The first of these honeymoon blogs was started on the trip from London to Paris via the “Chunnel” or Channel Tunnel under the English Channel. So, yes, a tunnel underwater; and no, you don’t see under there, it’s just about a 15 minute tunnel. The weird thing is that you see so many tunnels leading up to the big one that it’s almost hard to tell when you’re in the chunnel. The only reason I knew we had done it was because my phone told me: “Welcome to France.”
Paris is definitely one of our favorite cities. The BCPF and I have both decided that if we win the lottery, we are going to buy an apartment in one of the Arrondissements that allows us a visual of the Eiffel Tower. Speaking of the tower, this trip marked the first time that we actually visited it. We didn’t walk nor ride anything to the top, but we did stand underneath it. We happened upon it by chance after doing our customary Metro to outlying neighborhoods and traversing our way back toward the city center or whichever other destination we’ll be looking for. The oddity about that was it was the place (other than the train station) we saw an abundance of soldiers/police with machine guns. Last year, there was a plethora of police with semi-automatics canvasing the area. Kind of off putting, but it was cool, nonetheless. We also saw what I call the “Eiffel Tower Flip Out,” or a flashing/”sparkling” light show that goes nuts on the tower itself. That’s what happens every hour from sunset until 1am and lasts for 5 minutes. It started for the millennium celebration in 2000 and was supposed to only be temporary. It turns out that it was so popular, not only with tourists, but Parisians, as well, they left it. We saw this on an evening riverboat cruise of the Seine River right through the middle of the city. You can see the video right below. But, I kind of got off track; let’s get back to the beginning of Paris.
Paris is called the “La Ville-Lumière” (City of Light) and it’s not because of the shload of lights that are all spread all about this beautiful city. No, dear reader, it is because it was once – and to some extent still – the center of learning and enlightenment. See? We feel enlightened every time we come here. We arrived at Paris Nord Station and were picked up by a driver to be taken to our hotel. I will say this, to get it out of the way: The Best Western Premiere L’horset Opera was the worst hotel that we saw this entire trip. Supposedly, they’re a three-star resort, but that’s pushing it. I equate it to staying at The Cow Shed in Pineville, WV two years ago, but L’horset Opera was pretty bad. The room was smaller than we had stayed at any other location on the trip. The Wi-Fi (I like to Skype with 3B and mon mere when we’re out of the country) was shoddy and that’s putting it nicely. It would come and go; work then not work, all the time I tried to use it. The showers in Europe – we’ve gotten used to this – often only has covering, usually using half-glass large enough to protect just the part where the shower head is. This had a wall, but it was very shallow and nothing else. The water would bounce off my plump body and spill onto the tile floor. We used the floor towel that one steps out on but it was usually soaked and did no good. It was always slick. The actual WC was really no bigger a hall closet. Again, to a large man like me, that makes it hard to be comfortable. The kicker for it all, however, was the morning after the first night. We went down for the free breakfast that was included with the hotel. There was an array of meats and cheeses, most of which were under a serving case, different breads, cereals and a toaster for toasting any of said breads. As I was going to get some of the cheese and meat to put on my plate, I noticed a HUGE fly sitting on a wedge of cheese and it was trapped inside this case. That turned my stomach as I have a phobia with food being old, wet (not liquid; meaning food that has gotten wet), etc. The fact that the fly was encased with the cheese made me not want anything. I had a hard time getting even my breakfast tea down. Add that to the nonchalant attitude of the front desk the day before and the other things mentioned above, and it’s obvious that this was definitely a bad choice for our stay. We chose it and I know better than to allow my clients or me to stay there again. I’ve been an advocate for Best Westerns, especially their Premiere category, but this was horrible. The only plus for it was the bed was very comfortable. But, other than one more thing that I’ll touch on in the last installment of the “Chronicles,” and that may be worse or better according to my mood when I write it, this was the worst thing for the whole trip. Let’s talk about being out and about in gay ol’ Paris.
Because we were there last year, we had a respectable knowledge of the Metro and how it operates and how to navigate it. So, we bought 5 day passes (we only used four) and set off to explore the nooks and crannies of this town. Step one, head toward Notre Dame to start a tradition. We make our way to and around the famed cathedral, took in the sight of it and then crossed the river to the Left Bank. We wandered through the streets and found a music box store where The BCPF purchased a little music box that plays “Champs Elysees.” And, because I like to make sure she gets to one of the most famous bohemian bookstores, Shakespeare & Company, the music box store was a strategic coursed distraction before heading to the bookstore. It’s famous for being a hangout for Hemingway, Joyce and Pound. No, it’s not the same location but opened in a new location as an homage to the original and is still storied and famous.
