sainte chappelle opened at 9, and i was slow waking up (obviously) so we got there by 9:30, salina with her teeth probably set on edge and nervous about the potential line and myself optimistic that everyone would be sleeping still, because that's what normal people do on vacation. and who do you think was right?
...i wish i could say it was me.
not only was the line crazy long, some punkass high school kid sprinted to beat us to the line. "idiot boy," i thought to myself, "he's going to have to wait anyways." little did i know that the joke was on us, because he represented one of what seemed like 50 italian high schoolers there for a school trip. apparently in italy, if one member of a group is in line, the rest of the group consider this a point of insertion and have absolutely no qualms about cutting the line. salina told me that this had happened to her before, also with a large group of italians, and as the number of people in front of us magically multiplied, we pondered what to do. true to form, i wanted to tap the shoulder of the school teacher who was not only allowing this atrocity of propriety and fairness, but encouraging it by being one of the first offenders to cut the line. i had a very clear, yet emphatic speech in simple english planned out in my head, perhaps punctuated with a few ill-placed "no, mami"s so i could mess with her head a little. while i was putting the finishing touches on this little declaration of mine, salina, true to form, silently slipped ahead of the group as the line shuffled forward, effectively remaining true to the chinese principle of "if you do it to me, i'll do it back to you." (as evidenced by my mother's frequent extended family drama, this can include: hong bao, chocolates, paying for dinner, not attending your daughter's wedding, trash talking someone's offspring or their offspring of their offspring, getting someone a summer internship, and taking turns hosting mah jong parties.) we left behind a pair of very perplexed young japanese men who, i learned from eavesdropping on their conversation, did not think it was worth their tour pass to wait in line. at any rate, everyone knows they wouldn't have done anything about the cut-sies those nefarious italians tried to pull, japanese people are too nice. i, on the other hand, consoled myself with saving my scathing lecture for another time.
even after our successful cut-backsies (not to be confused with back-cutsies, that requires some skillful negotiation), we had to wait another 30 minutes in the cold, and when we finally got inside, it was a stone church, so it was still really, really cold. despite all of that, the windows were definitely worth it. huge stained-glass panels that stretched to the ceiling, each comprised of only 5 colors, but still managing to be vibrant and complex. each panel depicted some story of the bible, but only from selected books. you know, the interesting ones with the animals and arks, the incest and rape, the prostitutes and the wars and the killings of fat kings and destroying a whole army with basically a fossil. there was some of the prophetic bits in there, and then the passion of the christ.
i know what you're thinking: damn, kathleen must possess an amazing knowledge of the holy bible. i'm not going to lie--i used to kick motherfucking ASS at bible trivia in my younger days. but i actually just learned all of that from a helpful informative placard inside the church. plus those pictures were way too cryptic for me to decipher. half of them had a bunch of people with swords. that's like, uhm, most of the old testament. anyways. for a really old church, i was really impressed with the amount of detail in everything, from the walls to the pillars, everything had a gilded carving or raised relief or rich paint, still vivid even centuries later.
sainte chappelle was basically one huge room where you crane your neck for as long as you like and frantically snap pictures of this incredible work of art but all the pictures in the world couldn't possibly capture the majesty and holiness of it. afterwards, we took the windy staircase down and ended up in the same entrance room. i looked around expectantly at salina and asked, "is that it?" and she gave me a look that might possibly be read as "you uncultured swine" but she kindly replied, "yup, that's it." and that was dave, er, sainte chappelle.
while we were waiting in line earlier, the clouds decided to let up for a few hours and so we thought it would be a good idea to catch the eiffel tower while it was still sunny and gorgeous. that was probably the best tourist decision we could have made. there's no line to go see the eiffel tower, we had an amazing clear view, and for a piece of metal, it was... gorgeous. a clear day with a blue sky, no clouds, and the eiffel tower in view briefly silenced us into contemplative appreciation, which we shook off and did the next natural thing: buy crepes. but of course french people munch nutella crepes while looking at the eiffel tower; we were just trying to fit in. there was a lot of frantic photo snapping here, after which we noticed yet another holiday market below. more shopping, buying souvenirs blah blah blah blah, sometime between our stroll from the holiday market to the actual base of the eiffel tower, the sun ran away and it got really cold again. the all-too-familiar huddled masses waiting in line to ride the little trolley up the eiffel tower looked ominous, so we high tailed it out of there to hit our third tourist attraction: the louvre.
