Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tourists are lazy bags of bones!

Notre Dame hedge
It's like a Klingon warship sprouting from a hedge.
When my friend first told me the Paris wedding was going to be in August, I was pissed. Not that I could say that of course, but I thought evil thoughts (OK I said some of them, too). Firstly, the Olympic Opening Ceremonies were the same weekend as the wedding, so flights would be packed. And all those Olympic tourists would surely find their way to Paris, making everything more crowded and chaotic than usual. Third, August is when all of France goes on vacation, so Paris would be devoid of its natives. How could I scope out the latest fashions if the Parisians were all gone? That's part of why you go. Plus August in Paris is boiling hot with a side of rain. I was grumpy.
Notre Dame creature w bird
Then I got to Paris and sweet Holy Mother. So many freaking badly dressed tourists. They stunned the eye. They spent all that money getting to Paris, but then wore their laundry-day-never-see-sunlight clothes. I couldn't even be mad because it was fascinating. Doesn't anyone check to see what is considered normal in the places they are going to visit? Parisians' everyday clothes are high fashion compared to America, where we wear pajamas in public. This is not a secret, I've seen it mentioned in every guide book or website devoted to visiting France. The French think sloppiness is offensive to the eye--that's a little high strung, but I respect that they got their own values and class it up. I still look like a tourist, but a well dressed one.
Notre Dame pane close up
Guide books say avoid Paris in August due to the aforementioned depopulation, heat, and things being closed. While I generally agree, I did discover one amazing thing: tourists sleep in. It was great. While those lazy sods are in bed you can go anywhere and do anything. It ain't like that usually.
Notre Dame outer
See what I mean? Crickets.
During my first visit to Paris (in October) the line to Notre Dame was around the building, so we didn't go. This time I was there at opening and there was NO LINE. I saw the guy come out and open it up. I may have jumped up and down. I actually got to experience the peacefulness of the place rather than surviving a crush of tour groups. It was lovely wandering around the inside taking endless pictures, listening to Mass and lighting candles for my deceased loved ones.
Notre Dame interior

This happened to me more than once. If you go to Europe in August, I highly recommend dawn rising. It improved my trip tremendously and gave me a series of quiet moments I could treasure later when I was lost in the throng. 
Notre Dame window
Long story short, ignore the guidebooks and the heat, wear fashionable light clothing and get up at dawn. You will have a ball.

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