Monday, November 21, 2011

Paris: The Gold Ring

That's a tip of the hat to a great scene in one of my favourite movies, Pulp Fiction, where the one and only Christopher Walken, as Captain Koons, returns a family heirloom -- The Gold Watch -- to five-year-old Butch.

Read on for the story of the ring.

As we knew we only had one day in Paris, we got up early again and caught the commuter train from Disneyland in, our must-see lists in hand. Since Tea and I had been before, we started on Stephen and Nancy's list, after dropping our packs at the hotel. First up was the Catacombs, a block from where we were staying; unfortunately, they're closed on Monday (boo!), so we caught the metro to Île aux Cygnes to see the replica of the Statue of Liberty (a little over a quarter the size of the one on Ellis Island).

The Isle of the Swans was an oasis in the bustling city; a view that seems to be shared by the locals, given all the joggers we saw. From there, we grabbed some delicious baguette sandwiches to go, making our way to the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

The line-up for the first level wasn't bad at all, so we bought tickets and up we climbed. 328 steps. We were rewarded with an amazing view (once we'd caught our breath). Plus, unlike some, I find the structure itself to be beautiful, and much more so when you're amongst it, even. (Tea, Kae and I didn't spend much time there on our previous trip, and didn't go up.)

The Gold Ring

Once we'd walked along the Seine to the Flame of Liberty, that marked a good dent in Stephen and Nancy's list, so it was off to Montmartre. Along the way, as we admired the Alexander III bridge and l'Hôtel national des Invalides in the distance, a woman approached Stephen. In her hand was a gold ring the likes of which I've never seen; truly, it was like a Ring of Power, and all the more so when she began pointing at what I thought was an inscription, asking if it was Stephen's. (Well, it was an inscription -- no, nothing to do with ruling or binding -- but one supposedly indicating its purity; not a name or dedication, as I'd assumed. I only found that out later, after talking with Stephen.)

As Stephen faded back she turned to me, saying she'd just found it, and asking whether it was mine. She was sort of musing, though, it seemed to me, and with what I took to be wonderment, muttered something about bonne chance. Seizing on the chance to use my limited French, I jumped in with, "Ah, oui, c'est la bonne chance!" and made to move on. Well, at that point she started saying that she couldn't keep it, and that I should take it. I was shaking my head, no, no, with my hand up, and she kept pressing, both verbally, and with the ring, on my vertical palm.

I did manage to get away in the end, but it left me feeling a bit down. To this day, I'm so naive, and normally don't fare so well in those situations. Turns out this is very common in Paris (also called The Drop), although this woman never got to the asking for money bit.

* * *

At the Place de la Concorde we took another detour... for our first Christmas market of the trip! A complete surprise, it was a great way to get us all excited about what awaited us in Berlin. Our tummies full of mulled wine, pastries and smoked fish -- not all at once; trust me, it was awesome -- we hopped the metro to Montmartre and the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.

Om nom nom!
Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Avoiding the bracelet scam, we took a few minutes to enjoy the view and great people watching. The latter continued in spades as we sat outside a café in Place du Tertre, at first for wine, and then, tempted by the smells from the kitchen, for a full meal that included onion soup, beef bourguignon and escargot. Thanks to the heat lamps, we were there well past dark.

Place du Tertre

We then caught the metro back to our hotel, stopping off for a nightcap at the nearby l’Académie de la Bière, specializing in Belgian beer. With friendly staff, a cozy atmosphere and an impressive beer menu, it was the perfect way to close out the day.

l’Académie de la Bière

Up next: Berlin, Germany

PS: Check out our Picasa album for more pictures from the trip.

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