Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

It worked! I slept until 6 am.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been dead tired by 8pm (not normal end-of-the-day tired, either. Dead dog can’t stay awake one more second tired) and have been waking up at around 3:30 am. Since I refuse to get out of bed that early on general principles, I’ve been tossing and turning until the morning news comes on. For some reason once the a.m. news is on I feel okay getting up and puttering around before having to take a nap at noon in order to stay awake until 8 pm.

Dammit.

But yesterday morning, tired of freezing my ass off, I called the gas company and used the magic words: “I smell gas when I try to light my heater”.

They promised to have someone over that day, which I suppose is technically true – the guy finally came at 11:30 pm and lit the heater in about 45 seconds, but the really important thing was that I managed to stay awake late enough that I slept until 6 am.

Hooray! We’ll see how late I can stay up tonight. I may go see a movie, but there’s not that much playing right now at any theater I can get into for free, so I may just stay home and watch old episodes of The Simpsons.

Anyways, more about the trip:

We’d flown into De Gaulle (which is north of the city), but since were were driving south and anything involving a car and Paris is really best avoided altogether, we picked the car up at Orly – because of the transit strike, it took us a couple of hours to get there from our hotel (only one train out of 10 was running, so we sat on on the subway platform for about an hour).

If you’ve never seen it, Orly is easily the ugliest airport I’ve ever seen – think Soviet era block construction with a faded, pigeon-splattered facade that’s seen better days. I was afraid to take a photo in case the French were as hysterical about photos in airports as we are. There were hoards of angry-looking cops everywhere, so I decided not to chance it.

After a quick trip into the terminal for a cup of coffee, we got our car (which took well over an hour due to some confusion) and headed out.

Of course, as soon as I got behind the wheel of the first stick shift I’ve driven in years it started to pour rain, and we were unable to figure out how to turn on the windshield wipers – the car’s manual didn’t help as it was written in French, so I ended up just having to hit the washer button every 15 seconds until I accidentally turned on the wipers (and then couldn’t figure out how to turn them off once the rain stopped, of course).

Once we managed to get on the big highway, we got to Orleans pretty quickly and then we decided to get out, walk around and have lunch.

Orleans’ old city (near the cathedral which seems to be the main tourist draw) is really cute, and even though it was pouring (I got completely soaked) it was still very charming:

Courtyard

Since everything was closed, we headed out and this time we stayed off the superhighway and drove on the back roads, which was a very good call since we stumbled upon a town called Beaugency.

Church tower

Beaugency

We braved the rain, took some photos and found an open bakery where we loaded up on bread, but I couldn’t find any coffee – just about everything was closing for lunch, which hadn’t been a problem in Paris because so much there stays open. Somewhere in the back of my mind I’d had an idea that it wouldn’t be like that in the smaller towns, but I hadn’t given it much thought and now it was coming back to haunt me.

After getting completely lost on the unmarked backroads, we pulled into the town of Blois and once again got lost – we’d called ahead for a room in a hotel that one of the guidebooks recommended, but when we got to Blois the ‘confuse the invaders’ street plan had us driving around in circles for the better part of an hour – we saw the hotel once, but couldn’t get to it due to the one way streets, so we stayed in another hotel that was run by a very nice man who pointed us towards a laundromat so we could wash some clothes.

Afterwards, we went out to a really nice place for dinner and I ate everything the chef recommended (all of it came from the surrounding area and was delicious).

In the morning, we went to see the chateau in Blois since my travelling companions wanted to see castles (I’m fairly indifferent to them. I’ve been to Europe before and my attitude towards castles is that since I’ve seen one, I’ve very likely seen them all), and I took some photos of the exuberant decor inside and the postcard view of the old city:

View over Blois

View of Blois

King's Bedroom

We then headed towards the day’s next castle, which is where I’ll pick up next post

Filed under: Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, travel, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekends mean nothing to me now.

Since I’m currently unemployed between projects, the whole “Saturday/Sunday off ” thing is totally meaningless – every day is Saturday now.

What I’ve been dealing with during my endless string of Saturdays is the suitcase explosion in the living room and the fact that I’m really, really cold.

I don’t mean that I’m colder than I was in France – I mean that my house has no heat because apparently I’m too dumb to light the pilot light on my heater. It’s got this complicated little mechanism where one has to turn the gas on and then hold a button in while shoving a match into a teeny hole and hoping desperately that the pilot light will somehow come on (“Ooog see fire! Fire good!”) and then giving up once fire does not appear after repeated attempts and the room begins to smell like gas – although I’m certain that I’d be able to keep warm were I to simply create a bonfire out of the suitcase flotsam that’s currently covering the living room.

I’m saving all my receipts in the hope that somehow I’ll be able to write the trip off on my taxes.

Of course we knew about the transportation strike before we left, but I think all of us were hoping that it would be over before we landed – no such luck. When we landed at the airport, we had to wait 45 minutes for the airport bus to take us to a city train station that was kind of near our hotel, and then taxi it the rest of the way.

One thing I’d forgotten about Europeans is that they don’t line up – they just crowd around and shove each other. I will never understand this, but I’m really good at shoving people without being too obvious about it (an important skill when the producer’s having a conversation in the only doorway into the set and I’ve got a 60 lb. light on my shoulder that’s hotter than the surface of the sun), so we got on the first bus out and managed to arrive at our hotel in about the same amount of time it would have taken had we gotten on the train.

Our first night in Paris, we just walked across the street from the hotel and grabbed dinner at a cafe which was really smoke filled (another thing I’d forgotten about Europe) but had good food. With the exchange rate, dinner cost approximately $17,000. Each.

Because of the transportation strike, we were pretty much limited to stuff in the center of the city – there was some train service, but it was unpredictable and the lines were being shut down with very little notice. I, for one, didn’t want to get stuck in some far-flung corner of the city when the subway line went down and have to pay a small fortune to take a taxi back to the hotel.

Our hotel was on the left bank near the Luxembourg gardens, which seemed fairly central when I booked it, but when faced with the whole walking thing, I really wish I’d been able to afford something even closer to the center of the city.

Oh, well.

The advantages of travelling in the off-season were the lack of huge lines. We got into the Louvre right away, although I skipped the paintings, which I’d seen before and went straight to the old fortress that’s on the lower level.

Louvre

So. Cool.

Later the same night, we went up the Eiffel Tower – when we got up to the top, there was freezing rain and the wind was howling around us. I stayed in the lee of the elevator shaft, but still managed to get some great photos before my hands stopped working because of the cold:
Night cityscape

The blue beam was coming from the tower itself – it rotated around, and I’m still not sure why, but the tower was definitely the highlight of Paris for me. The last time I was in Paris, it was the summertime and it was so crowded with tourists that you had to wait hours to go up, so I didn’t get to go.

Eiffel Tower

Although I had a good time, I still stand by my statement that I can take or leave Paris. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that it’s, well, it’s a large city – it’s crowded and dirty and the stairwells all smell like piss. Just like LA, just like New York, just like Berlin, just like London.

Everyone was really nice, though, and they were very understanding about my atrocious French.  We had some wonderful hot chocolate on the Ile St. Louis (someone at work had recommended Angelina, but the place we found had better hot chocolate and now I can’t remember the name of it although were I there I’d be able to find it again just by following the smell), and I ate a bunch of stuff I really shouldn’t have and didn’t gain any weight because I was walking 50 miles a day.

On Monday morning, we packed up and headed out to pick up the car and start driving south – which is where I’ll pick up tomorrow (or Monday, depending on how lazy I’m feeling), since this is getting a bit long.

Filed under: Non-Work, travel, , , , , , , , , , ,

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