Our time in Paris was brief but good. After meeting the folks at the Paris airport on time and successfully navigating through an obstinate French bus driver, we arrived at our hotel and were pleasantly surprised. It was a Best Western, and it was warm, sparkling clean and the staff were friendly. A stroke of good fortune meant that Tim and I had a twin share room with space for an extra bed, which meant extra floor space and actually a bigger bathroom. We spent a little while getting used to everything (and scamming the complimentaries so they’d be replenished the next day) and then went out and about for a walk in the neighbourhood.
The Eiffel Tower was in view as soon as we walked out of the hotel. Flying in I had thought it looked small, but that was simply an illusion of distance. Up close, the thing is huge, and a remarkable feat for something more than 100 years old. On the first night we hunted out a local “main street” with plenty of open cafes, restaurants and street vendors. We bought bread, sweet pastries and other delicious things right on the street. Once again, these French people showed their skill with making plain bread interesting enough to eat on its own.
The next day came after a warm evening in the room, despite the cool outside. Our beds seemed to retain all heat, so we were toasty toasty to the point of exhaustion. We got up and out fairly early to jump on a bus tour which circled Paris. We got out at the Louvre Museum expressly to see the Mona Lisa (I think I dragged the rest of the family, they didn’t seem too impressed), and we had coffee and croissants afterwards. Back on the bus to see Notre Dame, Pont Neuf and a whole heap of other sights.
That night when the others were back in the hotel room, Dad and I went out for a night time view of the Eiffel Tower. We were standing under the monolithic construction exactly on 10pm, when we heard a cry of enchantment from other passers by. You see, on the hour every hour after dark, the tower is lit up by hundreds of strobing white lights. It looks like stars sparkling all over the tower. We made a pact to keep hush hush about it and get Tim and Mum there on the hour the next night before our trip up to the top. The hot chocolate we bought from a street kiosk was simply delicious.
The next day we got on a boat tour down the Seine, which looped around the Notre Dame island and back to the Eiffel Tower. It was an enjoyable cruise and much more interesting than the one we took in London. After that, we headed off to the Latin Quarter for lunch and to buy some trinkets to remember Paris by. I found these cute little espresso mugs which will surely get good use…
After lunch we went back to the hotel and had some strange interpretation of pizza for dinner, which didn’t taste terrible but looked confusing with an egg plonked right in the middle. A little relaxation followed until 8pm when we went out to visit the Eiffel Tower once again. Unfortunately, they closed the very top level for one month starting that very day, so we could only go up to the second level. Quite frustrating given that we saw heaps of people travelling up the night before! But it was still nice to be on the Tower and Paris looks nice at night. One interesting thing to note is that Paris has basically no skyscrapers at all in the scenic centre – a credit to historically-minded town planners.
And that’s that. We finished off with the family photo in a cafe on the second level, went back to the hotel and crashed. The next morning (yesterday) was the usual pack up, breakfast, rush to train, wait around for train, get on fast international train and wait again. The Eurostar, which travels under the English Channel, wasn’t as fast as I thought it would be but the experience was another to add to the list of firsts.
Paris is a beautiful city, and the people are nice enough if you try to give them some French before gesticulating and muttering in English. And the fact that we didn’t get to the top of the Eiffel Tower simply means I have reason to go back one day…