We wasted away that day (and loved every minute of it) and decided it was time to get some vittles, or victuals if you want to keep with the literary theme, and found a nice little restaurant called Le Lutece. I had a Grimbergen Blanche which is a white wheat, and it was delicious. I never found it again across Paris, I’d go back to Le Lutece just to have it again. The BCPF had rosé and she seemed quite giddy about it. One thing about Paris, the house wine (really a lot of wines) is generally cheaper than either soda or even water. House wine can be about $2-3 where a Coke is about $3-4; bottled water, still or sparkling, is also $3-4. For food she had Croque Madame, which is a giant piece of bread with cheese piled on it and toasted and then a fried egg on top. For me, I will just say that I am a huge fan of beef and I’ll say that I’m a HUGE fan of raw beef. We were in Paris for 4 nights and 3 of those nights I had steak tartare. Each one tasted different and each one delicious. That’s just good shite. A good start to the stay and then we went back to the room so I could keep track of the Steelers game (it was opening day). That’s how I know she loves me, she let me track it on the computer… in Paris. Luckily, she was tired.
The next day was a day of exploration as we had a tour later that night. That tour was on the Seine River cruise and observation of the “Flip Out.” But, that day, it was a lot of walking and exploring. Another thing we did was put a lock on the infamous “Lock Bridge.” This is something that I told The BCPF last year that we would not be doing. Well, even though I wear the pants in the family, she tells me which ones to wear. We put a lock on the bridge. We understand they cut them off periodically but the symbolism is strong enough to be worth it. Now there are several lock bridges in Paris, I think we counted up to 8 on the cruise tour. The bridge we picked was one that was slightly behind Notre Dame: Pont de L’Archevéché. Once it was fastened, we had a nice gentleman (who had a professional camera) take a pic with our camera of me tossing the key into the Seine; also symbolic.
After that we made our way, via the Metro to the Place de la Concorde, which is where Marie Antoinette and others met their demise via the horrific guillotine. This is also an avenue to step onto the famous Champs-Elysees, which is probably one of the most famous streets in Europe, if not the world. At the other end, there is another famous Parisian landmark, Le Arc de Triomphe. We walked from Concorde to Triomphe, stopping in on some of the shops and even had lunch at a little restaurant tucked away back in a small shopping center. That’s about a mile and a half and it’s a 3 foot higher difference at Triomphe than at Concorde so there was a grade. It was a good walk.
The BCPF had some things in mind that she wanted to purchase and we looked for some of these things. That’s how we ended up at the Eiffel Tower and then strode a long, long distance looking in shops and then to find the location of the tour company. We found that but had about 90 minutes before we had to be back. So we visited an old favorite. Last year we stopped, oddly enough after a tour with this same tour company, at a charming restaurant called Royal Opera. We did so again, this year. It was the only “repeat” we did. Again, beef tartare for me and duck for her. With beer and wine, we’re happy campers.
Then the river cruise. The river cruise was cool but really nothing to talk about that isn’t just a lot of stuff on a river. Stories was translated for us and we were told what some of the buildings and structures were. The remarkable part about this tour, though, was twofold. First we’re on a double decker bus traveling through the Place de la Concorde on the way to the Eiffel Tower and here, against a wall in the (the garden of tiles and garden that is adjacent to the Louvre), was a man answering nature’s call. There. In front of traffic and this double decker tour bus with people looking on. The funny part about that is his girlfriend (they were both dressed fairly nice and casual) was standing behind him just smoking a cigarette like nothing was happening. He finished, tucked away Mr. Happy and then turned around – facing the public – to close, button and zip his pants and then buckle his belt. We felt that was ridiculous and ridiculously funny. The other part of this twofold tidbit is the fact that there are very few traffic lanes marked in Paris. What we would see as about 4 lanes were, at times, 12 cars wide. In that, the scooters, mopeds and motorcycles were weaving through all the traffic, in front of cop cars, buses, each other. It didn’t matter if it was at a traffic light, stop sign or while traffic was moving. It blows our minds. After the river cruise we took a tour around the city, in the dark, on the bus. We saw parts we saw last year, this year and things we hadn’t seen before. Man, we love that town.
That’s a lot of info to slam on you at once, so I guess it’s time to take a break, but don’t worry, more is coming soon!
Until next time, same blog channel at SOME blog time…
“London is a riddle. Paris is an explanation.”
― G.K. Chesterton