Easter Trip 2012 Day 1 - Paris
I've now been to Paris twice - once on Contiki in 2005 and now with my family over Easter this year. Twice is more than enough for me and I have no inclination to return. It has nothing to do with the latest trip though ...
After a 12hr flight to London, I made short stop at friends to freshen up and bundle up properly against the chilly weather, before heading out to rendevous with the family. The planned maintenance and interuption of services due to the public holiday made the tube trip longer and more interesting than I had planned for but I arrived at St Pancras with time to spare before my brother and his wife joined us.
After a light lunch of sandwiches and coffees, we joined the queues to move through border control and board the Eurostar. The french are very thorough when allowing people in their country. I had to let my hair down and they scanned my brother's fingerprints. admittedly with his long hair, eye-brow piercing and rat-like goatee he does look a bit like a terrorist. *giggle*
The Eurostar is less impressive than I expected. Yes, it's super sleek, super fast and a very convienent way to travel but, and perhaps it is just me, it falls a little flat because you don't really feel it. I had been refering to it as "the flight to Paris" or "when we land in Paris" and it felt like we on a plane - just with more comfortable seating and no turbulence. I managed to change seats and sat with my folks chatting about their trip and making plans for seeing Paris, while my brother and his wife sat playing a game across from us.
Arriving at Gare du Nord in the late evening, the station was very busy and the area outside even busier despite it being a public holiday. Trying to get my barings and find the hotel, I decided that being an adorable lost tourist would work in my favour and approached some security guys to ask for directions. They were actually quite sweet, loved my accent and showed me on a map how to get to the hotel.
I herded my family together and we set off to walk the 10 blocks to the hotel. I had forgotten how bad my dad's chest was and he had to stop every block and a half to catch his breath. This turned it into a slow trip but looking at the traffic, a taxi would not have been any faster.
We nearly missed the entrance to the hotel, hidden as it was beneath scafolding and basically unmarked. The room was functional but I wasn't expecting much more for the price we were paying. My folks and I took the single beds, while my brother's wife claimed the double bed for them. After settling in, we headed out to find dinner, finalise plans for the next day and see a bit of the city at night.
Navigating the Paris Metro should have been as painless as using the London Tube. Unnecessary fuss, mangled French with a bad accent and three people trying to book tickets just resulted in confusion. Once the unnecessary fuss and confusion of using a machine in French had produced five one-way tickets into central Paris and a marked map showing we should travel to Cite station. Am I the only one who is casual and non-fussed about using public transport, even in strange countries?
The trip was uneventful as expected and we emerged into the clear, chilly night not far from a bistro still serving dinner. We had lost track of time and it was after nine. Definitely time for dinner. My brother's wife wanted to walk a bit but my mother put her foot down and we were soon seated in the cosy restaurant section. Ordering was interesting, the staff good naturedly helped us translate the menu so we could order. I had the brown onion soup - warm, filling and with cheesey toast floating in it - just what I needed after a long cold day of travelling.
After dinner we took a walk down to the Seine and along to Notradame where we took pictures. My mom says, "Living in a family of shutterbugs can be daunting at times" but the good natured competition between us results in some awesome pictures. I think I took the best picture of our trip that night - the full moon behind Charlemagne's raised lance changing it into a "Holy rod".
We returned to the hotel via the metro again, using an exit closer the hotel as my dad was battling to breathe in the cold air. Picking up pamphlets at the front desk, my mom and I agreed an open bus tour would be the best way to see the most of the city and its landmarks. My brother's wife disagreed on the cost despite the fact my dad was paying for everything for all of us. I went to bed in my new Hello Kitty flanel pjs while my brother and her headed back out to find an "authentic French bar". They got back very late smelling of smoke so I suppose they found one.