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Hello Travel Fans,
As most of you received my notice from Virginia, I won’t go over old territory.
This is what I intended to send when I arrived in France. Yes, Angela, France does have cyber cafes, but usually very crowded with young things and people waiting in line to use them. NEXT TRIP, lap top with Wireless, because no matter where you go, there are always Starbucks.
Day 1 – Paris
Landed in Paris after a 6 hour flight, not incredibly rested as the flight was so short and I kept hearing crying babies and cats. Yes, directly across the aisle from me was a baby-in-arms and at the mom’s feet, a cat in a carrier. I thought I was losing my mind until I spotted the cat upon landing.
Bought a carnet (10 metro tickets) and a one-way pass to get into Paris at the Airport and I was on my way to Paris. During the 60 minute trip, the enchantment began and I was charmed with the architecture and the attention to detail and decoration at nearly every window. Iron railings for balconies and flower boxes seemed the rule of the day.
I was amazed at the number of billboards and signs that were in English, but luckily, most of the architecture remained charmingly European.
Took a cab from the central metro stop to my hotel. Thank GOD I didn’t try to walk it as I would never have found it, especially with jet lag and lugging my bags. I learned that there are so many little tiny streets that aren’t on most of the maps so when it doubt, find a cab with a GPS guidance system to help the cabbie find the little boutique hotel on back streets.
As check in was at 1:00 and it was only 8:30, I stowed my luggage, grabbed my Rick Steve’s book (RSB), my camera and the detailed map from the hotel and began to explore. My goal for the day was Pere Lachaise (cemetery, more later), Arch de Triumph and the Champs d’lesiases. Ambitious, I know. My hotel was on the right bank, near the Avenue de Opera and I struck off to see the Opera as I didn’t feel like tackling the metro to get to the cemetery yet.
Phantom of the Opera was inspired by this building, so imagine lots of marble, chandeliers and on the outside, gold statutes. I was waiting for the tour in English to begin and sat on the steps inside to people watch. Weariness took over and all I could think about was a nap and food. As our tour guide ended up not showing, they refunded our money and I began to walk back to the hotel and look for food.
I found a great place to eat called le Ferme (the farm) that had yoghurts, salads, sandwiches, coffee, juices and wonderful bread. They also had the cutest little juice glasses with aluminum foil on the top filled with wine; white, rose or red. I chose white to go with my salad, bread, ham sandwichette and fruit. This was my first time trying to communicate in totally in French and I did pretty well until he asked me if it was for-here or to-go. Luckily, he saw that I had exhausted my French and was very kind.
I can highly recommend a 3 hour nap upon arriving at a new destination, to refresh your spirit, clear your head, and allow you the space to enjoy the rest of your day. Took the metro to the Arch and found that the train system is fantastically easy and convenient, as long as you remember to determine before you leave what line you want and in what direction you need to go. Ended up at the part of the Champs that faces the Arch and watched the amazing traffic whizzing past.
One of my goals during this trip was to see a many things that had to do with Napoleon (Nap) as I could manage and the Arch was one of his many projects. I took the walkway under the street to get to the base of the Arch and walked up 280 steps to get to the top. Before you are exactly at the top, there is a museum with artifacts from one of Nap’s encampments. ACTUAL ITEMS like his writing desk, telescope and shaving case. I LOVED IT!
On the top, you can look down and see the 12 streets that converge on to this traffic circle and no one honked, no one crashed and no one waved angry fists at each other. France is overrun with traffic circles, so I guess drivers learn to navigate them early on. The view was amazing, the sun was shining and the wind was blowing. When I spied the Eiffel Tower I started to cry. I was really there. I found a fellow tourist to take my picture with the ETower in the background just to prove to myself that I was really there.
Back down the other side of the Arch and then an evening stroll down the Champs towards my hotel to find dinner and people watch. The Champs is very commercial with lots of neon and young things walking by in flip flops and peasant skirts. Found a sidewalk café and ordered white wine, bread, salad and escargots and ended with café au lait. The table next to me had two ladies, one with excellent French and as we began chatting, I found out that they are from Littleton, Colorado. (School teachers. You will see theme develop as this diary continues).
As I walked back to the hotel at 10pm when it was getting quite dark, I passed the T Gardens and the lights dimmed and the ETower began to sparkle, magically ending a wonderful first day on my French adventure.