It was 8 o'clock sharp and my family and I were right on time for breakfast at the Hotel Marignan in Paris, France. It was only the third day that we had stayed there and we were had already settled into what was practically a home away from home. The old lady who served the breakfast met us at our small table in the corner of the breakfast room. "Trois cafe et un chocolate?" she inquired with a smile. We nodded and she shuffled back into the kitchen. It could not have been but 5 minutes later when a truck pulled up outside the hotel. The old lady hurried out to the truck and returned a few minutes later with a large bag. She did not even attempt to convey to us the contents of the bag, since she knew that we could understand little french. Instead, she retrieved a piece of the freshly baked breakfast baguettes from the bag and touched it to my mothers arm. The warmth of the bread surprised my mother, who smiled up at our server saying, "chaud." The old lady nodded her head and grinned.
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After breakfast, we took a train to Chartres, a town near Paris. It was a clear, sunny day, so when we exited the train station we had a fairly nice view of the Chartres cathedral in the distance. The building was a magnificent piece of architecture. Its two towers were visible from practically every point in the entire city. There was not one nook or cranny on the outside of the building that was not occupied by some sort of statue or gargoyle. Inside the church, it was even more magnificent. The church had been built later than the Notre Dame in Paris. Thus, it was much more light filled and open than the dark interior of Paris' most famous cathedral. The center of the church's floor was covered in an elaborate labyrinth. The maze was meant to serve as a journey of repentance for Christian visitors. My father quietly lit a candle in the back of the church while my sister and I wandered around the building, admiring the art along the walls. Being adventurous, we decided to take the 300 step climb to the top of the cathedral. My sister and I took the steps at quick pace. The stairs ran up and up in a tight spiral with nothing but a rope railing to hang onto. After climbing for a seemingly endless period of time, we reached the end of our road. For a while, we both leaned against the wall of the church, our breaths coming out in short gasps and our calves twitching tiredly. Suddenly my sister, who had stumbled out into the sunlight, gasped and pulled me out after her. My jaw dropped. To say that the view was gorgeous does not do it justice. It was like nothing I had ever seen. The town stretched out beneath us like a doll's village. It seemed as if we were on the top of the world. After almost taking more pictures than our cameras could hold and wandering around the spires, admiring the gargoyles, we reluctantly returned to the stairs. By the time we had reached the bottom, our legs felt like rubber. However our day was not over.
Chartres is well known for its excellent open markets. We wandered through the streets of Chartres until we found the produce market. A live band of men in bright yellow Hawaiian shirts played a series of spirited tunes as we wandered through rows and rows of fresh fruits and vegetables. The smell was enough to make one's mouth water. We even passed a small freezer of fresh meat, which was filled with piles of chickens with their heads still attached and skinned rabbits with eyes staring out at us. Just a few blocks over, there was another market of flowers. After wandering amongst the brilliant bouquets, my mother dragged us all to the clothes market with my father following behind reluctantly. Colorful assortments of purses, necklaces, shirts, and dresses filled a seemingly endless sea of booths. Eventually though, our shopping spree came to a close and we left the markets feeling satisfied with our day.
At the train station, we found that we had a 20 minute wait to return to Paris. Walking towards a newspaper stand to buy a few drinks, my father said, "Hey look! Michael Jackson is dead!" My sister and I rolled our eyes and laughed. "Right." I said. "No really." Dad replied. "Look." Dad pointed calmly towards a newspaper with glaring words, "Michael Jackson est morte!" My sister and I took one look at each other and screamed. It was unbelievable. Our spectacle was regarded calmly by the locals. They must have been used to crazy American tourists.
Our train ride seemed relatively short after the tiring excitement of our day. By the time we exited the metro stop that was closest to our hotel, we were ready for some cold drinks and a nice hunk of fresh French cheese from our local fromagerie. Instead, we were greeted by the sounds of a loud celebration. We expected a ruckus over the death of the King of Pop, but instead we came up upon a gay pride parade. Rainbow colors flooded the street, along with bearded men in high heels and thick makeup. A gold float came by to the sound of Christina Aguilera's Lady Marmalade. It was filled with men painted with glittering gold and wearing skin colored tights. Each one had on a black nun's habit. Over their heads waved a banner that read "School of Perpetual Indulgence." My sister laughed, and I tried my best not to stare. Our bellies were calling to us, so we walked down the street to our favorite fromagerie. Inside, it smelled like heaven on earth. The cheese was fresh and soft, just the way we loved it. A young boy who worked at the shop came up to my mother and I as we stood at the shop window. "It is a gay party." he stated with a smile. "They are having fun, no?" All we could do at that moment was laugh along with him.
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