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Chapter the second... still no pictures.  
12:10pm 03/07/2005
 
 
Benjamin
We got off the plane in the London/ something-or-other airport. After collecting our various and assorted sundries, we got a bus to the "real" London, where things got interesting. Mike had lived in that country before so we made him chief. After making it into the city proper, we set about looking for a place to sleep and stash our stuff. The short version is that it took us four hours to do this, and the long version is too painful to relate. No, not really. Here's how it went down. We took the tube to the approximate center of the city, and started looking for a place to stay so we could dump our packs and make base camp. On Mike's recommendation, we targeted a YMCA that was reputed to be a high-end hostel, with rooms for small groups, as opposed to the "claim a spot on the basketball court" type. Apparently, people that stay at the YMCA don't often take cabs, because the cabbies did not know how to get there. Well, at least not the first 5 we talked to. Finally, an address was found for the YMCA, and we were delivered there. It was booked to capacity, due to some music festival thing going on, so Nonym and myself guarded the stuff while mike and rick went in search of other places to stay. They came back a while later with the good news and another while later, we were checking in to our new digs.

As it was too early to actually get into the room, we dropped off our stuff and went for food, which turned out to be truly spectacularly good food, as had become the norm so far. I can safely say that I have had one of the truly great hamburgers of my life now, right up there with those two in Mexico. After the eating, we came back to hotel, and checked in for real. Funnily, the rooms we got were significantly different from one another, despite the similarity of their prices. The room I shared with Nonym was palatial compared to the one claimed by Rick and Mike. Their room had two beds against opposite walls, with about 2 feet of space in between. The bathroom was closet-sized, with the door placed about 10 or so inches in front of the toilet, making it impossible for anyone over 5'8" to be seated without pulling up their legs so their knees did not hit the door. Ours was a three passenger room, and had about three times the volume of their 2 sleeper. It was actually funny how great the disparity was. Rick saw fit to address the issue with the clerk, and this was good, because they were able to have a three passenger room for themselves, making things fair, and all happy. Once this was done, we went out to Slimelight, and a good time was had. While at Slimelight, I tried to track down Psyche, as that was her known haunt. I was told that she had left the country the week preceding. ... "sigh". But at least the Slimelight rocked. Great music, strong drinks, we even found the other room, where the "hard" stuff was being played. I wish we had had more time to play, I would love to become a regular there.

The next morning, I was surprised, nay, astounded to find that I was not hung over in the slightest. Considering the amount of alcohol I'd consumed, I ought to have been solidly fucked up. Something like 4 or 5 shots of tequila, and 3 or four bacardi breezer-lookin thingies. Followed by a ride to the hotel that also qualified as a ride in the carnival sense of the word. The cabbie was clearly an ex-racecar driver who had been forced to retire for mental health reasons. Luckily, I was ploughed and so enjoyed the ride immensely. At one point, referring to cab driver as an "artiste of velocity". Nonym does not drink, and so was not in the proper frame of mind to really appreciate the intricacies of the experience. Hence, she spent the majority of the automotive slalom course in the fetal position, making small and squeaky noises.

National gallery stories later. Like now. Well, actually there aren't any stories about the national gallery. We went there, we saw a lot of cool things, we were not allowed to take pictures of any of them, and we left. There was a bit of an adventure, when a miscommunication got me separated from the group, but we did find each-other in the end, and all was well. After the gallery, we went to the Texas Embassy, which was a restaurant nearby, and had some drinks. There was supposed to have been food, but we were moved to another section, and our food order did not follow us. The wait staff was sorry and so our drinks were comped. So, no food, but free drinks. I guess it worked out.

We made it to the London museum the next morning, and started seeing the sights. There were many many pictures taken, and we got to experience the most polite and gentle fire alarm in the world. According to the security guard, the tones we heard repeating meant that there was a fire alarm in another section that had gone off, and we were in no trouble at that time. However, if the repeating tones became a constant tone, we would have had to get the hell out as fast as our little legs could carry us. So naturally, at this news, we started taking pictures as fast as we could, in case the worst came to pass, as we had to high-tail it out of there. The worst did not, in fact, come to pass, and all was well, except for the low quality of some of the rushed pictures.

