2013: Paris

Arrival

Apr. 24

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The Air France flight was quite pleasant. Good food, pampering flight attendants, fairly comfortable seats. For the price we paid, they ought to be made of gold-leaf feathers! I did manage to get a couple of hours' sleep despite the 4 p.m. departure time, so I wasn't completely destroyed when we landed after ten hours in the air. Of course, the best was yet to come.

I tried in vain to convince Mike to hire a taxi from the airport, but he had a million excuses: the train was very convenient (and cheap), traffic would delay a taxi and it would cost too much (NOT cheap) -- yada, yada, yada. (Or should I chirp "cheep, cheep, CHEAP".) He was definitely in steamroller mode. I guess I should have said, "Fine! YOU take the train, I'll get my own taxi!" If only.

First there was the walk from baggage claim to the train station. It was, oh, I don't know, maybe twenty miles. Excuse me, twenty kilometers; I'm in Europe now. That fun journey included taking an elevator that was so small we had to wait through three cycles of ups and downs before we (and all our luggage) could get a turn. Then, of course, we had to get ourselves and all our luggage aboard the train. There ain't no on-ramps, y'all -- just a foot-high step off the platform, followed by two more steps. Hey, buddy Mike, you wanted to do this, so you lift 'em and drag 'em. I'll just drag myself. If I can.

And finally, at the end of the train ride, there was the three-quarter-mile walk from the train stop to the apartment building. Over cobblestone streets. On sidewalks barely wide enough for one person. Through hordes of tourists surrounding Notre Dame. I was in a reeeally good mood by the time we arrived.

Fortunately there were no problems at all with our lodging. Our hostess Karen was waiting and buzzed us into the old but charming building. The elevator (rare for such old buildings) was tiny; cram the luggage into the back and turn sideways to enter, strictly single file. Its verrrrrry slooooow delivery of us to the fourth floor was still much preferable to the leg-powered alternative. Did I say fourth floor? I mean THIRD floor; one of the amusing peculiarities (to us) in Europe is how they number floors. Ground floor, first floor, second floor, etc. So to a European, the fourth floor in sequence is actually the third floor. Got it? Whatever you call it, it's still up three flights.

After exchanging greetings with Karen we learned, to our surprise, that the apartment is her regular Paris home with her husband; when the place is rented, they go to their house in the south of France. Tough life. Apparently this is how a lot of people here operate, they have two places and make some extra money by renting out the city lodging. Karen was delightful and well-organized; she left us with plenty of instructions, tourist materials, and even some groceries in the fridge. C'est magnifique!


Tourist boats on the Seine.

Despite what my mind and body said, it was only mid-afternoon Paris time. We needed a few supplies, and we needed to stay awake; so we went out for a walk to check out our surroundings. The apartment was in a delightful neighborhood with many small shops and restaurants just steps from our door; we'd be inspecting those more closely during the week. It was also only one block from the frickin' Seine, y'all!

We knew that Notre Dame was only two blocks away since we'd already dragged our luggage right by it; so it seemed a prime target for a first limited tourist foray. The weather was lovely, and the fruit trees were still covered in blooms, so I got some great shots of this very impressive landmark and its grounds.


Eyesore. We were here! Long lines.

We had a bit of a shock when we circled the cathedral. There was a whole series of really ugly temporary structures built on the plaza in front of the famous west face. Apparently they were to serve some purpose in celebrating the landmark's 850th anniversary. Sadly, they make it impossible to get a decent picture of the cathedral's famous front. After looking at the long line waiting for entry, we decided to save our exploration of the interior for another day.

Love lock bridge. C'est la vie!

We'd had enough for one jet-lagged day. It was time to get semi-settled in our Paris lodgings and rest up for the week ahead. As we wandered back toward the apartment we paused for a moment on Pont de l'Archevêché, one of several bridges that cross the Seine near Notre Dame, to admire the enormous collection of "love locks". Enamored couples write their names on a padlock, lock it to the bridge railing, and then throw the key into the Seine to show their undying love. Ah, Paree!

We stopped at a small market on our way home to pick up the perfect dinner for our first night in Paris -- croissants, cheese, fruit, and WINE!