Jul 18, 2012

A Day in Paris

Travel info. and extra photos at the bottom of this post.

We arrived in Paris just days before a new President was to be sworn in. There was great excitement and hope-for-change among the people in the French countryside, but less so in Paris. Paris was too thug for all those warm, fuzzy political promises. Paris had a shrug-of-the-shoulders feel about it – this President or that President, no difference, they're all schmucks.

We walked right on past the crowded Louvre and began to stroll down the Champs-Elysees. We by-passed the high priced stores, pushed through the touristy crowd and found an outdoor table at a cafe'. The King George V cafe'. Even the layout of the tables was crowded, just inches apart. We decided to make this our big meal of the day. I got beef bourguignon and Marj got steak and fries, poor thing, she was really missing her American food.

The Europeans get their coffee after the meal and drink it leisurely. I studied up so I would know what to order, they don't seem to have coffee like I drink here in America. Here's the chart I studied up on:
  • Cafe' = always an espresso, always about 3 Tbsp. Worth.
  • Cafe' American = espresso with hot water.
  • Cafe' crème = espresso with hot milk
  • Cafe' noisette = machiato – espresso with steamed milk
Unfortunately, at the King George V, as you see in the photo above, I forgot and ordered my cafe' with my meal. Very obviously a tourist, but actually everyone in that area was a tourist, not a big surprise.

We paid the hefty fare and slipped back into the flow of pedestrian traffic towards the Arc de Triomphe.

The Arc is dedicated to all who fought for France, especially those in the Napoleonic Wars. It was commissioned by Napoleon and was built in the early 19th century. There are 284 steps to the top and no elevator for the common folk.  There might be an elevator for the disabled. There burns an eternal memorial flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, honoring those who fought in World War I.

We took the tunnel under the 5-lane traffic circle that surrounds the monument and climbed up the other side at the foot of the monument. The line to go up to the top for a presumably great view of Paris was too long, so we skipped it and dawdled around the base. It's a beautiful monument.  A great place to pause, remember, rest.  We dawdled.  We read engraved names.  We gazed upward.  We sat, cuddled, giggled the can't believe we are in Paris giggle.

Thirty minutes later we returned through the tunnel, hailed a pedicab and headed towards the Seine for fresh air, flowing water and much less people.

We took a boat tour on the river, but didn't hear most of the audio tour due to technical difficulties.  So the architectural history of Paris remains a mystery to me.  The views were awesome though.

Over 30 bridges cross the Seine and the banks – quais – are adorable with people lounging around, frolicking among cozy riverside walkways.

The best riverside walking is between the Pont de la Concorde and the Pont de Sully.  The Seine is an olive brown, fast moving and narrow.  It flows proudly, gracefully through the city with houseboats docked and children playing on its banks.

Fresh air, sun and a cool breeze with the city of Paris gently flowing by.
Après-midi glorieux!

Travel Info.

Best way to spend Midnight in Paris
A weekend trip from Paris:  Amboise

I organize most of our travel arrangements and plans, but if I ever go back to Paris, I will sign up for many tours. I found Paris difficult to navigate and the history overwhelming, I would have loved for someone to walk me through it.

If you're using public transportation, get the multi-day tourist pass – The Paris Visite card. It's well worth it, but it's rather flimsy and can be lost or destroyed easily. The metro (subway) is a little confusing, but reliable. The RER (suburban express) is wonderful. Be careful, public transportation shuts down at 1:20 a.m., closer to 1:00 a.m. There are a couple of night buses that run later, but not too great.

Paris has two airports – Charles-de-Gaulle and Orly.

Arc de Triomphe info.
Paris Boat Tours

Other popular destinations in Paris include:

Musee du Louvre – obviously. We skipped it.
Musee d'Orsay
Place de la Concorde
Tour Eiffel – see it after dark from across the Seine, also see it in daylight at it's base.
Notre Dame
Jardin du Luxembourg – a late afternoon visit when locals are meeting up after work.
Conciergerie et Ste.-Chapelle
The Montmartre neighborhood

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