Jared in Paris!

Bonjour! Comment ca va? Je suis en Paris maintenent, et c’est un ville tres jolie!

Oops….there I go speaking in French again…hate when that happens. Its been good practice for me to be here though. If you didn’t know, I speak a little French…took it for years in school, and it was actually a subject I did well in. I was able to practice it growing up during my trips to Israel, speaking with my grandmother (who didn’t speak English, only French and Hebrew, and I didn’t speak Hebrew…only English and French, so that was the common language). Those years produced a convoluted version of French for me, so my grammar is really poor, but I am able to say what I want to say. Unfortunately, I don’t always understand what French people say to me, so I feel like an “idiot!” when they reply and I have to say “Uhhhh…do you speak English?”

OK, I want to know who reads my updates. I mean, sometimes I don’t get a lot of responses, so I am curious if these have become cumbersome to some of you, or if you are still enjoying them. So, here is a request. If you read my updates, send me an email with the following subject: “Chickens Have Beaks.”  And if you do not read my updates and do not enjoy them, send me an email with the following subject: “Chickens Have Lips.” In this way, I will know for certain if this is all to no avail.

So anyway, I am in Paris. Last I wrote, I was still in Amsterdam, roaming its evil streets and corridors. I decided I was a little old to be hanging around thousands of college kids getting stoned out of their minds. Seemed a little immature to me, and I was uncomfortable there, so I decided to leave the next day. It was my second time in Amsterdam anyway…I had been there two years ago on a more brief tour of London, Paris, and Amsterdam, so it was familiar territory. I would definitely say to the potential traveler that Amsterdam is a place that should be seen at least once in your life…but don’t stay for very long, lest you be ensnared by its evil charm.

I had to take a regular train to Brussels, Belgium, in order to catch the Paris Express, which was one of those fancy bullet trains that go nearly 200 miles an hour…the countryside seemed to wiz by as we made our way to Paris. The French countryside is flat and green, but not remarkable compared to all that I have seen thus far. It was five hours from Amsterdam to Paris, and we arrived around 5:00pm. Lucky for me, I had made a reservation at a youth hostel in advance, because I really didn’t care to deal with the quest to find a place to stay, starting from scratch upon arrival in Paris. But I still had to locate the hostel I reserved, so it was a bit of a quest anyway.

The train arrived at the Gare Du Nord train station, one of many stations here in Paris, receiving the trains from the North (Nord). It looked the same as it did last time, and I felt a sense of familiarity on arrival, so it wasn’t the usual “holy shit, where the hell am I?” feeling, because I had been here before and I knew what to expect from the place. I think the fact that I have been here before may be contributing to a lack of desire to really explore the city…don’t know why. Perhaps I am just tired of traveling.

Anyway, I found the hostel after walking about a mile, toting my bag behind me, par usual. When I arrived, I found out I had to carry my bags up four grande flights of stairs…that about wiped me out for the night, so I spent some time resting up for a bit. I met my roommate, a guy from California who had been traveling for a whole year. He was even more jaded than me, so we had stuff to talk about. We went out to dinner in the Latin Quarter section, to a French restaurant where we dined on salad with warm goat cheese. It was pretty good, but drenched in oil, thus killing any sense of being healthy. After dinner, we played chess in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral and called it a night.

So, I shall tell you a wee bit about Paris. This is a strikingly beautiful city. Its beauty rivals Rome in every way. The architecture is all stone and very ornate. There are magnificent buildings around every corner, as well as immense plazas sporting buildings fit for an empire – Daunting Roman architecture, ornate carvings, and statues. Even the regular buildings are lined with black iron railings that create a uniform sense of design.

The city has a very old feel. It is divided into two banks, the left and the right, split down the middle by the river Seine. The right bank is to the north and the left is to the south. In the middle of the river Seine, there is an island called Isle De La Cite. This is the most ancient portion of Paris and contains the Notre Dame Cathedral and other significant Parisian buildings.

