Most of Paris was a whirlwind--500 paintings at the Musee d'Orsay in under 2 hours, whip through Notre Dame (and then climb to the top), race to the top of the Arc de Triomphe before it closes. Versailles? Just make sure that the hoards of schoolchildren on tours don't slow you down (and try to keep them our of your photos, while you're at it). Much of the time I felt like I was being swept along in a current of tourists, which does not bring out the best in me nor in the people around me. Along those lines, I'd like to say in public:
* To the French woman standing in the bathroom line at Versailles: Just because you're speaking in French doesn't mean that I can't pick out the words "American" and "Tennis Shoes", especially when I'm two inches away from you, wearing tennis shoes. You're in a tourist attraction--expect people to dress for comfort when they're walking 5 miles.
* To the American tourist who exclaimed "these people are SO PUSHY" when I tried to politely get around her in order to not lose my friend, just before she extended her elbows to keep me from getting around: Which people? The American tourists? Because while many of the European tourists crowded me in a way that is unacceptable in the American West, nobody but you actually tried to prevent me from getting somewhere, or pushed me. Way to take a stand! p.s. there are people in Europe who understand English.
Let the record show that I didn't say either of these things to these people at the moment--I don't think that it would have made the situation better.
Although the too-quick pace and lack of non-touristy exploration in Paris was very frustrating for me, one of the highlights of the whole trip was a meal at the home of one of S___'s friends. He met V______ in China when they were studying there maybe 10 years ago, and have kept in touch since then. She invited us to her home for a typical French dinner, and it was one of the most relaxing (and delicious) evenings of the trip. The main course was duck, prepared in a steak-like form and served rare. I've eaten duck before, but this is the first time I really enjoyed it. The conversation was great, and her husband and kids were a lot of fun to meet. The youngest child is the boy I knit the striped baby hat for, which unfortunately will probably be too small by the time winter comes around. The age buffer that I used for the sizing wasn't big enough, or maybe my gauge was too tight, or maybe the baby has a larger than average head. It's the risk you run with baby hats, and maybe it will fit in the end--in any case, I'm glad that I brought it along.
After two very short days in Paris, it was on to Venice for one day to visit M__ and J____. Although every bit at overrun by tourists as Paris, Venice was an oasis, I'll post about it later this weekend (I hope). I've had some questions about how the tiny computer worked out (pretty well), and I'm putting together a "travel gear roundup" / "knitting" post, also hopefully for later this weekend. Can I just say how happy I am that it's a three day weekend???