(In the fall of 2010, my wife and I made our first trip to Paris, France in celebration of our 15th wedding anniversary. What follows is an electronic version of the journal I wrote while on the trip, liberally sprinkled with photographs taken during our Parisian visit. For the full collection of links, stay tuned to this page as I post my thoughts on our excursion.)
Long flights are exhausting.
“Red-eye” flights across the Atlantic (or anywhere overseas, for that matter) seem to serve nothing more than to completely disrupt your body clock. In hindsight, of course, it’s a good thing.
There wasn’t anything really wrong with our Air France flight. I’d had a difficult time sitting comfortably since only a couple weeks before I’d bruised my back and hindquarters from a short fall down some stair s in our home. I ended up sleeping maybe a total of an hour during the 8 hour journey. My wife slept comfortably beside me.
We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport with no problem and on time. CDG is a very large and very pretty airport, I have to say. And very clean. After collecting our bags and some mixed discussion with our non-English speaking cabbie-we spoke in broken French, he in broken English-we sorted out our destination and off we went.
I’m very glad on this trip we nixed renting a car. I’m a patient (though slightly aggressive) driver and I’m fairly sure I could not have handled the Parisian traffic very well. The worst, in my opinion, are the multitude of scooters. There is no regard for lanes, safety, or even pedestrians; they just go and move as they please!
On the drive in, our driver took us a slightly long way into town; we were staying in a rented townhouse in the Third Arrondissement. The cabbie’s approach went straight through the massive traffic circle that rings the Arc de Triomphe which was quite impressive. The roundabout is just utter craziness – there are no traffic lines or lanes; it’s pretty much every vehicle for themselves. Woe to the traveler who gets stuck in the middle of the inner ring and wants to get out…
We then got to ride down the length of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, which was pretty sweet. We planned on walking the full length during our stay but it was a very nice ‘introduction’ to our stay in the city.
We arrived at the Marias District (in 3e) early. After a short wait, we dropped our bags off at the townhouse we were renting; the maid needed to clean the place first and shooed us out. So we walked the Marais for a bit. The streets are very narrow (enough for tiny sidewalks and small cars) and it became evident very quickly that Parisians are VERY focused. No rudeness, however. Just brevity.
Of course, we’d taken steps to learn basic French before our trip; it was more of a refresher for me (with 2 years of college French under my rusty belt) and we both had fun doing the audio courses on our commute to and from work for the few months prior. One of the tips given to us was to try communicating in French first, showing appreciation for the culture, and then bumble our way through the conversation.
We managed to get a little lunch at a nearby boulangerie near the Centre Pompidou, locally known as the Beauborg for the street it is located on., and ate in the Centre’s courtyard while people-watching. Our lunch was simple fair but filling, and the crowd was thin but entertaining. Not to mention the very unique look to the Centre, of which I never quite seemed to get in a photo…
After some more wandering – no photos at this time, since our cameras were still packed away – it was nice to simply wander around. Soon enough, it was time for us to return to the rental.
And also time for a nap!
The rental was very nice for a small apartment in a historical building. It’s “differently” appointed than our normal taste, but this is in part due to the fact that the owner and her husband also live there for some months of the year. Still, it is vastly larger than a hotel room of equivalent cost and more “homey.” It’s the perfect type of relaxing getaway and central point to our plans for this trip. Since we planned on exploring the city and less on “living” in the space, it would work splendidly for our needs.
About 7 pm we were fully functional again, though still exhausted and not terribly hungry. We puttered for a bit, unpacking various things and somewhat planning our first full day but it wasn’t long before I crashed again. My wife followed shortly afterward.
I awoke early in the morning and jotted down my thoughts (of which you’ve just read) and eagerly awaited our first foray into Paris at large…