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Day 2 in Paris
December 13, 2014 02:33
We awakened and wandered down the street to a local bakery. The girl running the place didn't speak English, and although she accepted credit cards, the reader was slow. Both of these issues meant that a long line had accumulated behind us, and our presence there was clearly not the highlight of anyone's day. Oh well, we can be stupid Americans with the best of them, I suppose.
After getting out of earshot of the place, we sat down and ate, then got on the train to head to Notre Dame. The line was.. well.. long, but not as long as the line going into the church. No, we were in line to climb the bell tower. Yes. This was a great idea. 400 steps. Now, 400 steps is typically something like 25-40 stories. I've done this before, even without a rest in between, and while I'd be a bit winded when I reached the top, it wasn't a HUGE deal. Of course, I'm used to your typical straight staircase, where you climb several steps, reach a landing, then climb up again in the opposite direction to the next landing. The staircases in the bell towers were not like that. It was a spiral staircase all the way to the top, with a single landing about halfway up. For some reason, this was a LOT more challenging than your typical staircase would be. More so, near the very top, the staircase and the steps got extremely narrow. I found myself actively grabbing the steps in front of me (while standing up straight), to aid in climbing it.
Once we reached the top, we took some pictures and admired the view, and then proceeded to descend back down. I wasn't anticipating that this would be even more complicated than going up was. Down is always easier, right? Right? Still, I advised a few of the people behind me that they should probably go first, as I wasn't planning on getting in any kind of hurry, but they insisted that I could go first and it wouldn't be a problem. Well, getting up the extremely narrow part of the staircase was manageable, going DOWN that same area was a trifle more complicated. The steps at that point were maybe 5 inches wide, and I wear a size 12 1/2 shoe. This means more than half of my foot is hanging off the front of the step. And that's the WIDEST edge of the step. As it's a spiral staircase, the closer the step gets to the center of the spiral, the narrower it is. Therefore, I am taking every single step one at a time, putting both feet on each step before taking a step down, holding onto the rail with a death grip and leveraging myself against the center pillar with my right hand. This was time consuming and far more exhausting than I was expecting. Not until I was about 1/3 of the way down, was I able to climb down in a more conventional manner.
Those who were in front of me apparently did not suffer the same coordination issues that I did and therefore made it to the bottom several minutes before I (and the few people behind me) did. This resulted in the friends of the girls behind me proclaiming their concern that they had gotten lost or something. I proudly annouced that it was all my fault, and Gertie and I wandered off to find other things to do. It was raining at the time, so we ducked into a nearby exhibit which was a roman bath / Notre Dame history museum of sorts. Mostly it was an opportunity for me to rest a bit after all the stairs.
Once the rain abated, we wandered through a few gift shops and ate lunch at a gyro place. Also found St-Severin church and we walked through it a bit, but I didn't take any pictures. When we left there, we passed a couple of extremly bold panhandlers. They just stood in our path holding out their hand. Nope, no "will work for food" signs here, just flat out "give me money" body language. Nevertheless, we ignored them and walked past.
It was getting into mid-afternoon at this point, and Gertie had arranged to meet up with a few Redditors at La Rhumerie, so we found the bar, but still had about 45 minutes to kill, so we wandered around the stores in the area until meeting time. Either nobody else had showed up, or we never recognized any of them. It's not like we knew any of them anyway, we were just trying to meet up with some locals, and Reddit seemed like as good a place to find them as any. No matter, we ate some bar food and I drank a couple of Pina Coladas and eventually we staggered out of there and metro'ed our way back to the hotel.