Friday, June 17, 2005

How You Gonna Keep Me Down on the Farm?

...Now that I've seen Paree?

With all due respect to San Francisco, this is perhaps the most beautiful city in the world. We have a week here, and already it's obvious that a week is not nearly enough time to see even a fraction of what this city has to offer. Which begs the question -- why, then, am I spending my time in an Internet cafe posting this when I could be out exploring the streets and museums and cathedrals and bistros? Well... because. I like to share, and this place is so worth sharing.

We spent half the day yesterday at the wonderful Musee D'Orsay, and have plans to visit the Louvre tomorrow. We have seen Notre Dame, which is about three blocks from our apartment, the awe-inspiring medieval chapel Saint-Chappelle, the enormous Sacre Coeur... jeez, it's almost enough to give even an old dyed-in-the-wool atheist like me religion. Almost.

We have been to the Eiffel Tower, snapping pictures of it until our fingers bled. At night, for ten minutes every hour, it shows off by covering itself from top to bottom with millions of sparkling lights, like a giant firework fountain. We are tourist moths attracted to the brightest lights.

After two weeks in the UK, we were extremely ready for French cuisine, and have not been disappointed. Every meal has been at least delicious, if not transcendent. Even walk-away pastries or ice creams have been revelatory. Because we're so much farther north than SF, it doesn't get dark until 10:30 or so. We have been dining later and later; last night we had dinner at midnight. That can't be good, except that it is.

A couple of quick notes on the UK experience, with its postage-stamp-sized B&Bs and fried and boiled and mashed everything: the people there were hospitable and friendly, but man, the food! How can they be so close to France and cook such bloody awful fare? We had one good meal there, in a nice spot in Edinburgh along the Royal Mile. Otherwise it was mediocre to bad. But the sights and the history helped make up for the lack of deliciousness, I guess.

One thing I noticed, especially in Dublin and in London, was the number of foreign languages I heard everywhere. I think of San Francisco as being a cosmopolitan, international city, but it has nothing on those two places. I heard quite a bit of Russian and other Slavic languages in Dublin, and so much Italian in London that I thought I might be in Rome during a cold front (I was brought quickly back to reality whenever I ate, though).

Naturally there are lots of Americans everywhere, waddling around wide-eyed in shorts and T-shirts, loud and oblivious. In the exhibit of the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London there was a guy with his two young daughters right behind us, and when we got to a point where they had an exhibit of the royal maces, he exclaimed, "Look, kids, that was made in 1689. That was before Columbus discovered America! People thought the world was flat back then!" It was all I could do to keep from turning around and telling him -- and his kids -- that 1689 was approximately 200 years after Columbus (" Bozo!!"), but I held my tongue. I just hope those kids aren't being home-schooled. Maybe the guy was from Kansas, I don't know.

Anyway, I've enjoyed being away from the news and the workaday world, though I understand that the Giants seriously went into the tank right after I left. I saw that they won at least the last two games they played against the Twins, so maybe there's hope, but it's possible that the season will be all but over by the time I get back. Whatever. I haven't bought an International Herald-Tribune or a USA Today in over a week, and only get very brief bits of information about Iraq, Iran and Preznit Bloody Hands and His Flying Torture Circus here and there. That's okay, I think. I've been practicing my rudimentary French when possible, but it's rather a relief to discover that nearly everyone here speaks English at least as well as I speak French.

Monday it's on to Rome. Au revoir for now.
Free Counter
Online Universities