perhaps we were too greedy in thinking we could do three in a day. the Huddled Masses were also present at the louvre. Salina and I thought we might be able to bypass the crazy line trying to get in through the main entrance (through the pyramid) and tried to sneak through a back door, only to be foiled again: yet another line to get in through the basement entrance. we conceded defeat, promising to be back at opening time (ugh another 0745 morning) the next day, and opted to wait in line outside for angelina's hot chocolate instead.
angelina's hot chocolate is not what americans think of when they think "hot chocolate." for example, here's my word association with "hot chocolate": campfire, swiss miss, powder, watery, marshmallows, church retreat (don't ask). here's what angelina's hot chocolate actually is: rich, luscious, thick, creamy melted chocolate served with a side of unsweetened whipped cream. it was so intense that even i, the designated diabetes fairy, couldn't bear to finish a cup lest i explode from too much goodness. in addition to that we had to order le mont blanc--a towering dome of a confection that was crispy cookie, barely sweetened whipped cream and a mound of--you guessed it!--creme de marron. basically we consumed about 123098235 calories for our "afternoon snack." it definitely beat out our ghetto crepes at the eiffel tower.
after angelinas, we strolled around some more monuments at place de concord (sorry salina i know you're probably cringing) and took pictures with naked mermaids, some obelisk that looked suspiciously like the one we have in washington d.c., and headed home to get ready for Hella Baller Dinner.
to explain how baller dinner was, we had to make a reservation 6 months in advance, before we were really even sure we were going to be in Paris. it was 90 euro a person. i found out about it on david lebovitz's food blog, which i read occasionally and then get inexplicable cravings for random ice cream flavors for WEEKS. he mentioned some friends who were running a private supper club in their apartment, an exclusive meal for 12 people a few times a week. of COURSE i wanted to get on that boat. salina emailed them and we nabbed a rez and tonight was the night for us to eat at Hidden Kitchen.
i at least had the decent sense of mind to pack a frilly top but did not think to bring an accompanying cardigan or something equally girly or fancy. instead i wore a frumpy wool sweater and boots. thinking this was enough, salina and i tromped off in the direction of the restaurant, stopping by to frantically picture snap a billion photos of the gorgeous opera house (which was sadly closed) and yet another apple store where we filched more free internet. (as a aside: french computers have funny keyboards. their q's and z's and a's have done a strange hokey pokey and finished all mixed up. also, i think this is where i discovered how awesome the iPad is but i am resisting.)
we got to the dinner venue, buzzed up into someone's apartment while running into two other people who were there also for the dinner, and when we got to the 6th floor, we were greeted with ambient lighting, a chirpy American waitress and a champagne cocktail. that's how i knew that the evening was going to be awesome. there was some awkward chitchat with what eventually became 14 other people, all of them American, all of them better dressed way better than us (not a frumpy sweater in sight aside from our sorry unstylish asses), and all of them paired off in heterosexual couples. i wondered briefly (silently at first, and then whispered later to salina when i got drunk enough) whether or not they thought we could possibly be lesbian. (salina whispered back later that she mentioned her boyfriend enough so that she thought we were in the clear.)
the chefs were from the States, and the irony of going to Paris to be served food by Americans was not lost on me, but it was truly an incredible meal. 10 courses, all delicious, and all paired with wine that was equally delicious. the company was pretty good at the beginning although predictably they really only wanted to talk about food (boring!-- i discovered that night that i not only hate foodies both in america and abroad, but i also hate american foodies who live abroad), but that eventually became a non-issue with each progressive glass of wine. in short, it was the best fancypants dinner we had in paris (although there was an equally delicious yet completely different meal that i'll describe in another entry) and i do not regret a single one of those 90 euros that we spent. that i managed to make it through the evening with that amount of alcohol without groping someone inappropriately was an added bonus i'd say.
drunk and giggly, i made it home in one piece without getting lost, mostly in thanks to salina and her prudent decision to not finish every single glass of wine placed before her. then we said goodnight to another day in paris, passed out in happy bliss.