To the south of Notre Dame, on the left bank, is the Latin Quarter, a bohemian section full of bars and restaurants, as well as universities and bookstores. To the far west of the left bank is the Eiffel Tower. No, it is not visible from every window in Paris. In fact, it’s hard to see from most of Paris, because it’s located on the edge.

To the north of the Isle De La Cite is the right bank containing the Royal Palace, its beautiful courtyards, and the Louvre, the world famous museum housing the Mona Lisa. Of course, there is much more to the city, tons of neighborhoods and little places to discover everywhere. The city is divided into 18 sections (I think) that run clockwise from the Louvre. My youth hostel is located in the 4th section and is near to the river Seine and some of the most beautiful buildings in Paris. I am not going to talk about seeing the following things:  The Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, or Jim Morrison’s Grave. These are things I saw last time I was here, and while they are exciting in their own right, they are not a part of my current quest for raison d’etre. Of course, if anyone is really curious, I can add a paragraph in my next book.

One thing I missed last time I was here was Mont Martre. This is a high ground in the right bank of Paris to the far north, sporting a famous cathedral called Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart.)  So, I think the French exclamation “Sacre Coeur!” is a reference to this place. Anyway, it’s a beautiful building with domes that can be seen from almost anywhere in the city, and around it is a medieval area containing restaurants and artist colonies.  So, I trekked up yonder…took the metro.

The metro here is quite efficient and extensive. I made the climb up many flights of stairs and stood before the cathedral. Beautiful. OK let me be honest here. I am pretty Cathedral’d out. I have seen soooooo many churches, medieval cathedrals of tremendous importance, that things like this don’t really provoke much in me anymore. Maybe this is sad, or maybe it’s just overkill.

There were tons of tourists around the area, and many sketch artists looking to draw my picture. There were also many street musicians and organ grinders. I have seen many organ grinders lately….I walked around the area and perused its streets. I came upon a street drummer who was walking around with a Djumbe drum slung around his neck, and he was entertaining people sitting in the restaurants. I watched him for a while and he made faces at me. He saw that I had my guitar with me….I was looking to do a little playing myself, but the area was saturated with musicians, and I didn’t want to step on anyone’s territory. I went back towards the cathedral and sat on the stairs looking out over the city. There was a guitar player there, a man with a thick Indian accent who sang a lot of classic songs in his accent…but he attracted a crowd so I sat near him to watch. He saw I had a guitar, and he invited me to play with him for a bit…we did a few tunes for the crowd, but then I got the feeling that he wanted me to leave. As soon as I packed it up, he started asking for money. Guess he didn’t want me to get a cut. Oh well, let him have it.

I left Mont Martre and began to walk back down towards the Seine, which was quite a far hike, but I felt up to it and wanted to see as much as I could. Paris starts to look the same after a while, with it’s uniform architecture all being of a similar style. After an hour of walking, I began to regret that I had set out on such a far walk. I was weary by the time I arrived on the bank of the Seine…I needed a nap.

I headed into the Royal Palace courtyard. The Royal Palace, containing the Louvre and its glass pyramid, also contains a lovely stretch of gardens and fountains that attract the lazy, such as myself. I found a chair (one of those chairs that let you recline) and I kicked it by a fountain for a few hours, wrapped my guitar case strap around my leg (so no one could steal it if I fell asleep) and snoozed the afternoon away. I awoke to some children screaming right next to me, maybe two hours later. The sun had gone down somewhat and I felt better from my rest, so I walked back to the hostel.

I was hungry and decided it was time for some hardcore French cuisine. I headed to the Latin Quarter where all the serious restaurants can be found, and searched for the one that gave me the best French aura.

I found a quaint place on one of the side streets with a roaring fire and wooded interior. I sat down and ordered up some cheese Fondue. This is typical French food at its best. They serve a boiling pot of cheese, all gooey and artery clogging, and a huge basket of bread cut up into small pieces. You take the bread and spear it with a long fork, dip it into the cheese, and eat. Pretty decadent, but had to be done. I sat there for a while reading Lord of The Rings and eating my Fondue. By the way, I am really enjoying this book…it’s fitting to read a classic fantasy travel epic while on this journey.

