The DougBlog
"Et sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!" —Baudelaire

Saturday, August 11, 2007

How do you say "gigolo" in French?

My coworker, friend, and sugar momma deluxe Missy Wilson was headed to France on business and had the great idea that I should come along with her as a “non-paying companion”. By flying business class, she was entitled to a free companion ticket, and she or the clients would be paying for most of the hotel nights. This sounded like a great deal for someone who could use a few days away but had only a few dollars to spend on it. So off we went…

Missy, trying to relay an order for a bucket of chicken to the kitchen on board Air France:

Our first stop was Lyon, with a connection at that beautiful and well-oiled machine known as Charles DeGaulle. Case in point: we landed early, but by the time we got to the extremely long lines at immigration our next flight was already boarding. I asked a guard what we should do; he pointed us over to the “Air France lady”. I explained to her that we had a quick connection to make, and she just told us that we have to go on line at immigration. “But our next flight is already boarding,” I pointed out. Her helpful advice, honest and sincere? “Well then, I guess you’d better hurry.”

So instead we lied and told the person at the front of the immigration line that the apparently all-powerful “Air France lady” said we could cut in—and made our connection. When we arrived in Lyon we had one afternoon to see the entire city. Having been there before, I knew it could be done, so I took Missy on a foot tour of Lyon. (You may recall that my previous visit to Lyon was also blogged, if you wish to see more pictures.)

Missy and me on the funicular to the top of Fourvière, the big hill in Lyon:

Edifice of the Basilisque of Notre Dame of Fourvière at the top:

Inside the Basilisque:

Of course, the top offers great views over the famous red rooftops of Lyon:

Missy was less entertained than me by this license plate:

While relaxing at the top of Fourvière, we watched this pigeon ruthlessly attack a cupcake wrapper. He had to have been the fattest pigeon either of us had ever seen. He could barely walk—you couldn’t even see his legs:

I like how this particular shot came out; it looks like he’s sleeping with his head on the cupcake (shhh):

On the subject of animals, I enjoyed this still life of a pig and (I think) a badger engaged in mortal combat outside a wine store in Old Lyon for no apparent reason:

Crossing the Saône (not to be confused with the Rhône, which also flows through Lyon…why does this all sound like a nursery rhyme?!):

Dinner at Paul Bocuse’s Brasserie le Nord:

Missy window-shopping. At least 200 times a day I would find myself walking alone, look back, and see this same sight:

We continued our walk into the beautiful summer’s evening and relaxed in front of my favorite building in Lyon, the Théâtre des Celestins:

The “saloon-style” doors to the bathroom at our hotel in Lyon didn’t close completely, which bothered Missy to no end. Here she is pressed up against the crack:

Missy’s workday in Lyon was decidedly unproductive for me. I had grand plans that somehow turned into sleeping in until about 5PM. I guess that’s why they call it vacation. That night we took the train to Paris. Missy had to work again the following day, and once again I made grand plans because I wanted to try to visit something new.

I decided to go and see dead people at the Basilisque Saint-Denis. This church, in a northern part of Paris called (creatively enough) St. Denis, is where nearly every French King and Queen has been buried since the awesomely-named Dagobert I in 496. Some of them have elaborate tombs, and the difference in the styles of tombs over the centuries is supposed to be most interesting.

Unfortunately, my trip was more poorly executed than Louis XVI. Getting a late start, I decided to save time by hopping in a cab. I didn’t realize just how far it is, so instead of a $2 Metro ride I ended up taking a $60 cab ride…and with the traffic, it probably took even longer to boot.

For the last home of so many kings, it’s a little run down outside:

The inside was in better shape:

Then as I began to wander inside, I noticed a sign which said that the tombs required a ticket and closed earlier than the rest of the church. Sure enough, I went to buy a ticket only to be told that the tombs had just closed just one minute before! I was especially frustrated because if I’d gone to the tombs first I would have made the cutoff. I considered offering a bribe, but that just seemed wrong in a church—even for a Jew. So I wandered inside with an hour to spare. Here are what I assume to be a few smaller tombs of kings and queens (I shot this while peering through a gate in the church, like the nuns at the Von Trapp wedding):

Then, before I’d seen everything I could, I was given the boot because they make people leave half an hour before the actual closing time! So I basically saw only part of the church and none of the tombs. And I was all ready to leave some cake on Marie Antoinette’s grave…

Somewhat disappointed, I headed into the center of Paris to wander amongst some more familiar surroundings such as the Eiffel Tower…

…the Pont de l’Alma (where Princess Diana died—Paris’ newest and most morbid attraction)…

…and the Pont Alexandre III, where a modeling shoot was going on:

Although Missy had to work pretty late, we had a late supper at Le Grand Colbert. This was the end of the business portion of the trip for Missy, so we had Saturday and Sunday together. Saturday morning we moved over to perhaps the most famous hotel in the world: The Ritz:

