|Arrival, Hotel, Eiffel Tower, Geocache
Lydia standing in front of our hotel, Royal Phare
Our first Parisian meal, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with salad and Chablis (not pictured.)
Locals strolling Rue Cler
La Tour Eiffel (the Eiffel Tower) stretches up behind some buildings.
The Eiffel Tower from nearly underneath it.
Grant in front of the Trocadero.
Lydia at the memorial near the site where Princess Diana died in 1997.
Saturday, October 15
Despite a delay leaving Pittsburgh, caused by congestion in Philly, and a mad dash to the connecting flight, we were on our way over the Atlantic. Lydia and I took an herbal sleep aid, melatonin, which along with earplugs and blindfolds helped us sleep for most of the seven and a half hour flight. (Note to self: Don’t wait for your contact lenses to dry onto your eyes before taking them out.)
To get us even more excited as we made our final approach into Charles de Gaulle airport, we had some thrilling airborne views of the city. Once we had negotiated the maze of terminal one (and realized that we were, in fact, in terminal one,) we located our transfer bus. Along with two other couples, we headed into Paris.
On television, I had seen the Arc de Triomphe and the free-for-all that calls itself a traffic circle that surrounds it. I imagined that drivers must be insane to attempt navigating this particular bit of road. I was certain that I would never venture into its madness. I was wrong. With no announcement or warning, our taxi diver took us around the Arc de Triomphe’s traffic circle. I have to confess that it wasn’t as hairy as I had feared. (There might be a life lesson in there, I suppose, about not fearing the worst or something like that.) Still, I was grateful to be a passenger rather than the driver.
We were the last couple to be dropped off. A remarkable thing was that one of the other couples in our taxi were American and from Pittsburgh of all places (from the North Hills, if you know the area.) We had traveled all the way to Paris to meet folks who live “just up the street” from us.
We carried our bags into the narrow hallway and up the stairs of our hotel, Royal Phare, to the clerk’s desk. Since we were about twenty minutes before check-in time, I asked if it was too early for us to check-in. The clerk said, “Yes. But, never mind. The room is ready.” I thought that was so funny. To my way of thinking, it is not too early if he is letting us check-in. Early, yes, but not too early. However, discovering differences in thinking is one of the appeals of travel to me.
Now the room itself was tiny with barely room for the bed. Some cruise ship cabins I’ve slept in were bigger. (If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship, you know how small that is.) The view from the window looked out onto a rooftop and then into other buildings, giving us sufficient cause to keep the curtains drawn. This may read as disappointment, but it is not.
The room had everything we needed, a bed, a shower, and a toilet. It was clean and made up every day. It even had a television and a mini refrigerator. But, the best thing about the room was that it was in Paris. We came to Paris to see the city, not through a window or a TV, but in person. We walked, smelled, saw, tasted, heard and felt Paris up close, live, and in color.
A woman we traveled with from the airport said that she had made sure that the room they had booked had a view of the Eiffel Tower. That’s great. But, after a fifteen-minute stroll from our hotel through interesting streets, I could stand right under it, craning my neck back to take in all of it’s impressive elegance. If someone wants to see Paris from their hotel room, they can make that choice. Me? I’m out the door.
After dropping off our luggage in our tiny room, we headed out to explore. On Rue Cler, I had my first Parisian meal, a simple ham and cheese sandwich. But, in reality, it was not simple. It had cheese sprinkled on the top and was put under a broiler until the cheese was melted, but with a brown, crispy skin��� so yummy. The accompanying salad was crisp greens lightly brushed with a tangy dressing. Add to that a half-liter of Chablis and I ask you, what could be better?
The prices there were also a pleasant surprise. My sandwich (with the salad) was ���8 (8 Euros, about $9.60) and the wine was ���10. The whole meal was ���26 for the two of us (about $31.20) and included tax and tip. That is about what I would expect in a big city and cheaper than I remember London being.
After lunch, as I took some pictures, Lydia gave me the slip for a few moments, seduced by a cheese shop. With some cheese, a bagette, and a dessert, we were off to La Tour Eiffel (the Eiffel Tower.) Since it is walking distance, we took our time strolling the quaint streets and absorbing the fact that we were in Paris. Along the way, we “licked the windows,” as the French call window-shopping.
Although pictures give some idea, one cannot appreciate the Eiffel Tower except first hand. Now more than one hundred years old, and now dwarfed by newer buildings around the world, Monsieur Eiffel’s monument is still impressive, elegant, and spectacular. I can see how a nineteenth century resident of Paris would have been staggered by this structure, whether or not they liked it.
I took many pictures of the old lady as we meandered under her high arches heading northwest across the Seine River. From the Palais de Chaillot on the rive droit (right bank) we had an excellent view of the tower.
Lydia remembered that there was a geocache nearby, so we pulled out the ol’ GPSr and, after a few minutes of calibration due to the large displacement from western Pennsylvania, took up the scent. The particular cache, Liberty’s Flame, we were after marked a spot with dual significance. One event associated with this location was the one hundredth anniversary of the International Herald Tribune and the other, far sadder, was the car crash that killed Princess Diana, Dodi Fayed, and their chauffer in 1997.
Back across the Seine on the way to our hotel we rested our feet at a caf��. We had tea and crepes (mine had Nutella��� yum.) Then it was off to our room to crash after we each called our families to let them know we had arrived safely. A busy first day.
Read more about day 1 on Lydia’s blog.
Paris Vacation, Day 1 4 comments