I’ve Seen Paris…and that’ll do for quite some time.

28 Jul

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Our Paris day started early with a car that picked us up from the hotel at 5:00 am.  This day trip was the only part of our Europe trip that was an organized tour.  We thought this would be the best course since we don’t speak French and only had one day to navigate the huge city of Paris.  It’s funny that we would be sitting in the lobby of our hotel at 5:00 am and walk out the door and get into the car of the first man that walked in and said “James?”  I think tourists could be very easy targets for someone that had ulterior motives!  Anyway, all turned out well and after stopping at another hotel and picking up a group there, our little tour was ready to depart.

The driver dropped us off at the international train station to board the Eurostar.  We’d become familiar with the other trains, but the Eurostar is a high-speed train that travels 150 mph, travels under the English Channel through a tunnel and is able to make the trip from London to Paris in just under 2 – 1/2 hours.   We arrived in Paris and our tour guide Michael was waiting for us there.

First on the agenda was a tour of the city’s major sites, then a stop at the Eiffel Tower.  Before we exited the bus, our guide warned us that we should be aware of pick-pockets, people selling cheap trinkets (they were everywhere and could be very insistent) and of people pretending to be deaf asking you to sign a clip-board.  Once they had your signature, they would ask for a donation stating that they represented a deaf organization. If that felt the donation was too small, they would then say they had a minimum donation amount of:_____.   He told us that there is no such organization in Paris, and that we should just say no and move on.

There were huge crowds at the Eiffel Tower, but we were able to get through fairly quickly with the group passes we were given.  We then boarded the lift (not elevator as in the US) to take us up to the viewing decks.  It really was  a beautiful view. We stayed up there for quite some time.   I took lots of pictures and then Jimmy and I decided to walk down the stairs instead of riding the lift back down.  From platform to platform is 324 steps (according to our guide) and we walked down two platforms, so by the time we got to the bottom, we were certainly feeling it!

We were instructed to meet back up with the group and our guide at the pier on the Siene River (at the base of the tower) to board a boat for a river cruise.  By the time we navigated through the throngs of people, we only had about 10 minutes to spare before we had to board the boat.  We hadn’t eaten lunch, so we stopped at the first food booth we came to in order to grab a quick lunch.  At first it appeared that they were primarily selling hotdogs and hamburgers!  I told Jimmy it would be a shame to come all the way to Paris and have to eat a hot dog for lunch! (He said a hotdog sounded pretty good to him, but I wasn’t about to go for that!)  As we got closer to the food cases, we saw that they also had paninis, so we each ordered a panini, and bought a little pouch of things that looked like donut holes sprinkled with sugar.  (I at least  hoped the donut holes  were French, I think paninis are Italian!)

We ate on the boat and enjoyed seeing the city from the river.  It sprinkled for about 5 minutes or so while we were on the boat, but we were under a clear glass roof so we didn’t get wet.  Once we finished the cruise, it was back on the bus and to the Louvre Museum.

The Louvre is a massive place and since our time was limited, we plotted out our course to see the most famous exhibits first.  We started with the Mona Lisa, located her on the map and made our way to the room she was in.  The closer we got, the more crowded it became.  I can now say that I’ve seen that famous painting with my own eyes, but don’t totally understand why all the fuss.  It’s a small painting, relatively speaking, and we weren’t able to get very close at all, because people were wedged in front of it shoulder to shoulder several deep.  So though we started our tour of the Louvre trying to find the Mona Lisa, the rest of our time there was spent trying to avoid her!  Every time we’d turn a corner and see a sign with a directional arrow pointing toward the Mona Lisa, we’d jokingly say we didn’t want to go anywhere near her and turn in the opposite direction.

You could spend days in that museum and still not finish seeing it all.  We enjoyed the great paintings, especially the exhibit displaying Christian art, and were able to see many famous sculptures as well.  I think we covered a great deal of ground given the time we had.  We never stopped, trying to get as much in as possible.

At 6:00 pm, we met back up with the group, headed out to the bus and traveled back to the train station.  The trip should have been a short one, given the few miles we had to travel (I doubt it was even 2 or 3 miles total) but the traffic was horrific!  We crept along in the bus just inching toward our destination.  I noticed that there are apparently no rules when it comes to the traffic in Paris.  This is especially true at  intersections.  The roads are just jammed with cars and busses, and zipping in and out of traffic between the cars and busses are motorcycles and bicycles.  I don’t know how some of them have survived as long as they have.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  It’s bad enough on the straight aways, but in the intersections, it’s each man for himself.  There is no clear way to cross an intersection.  Drivers don’t yield the right of way and there could be any number of cars all trying to wedge their way in from every direction.  It appears that the car that’s the least concerned about having to visit a body shop is the one that finally gets across.  Sometimes they would pull out and go around each other, sometimes they’d have a face-off and just honk til someone gave in and backed up.  And the whole time bicycles and motorcycles are darting in and out between the stalled cars.  I saw a woman just jump out of the back seat of a car and run off!  Guess she was late for an appointment and knew she’d never get out of the gridlock.  It was crazy!

It took so long to get to the train station, we didn’t have time to eat before leaving Paris, so we waited until we got back to London and ate at a restaurant near the train station called Prezzo.  It was really good!  We weren’t sure they would still be serving since it was about 10:20 pm before we got in, but they were and the food was great.

I guess everyone should see Paris if given the opportunity, but I think one visit will do me for quite some time.  I’m sure the city has much to offer, but I think I’d enjoy the French countryside (which was beautiful out the windows of the Eurostar) much more on my next visit.

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