Bonjour! As I write this, I am sitting in my hotel room watching the Rugby World Cup (all in French) which kicks off tonight just outside of Paris. The Opening Ceremonies are very festive; it reminds me of the Olympics.
I arrived in Paris last night and was greeted by my taxi (unbelievably expensive...you have no idea...). On the way to my hotel, we got rear-ended. I'm not kidding. This crazy lady just hit us. They got out of their cars in the middle of the street (no where to pull-over) and yelled at each other for 2 minutes then continued on. Amazingly, no damage to the taxi.
I've been on a plane every day this week and its caught up with me. I'm exhausted. I had my last meeting of the week today which very well. We ended around 3 pm and I had the rest of the afternoon to discover Paris!
With my trusty map and tour book (I'm not afraid show I'm a tourist!), I head out to explore this city I've heard so much about. I wasn't quite sure what to do. I wanted to save the bus tour and boat ride for Saturday and the Louvre for Sunday. So I decided just to walk. As I left my hotel, I discovered that I am right in the middle of the shopping district (not the Champs place Dodger Dan...). Its the less expensive place where I think a lot of locals shop. There are tons of cafes, restaurants, shops, etc. And yes Shari - it does appear to be good!
I found the Quai de La Megisserie, the main street along the river bank and found myself at Pont Neuf, which is one of the many bridges that connects both banks over the Seine River. As I crossed it, I looked to my left and saw Ile De La Cite (on the island is the Palais de Justice and Notre Dame). I looked to my right and saw the Left Bank and the Eiffel Tower. That first moment was breath-taking! My heart was beating quickly and my stomach jumped! I could hardly believe that I was in Paris!
I crossed Pont Neuf and walked up the Left Bank. Along the street were street vendors selling souveneirs and many artists painting and sketching. They were really quite good! As I walked, there were people all around me - locals, tourists, etc. I noticed that there were a lot of Americans - mostly older, retired people. It is quite humbling to be in a city where you don't know anyone or speak the language. I found it reassuring just to hear other Americans around me.
Soon I found myself at pont des Arts which is a pedestrian-only bridge. It is also the bridge where Big and Carrie Bradshaw are on in the last SATC episode! The background for that scene is the Academie Nationale which is the grand building at the end of it (I think I have a photo of it.). On this bridge, I met some retired people from Nashville, TN. They were very nice and offered to take my photo.
I continued on along the Left Bank and came upon the Musee d'Orsay. Its not as intimidating as Musee du Louvre and was recommended by many people. It was already 4 o'clock so I only had 2 hours but decided to give it a shot. I haven't been exposed to art so going to these museums are new experiences that I am really enjoying. Its a true learning experience of art, creativity, history, etc. I am amazed at the talent these artists have. All the big names have works in the d'Orsay - Vincent Van Gogh, Picasso, Rodin, Cezanne, Degas, Dali...and of course, Claude Monet. There were signs that said no cameras but tons of people were taking photos of the paintings. The staff did nothing but sit there. I was shocked and tempted to take photos too, but decided against it. It would be my luck to be the one person to get in trouble for doing it. The museum was wonderful! Outside of the musem are musicians and artists. I sat for a few minutes just to people-watch.
Then I continued down the Left Bank and decided to head for the Eiffel Tower. I didn't realize how far down it was. Along the way, I passed the Assemble Nationale, which must be government buildings. Guards were stationed along the gates. I followed the curve of the river and found myself on the Invalides Mall. At the end of the mall is the Hotel des Invalides, which was built to honor those who served in the French military. It is also where Napoleon is entombed. I walked along the mall but decided to start heading back to my hotel. I didn't want to stay out too late since I was alone in this city and not able to speak the language.
I decided to try to find a faster route back and suddenly found myself lost. I started to go into a bit of a panic so I turned around to ask the guy behind me for directions. He looked at me and goes, "ho, you asking da wrong guy. I just one American from Hawaii." I just stared at him and started laughing. What are the odds that I'd be lost in Paris and randomly find someone from Hawaii? Do you know how far away that is? 11-hour time difference! I found out that he manages the HERMES (yes, HERMES!) store at Ala Moana and just finished a week of training in Paris. HERMES! HERMES! He was looking for the d'Orsay and I was looking for Quail Malaquais, which the d'Orsay is on, so we decided to find it together. We did in about 15 minutes, said our goodbyes and went on our way.
By this time, the sun was setting so I stopped on the pont des Arts to enjoy the scenery. Musicians playing, people milling, sun setting, bateaux mouches floating down the Seine - wow - this is Paris! I hoped the Eifel would soon light so I waited for about 30 minutes. It still wasn't lit, and I was starving so I continued on, heading back to my hotel.
I popped into the Louvre courtyard for a few minutes to see the triangle and see just how big it is - its huge! I tried to ask some staff where I could catch the open bus tour but they didn't speak English. I'm finding that I'm creating my very own sign language. But you know what, it works!
As I headed back to my hotel, I decided to actually follow the map and find a different route than what I used earlier when I left (I walked thru a lot of back alleys). I walked up Rue de la Monnaie which has lots of trendy shops and fashions (no GAP so far!), crossed Rue de Rivoli and turned right on Rue Saint Honore. I stopped at one of the cafe's and had a crepes dinner. It was very good (its so different from Crepevine on Burlingame Avenue) but the salmon was really salty. I'm getting pretty good at this eating out alone thing. I mostly people watch and eavesdrop on other conversations. I ended my meal with peppermint tea (picked this up on London) and finally came back to my hotel.
I plan to take the hop-on-hop-off open air bus tour tomorrow which will be an all day adventure. It'll take me to 19 different stops in 2 hours. Then, I'll stay on the buss and do it again, but this time, I'll know which stops I want to get off at and explore. I hope its good. It was so great in London and terrible in Barcelona. Tomorrow night, I am going to take a bateaux mouches - a boat tour - down the river with the city lights.
Here are my photos from today - more will be added tomorrow:
So until then, au revoir!