When we left the museum, we went to the tower of London, and got the guided tour. I feel that I should at this point reveal a state secret of the British Empire. The tower of London is not, in fact, a tower. It's more like a few interlocking castles with some pointy bits in the middle. The tour guide was really cool. Both witty and informative. it was fairly clear to me, and I think to all of us that he was one of those rare tour guides that actually enjoys their work. Many pictures were taken there as well. I think that about covers our adventures in merry old London...

There was not time to record things our first day in Paris. Mostly, this was because it sucked in oh so many ways. We got from the airport to the hotel in reasonably good time. The cab fare was kinda steep, but that's no biggie. Getting through customs was no problem. The fella manning the checkpoint was possibly the most intensely bored being in existence, sentient or otherwise. Seriously, I've seen trees with greater agility and drive. He didn't ask for the passports, he didn't give a damn if we had anything to declare, hell, he didn't even look up. He just waved us through as if we really weren't worth his time to speak to, much less inquire as to a damned thing. God bless french indifference! We were all pretty drug out from the trip, and having to be up at 3:30 that morning to make the flight out of London something-or-other airport. We got to the hotel, a little place called Chantalou or something, which, I think was actually a suburb of euro-Disney, whose form could be made out against the horizon. Disney ... maybe next time. Once we arrived at the Hotel, we learned that we would not be able to check in until 4.00 that afternoon. We discovered this at about 09.00. However, they were nice enough to let us drop off our bags. We did that, and proceeded toward Paris proper, where hilarity did ensue.

Interesting side note about Paris; you know how here in the states, Sunday is the general "day off" for most places? Well, in Paris, it's Tuesday that everyone likes to chill out. Maybe it's a cultural thing, and they do their drinking Monday night? I don't know.

We had a hard time deciphering the french mass transit system, and still were not even close to correct. I think they make it confusing on purpose. We spent several hours wandering around Paris looking for the catacombs, after discovering that the money changing place was not going to be open until 2.30. Nonym was miserable from the cold and the stress of the trip. Oh yeah, did I mention that in Traveling from London to Paris, i.e. several hundred miles closer to the equator, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees? No? .. It did. So anyway, she had a joy-free zone going on, for several good reasons, which was upsetting me sympathetically. Rick and Mike were both just tired and chilly from the stomping about and the early morning, and we were all well past frustrated at out seemingly inexplicable lack of ability to find the Catacombs. C'mon, they're the fucking CATACOMBS for crying out loud. One of the most famous things about Paris, not to mention cover a hell of a lot of area. Finally, after much hardship, at last, we found the catacombs. This was only made possible with the aid of the single polite Frenchman in the city, and (surprise!) they were closed for renovation, until next month. ... ::sigh::

After that rigorous beating at the hands of Murphy, we went back to the hotel for a nap before dinner, and ended up sleeping for the night. We woke up this morning, had breakfast, which was pretty good, and then hopped a train back into Paris to see the sights, and find a place to do some laundry.

At some point the next day, we ended up taking a little rest on a big lawn in between the Eiffel tower and some other really cool looking building which we suspected might have been the Louvre. Mike is laying down. I'm typing this, and Nonym is taking pictures of random stuff. ... like us. It's kinda pleasant here. So far, we've seen the inside of the Paris metro, the arch de triumph, and the Eiffel tower. Now we have the Louvre and Notre dame left to go to complete our Paris agenda. This morning, we had breakfast at McDonalds, which had within it, a real-life honest to god "McCafe". It was funny, and the cashier was one of the most spectacularly beautiful women I've ever seen. Me, being the dumbass I am, got a picture of the McCafe, but not the hot chick.
 
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