September 30, 2006 in Travel

Recap of Paris Trip

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Being in Paris last week was amazing. Thus, it’s a shame that I took so long to visit after moving to London. I had planned on it being the first European city I visited, however, when Racquetball Guy decided not to take the job in France, I just couldn’t bring myself to go there quite yet. Plus I was content to go elsewhere until I got my emotions in check. But after last week, I can say resoundingly that I was quite foolish to wait so long to visit. Particularly since it’s very easy to get to Paris via train from London, plus during the entire time I was there, I did not even think once about Racquetball Guy. I think I didn’t think about him, as I was with other people for some of the time, plus much to my surprise, I was hit on by the opposite sex quite regularly. More imporantly, I think I know I am so over him!
Day 1
I take the 5:45 Eurostar train to Paris from London Waterloo which takes a mere 2 ½ hours. And after taking a taxi to my hotel, I quickly drop off my luggage and walk down to the Eiffel Tower. It’s simply stunning and I badly want to go up but I decide to wait until the morning. I wanted to see Paris properly. So I walk around enjoying the lively atmosphere and take pictures. And while standing directly beneath the Eiffel Tower, I was hit on by this French guy. At first, I didn’t realize that he was being flirtatious. Men hardly ever hit on me. Plus on my travels, I often have friendly banter with people that I meet but nothing every really comes of it. However, this guy kept close at hand for a good 30 minutes, asking me all these questions about myself and kept asking me to go for a drink. I probably would have gone had I thought a drink was all he was after. But he was so aggressive and started being quite suggestive, that I thought it best just to chase him off.
Day 2
I wake bright and early and walk down to a nearby café for a quick breakfast and then walk back to the Eiffel Tower. I wanted to get there early so as to be one of the first in line to go up. Once there, I only had about 15minutes to wait. I engage in a lively chat with an older American woman who was in London when the last terror alert happened.
In the elevator going up, I started getting nervous. Particularly as the ride was not smooth and I suddenly realized that the Eiffel Tower is quite tall. In fact, it is 1063 feet tall. This is roughly the same height as the John Hancock Building in Chicago which has 100 floors all enclosed. Once at the 2nd floor, I get off and walk around. The view is breathtaking. I then get on another elevator to the 3rd floor where the view is even more spectacular. I grin from ear to ear and spend about an hour looking at the various buildings across the city. As it was getting windy, I head back down to the 2nd floor, where overcome with positive energy, I decide to take the stairs. Big mistake. I start having a slight panic attack. I mean, the second floor is still really high (376 feet) and I can see the ground beneath me. Now I know it’s a sturdy structure, but I couldn’t help get a bit panicky. I was still a good 20/30 floors up. However, I keep it all in check as there are other people on the stairways with me.
Once back down, I marvel and the structure and walk towards the Hotel des Invalides. Apparently is was commissioned by Louis XIV in 1670 to house wounded and homeless veterans. Within the Hotel des Invalides complex, is the Musee de L’Armee. I spent a bit of time there exploring the vast military collection. I then went on to visit the Dome Church which is now the resting place for Napoleon in a massive crypt, encased with six coffins.
Since the lunch hour was approaching and I had to get back for my company meeting, I then head back to the hotel and change into business attire. I get there just in time to have a proper three course French meal. The rest of day was spent listening to one presentation after another. Then around 6pm, I go back to my room and change yet again in preparation for evening cruise and dinner down the River Seine.
Day 3
I wake early again. Mainly because it is the weekend and now that business meeting is over, I decided to switch hotels to a different part of town. So I check out of the Hilton Hotel and check in to the Le Meridien just off the Champs-Elysees. I then resist the urge to take a cab and get on the metro train to Notre Dame. The cathedral is quite beautiful, however having visited a number across Europe, I was a little underwhelmed. That said, after huffing and puffing my way to the top via some narrow steps, I was rewarded with yet another spectacular view of the city. Plus I got to see up close some of the wonderful gargoyles I’ve come to associate with Notre Dame.
Once back down, I visit Sainte-Chapelle another architectural masterpiece built for the French royal family. It forms part of the Palais de Justice and so I had to go through a proper screening. I felt like I was at the airport. That said, I was rewarded by some of the most magnificent stained glass windows I’ve ever seen. Apparently the 15 windows display more than 1000 biblical scenes. From there, I head next door to Conciergerie. During the height of the French revolution it housed more than 4000 prisoners. In fact, Marie-Antoinette, was held there in a tiny cell until her execution.
After a morning of high culture, I decide to head back towards the Champs-Elysees for some shopping. Once there, I had this sudden urge to shop for jewelry. I couldn’t find anything that moved me to purchase, so ended up asking one of the nearby hotel concierges for address of the nearest Tiffany store. He directed me away from the Champs-Elysees back towards the Opera House where on a nearby Street, Rue De La Paix, I came face to face with all the major jewelry designers. I nervously step into Tiffany where I immediately pick out a bracelet for purchase.
I then head back to the hotel, where I quickly showered and changed in preparation to meet up with a work colleague as we made plans the night before to see Moulin Rouge. Unfortunately even with the aid of the Hilton Hotel concierge, we didn’t end up with tickets. So just had a lovely dinner at Le Verre Bouteille Ternes Restaurant.
Day 4
It is my final day in Paris. I had planned to go to a flea market, but as I blew the budget on jewelry, I decide to sleep in. Around noon, I head to the Louvre Museum where I then spent the next 4 hours. As I mentioned in an earlier post about the Mona Lisa, the Lourve Museum, bar none, is the best museum I’ve ever visited. Thus, on my next trip to Paris, I’ll definitely be spending more time there.
From there, I walk several miles up the Champ-Elysees straight toward the Arc de Triomphe. Apparently it was commissed by Napoleon in celebration of his greatest victory, the Battle of Austerlitz. Once there, I decide to take yet another set of narrow staircase up to the top. Yet again, I was rewarded with another splendid view of Paris. I spent a half hour taking it all in, bummed that my trip is coming to an end. I then head back to the hotel and have dinner at the nearby Bellagio Restaurant. I then take a cab to the Gare du Nord train station for the short journey home. I can’t wait to go back.

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