Ahhh... Paris

Trip Start Sep 13, 2006
Trip End May 25, 2007

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

We went to Paris with no expectations, mostly because everyone said "Don't have high expectations of Paris - it won't be what you expect." The good part of having no expectations is that you aren't disappointed. We actually had a very nice time.
When we arrived from the train we must have looked like a wreck because the hotel manager let the 12 pm check-in rule slide and let us check in at 8 am. We immediately slept for about three hours then forced ourself to get up and see the city.

Our hotel was in a very nice neighborhood, on Rue de Commerce for those of you who know Paris. How did we manage to afford a Parisian hotel in a nice neighborhood? We stayed in the lowest price rooms in a crumbling one star hotel. It was clean enough - no bed bugs or bad smells or anything, but it was old and very run down. We had a toilet on the floor but the shower was three flights down. Our room was six flights up which is very high after a long day of power walking! So, to you honeymooners it may not be your hotel of choice but to those who care more about neighborhood and nice staff than room, we have a place for you.

We have started to develop a very good "game plan" for visiting a city now. We will describe our normal routine and then how it came together in Paris.

1. Try to see the big sites, but not kill ourselves.

In Paris we saw and walked the steps up the Eiffel tower (cheaper and no lines but 700 steps!), visited the Arc de Triomphe, went on a Seine Cruise and walked the Champs-Élysées. None of these are life changing sites, but they are things that people do and see when they go to Paris.  Being October, there were still crowds but nothing unmanageable.
We weren't able to see Verseilles, which would have been too much for the days we had. It will have to be in a later trip.

2. Visit lots of churches and go to Mass if one is starting.

So far the Catholics have dominated most of the countries we have visited so most of the Churches we visit are Catholic. Catholic churches in Europe are gorgeous and most are free so we enjoy visiting as many as we can to gape in awe and pray. Julius, being the good Catholic that he is, will always want to stay for Mass if it is coming up. I stay as well because I can't find any Lutheran churches and Mass is easy to follow, even if the language is foreign. In Paris we visited St Chappele, Notre Dame (attending a Mass there in French), and a lot of smaller but beautiful churches. Notre Dame was packed with people but we thought that it wasn't as beautiful as some of the other churches we had seen - just more famous. I had a museum pass so I climbed the Notre Dame Cathedral to hang out with the gargoyles, but Julius didn't want to spend the money so he just waited in the church.

3. If we know anyone in a city, or know anyone who knows anyone we know, we visit them.

In Paris, this was John and Valeria, the son and daughter-in-law of our friends Bill and Ruth from Edmonds Lutheran Church. We had never met them, but our friends got us in contact and we ended up having a delicious dinner at their home and getting tips on the city.

4. We do a Rick Steves walking tour if their is one in our Rick Steves book.

Our cousin Matt graciously gave us a Rick Steves European Walks and Museums book that covers the major cities in Europe. We both really like these tours because they are interesting, informative and free. We did one of these in Paris.

5. Eat local cheap food and when necessary eat Donar Kebab.

French food is amazing, and when you stick to certain places it is cheap. We ate primarily at the bakeries for breakfast and lunch, delectable pastries and savory sandwiches. All budget travelers know that the key to getting around Europe on a budget is Donar Kebab (a Turkish lamb or beef sandwich). In every city on the continent you can find a small hole in the wall with a tall spit stacked with meat. A huge meat sandwich (sometimes stuffed with fries) costs about $3. It is a real filling cheap dinner.

6. Split off when our interests diverge.

Julius has no interest in Art Museums. I have little interest in Soccer Stadiums or airports. So, for afternoon in Paris I went to the Orsay and Julius walked around the city. On another day I went to the Lourve and the l'Orangerie museum and Julius went to the Paris Air and Space Museum. We both had a great time and saw everything we wanted without boring the other person.

7. Watch Soccer on TV whenever possible

Most soccer games are on pay channels but it is possible to nurse two beers in a bar over 105 minutes and call it a game.

8. Try to find Internet for a semi-reasonable price and update our blog when we can.

In our neighborhood in Paris one clerk told us with a straight face that they charge 1 Euro for 5 minutes of internet. We hopped on the subway (a fabulous subway system by the way) and rode out to the African/Indian neighborhood where internet was 1.50 an hour and lightening fast.

So, there is Paris in a nutshell. The Parisians were not rude as is their reputation. We didn't make a lot of demands of them and tried to be polite and they were polite back. I think without the hordes of tourists that come in the summer they are a little more relaxed.

From Paris we flew to Spain to visit our cousin Jennifer and her husband Carlos and their kids William and Olivia. After a few speed bumps on our first day we had pretty smooth sailing.
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