Paris est magnifique !

Paris is magnificent! There is no other way to say it.

I started out by having a croissant breakfast. Wow - the croissants melt in your mouth! I haven't had any type of croissants in years but yesterday, I think I had at least 3 - they are that good!

After breakfast, I walked to the Louvre to catch the open air, "hop-on-hop-off" tour bus. How it works is, there are 4 different routes. You buy a ticket from the bus driver and he gives you a route guide and headphones which you plus into the audio player at your seat. Then they drive along the route with narration. You can hop off the bus at any location you want to visit and when you're done, you go back to the bus stop and wait for the next bus to continue on your route. The buses come every 8-12 minutes. I bought a 2-day pass and it costs about $40 (29 EURO). Its the best way to see the city and is absolutely worth it!

I saw through the entire "Paris Grand Tour" route (about 2 hours) to see all the sites and note which ones I wanted to go back to. Being on the second level of the bus, its a great opportunity to get better photographs of different sites.

After I finished the entire route, I decided to stay on the bus and make The Islands my first "hop-off" visit. In the center of the Left and Right Banks are 2 islands - Ile de la Cite and Il St. Louis. These islands are the origins of Paris; where the tribes first settled. This is also where Notre Dame is. I got off at the Notre Dame stop. It was PACKED with tourists! Its free to go into the Cathedral so that line moved fairly quickly. As I stood in line, this American doofus behind me asked really loudly, "Where's Quasimodo?" What an idiot! The sign said no cameras in the church but everyone was taking pictures, so I whipped out my camera too. There were areas sectioned off for mass and prayer but it wasn't very quiet in the church. I didn't pay to go up to the tower - the line was too long.

After I left the church, I headed into Ile St. Louis which is the second island. Its connected to Il de la Cite from behind Notre Dame. By far, this was my most favorite part of Paris. Its a quaint neighborhood with little streets. There are lots of outdoor cafes and shops. Some of the streets are blocked off so street performers assemble and put on a show. I stopped for an ice cream cone at a shop recommended in my tour book, then sat on the sidewalk to watch an American boogie-woogie show as they sang "Route 66." I could have stayed in the islands all day, but I had to get going if I was going to see more stops.

Next, I headed to the Champs-Elysees. This is the avenue famous for shopping. There are very, very expensive shops here, but some not so expensive. I walked into one store that was a department store. It was weird; the cosmetics at the make up counters are L'Oreal and Maybelline. I walked in and out of stores and saw some great things, but I wasn't sure what the sizes were. So I finally walked up to a sales girl to ask her to convert the size to an American size. She looked me up and down and asked me if it was for me. I said yes and she said, "then a 38." I'm not sure if that was a good thing or an insult. So I just shrugged and headed into a fitting room. She was good - it fit - but I didn't buy it.

Along the Champs-Elysees, I came across Paul. Its a patissiere recommended to me by my friend Jane, who has spent a lot of time in Paris. I got another croissant and it was so good, I bought another one to take with me! The desserts looked so good, I wish I could bring them all home with me! I spent about 2 hours on the "Champs" then got back on the bus for the Eiffel Tower.

By this time, it was about 4:30 pm and the buses were packed. But not as packed at the Eiffel Tower! I couldn't believe the lines of people! By that time, I was tired and didn't have the energy to stand in another line. Plus, the last bus left at 7 pm and I wasn't sure if I'd be done by then - that's how long the lines were! But there was still a lot to see. Lots of people bring blankets and picnic by the tower. I was on the hunt to find someone to take my photo. I found an Italian couple and some Dutch people. They didn't take good ones. I eventually me these guys from Arizona who were in town for the Rugby World Cup. They took my photo and I hung with them for a while. Then I got back on the bus to head back to my neighborhood.

On the bus, I sat next to this Canadian woman. We exchanged tourist information, shared stories, made fun of the over-the-top Italians sitting in front of us. Her husband was extremely conservative and was afraid to get off at a lot of the stops so I told her which ones were must-sees.

I got off at the Pont Neuf and headed down to the river bank to take the bateaux mouches (boat cruise). It was about an hour long and I tried to get on at twilight so I could see the city lights from the boat. But it was such a beautiful day, I had no such luck. The boat tour itself was ok, nothing fantastic. The tour guide was a student with a very heavy French accent and she mainly just pointed out the sites I had already seen. But it was a nice experience.

After the boat cruise, I crossed the Pont Neuf and headed back to my neighborhood which is only about 2 blocks away. I stopped and had another crepe dinner and came back to my hotel a little before 10 pm.

On Sunday, I plan to take 2 more tours to Montparnasse-Saint Germain and Montmarte...and maybe the Louvre. Actually have no desire to go into the Louvre...is that bad? I just know it will be really crowded. Well, we'll see how much time I have.

Here's more photos that I added to my Paris album: http://picasaweb.google.com/njnakamura/Paris

j'aime paris!