- Fizzy Thoughts: memories of Paris

memories of Paris

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Angie asked me if I had ever been to Paris, so I thought I would use her question as today's prompt.

I have been to Paris twice, but very briefly both times. The first time was in the summer of 1990, when I was a college student doing the typical "how many European cities can I see in seven weeks with a Eurail pass" trip. The second time was three years ago, when we did an overnight trip from London.

I remember very little from the first trip. I still have the pictures, but in a moment of sheer stupidity, I threw away the travel journal I kept. I was with my college roommate, Deanne, and another friend, Carol. Deanne and I traveled the whole summer together. Carol was with us for just the first week of trip, before she went on her own way. We climbed the stairs up the Eiffel Tower, we got caught in the rain outside Notre Dame, we saw the Mona Lisa and Rodin's Thinker, we visited Pere Lachaise and ate lunch on someone's grave and gaped at all the graffitti on and around Jim Morrison's grave, and we saw the colorful duct systems at the Pompidou Centre (it's funny the things a brain remembers). And we rode the Metro. I'm pretty sure I got lost in the Egyptian Antiquities section of the Louvre, but we were in an awful lot of museums that trip, so I could be confusing that with another place.

The second time I went to Paris was in 2005. My mom and I, along with my aunt and uncle, went to London for 3 weeks. I have part of this trip written up in a SlowTrav Trip Report...it's been sitting unfinished for a year. However, I did write a page about Paris, so I'm just going to copy and paste what I wrote:

I have a confession to make...the thought of Paris just doesn't knock my socks off. But, the rest of the gang really wanted to see Paris on this trip. So I made arrangements for an overnight trip. Definitely not slow travel, but I was calling the shots and I didn't want to spend anymore time than that away from London. The goal was to see the major sites and give everyone a feel for the city. When planning our trip, I went ahead and booked our Eurostar tickets, and I found a hotel recommended by Rick Steves on the Rue Cler, a pedestrain only street close to the Eiffel Tower.

We got up at 4:15am to catch the 6:30 Eurostar train to Paris. Luckily, the Eursotar terminal was at Waterloo, the station nearest to our flat. (Note: the Eurostar terminal will move to St. Pancras in 2007.) With the time difference, we arrived at Paris at 10:30. I slept for most of the trip through the Chunnel, so I didn't have to think about the fact that I was underneath the Channel. That thought kind of gives me the willies.

After our arrival at Gard du Nord, we spent way too much time looking for an ATM. I was starting to have visions of us camping in Gard du Nord for the next day and a half, until we finally discovered one lonely ATM hiding in a corner. Armed with euros, we were able to hop a cab for the Rue Cler, where I had booked two rooms at the Grand Hotel Leveque. We got lucky too, with the cab driver...he spoke English and pointed out a few sights along the way, such as the Paris Opera and Place de la Concorde. After we checked into the hotel, we headed out for lunch at Tribeca. I had wine and quatre fromage pizza. Italian food in Paris. But the food was good and we sat outside at a little table watching people stroll by.

After lunch we headed off to the Eiffel Tower, a 10 minute walk from the Rue Cler. After staring up at the tower and getting dizzy, we got on a Batobus to float up the Seine. This is one thing I had not done on my prior visit to Paris, and I gotta say, it's the way to go. We got off at Notre Dame and walked through the Cathedral, then wandered through the streets of Ile de la Cite. After an important stop for ice cream (apricot), we headed back to the boat, stopping to check out the risque postcards the booksellers along the Seine had for sale. I actually fell asleep on the boat on our way back. It was warm, I was sleepy... and I still can't believe I fell asleep.

For dinner, our hotel recommended Chez Pierrot, a local bar/restaurant. They even called over to the restaurant, I'm sure to warn them that the Americans were coming. ;-) We had an amazing dinner, one of the best meals yet. I had salad with goat cheese crostine, beef bourginonne and a praline gateau for dessert. And wine. The place was tiny, with one waitress/bartender, who was very friendly and helpful. The customers were a mix of tourists and locals. After dinner, we walked back to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up at night. Then it was back to the hotel, where I conked out until my uncle called our room at 9am to wake us up. We overslept in Paris!

For day two in Paris, I had planned to do one of those hop on hop off bus tours. After a quick coffee and bread breakfast, we walked back to the Eiffel Tower to catch Les Cars Rouges, an open air bus with taped commentary. With limited time, this is a great option for seeing the sights, and to orient yourself. I finally figured out which bank is the Left Bank! Taking pictures was a bit of a challenge, and I have lots of pictures of places I can't identify. We got off the bus at the Champs Elysees to walk around and have lunch. We went into Cartier...how could I resist, they open they door for you! After exchanging many "Bonjour Madames" we left for something we could afford...lunch at another sidewalk cafe. After buying a few trinkets and a baby gift at Petit Bateau, we hopped back on the bus to complete the loop. Back at the Rue Cler, we did some shopping for the picnic dinner we had planned for our train trip back to London. We bought cheese from the cheese shop, bread and an almond cake from the boulangerie and fruit from des Halles. Oh, and chocolate orange sticks and lavendar nougat from the chocolate dude (yes, yes, I know that's not the proper French term, but I don't remember the proper French term). It was so much fun walking from shop to shop to buy dinner.

We made it back to London by 9pm that night, without any hassle. Paris still doesn't do it for me, but I had a good time, and got a few good naps out of the trip, too. Of course, the others consider it one of the highlights of the trip...so it was worth it.

So there you have it...my two quick trips to Paris. At this time, it's not a city that I hear calling my name. Although, I'm sure if I ever spent a decent amount of time in Paris I might come to appreciate it more. And Angie pointed out there are lots of bookstores...

6 comment(s):

Leslie said...

My goodness I enjoyed reading that! I've only been once for four days - but really loved it.

You write about it so well! And you brought back a lot of memories for me this morning. My highlight was seeing the Mona Lisa, oh and perhaps Rodin's The Thinker.

girasoli said...

I loved reading about your time in Paris! I also stayed at the Grand Hotel Leveque and was not "thrilled" with Paris during my short visit, although I do have great memories of the some of the things I did while there (back in 1999). I probably should go back sometime to give Paris another try.

bleeding espresso said...

Nice post :) I've never been to Paris, and like you, don't really feel a calling towards it either--and I'm really not very far away. Still, I suppose since I *am* so close, I probably should go sometime....

Anonymous said...

Funny I moved here and all I can do is think about home -Italy. It doesn't do it for me either. I am starting to like aspects of it. I think the food generally sucks.

softdrink said...

Thanks everyone...I'm so glad I'm not alone in the lack of attraction.

gherlashdawn said...

Paris is a big city and it is of course great to walk around the entire city looking at famous monuments, museums, gardens, churches etc. Global Visas provide the most comprehensive visa and immigration advice available online. But eventually you’ll get worn out from all the walking and then you need a good and fast way to get around. In Paris the best option is the metro in my opinion.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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