Trip Start Apr 03, 2009
15Trip End Apr 14, 2009
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It was amazing to breeze past the beautiful countryside, small villages and acres of flower fields, vineyards and farmland. The homes in the country ranged from small village-style cottages to immense castle-like manors set atop hillsides. All of them looked old; not in a run-down kind of way, but in a way that you know they've withstood the test of time.
Michael and I both managed to take a cat nap before arriving in Paris' Gare de Lyon train station.
After a stroll around the station (inside and out) just to get a feel for the place, we eventually found the area where our train was to depart for Montparnasse, where our hotel is located. Just as we walked onto the platform, the train arrived. I rushed through the doors with Michael trailing behind me, but he got caught as the doors closed. With one foot inside the train and the other outside, along with one of our bags, he quickly slipped his body from between the doors back onto the platform and shrugged as the train departed. I gasped when I realized that he wasn't on the train. There I was alone in Paris for the first time, on the train with my luggage. That wouldn't have been so bad, except that the bag that Michael had included my passport and cash.
Globetrotter lesson #4: Do not panic! Think with a clear head, especially if the Globetrotters ever find themselves separated. First thought: get off at the very next stop and wait for Michael. Second thought: if he doesn't arrive within the next 20 minutes, continue on to the hotel and meet him in the lobby. How hard could that be? Thankfully, when the next train arrived (only 3 minutes later), Michael was on it. When he got off we laughed so hard I almost cried.
After asking directions from a few helpful people, we finally arrived at Le Meridien Hotel in Montparnasse. Whew! What an adventure. The hotel is quite nice, very modern. We dropped off our luggage, had a chat with the Concierge about how to get to all of the places of interest, then went out to discover Paris. We placed a quick call to Helena, Jean's niece who lives in Paris and agreed to be our informal tour guide for a day, and decided that we would go it on our own today, then connect with her tomorrow.
Just outside the hotel is a little market where we picked up a salad, some French bread and a few other snacks to hold us over until dinner, then we walked through the streets of Paris to discover its beauty. On foot, we passed brasseries (restaurants), bars, cafes, shops and apartments. With the Eiffel Tower in view, we headed in that direction and within about 40 minutes, we were there.
The parklike area leading up to the tower reminds me of the National Mall in Washington, DC, with sandy gravel walkways on either side of a grassy stretch of lawn in the middle. There were people everywhere just sitting on the lawn eating, talking, laughing, smoking, kissing. We found a spot to sit for a while and I marveled at the reality that I was actually seeing this monument that I've seen so many times on TV and in photos.
We snapped a few "self portraits" with the tower behind us. Then, a friendly onlooker (who we later discovered was from New Zealand) seemed to think we needed help with our photography, so he offered to take a picture of the Globetrotters.
The line to ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower was ridiculously long, and we really didn't want to spend over an hour waiting in line, so we decided to skip that view. We walked the grounds around the Eiffel Tower and found a festival atmosphere just across the street from the monument (see the videos).
As the afternoon wore on, we walked the short distance to the River Seine and boarded a boat that took us on a 1-hour tour of this amazing waterway. We passed beneath ancient bridges and cruised past centuries-old buildings and picturesque scenes that seemed so real and so imagined all at the same time.