The Last Two Days in Paris
We were up early and on a mission. We had only three nights in Paris, (two days) to visit the sites so we didn’t waste any time. We were up early and had the FREE hotel breakfast, hopped our shuttle bus to the airport where we could pick up the metro to Paris. The train fare was over $60 return. Ouch. We also purchased some tickets so we could hop on and off the subway throughout the day. Another $15 bucks. The shuttle bus and metro ride took us a little over an hour and a half to get into downtown Paris. Note to self. Next time we stay in Paris, find a hotel downtown.
We went first to the Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s big and beautiful and was built over a period of 300 years. Construction started in the 1100’s. The stain glass in this place is a marvel. The line up to get in was fairly long, so after a few pics we started our way down the Seine River.
Although Kim and I aren’t much into tours, we decided to take one of the famous boat tours that go up and down the river. I kept waiting for Grace Jones to parachute into our boat off of the Eiffel Tower, but it never happened. We only paid €12 for a one hour tour and it was most enjoyable. We had done a lot of walking and it was nice to sit and hear about the City of Lights. Paris has this name because it was the first European city to install gas lamps on the streets at night. We foolishly decided we could walk from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower and set off. It took over an hour and a half, but we got to see a lot of the city and took a ton of pictures. We passed the Louvre, Pont Neuf, Palais des Invalides, Place Concorde, Napoleons’ Legion of Honour the largest plaza in Paris with a 3000 year old Greek obilisk, the Palais of Chaillot, the L’Orangerie Museum, the Orsay Museum, which was originally a train station, the New Bridge, which was the oldest bridge in Paris, Place Vendome, the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais, the National Assembly, the Justice Building, the Tuileries Gardens. Plus so much more.
When we got to within a few block of the Eiffel Tower, we both realized we were starving and we entered a small cafe/restaurant to get a snack. It was about 4:30 and we hadn’t eaten a thing since our 8:00am breakfast. We shared a dim sum which came with 5 dumplings and a little rice and we washed it down with a litre of cold water. It wasn’t a lot to eat, but it refreshed us enough to hold us off until dinner. The bill was $45. Paris is a pretty expensive place to live.
The Eiffel Tower was built over three years in the 1890’s to celebrate a World’s Fair in the year 1900. Parisians hated it at first. It was ugly, it was out of place and it was probably going to fall over. The original plan was to build it and then take it down twenty years later. The tower was so popular at the fair, it was decided to keep it. Every ten years a team undertakes the task of painting and other maintenance. This task takes three years to complete. The tower was a little smaller than I remembered it. Maybe I’m taller? We were both disappointed that the entire grounds surrounding the tower were fenced off as they redid all of the landscaping. It was a zoo with hundreds of tourists, and street people hawking their key chains, selfie sticks, miniature ET’s and even wine and beer.
We noticed throughout the day, Kim and I were getting lots of stares from everyone. We are both quite tanned from our last two months of living on beaches, but as well we chose to wear T shirts and shorts. It was 16 degrees and quite sunny. Neither of us were cold during the day as we were constantly walking. When the wind came up on the boat cruise we thought it might get cold, but the sun came out and rescued us. Everyone, Parisienne and tourists alike, wore their winter coats and long pants. If people asked, we just explained that we were Canadians and they seemed to understand.
PREPARE FOR MANDATORY JUMPING PICTURES.
Of course I did the mandatory jump pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower, one even in front of a Ferrari.
Our legs were giving out so we then decided to catch a taxi to the Champs Élysées so we could check out the Arc de Triomphe, night clubs like the Lido, Moulin Rouge and the stores we can’t afford to even go inside. It was a 5 minute ride and we walked up and down for about an hour.
BRUCE AND HIS LAMBORGHINI.
I was astounded how many people were driving around in Maserati’s, Lamborghinis and Ferrari’s. We even came across a street corner with three hot cars parked in a row parked. We discovered that there is a business where you can rent you dream car. Not certain, but I believe it was about $135 plus insurance for an hour. No, we didn’t rent one. Our original plan was to stay and eat dinner in Paris, but neither of us were hungry, dinner service was still a few hours away, and we were not looking forward to the long train and shuttle bus ride home late at night.
