Thursday, July 02, 2009

Day Thirteen: Paris, France

I have to say, Paris was the draw for this European trip. I have wanted to go here since I was in Junior High. I took French in school. There wasn't much logic in this choice, considering how close we are to the Mexican border,'s what drew me. I took five years of French. I revisited it in college for two semesters. I am not in anyway good with the language (or any), but after so many years of studying the language, and as many years hearing about the culture-France, and specifically, Paris, fascinated me. It was the one place in Europe I'd ever given quite a bit of thought to, and it was only when I set a date (before I was 30, or rather, in honor of turning 30) that I put the other places into as serious of a category. We arrived in work traffic, and I got my first glimpse of the Eiffle tower, and the Seine River. We were taken to our hotel which was located inside the city circle, and right next to a Metro station, but not too near the 'huge' monuments. I had a few things on the wish list for that evening. We walked around the streets by our hotel to get a feel for the area, and then we hopped on the Metro. Wow, this system was so easy to use. We have the rail in Dallas, but it's not as user friendly when it comes to the number of locations it goes to, the speed it travels, or the frequency of trains available. Paris has this all down to a science. There IS a lot of walking up stairs to go over something, and down more stairs, to be on the same level, but it was built so long ago, it's now a matter of maintaining, and adding on to those well thought out lines. We rode down to a stop near the Champs Elysees. We exited near a square with (another) Egyptian Needle, this one marked the spot all the victims of the guillotines were piled.
There were flower covered parks in all directions, and another view of the Eiffle Tower. You can see the tower from almost any location because of the flat character of the city's structure. There were some vendors in little green canopied buildings, and since it was dinner time, I tried out a local favorite I had heard of....crepes with Nutella, and bananas. was SO good. We sat on a bench, and watched the people pass. After the snack, we headed down the Champs Elysees. The street is very wide....that's really the biggest difference between Paris, and the other cities we visited-how wide all the blvds are in comparison. A few hundred years ago an architect's plan was to tear down all the buildings, and rebuild larger blvds, and newer, uniform buildings. He did it. This created a more 'logical' map of streets, but there is something lacking in the sameness of the buildings...large, white, stone, square, molded. The Champs Elysees is mostly filled with high end shops we have back home, but sometimes supersized. I also made the first stop on my list-Laduree. This is a little pastry shop that is famous for it's macaroons, and elegant desserts.

They are very beautiful, but that's the thing with Paris, each little pastry shop (and it seems like every third store is a pastry shop) sells elaborate, elegant, tasty treats. Parisians definitely spend time on beautifying their food to the max. I ate lots of little 'pastry presents' while visiting. We made it all the way down to the Arch de Triumph, which was an interesting contrast to those we had left a few days before in Rome. It was bigger, but, again newer. It was our first real taste of Napoleon's influence on the city....lots of monuments 'bigger' and 'better' than the originals. There is something lost with the 'newness.'

We then made our way via map to the Seine, and a great view of the Eiffle Tower. My next goal for the evening was to see the 'light show' compliments of the tower. We arrived a little after nine, and we were told it stays lights in Paris until well past ten, but I didn't know the show wouldn't take place until almost 11 (also, the time the sun was finally down), so it was a lot of waiting and wondering. We watched people walking up and down the river, and there were lots of couples in love. It's true, they must flock here, because couples in the midst of a romantic glow can't be avoided. They walked on, we waited...and then...about ten minutes until 11, she glowed....or rather-twinkled. (Tilt your head for this one)....
We headed back to the hotel at that point. The display was beautiful, but as a whole, I was really disappointed in Paris. I wanted to LOVE it, I wanted it to be my favorite, I wanted it to be better than I expected, like every other place was we visited over the past few weeks. I had heard the people were rude, I didn't experience that, but I also didn't think there was anything to really treasure in the city. My mistake, by day three, the bug bit me, but it took a little more discovering, and a few places that weren't transformed by the architect sent to 'improve' the city. As a whole I love Paris....more to come about that process of falling in love with the place, later.