Friday, December 19, 2008

Beck Invasion of Paris

We got up very early this morning...5:30am. Oreo knew right away that something was wrong when we all started getting ready to leave...backpacks and suitcase (only 1 for the 4 of us) in hand.

We took the metro to Gare St Charles to catch the train. When we arrived at the station, we found out that there was a strike (not sure who was striking exactly), but it was causing our train to run 45 minutes late. So we found a table outside of McDonald's to sit at and wait. The station was very cold, since it's an open air train station. We were all very tired, and ready to get moving.

Our train track was finally announced on the boards, and we went to wait for the train. The sun was coming up at that point, and it was after 9am. The TGV train pulled into the station and we started looking for the right door to board. There really didn't seem to be any method to the madness...people were just lining up and hopping on. We almost got on one train car, but realized it was 2nd class, and we had 1st class tickets. We were also on the top deck, so when we found a car labeled 1, we jumped in and headed upstairs.

That is when we realized that our seats were not next to each other. We were suppose to have 4 all together, but somehow that had been rearranged. I thought I had found my seat, but it was next to a young boy, and it looked to be his father standing over the seat that was marked with my number. While I was standing there wondering what to do, Chris asked another passenger how to find our seats, and we realized we were still in the wrong train car. I'm guessing that the conductors were on strike, because there was no one to tell us what to do or to ask questions.

Our seats were in the front of the train, with Carolyn and David seated together and Chris & I sitting behind them (Chris was suppose to sit across the aisle from me, but since we had empty seats around us, he moved over next to me).

The train was very nice. Seats were cushy, near the WC (water closet), and quiet. The ride was very fast and smooth. It only took us 3 hours to get from Marseille to Paris. I loved the ride up here. We saw farms, vineyards, snow capped mountains, little villages, castles, fields, sheep and cows, rivers, so many sites! When we got closer to Paris, the view wasn't as impressive...more like IN really, so I knitted for a little while and took a brief nap before pulling into the station.

Finding our way down to the metro wasn't too difficult. Chris was very good at navigating. The only hard part was going up and down stairs with the suitcase. Note to self and others: When traveling in Europe for only a couple of days, be sure to have a very small suitcase that is light weight. We only had large suitcases, and a couple of backpacks, so we had thought originally that it would be good for all of us to use one suitcase...however, it was quite heavy with all of our things crammed into it, and quite unwieldy. When we head to Nice after Xmas, I am taking far less...maybe just two backpacks for Chris & myself.

The metro here is more complex than in Marseille, but on par with NYC. We had to transfer trains once to get to our destination. When we emerged from the metro station, we were right across the street from our hotel. We are staying at a cute little Best Western here in Paris. Carolyn & David's room is lovely with a huge bed (bigger than a King). Our room is smaller. Apparently, we have paper thin walls, as we got quite show from our neighbors tonight. :)

After we dropped off our bags earlier, we went down the block for lunch. There is a pedestrian street not far from the hotel with all kinds market stores and cafes. We stopped in to a bistro called Le Chope Daguerre. It was very crowded, but they managed to literally squeeze us into a table in the back. The food was delicious.

We came back to the hotel room and crashed for a bit. We were all very tired, and really didn't intend to take a nap.

After resting for a little while, we put on our coats and headed back out into Paris. Our next stop was the Champs Elysee. For some reason, I had it in my mind that it was a river here in Paris, but no, it's a big street leading to the Arc de Triomphe. Coming out of the metro, we found ourselves right at the ferris wheel, with the Eiffel Tower in the background. The sun was setting, giving us a lovely backdrop for our pictures.

The Champs Elysee had a holiday market, not unlike the one's in Aix en Provence and Marseille (only there are not Santons). We walked 2 miles to the Arc de Triomphe, passing stores like Cartier, Mercedes, Louis Vuitton, and others as well as bistros, cafes, and restaurants. The sidewalk was HUGE compared to the one's in Marseille, and even in NYC. It was so large, it was practically a two lane street. Why can't all cities be built like that?

After taking a few pictures in front of the Arc de Triomphe, we decided to go in. You can pay 9 euros to climb over 200 steps to the top two floors. Carolyn and David weren't thrilled with the idea of climbing all those stairs, but they did it. Did I mention the stairs were also spiral? It was quite a climb, but we made it to the top. Going at night was a good idea since there were few people up there. We walked around, seeing Paris all lit up at night. We also got a full view of the Eiffel Tower. It was cold, but beautiful and worth every centime!

For dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant on the Champs Elysee. The poisson (fish) soup was quite yummy. There was a family sitting behind us from America, and from the sound of their accents, from the Midwest. We have come across quite a few Americans here in Paris.


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