Missy chilling in the lobby to avoid the paparazzi while we waited for our room to be ready:

Room 261—with separate beds, of course (I think that every hotel we checked into thought that we were an odd—or at least somewhat estranged—couple):

Missy wouldn’t let me steal the Ritz toilet skirt:

Nothing says “class” quite so much as a faucet shaped like a vomiting duck:

Missy yelled at me for wearing shorts in business class on the plane, but somehow jumping on the beds at the Ritz was perfectly acceptable:

We had each been to Paris many times, but neither of us had ever been to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, so we walked through Paris and ended up there. Missy on the Champs-Élysées:

No trip to Paris is complete without risking your life in the middle of the Champs for this shot:

I love my new wide-angle lens:

Detail of “Resistance”, one of the sculptured on the Arc (I also began to try my hand at black-and-white on this trip):

Reaching the top requires a spiral staircase that never seemed to end…

The Arc de Triomphe is set in the Place de l’Étoile—“the Star”—so-called because 12 great boulevards radiate from the spot. So I created this 360-degree panorama of the view from the top. You can click on the photo below to enlarge it a little, or for a super-size view (or to download it), click on this link. Pretty cool.

When we got back down to the bottom, there was some sort of ceremony going on at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier involving French troops and a few very old veterans. When they were holding the flags, the breeze just about knocked them over. I think they might have been from World War II…or maybe World War I…or the War of 1812…

That night we went out for a fancy dinner at Les Ambassadeurs at the Hôtel Crillon. “Fancy” is perhaps an understatement, as it was undoubtedly the most expensive meal I’ve ever had! (So much for my “free” trip to France…) But the service and setting were spectacular—and of course the company—and they had the most delicious cheese:

As a parting gift the restaurant gave us a brioche for “le petit déjuner”. Here’s Missy back in our room, serving up some ham with the brioche:

Breakfast in our room at the Ritz. Missy took the picture—note my reaction in the upper left corner:

Sunday we headed out to the Musée d’Orsay in the rain:

Attack of the 50-Foot Missy!!:

Our next stop was to see the always-stunning stained glass of Sainte-Chapelle. It’s amazing to think that these were made almost 800 years ago:

This gargoyle outside Sainte-Chapelle appears to be picking his teeth with a credit card or eating a Chiclet:

The Palais de Justice:

Every time I’ve been to Paris in the last 15 years, Notre Dame has been under renovation. Well it seems they’ve finally finished and I must say it does look amazingly clean:

Sad Missy (Berthillon, her favorite ice cream place on the Île St. Louis, was closed!):

Happy Missy (she got some Berthillon ice cream anyway!):

There’s always something happening on the plaza outside the beautiful city hall of Paris, the Hôtel de Ville. Right now it’s a volleyball competition:

This is what Missy looks like shopping in Paris. Note the subtle differences from her shopping stance in Lyon:

Here’s Missy in a cab, no doubt looking out at the stores and wishing she was shopping:

After a long day, we relaxed at the Ritz’s famous underground pool:

About 15 years ago I tried to take a look inside the Ritz. I got about 5 feet inside the door before a doorman asked if I was a guest of the hotel, and then asked me to leave when I said I was not. So I have to admit that I baited them a bit on this trip. One time when I walked in with Missy, I purposely looked around a lot to give the impression that I was a tourist. Sure enough, a doorman came over and asked me if I was a guest—and I said yes, proudly shaking my room key. Childish, yes—but it helped to heal a hole in my soul.

Anyhow, that night we had dinner at Joël Robuchon’s L’Atelier. Nerdly, I know, but I couldn’t help noticing how much Missy’s foie gras resembled Australia:

The next day it was Au revoir la France and back to New York. Here’s Missy climbing aboard Air France once again:

A few parting shots

Nerdly again, I know…but I once bought an old French document. It’s the discharge order for a wounded French soldier in 1796. I bought it because I thought it was cool that it’s dated the “8th of Thermidor, Year IV of the French Republic” (for a few years after the Revolution, when the French got all crazy, they tried to create their own calendar and even their own system of time (it didn’t last very long). Anyhow, one of the people who signed the document was General Louis Henri Loison, whose name is supposed to be on the Arc de Triomphe…and sure enough, I found it:

Here’s the current date and time according to the now defunct French Republican Calendar (is it Thermidor again already? Sunrise, sunset...):

This would appear to be a tour group for German slackers:

I know that even Freud said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but do you notice anything interesting in this balcony?:


  • Thanks so much for the tour. I've not been to France and this was really great! Hope you get to enjoy many more trips ... selfish, I know, 'cause then I will get to see so much more..
    Marianne Stanley, Orlando

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:19 AM  

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