We decided to head home and eat at our hotel, so we consulted our subway map and entered the George V subway station for home. It was very crowded and there were two incidences which held up our train for quite a while, so our trip back to our hotel was over three hours. We stood the whole way home. Kim and I we jammed into the subway car like sardines when I felt a little tickle down my leg. I reached down and found a 4 year old was trying to wriggle her hand into the pocket of my cargo pants. I pulled her hand away and shook my head no. Two minutes later, I felt it again. This time I went down to my pocket and she had undone both buttons and had her hand inside my pocket. I trapped her hand and said in a loud voice. Keep your hand out of my pocket. Mom looked over and scolded her. I am not certain if this was an innocent child or if she had been trained and this was planned theft. I kept my hand on my wallet and camera the rest of the way home. The only nice part of our return trip was meeting a nice German girl, who was a world traveller. Tamara was also on her way to the airport. She worked for a financial institution called Boston Consulting Group. I write her name here as she has promised to come and visit us in Vancouver soon. We arrived at our hotel about 8:30 starving and exhausted. We had the buffet and a half bottle of Cotes du Rhone and we were asleep by 11:00.
Saturday was our last day in France before we flew home. Kim and I had talked about going to the Louvre for the day. For those of you who have never visited the Louvre and seen it from the outside know that this is a daunting task. The Louvre is the second largest museum in the world. Russia has the biggest. It boasts over 31,000 pieces of art work and takes well over three months to view the entire museum. It has over 16 km of hall ways. We started figuring out the practicalities of our visit. We had decided we wanted to return to our hotel before rush hour, we wanted to sleep in a bit, we knew we would wait at least 30 minutes in line, even if we paid extra for the jump the line tickets. In short, it didn’t give us a lot of time. As well, Kim had a blister on her foot and my knee was a little swollen from jumping in front of the Eiffel Tower and standing for hours on a swaying train. The decision was made to have a relaxing day around our hotel area. We had a later breakfast and blogged, face booked and chilled in our room until noon. We then took the shuttle bus to a nearby mall to purchase some snacks, some wine and have a Starbucks and a snack. I even got my hair cut. Prices in the mall were 20-30% more expensive than Vancouver, but we were trying to dump some Euros before we returned so didn’t mind so much. We came back to our hotel and enjoyed a glass of actors du Rhone, Chemin du Pape, a delicious red wine and watched the end of Allied with Brad Pitt. I had no idea he spoke French so well. For dinner we went across the street to an I rich pub for dinner and made it home early to bed in preparation for our long flight on Sunday. Our flight leaves Paris 5:00 am Vancouver time, we have a stopover in Toronto, where we have to go thru customs and Airport security, then on to Vancouver where we hopefully will arrive about 10:00 pm.
At the beginning of our European blog I made some suppositions based upon my last visit almost 40 years ago. Here are my findings.
The waiters in Paris were rude.
It seems the system of the tip being included automatically has disappeared. As a result the waiters have to earn their tip. This has resulted in two things. One the servers are much more polite. And many guests tip little or nothing. Leaving 2-3 Euros on a 50€ meal seems to be the norm.
Everyone smoked all of the time.
Although somewhat improved, Paris is filled with a city of people who smoke. I appreciate that smoking is now prohibited indoors and at most restaurants. The issue is in outdoor restaurants throughout Europe, people were allowed to smoke if you were outside. Easily 95% of our meals were eaten in outdoor venues. We often put up with second hand smoke during our dinners..
The drivers all drive fast and were crazy.
Throughout Europe we found drivers to be mostly courteous and safe for the most part, but very fast. In town, the speed limits are safe and reasonable. Our experience is that most people drove well. The speed limits here on the highways-are 130 km/hr then add the 15% faster because you won’t get a ticket and that puts everyone driving at 150 km/hr. However, it’s important to note that there is a very important system that prevents accidents and helps traffic flow. If you are going to pass someone, you move into the fast lane, pass, then move back into the right lane to travel. You do not, (You will be ticketed) have any old guys doing 20 km below the speed limit in the fast lane. This system seems to work really well. Please note, we didn’t drive in Spain and on the island of Paros everything was crazy. Some people drove super fast, some super slow, there appeared to be no norm. I even had a server suggest to me I should drink a lot of wine before driving the island of Paros. It would help me fit in and drive better. The Greek drivers are crazy, but I love them all. I have easily adapted to driving at 150km/hr, and will make a conscious effort to slow it down once I return to BC.
No body jogs.
We saw a number of joggers here. Not sure if they are tourists or if the Europeans are trending to become more fit. In short some movement in this direction but nothing like Canada. When I return to Canada I was thinking of Jogging every morning. I won’t, but I will continue to think about it.
The wine was as cheap as bottled water.
As long as you are buying at a regular store and not a touristy wine shop, water runs about €1 per bottle and wine starts about €2 and up.
The coffee and baguettes were delicious.
They are! Starbucks has come a long way to giving us good coffee, but espressos here are just that much better. The best espresso for me was in Florence. Kim’s favourite coffee was a White chocolate mocha with cocoanut milk at a Starbucks in Paris.
And so ends our journey. Our thanks to all of our blog readers who commented and encouraged our ramblings! We are so fortunate to have had such a rich opportunity that we will never forget.