Got up seriously too early. I am getting sick of lugging all of my stuff around. Hop the train to Amsterdam, caught the train to Paris. Train was very on time, glad we got up early. We had splurged for this leg and gotten 1st class seats. Never again. The seats were sideways and there were mirrors everywhere so it was hard to tell which direction we were going. Sitting sideways made the movement of the train much more evident. I was getting motion sickness and was very glad when we pulled into the train station.
We stepped into culture shock in Paris. Nothing is in english anymore toto. English was the official second language everywhere else. In france, french is the second, third and fourth language. Deal. I should be fair almost every Parisian we have met speaks at least more english then I speak french. They just prefer to speak french, if you try they will let you struggle. Great fun for them. In the mean time both Jo and I are still a little woozy from the train ride so we take our time aclimating. The train station was very busy. Another hindrance. But I finally put the pieces together and got us headed in the right direction. Which happens to be Rue Cler. Our hotel is Hotel de L'Alma, a 3 starrer and recommended by RS. It is small and as we walk in we are greeted by a nice young polish girl who has probably had 10 cups of coffee this morning. Way perky. Our room wasn't ready so we stowed our gear and went looking for lunch. About 50 feet from the hotel we find a vietnamese fast food restaurant. What the heck. We get a couple of things (I still don't know what they were) and dig in. After only a few bites I start getting dizzy spells. Must be loaded with MSG. We staggered back to the hotel and checked in. Just prior we bought our first loaf of french bread. We meant to save it for tomorrow but Jo took a sampler and that was it for the bread. We wolfed it. We had eaten it before we had gotten up to our room. Our room is small and at the top, but it will do.
Our hotel was right next to the Eiffel Tower, like 1 block. Bought some more bread, a little cheese and ate in the part between the military college and the tower. When we arrived in Paris it was dreary and raining. As we sat in the park it cleared and turned into a beautiful day. Once we were done with our food we hiked over to the tower. The sucker is huge. About 320 meters. Since the sun is out everyone has come out of the wood work and the place is mobbed. RS said it would be crowded and expensive, but worth it, he nailed it. It costs about $12 to get the elevator to the top but once there we could see all of Paris almost completely unobstructed. It proved invaluable later as it gave me a quick orientation for everything. We took many photos, hope they turn out. The only let down was the group of extremely obnoxious Americans in front of us on the way back down. The kept doing this ridiculous german accent. It was pissing me off. I didn't say anything even though I should have. We ditched them and took the stairs the rest of the way. They beat us down by a hair and we had to listen to them again on our walk back. A reminder of what europeans see as stereotypical Americans. I am resolved to not be like that the rest of the trip.
Before we left we had asked the receptionist to make a reservation for us at the restaurant we had picked out of the RS guide. We wanted 6:30 or 7 and we had totally miss judged our time at the tower so we thought we would be late. Since the restaurant was only 4 doors down from the hotel we checked with the receptionist to see when she made the reservation for. She had made it for 7:30. Lucky. The restaurant was great. Jo finally was able to get fish and she loved it. I had the vegetarian menu which is a 3 course meal. The most interesting thing about it was the desert which was a simple pastry with strawberries in a thyme sauce, surprisingly good. At dinner another troupe of obnoxious Americans. This one all female and naggy. Dang.
We were beat after dinner and decided to come home and crash. The weather turned again and was raining. Good choice on our part.
We both slept over 9 and a half hours and woke up refreshed. The weather was still crapy but we made a go of it anyhow. Fortunately we are saving tons of francs on not going to museums because all of them are on strike (double rats!). No kidding, every museum, been that way for 2 weeks. Glad I had taken opportunities in Amsterdam and Copenhagen. What we weren't spending on museums we are spending on food. We are up to four meals a day and loving it. Breakfast is included with our room and is bread, juice and coffee. Scandinavie gave us more. But it gives us and oppurtunity to get out and have another meal later.
Supposedly Paris is closed on Sunday. It is more open then any other european city we have been to. Not quite as horrible as it was made out to We by un telecarte petite because we want to change our itenerary and stay 2 days in Burgundy. It takes only a few calls and we are set. Back to the hotel for a quick confirmation fax, all set.
Our first stop is the Arc de Triomphe. It is closed, sh*t. So we can't climb inside. The sign says "the monument is on strike". Good for it. You can still walk around it and stand next to it. The eiffel tower in comparison makes it look small, nor is it as somber and appropriate as say the vietnam memorial but it works. We then walked along the champs ave. Most things are open including the very American Disney store and Gap. It is much nicer then the stroll we took down 5th ave, friendlier and wider. It leads us to the Luvre (also on strike). This is a Sacha stop (my friend from work, a Parisian) He told us to stop at the Cafe Marly at the Louvre, so we do. We sit down and commence spending about $40 on a very light lunch, 2 salads a cafe creme and a piece of chocolate cake, worth every dime. We got impechable service, the food was awesome and the people being denied entrance to the museum and getting pised about it was priceless. Sacha nailed it. It is good that the Louvre is more then a big ass museum (which it definitely is). Otherwise we would be having our own tourist revolution. As it is I am sure many tour packages are having to refund some cash. We talk and sit and eat and talk and sit and have a ball sitting outside the Louvre. Totally fun.
We walk to Notre Dame next. It is between services and the place is mobbed. The museum part is closed (go figure) but the sanctuary is open. Inside, it is spectacular. Huge, colorful stainglass, everything you expect in a world class cathedral. The outside is incredible but very worn looking. They are restoring it now, but it will take forever. Still a major site to see.
We are running out of clean clothes, doh! We go on a sock hunt in the latin quarter. Instead we find a vegetarian restaurant, wahoo! We scan the menu and decide to come back later for dinner. We have an hour and a half before it even opens. We find the nearest boat cruise stop and take a tour of the Seine. It was really touristy, but fine and the seats were comfy after a lot of walking. It was the guides first day on the boat so they were really wacky. THe screwed up all sorts of english words and giggled through most of the tour. They had this nack for telling tons of french in two words of english. It was obvious we were not getting everything the french crowd was getting, but still fun.
When we finish we hike back to the veggie restaurant. Open and totally empty. A little scared. We get seated and look over the menu. 10 minutes later the restaurant is packed. Literally full, people now waiting outside. Service gets really bad all of a sudden. Not their fault we all wanted to eat at once. The food turned out to be quite good. I had a veggie pate, it tasted exactly like vienna sausages. Jo had a sorbet that was fantastic. The one wierd part of the meal was the german couple sitting next to us. They ordered all sorts of courses and as each course cam up and the waitress set the food down the guy would whip out this groovy amulet and wave it over his food. Then produce an equally groovy but different amulet and wave that one over his companion's food. This cycle repeated with every plate. Kind of like a New Age 'grace' before each portion. I should have asked to borrow it, no telling when you need the extra amulet super powers.
After dinner we hiked back to the hotel, payed our bill and went straight to bed. It was probably 9pm, we are not night owls on this trip. But with all we saw during the day we are quite satisfied with our days in Paris. We start early tomorrow so goodnight.