Sensory Overload in Paris

Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
Trip End Aug 17, 2009

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Thursday, August 13, 2009

We were excited to be heading to Paris, the last leg of our vacation. There were a couple of things we wanted to see while enroute to Paris, but before we left the Arras area, we wanted to see Vimy Ridge one more time, and take another drive through Neuville Saint-Vaast.  John wanted to find the approximate location of a Chateau in the town that his great-grandfather was stationed at, but the town Mairie was closed that day.  He stopped into a pharmacy on the corner and, using his limited French, got a little information, but the bottom line was it was probably destroyed many years ago.

It was a good day to spend most of the morning in the car, because it was quite a drizzly day.  The first stop while heading south to Paris was the monument historique Chateau de Pierrefonds, in the village of the same name.  This very picturesque Chateau had laid in ruins for hundreds of years, until a restoration began in the Victorian age, and I felt the inside of the Chateau reflected that.  We enjoyed the tour, mostly the exterior; the interior not so impressive.  The views over the village were very pretty!  A television production was set up there at the time, so that was interesting to see, and it has been a location in quite a few movies.  If the day had been sunny, we may have enjoyed it more and taken some nice photos. 

After the Chateau, the next place of interest was the clearing in the Compiegne Forest, where the Armistice of 1918 took place.  After parking, there is a short hike through the woods to get there, and in the clearing are a number of statues & memorials, including a small museum, which we didn’t go into, and WWI era tank.  The rail lines that once held the train car in which the signing of the Armistice took place are still there, but the original is long gone.  The place was surprisingly busy for a Thursday morning, with a few larger groups coming through.  Nice to see this place is not forgotten. 

After Compiegne, we got onto the A1 to head straight to CDG, about an hour drive.  We had to get our ‘timbit’ back to the rental agency by about 1pm; we would miss her, and for the rest of the trip we would be using public transportation or legs!  After a quick lunch at the airport, we took the RER to Gare Du Nord.  Our hotel, Hotel France Albion, was in the 9th arrondisement on Rue de Notre Dame du Lorette, about a 2k walk.  We thought that would be an easy enough walk, but we did not consider having our bags on our backs, the heat, and the fact that it is a bit of an incline!  When we booked online months ago, one thing that made this hotel stand out was the A/C, so we were really hoping the A/C wouldn’t be broken (it wasn’t)!   That hotel will always be one of my favourites, and not just because it was in Paris, it was a perfect, little ‘boutique’ hotel!  Location was good, a fantastic patisserie the next street over, close to two metro stops, quiet, cool with A/C, and when I walked into the room and looked out the windows, what did I see over the rooftops of Paris?  The Eiffel Tower!!  A magical moment!

After some relaxation, the plan for the late afternoon and evening was to walk around a bit, get a nice meal, and see what happens!  The late afternoon and early evening was still overcast and very humid, but enough of a breeze to make it bearable.  Wow - we were in Paris!  The crowds of people, overhearing Russian, Italian, Australian accents - since many Parisians take their vacations in August, the city was most definately overrun with tourists, like us!  We saw quite a bit that first night, heading towards Haussmann, where we walked past the La Fayette Gallery, then on towards the Opera Garnier, Place Vendome, the Place de la Concorde, which we loved, walked the length of the Champs Elysees, ending at the Arc de Triomphe, where we crossed over through the underground passage.  There was a ceremony going on at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Eternal Flame and quite a crowd around, so it was difficult  to really view the monument.  Unfortunately we didn’t get up into it, maybe some day…

We headed back down the Champs Elysees, and I was interesting to see so many familiar store names, like Louis Vuitton (of course), along side Gap stores and McDonalds!  We decied to stop at a restaurant called Chez Clement, because they had covered outdoor seating with a view of the Arc de Triomphe.  Both of us really enjoyed the food and atmosphere, I had eggs & mayo, a provencal tart (what I would consider a roasted vegtable pizza), followed by an espresso.  John had a green bean salad and stuffed baked tomatos and said it was very good.  Afterwards, we had a very leisurely walk back to the hotel, and got back to the room in time to see the lights on the Eiffel Tower twinkle from our room! 
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