After dinner I headed over to the Notre Dame Cathedral, because I wanted to do a little playing. I found a spot, opened my case and let it rip. The crowd didn’t come rushing over for some reason…but I began to attract a group of Algerians who I ended up hanging out with and speaking to for the evening. Algerians have it rough in their country, and most of them would love to get out (because there is a nasty civil war and people get killed all the time), but visas are not widely available. The lucky ones get to come to France and wait for citizenship. Once they get it, they try to make it to the U.S. …. it’s the dream of so many to come to the USA. We are lucky to have the freedoms we have.

End of day.

Middle of the night, awoken by a snoring roommate who I tapped and politely asked to roll over. He replied, “Fuck you”.

Next day, I decided to go to the Chateaux De Versailles. I hope I am spelling this right. Versailles was the home to many French kings, including most of the Louis series…it was about an hour train ride to the Chateaux. This will be brief…..

Versailles is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have seen since the Vatican. It is a huge palace surrounded by extensive gardens and fountains, full of flowers and statues. The building itself is so beautifully adorned, with carvings and golden gates. It has an immense courtyard in front.

I stood in that area and admired the building from the outside. What it must take to build such structures, I could never know. But to be sure, the kings of old commissioned some pretty serious projects. I took a tour of the inside around the kings apartments and halls. It was a lot like the Vatican, each room hand painted with scenes from the bible, or political depictions, portraits of kings and queens, men of nobility. The adornments were sensory overload, and I am not really able to describe them. Suffice to say, I have had my senses overloaded so much, I am finding it hard to sense anything anymore….

So, that takes me up to the present. As you may have guessed from some of my comments, I am feeling a bit weary and de-sensitized. I suppose this is because of the shear amount of things that I have done and seen, but it’s unfortunate that I am feeling this way with nearly a whole month ahead of me. Well, perhaps when I leave Paris and this familiar sense, I will have a new feeling of exploration and discovery. At least I have been writing some songs…

Remember, respond to my poll.


Jared in the South of France

Greetings world, how art thou?

So, it’s been a few days since I have last written. Just to say, I am thankful to know that so many Chickens have Beaks. If you don’t get that…then maybe you should read my last update!

I am currently in the south of France in a lovely little area called Nice (pronounced Neece).  It’s the French Riviera….sounds glamorous and stuff, eh? Well, it is. It’s pretty beautiful. I left Paris three days ago now…I think….I enjoyed Paris a lot, but I needed a change to something I haven’t seen ever before. I don’t know if Nice was the change I needed, but it brings me closer to Spain anyway, and that I am sure will be another world.

Nice is a lovely town on the beach with an old part and a new part. The new part is a strip along the water full of hotels and restaurants. The beaches are all rocky though…hmmm…..and check it out! All  beaches are topless! Well….not that I would look or anything…

There are some casinos and ritzy hotels along the water that I could not possibly afford, so I stayed for the first two nights in the old city in the most dumpy hotel I have ever been to in my life. The room was just nasty…the walls were all dirty and stained with God knows what….and it just gave me the creeps…I had booked two nights there and the morning I was supposed to change to my next hotel, I got the hell out so fast…I didn’t even check out…just threw my keys on the desk and left. My new hotel is much nicer….no stains…the decor is right out of the Brady Bunch, but at least I don’t feel gross there.

The Old City of Nice reminds me a bit of the windy streets of Venice, though there is not nearly as much to see. You have your standard array of churches and significant historical sites….I mostly skip them now, because I have had my fill. But there are a lot of good restaurants! OH YEAH. When I was doing my laundry on my first day here, I met this guy who is also a musician, and he invited me to his gig at some pub that night….I went down to check it out and ended up having a really good time….met a lot of cool people to hang out with.

