Monday, December 12, 2005
Paris- Day One
We got off the plane at 8 AM, exhausted and generally suffering from big-time culture shock.
Once we stashed the bags at our hotel, we were told that we couldn't get into our room until after noon- so we grabbed the camera and did some sight-seeing, and had brunch at a nearby brasserie- a cheese omelette. It was seriously one of the best things I have ever tasted!
That's one thing I should definitely mention- we had only one bad food experience, and we ate in a different place every single meal of every single day. In Paris, the restaurants are everywhere, and they cannot survive unless the food is sublime, or if they'll cater to the tastes of tourists.
We learned (after the one bad experience) that if there were hot dogs or hamburgers prominently displayed (in English) on the menu, we probably shouldn't even go in.
The first place that we went to explore was Cimetière du Père Lachaise, which is evidently the most fashionable final resting place in all of France.
Many major French artists are there, as well as Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. We couldn't locate the Lizard King's grave- however, judging by the graffiti on the monuments nearby, we came pretty close.
I had a hard time shaking the insane feeling that we were in some kind of a macabre Disneyland. Everything in Paris is beautiful, with a stunning attention to detail, and an awe-inspiring patina of age.
Here in the U.S., it's a big deal if real estate is 100 years old. There- well, everything is at least that old, or significantly older.
At noon on the dot, we headed back to the hotel and crashed with a resounding thud. We were dead to the world until about 5PM, when we awoke and decided to check out the Eiffel Tower (our hotel was very nearby) and walk around and search out the place for dinner.
You've already heard a little about out dinner the first night. In any case, a French restaurant that can mess up both steak & frites and a creme brulee is seriously in over its head.
We were too late to take the elevator up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but we got some fantastic photographs from the ground. The little white lights are actually twinkle lights- they sparkle for ten minutes at the hour, and it's absolutely breathtaking to watch.
You know all those things that you hear about the snotty French people?
I admit, in some cases, they are right on the money. Here though, is an example of something that would never happen here in the U.S.- at least not in a city the size of Paris.
My buddy and I got out a map as we were walking through a park on the way back to the hotel. Some guy in his 30's was walking by with his wife, and he asked if we were lost.
We said no, but he came over and checked the map, made sure we were going in the right direction, and even said that we could follow he and his wife to their car, which was near the hotel, and they'd point us from there. Then he mentioned that it was so near- they'd be happy to give us a ride. (!)
We didn't accept, but thanked them for their help. I was completely blown away. I will say, the younger people were generally much more friendly than the older ones- and were so openly shocked and pleased when I would attempt to communicate with the high school French.
Most of the French I encountered could speak English quite well- we had no trouble making ourselves understood pretty much everywhere we went. So we ended our first day feeling pretty confident!
If you'd like to sight-see along with us in Paris, the pictures I took on our first day are here. Enjoy!