Residing year round at Montebellucci headquarters (otherwise known as the sodden cardboard box beneath the BQE overpass), makes a girl yearn to get away. Although, my digs are coming along quite nicely.
I've been lucky over the course of my "life" to have spent a lot of time "abroad". How? You may ask. Well, I took a substantial amount of time "finding myself" before ultimately realizing that my ideal life involved living in the world's most expensive and unforgiving city, while attempting to shape the minds of today's youth (pictured below).
It's going pretty well.
Anyway, when I'm down in the proverbial dumps, or my abode is leaking acid rain, I like to cast my mind back and remember the good times I've had elsewhere.
When the resident Manimal and I travel, we like to go beyond the standard tourist fare. We aim to venture past the Mona Lisas and Lady Liberties of this world, to experience a town by exploring its true beauty, to see the places which only the locals know.
So, as a personal favor to all of you, a way of thanking you for all your thought-provoking and encouraging comments (ahem), I have decided to pass along some of my favorite "hidden gems" if you will. It will be like a Lonely Planet for weirdos. A Frohmer's for the disaffected. I will be your own personal Rick Steeves (except not a ranga), as we slip away for a virtual tour of the lost corners of our world.
First up: Gay Paree!
Ah, Paris. The city of lights. The only place I know of in which every element of the city colludes to show you exactly how inferior you, and your life, really are. Compare:
Paris: Gives their homeless TENTS! These are bigger, and in a better location, than my real house.
Our bums simply sleep where they fall down. Zut alors!
Snacks in Paris are like little jewels for one's mouth.
Which makes me feel a little shameful for my 3pm "pick me up". Good thing they come in packs of 14!
And, of course, the fashion. When you walk around in Paris you see young ingenues, wizened (yet hot) older women and men whose clothes are devoid of pit and/or food stains. Incroyable!
I prefer the comfort, and versatility, of Pajama Jeans (motto: "Pajamas to live in, jeans to sleep in").
Fear not, gentle reader. I am not attempting to dissuade you from visiting the jewel in France's judgey eye. No, rather I want you to go in with your eyes open. Pack your fancy Snuggie and perfect your look of abject boredom, is all.
So, on to the guide.
If you read my previous post, you may remember that one of my jumping photos (TM!) was in front of a Boule de Curage. This giant poo ball was the highlight of my trip to our first hidden travel gem: The Paris Sewers!
That's right reader, if you want to impress the locals there's no better way than being well versed in their city's scatalogical history.
As Victor Hugo himself remarked, "The sewer is the conscience of the city. Everything there converges and confronts everything else. In that livid spot there are shades, but there are no longer any secrets. Each thing bears its true form, or at least, its definitive form. The mass of filth has this in its favor, that it is not a liar."This, my friends, is the beauty of the Paris sewers. Their truth. This is life: raw, stinky and whose definitive form is an estuary of turds.
Les Egouts as they are known, are hidden beneath the streets of Paris. Find the nondescript entrance and descend a flight of stairs to enter a vast netherworld of dank, festering awesomeness. I recommend surprising your travel mates with the tour (as my brother-in-law did to us) by pretending to be visiting the famed Catacombs. The looks on their faces will be priceless as the smell alerts them that something is amiss.
Once in your subterranean paradise, take a moment to soak in your surrounds. You'll see a five-ton "flushing boat", and a large basin that traps solid material from wastewater. Beneath you, a river of poo flows languidly as it has done for centuries.
*An aside: Until as recently as the 1970's you could take a tour down the raging rapids of raw sewage in one of these boats. Imagine, it would be like a Parisian Splash Mountain!
As you delve deeper in to the depths of this delightful museum, you will encounter various tableaux depicting scenes of daily life in the Egouts. Behold, here is yours truly posing with the Rat Tableau. Look how curious they are! "Hey Ronnie," they seem to be calling, "Please join our ratastical clan. It's ever so much fun!"
As you press on further, you'll come across a veritable treasure trove of sewer related machinery and miscellany. Here, my intrepid sister-in-law poses with a menagerie of sewer-related footware: waders, jaunty knee boots and galoshes. I was particularly intrigued by a kicky pair of Mary Janes. Mary Janes! Sweet sassy molassey, that style-conscious sewerista was a braver lass than I.
Don't forget to end your tour at the gift shop. Here you will find all manner of wonderful stocking stuffers and trinkets for the folks back home. In addition to the fabulous Boule de Curage pen (see previous post), you will find postcards, T-shirts and stuffed rats to spend your hard-earned doubloons on.
But it's not all fascinating sewer facts and fun, Les Egouts embody the sense of romance Paris is famous for. Valentine's Day is coming up, y'all! Why not take your boo on a whirlwind sewer tour and show them how much you care. It worked for the Manimal and I.
I dub this photo "Sewer Love".