It all seems like such a blur. At times, it’s hard to believe it happened at all. At other times, it feels like it was just “yesterday” that we were walking the streets of the Champs D’elysees or staring at the Mona Lisa lost in the grandeur of moments of history… Sadly, it’s been days now (actually, past a week). But, oh wow… what days they were!
We made the later flight on Friday night and got to fly Executive First Class. I could hardly believe it. No side-by-side seating. “Pods” for each person – basically everyone was in a lazy-boy type of chair with everything at a finger’s touch away. Able to turn the chair into a bed and privacy slates between everyone. Plus, first class service of food, drink (and drink), and pure comfort.
We got to Paris quickly enough (7+ hours were like a blink) and we made our way to their Regional Trains to get to the heart of the city. A 45 minute train ride later (while being totally amazed by all the trains and metros running underground) we exit at Wagram and as we make our way out of the tunnel – the Arc de Triomphe is there to greet us. What a sight. Unbelievable.
Our hotel was just a couple of short blocks away and we went there to drop our bags. Check-in wasn’t for a number of hours still and although we hadn’t really slept in lord-knows-how-long, we headed out to investigate the Arc and the Champs. Hours later, we took a tour bus around the city to catch a glimpse of all we would visit in detail during the coming days. Finally, after that tour, we checked in and were pleasantly surprised to find a very nice and cozy room. Yes, very small, but it held a queen sized bed and a private bathroom. We didn’t need anything else.
A quick change later, we once again headed out to walk the city and ended up running into Chantale’s old boss! Small world! She suggested a few places to eat and sure enough after many more hours of walking around, we went to eat at “Chez Andre”. Strangely enough (or maybe not so strange) it almost felt like we were sitting in a restaurant in Quebec City 🙂 Of course, that feeling ended the moment we left the restaurant and were back on the main street! 🙂
We had many plans for Sunday… but, alas, the fatigue finally caught up to us and we didn’t get out of bed until 130pm Paris time 🙂 So, we re-arranged our plans and went to visit Notre Dame – first stopping off at a nice little corner cafe for a panini and people watching. We ended up being in the cathedral during a service and were thus able to listen to the organ playing while we explored. Cool 🙂 With a short window of time left, we headed back to the Eiffel Tower for another quick visit and then sat in the park underneath enjoying an ice cream cone 🙂 We walked around a bit more, stopping off to pick up a couple of beers and some food on the way back to the hotel. We ate, changed, and headed over to the Lido for their “Bonheur” cabaret show. We had decided on Lido as opposed to Moulin Rouge mainly due to proximity. We enjoyed a bottle of champagne with the show and watched quite a dazzling array of costumes, scenery, and boobs, paraded, sang, and danced for over 2 hours 🙂 It was a fun time but distracting, too. Not knowing any of the numbers, I found it a little difficult to get into. Show over, we took to the streets again for more walking before calling it a night with every intention to get up early the next day!
Monday, we forced ourselves awake and headed out to the Louvre. The wait wasn’t too bad and the view spectacular. But when we got inside, our main target was the Mona Lisa. We made a beeline for it not really looking at the other pieces of art on the way there. I have to say, though, that once we were standing right in front of it… I was in awe. Seriously, deeply, truly, in awe. Forget the fact of how old or popular or famous it is. There was a vibrancy to it that I had not expected. Rich colours “behind” Mona that I had never noticed before. A simple painting with SO much energy… I was enraptured. Chantale took a couple of shots of me gazing at it, including one when I turned around. That one shows a look on my face of complete… shellshock? Or maybe I was just completely empty – sucked dry of time and place. Quite an experience.
After Mona, we took the time to explore the paintings around us and I was once again floored by those incredible wall-sized works of art. Such an incredible treasure-trove… almost too much to take in! Just… wow.
From there, we headed out to find Venus, but made our way through Egyptian antiquities first – stopping at the Crypts and tombs. Afterwards, it was off to Mesopotamia and finally: sculptures. Wow. And again… wow. I think we took more photos of the scultpures than anything else. And you know what? After all those hours there, we realized we had no more energy. We’d been up with little sleep, no breakfast, and no coffee. We decided to call it a morning and went looking for a cafe. We finally found 2 but, unfortunately for them, I got really fed up of waiting to be served and got up and left at both places. We ate our own snacks and drank our Orange Juice and then headed off on a long walk. Our destination? Back to the pier to get tickets for the boat cruise.
What we failed to realize was that it was about a 3 hour walk to get there. LOL! Again, everything is so huge that it seems “only a few blocks away” and then turns out to be much, much, much more than that! 🙂 At any rate, we finally made it there and Chantale made an executive decision to go on the supper cruise as opposed to the regular cruise. With tickets in hand, we left the area and headed up to Montmartre. Destination: Moulin Rouge 🙂
We didn’t go in or anything, just wanted to walk around it for a bit (after stopping off at Starbucks because I really wanted a Mocha Latte! – turned out to be my first coffee in Paris, how bizarre is that?). After a few pictures, we stopped off at a corner restaurant for a couple of baguettes and headed up towards Sacre Coeur. Yummy food in hand, we walked up and up and up and up, and then we walked up stairs! and stairs and stairs! After a short visit through the church, we needed to head back to the hotel to freshen up and get changed for the cruise. And so, we walked down stairs and stairs and stairs and more stairs (more than walking up!) until we found ourselves back at a Metro (they actually call Metropolitain) and went to the hotel.
A quick shave and shower later, we were ready to go. Chantale had spent an hour battling the web-tv in our room to try to get us an idea of our flight out the next day and we decided to stick to our original plan of Paris-Toronto-Montreal. Off we went and an hour or so later (by this point very comfortable with our knowledge of the underground travel), we were seated on the boat. Chardonnay opened and sipped while we chatted with other couples sat close by.
The meal was really good and the wine(s) was(were) delicious! There was lots of it and the evening was just so much fun that when the sun went down and we started to see the beauty of Paris at night… we were in such good moods! We saw the Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkling while we danced on the boat – how romantic is that?! It was a perfect, perfect evening! When it was all over and we were back at the dock, we decided that since our neighbors were not white wine drinkers, that we would re-cork their bottle and take it back with us to the hotel 🙂 Yes, we did. And it didn’t feel weird in the least! Heck, the number of folks you see around the city carrying wine and/ or drinking it out of the bottle (and these are regular folks, not drunks/ bums) would make you laugh.
Back at the hotel, we polished off the bottle and then finally went to sleep. We had to get up in about 3 to 4 hours 🙂 The morning came really quickly and we were soon back on the train headed to the airport. Everything went very smoothly from there. Check-in, flight to Toronto (again in the Pods), and a short wait to hop on the flight to Montreal (again in the Pod). And just like that, we were back in our car, leaving the airport and zooming off to pick the kids up from daycare.
And now, a week later, it’s hard to believe we were actually there! If not for the hundreds of photos and the visa bills… 😉 For those who haven’t already seen them, there are a selection of less than 50 photos up on my web site. You can click the direct link to get to them: http://www.savageland.com/father/family/paris09.html
It’s funny. I never really had the inclination to travel. But after this visit… I suddenly want to do more. Not entirely sure if it’s the notion of seeing things that’s so attractive, or the freedom to not have to be ruled by the clock and calendar. We’ll see in time. 🙂