I promised a trip re-cap to all my faithful family and friend readers, so I'm going to break down our trip by day since that's the way I took notes while there. Hopefully these entries also help out anyone who is looking to go to Paris in the near future.
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Paris - Day 1
Our flight from SFO to Detroit was fine and then from Detroit to Charles de Gaulle was pretty uneventful, although I had a hell of a time falling asleep. We were in the middle of the plane in a row of four and the guy next to me was *such* an armrest hog - AND he took off his shoes midway through the flight and had the smelliest feet. Ewww. I ended up watching the second Elizabeth movie, listened to my iPod, and read Paris to the Moon until we landed, naturally exhausted.
CDG is a beautiful
airport. Everyone complained about how
hard it was going through customs and how it was just a really confusing place
but we didn’t find that to be the case. The RER into Paris was like a mile away from our terminal but after sitting for so many hours I was happy for the walk - and excited to just *be* in Paris.
I found a lot of Paris to be very confusing and I was often frustrated with myself because I couldn’t communicate
with anyone and didn’t have any way really of figuring things out. This started immediately with the train
ticket machine at CDG. We didn’t have
euro coins and the machine wouldn’t read our credit card but I couldn’t figure
out why – it turns out that while in America you swipe your card in that style
of card reader, in Paris you leave it in. No where were there any directions. So we had to stand in line with all of the other losers who couldn’t
figure it out to get our tickets into the city.I have to admit that I found
a lot of Paris
When we put our little paper tickets into the turnstile, I didn’t grab it. I didn’t even think to take it. I just assumed it ate your ticket and you were on your way. Not so. You need that little purple ticket for that particular RER trip (whereas not for others – so confusing).
We finally get on the train without knowing if we’re on the right one and immediately see two older people making out. Okay, people had warned me about this – after all, we are in the land of the French kiss. But oh my god. These people don’t passionately kiss – it’s almost a slow, lazy, sloppy kiss. And all you hear is smacking and moaning. It’s disgusting. And it happened all throughout our trip. These people LOVE making out in public places. Maybe I’m a prude, but dude, I do not want to hear that shit.
After several transfers we finally make it to the Gare St. Lazare, the train station closest to our hotel. Since we arrived on a Sunday afternoon, the area was a ghost town. I was a bit worried about our hotel choice as we were walking the streets and there was NOTHING open, but that fear died away. Our hotel, the Best Western St. Augustin, was located on a side street between Boulevard Haussman and Boulevard Malesherbes in an upscale, residential neighborhood. We also think it is home to the Grand Marnier world headquarters. I mean, why else would you have an entire building covered in the GM logo?
Given that it was now evening, our first stop was the Eiffel Tower to see it all lit up. We took the metro over to the Trocadero. Here's my next "complaint" about Paris - the smell of piss and dog shit everywhere. Seriously. It’s bad. Our metro station – given it’s
location in an upscale residential neighborhood – was somewhat cleaner than the
others. But the stop we had to transfer
at and then our final metro stop at the Trocadero was disgusting. People (ie, homeless) are pissing anywhere
and everywhere. The smell assaults you
as you come down into the station from the fresh(ish) air outside.
Given that it was now evening, our first stop was the Eiffel Tower to see it all lit up. We took the metro over to the Trocadero. Here's my next "complaint" about Paris - the smell of piss and dog shit everywhere. Seriously. It’s bad. Our metro station – given it’s location in an upscale residential neighborhood – was somewhat cleaner than the others. But the stop we had to transfer at and then our final metro stop at the Trocadero was disgusting. People (ie, homeless) are pissing anywhere and everywhere. The smell assaults you as you come down into the station from the fresh(ish) air outside.
Before walking down the park to the tower itself, we stopped to get a crepe from a little stand along the walkway. Mmmm ... crepes. Nutella and chantilly is amazingly good. And yes, I know chantilly is just whipped cream, but it's not just whipped cream. It's different - it almost tasted like butter. So delish!
We stood in line for quite awhile to get our tickets to go up to the top of the tower. Once we were on the third level (or is it the second?) we had to wait in line again for about 45 minutes to go to the top. My thought on this - not worth it. There are so many OTHER places in Paris where you can see the whole city that if you have to spend more than 15 or 20 minutes in line either time, you're not doing yourself any favors. It's a beautiful landmark, to be sure, and I loved photographing it - I just didn't find being UP there worth the wait, if that makes sense. Oh, and in the winter - it's FREEZING up there.
After the Eiffel Tower we tried to take a river cruise but the Batobus stop that is near there was only doing dinner cruises at that point, and I wasn't interested in that, so we hopped on the RER and headed toward the area on our map that was highlighted as the Latin Quarter - over by the Sorbonne. (Here's where I get confused. A friend of ours who was born & raised in France told us that this is not the true Latin Quarter. Another book we read called it Little Athens. But every guidebook we have (Rick Steeves, DK Eyewitness) and the map we picked up in Paris clearly labels the area by the St. Michele metro stop as the Latin Quarter. So for the sake of this trip review, that's what I'm going to call it.)