Yesterday I went to Cannes, a nearby town where a really high profile film festival is going on right now. So, I walked around there watching the frenzies of people who were looking to see movies stars. There were crowds of people gathered outside this one hotel, and every few minutes people would start screaming like mad…I guess someone famous was coming out….but, what insanity! This must be like Hollywood.

Today, I am going to Monaco and Monte Carlo…if you have never heard of it, this is a small country that is attached to France… I think it’s just a town, really, but they are their own country!  Supposedly it’s very rich and it’s the playground of all kinds of notables…we shall see.

Speaking of Organ Grinders in my last email, the other day I saw one with a real Monkey. The monkey was sitting on top of the organ, dressed like a little boy…he looked pissed off. The grinder guy was dragging the organ around this restaurant trying to make some money. The monkey just sat there and did nothing. Aren’t they supposed to walk around with a little cup? Anyway, I kept my distance, because I was traumatized as a kid when I saw a monkey and an organ grinder and I tried to give the monkey some money, but it bit me….but this time, I stood back an watched, because I hadn’t seen a monkey up close in years. Anyway, all of a sudden the monkey gets up and starts flinging its hands at a group of people standing right near me…needless to say they were a bit frightened and plowed backward into me….luckily I was strong enough to break the fall….ouch.

Well, I think this will be a short one, since I know many of you just skim them anyway!  I am havin’ a good time still…no worries…I am off to Monaco today. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom…..


Jared in Madrid (Yep, Spain!)

Buenos Dias!

I am currently in Madrid, Spain. You may ask yourself, “How the hell does he do it?  I mean, he´s been going crazy for nearly three months!”  Well, yeah, you are right. I am crazy.  But, I have three  weeks before I have to return to the states, and I wanna put some more mileage in over here.

I am gonna do Madrid, then maybe Toledo. After that, I plan to plow on into Portugal and hit Lisbon, the capitol. Then, back into Spain to Seville, and then down to the rock of Gibraltar. I will cross the straights of Gibraltar and roam around Morocco for a day or two. And then, back to Spain again, and up to Barcelona, if not something else first. We shall see if all this happens.

Last I left you, Batman was about to go check out Monte Carlo…that´s in Monaco…though, I don’t really know what the difference is. Monaco is an independent sovereignty, but it is in France and you don’t need a passport or visa to get there…it’s basically just a town. I guess Monte Carlo is the capitol?  Whatever. Anyway, I went there on Sunday. Everything was closed, and I found it to be quite boring. The buildings were very nice…everything looked very rich. There were a lot of fancy cars and elderly tourists walking around. The whole place is centered on a casino…I think that’s where the rich and famous spend all their cash. Otherwise, there’s some ritzy hotels, some nice beaches, and a beautiful coast line.

The south of France is very nice and relaxing…a good place to come and get away from life in NY, or wherever you may live. I met a lot of cool people in Nice and spent my time hanging out with them. Meeting people makes all the difference when you are traveling….it is the line between loneliness and companionship. And the latter is a necessity when you are alone on a journey like this one.

So, after I had my fill of Nice, I decided to head for Spain. Little did I know, it was a 22- hour train ride to Madrid! What was I thinking? That was by far the longest ride yet….I had to take a train to Montpellier, France, and then change to Barcelona. In Barcelona I hopped a night train to Madrid. Lucky me, there were no Couchettes left (that’s a bed compartment) so I got to pile in with five fat, smelly Spaniards who snored. It was a loooooong ride.

I am here. I arrived at 7:00am and checked into a hotel. I decided I have had enough of youth hostels and sharing rooms with noisy people…time for a little privacy and luxury, as long as it is under $30 a night.

I plan to eat a lot of chicken and rice…some serious tortillas, tapas, and whatever else I can get my hands on. Tomorrow, I will go running with the Bulls, and the day after I shall join Francisco’s school for the Fledgling Conquistador. Next week, I will go conquer south America for King Ferdinand!

Or maybe, I’ll hit a few bars and get happy….all depends on how I feel. I’ll be sure to let you know.

Spain’s colors are tan and sandy looking….allow me to go romp and play in the dunes.