to be the nicest.

On the North side of the river, we passed by statues of a couple non-Frenchmen (Simon Bolivar and Winston Churchill), a couple museums, which looked very impressive from the outside, but we didn't have time to go in. They both looked very crowded in any event. When we got to the Champs E'lysee, we turned onto it and walked towards the Arc de Triomphe. The Champs E'lysee was not quite what we expected. It was a huge street, but rather than being adorned with historical items, or even French items, the part we were walking on was full of American and European stores like you'd see on Michigan Avenue in Chicago or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.


We made a slight detour to eat at Charbon Rouge, which was a steakhouse Crystal had found online. They had beef, and beef preparation, from all over the world. We had made Chimichurri steak the previous weekend, so we were in the mood for an Argentinian meal. For appetizers, we split some latin sausages and some empanadas. We both had Bife Ancho (ribeye) for our main, and we downed it with a bottle of Malbec from Salta. Justin's back was still bothering him, but the wine helped. He found it odd that standing for two hours had wrenchd his back, especially since there had been little ill-effect from the long flight the day before. His delivery didn't come out quite right, however: "Yesterday, I sat on the plane for 10 hours, and with the exception of losing feeling in my right hand, no problems. But standing for two hours today wrenched my back." He had lost feeling on the right side of his right hand, the ring and pinkie fingers and a bit of the palm. More tingly than total loss of feeling.

Anyway, back to our trip, we walked up the Champs E'lysee, and when we got to the Arc de Triomphe we took the underground tunnel that goes under the roundabout for the cars. We can't fathom anyone walking across the street there. The Arc was very impressive, with intricate sculptures and all sorts of names and dates - so many we weren't quite sure what all was being memorialized. There were lots of English speakers, mostly from Britain it seemed. We kept being mistaken for Brits because Justin was wearing his Arsenal jacket. Given how much the French and the US (don't) get along on many things, it may have been better this way.

We went back through the tunnel, then headed south towards Trocadero. Going around the roundabout, we watched the traffic for a bit - never will we drive this. The cars coming in have the right of way, which is unbelievable and unlike anything we've ever seen. We saw a bus come flying in, cars in the roundabout had to screech to a halt so that the bus wouldn't take them out. The walk to Trocadero was peaceful, as there were not many stores (or people) on Avenue D'iena.

At Trocadero, the view was as advertised, but none of the fountains were on for some reason. We looked around for a bit, then walked down the hill, then across the bridge, back to the Eiffel Tower. This ended everything we had planned - i.e. things we really wanted to do during our 36 hours in Paris - and nothing was jumping out us, so we went back to the hotel so Justin could stretch his back. Next thing we knew, we had been asleep for a couple hours - so much for being time adjusted.

A little after 7, Crystal went to macaroon place she had seen, which was set to close at 7:30. She couldn't decide on what to get, so decided on six - Chocolate, Raspberry, Chocolate Raspberry, Lavender Apricot, Orange Bergamot, and Morello Cherry Red Pepper. We got cleaned up for dinner, then wandered around for a bit to see if any place jumped out at us (nothing did), then just found some corner cafe for dinner. The food was "eh" but we weren't that hungry. At the restaturant, they were showing rugby highlights, which wasn't a whole lot for an 8-7 game. After awhile the rugby highlights were replaced with a soccer match, which was good since we at least understood what was going on. Crystal actually recognized one of the players - Bastos from Lyon was on the Brazilian national team, and Crystal recognized him from watching the Brazil matches when we were there in 2010.

We wrapped up dinner a little after 9, and figured we'd try going up the Eiffel Tower, guessing the line would be much shorter. We got there a little after 10, and there was no line at all. The very top was closed - not sure why - so we went to the "2nd floor" which was still a good ways up. There were some very nice views, and from this vantage point we realized we had walked a good distance on the day. We checked out the views from all directions - towards the business district, towards the Arc, towards Invalides, and towards all the other stuff we had no idea about. We were about to head down, but decided to wait until 11 so we could see sparkles one more time. Every hour on the hour during the evening a bunch of strobe lights come on and make the Tower look like it is sparkling.

After walking down the stairs, we headed back to hotel, but stopped at Central Cafe for drinks. We just sat around for an hour or so, hanging out on the street, watching the people come home from work and also the drunks wandering Rue Cler. We packed when we got back to the room, then saw the last sparkly of the night, at 1am, when the lights went off for good.