Getting There and Friday — Eiffel Tower & The Seine

For out third anniver­sary, Angela and I decid­ed to to Paris, France. I had been appre­hen­sive about going to a coun­try in which I don’t speak the lan­guage. After going to Eng­land a cou­ple of years ear­li­er, nei­ther of us were real­ly con­cerned that the French would treat us dif­fer­ent­ly than oth­er tourists because of our nation­al­i­ty. They might how­ev­er, I feared, treat us bad­ly if we did­n’t know how to speak even sim­ple phras­es in their lan­guage. Angela assured me that with her rudi­men­ta­ry knowl­edge of the lan­guage, we’d be okay.

Getting Ready For The Trip

First, we try and pre­pare for our trips by pur­chas­ing any tick­ets or pass­es in advance. For this trip, we bought 2 Muse­um Pass­es and 2 Paris Vis­it (RER, Metro, & bus) pass­es. This proved to be a wise deci­sion. We bought some trav­el books: From­mer’s “Paris from $90 a Day” and DK’s “France”. In addi­tion, we bought a French phrase book and Angela made sure to pack her old Eng­lish-French Dic­tio­nary dic­tio­nary. The pock­et phrase book came in espe­cial­ly handy. I got real­ly good at order­ing crepes and cof­fee. Last­ly, we down­loaded “Rush Hour French” for our iPods to help pass time on the flight to France. I did­n’t learn any­thing oth­er how to say “nice to meet you” from that, but it was fun­ny to lis­ten to.

Know­ing that the Euro­peans don’t share our love of ele­va­tors and ramps, we knew to pack back­packs instead of suit­cas­es. You do not want to try and roll a pull­man up stair­wells in the Paris Metro dur­ing rush-hour crowds. We put our back­packs into spe­cial duf­fel bags for the air­line trip, because these are our nice back­packs and we real­ly can’t afford to let the bag­gage han­dlers trash them. Any­way, we also have a real­ly handy mul­ti-coun­try pow­er con­vert­er. It is a pow­er step-down device (220 to 110) and has plug adapters from pret­ty much every coun­try. It weighs about 4 pounds, but it’s real­ly handy.

Getting There

It has been said that one should enjoy the jour­ney as much as the des­ti­na­tion, and I tru­ly believe that. Of course, who­ev­er said that did­n’t book our flight to France. We were look­ing to earn some fre­quent fly­er miles as well as save a few bucks, which point­ed us to buy­ing our tick­ets through our usu­al air­line: Delta. What was weird, was the fact that we were to fly from Rich­mond to New York Laguardia and then fly from New York JFK to Charles de Gaulle. Delta gave us no direc­tion as to what to do, and when I called to speak to some­one, they sim­ply informed me that we would have to pick up our lug­gage and then get a taxi or some­thing. It turned out we could take a bus straight from one air­port to the oth­er, but this was dur­ing rush hour and we were get­ting pressed for time. We end­ed up going to the Delta counter, where we were informed we need­ed to be at the Air France counter, which was in anoth­er ter­mi­nal alto­geth­er. Now, this is at JFK, where there are 9 ter­mi­nals and none are easy to get to from the oth­ers. We g0t a shut­tle to take us to the cor­rect ter­mi­nal for a few bucks and rush to get our bags checked.

Boeing 777

Look­ing out the win­dow of Ter­mi­nal 1 at JFK air­port to the 777 that would be our ride to France

We arrived to the gate just before board­ing began, but unfor­tu­nate­ly our seats weren’t togeth­er. The prospect of spend­ing the next 7 hours between two per­fect strangers know­ing I could be sit­ting next to my wife was not appeal­ing. Angela got the Delta cus­tomer ser­vice num­ber and spend her last few min­utes on US soil chew­ing them out. I’m glad she vent­ed before she got on the plane.

Friday — The Eiffel Tower and The Seine
Timhotel Eiffel

Our hotel was small, but nice. We were on the 5th floor, and for­tu­nate­ly the hotel has an elevator.

We arrived via Air France flight 007 (like James Bond, yeah we heard that a cou­ple of times) at around 10:00 am. Tired, sore, and grog­gy, we took the RER and Metro into the 15th arrondisse­ment to hour hotel, the Timho­tel Eif­fel. For­tu­nate­ly, the hotel was only a block away from the Metro stop, but unfor­tu­nate­ly, our rooms would­n’t be ready for anoth­er cou­ple of hours. The concierge stowed our large back­packs in a clos­et and we walked a cou­ple of blocks away to get a bite to eat. Lunch, break­fast, din­ner… we weren’t real­ly sure what we were eat­ing. Jet lag is gen­er­al­ly under­stood to be fatigue (although Web­ster’s includes “irri­tabil­i­ty” in their def­i­n­i­tion). I can say that when we arrived at the hotel after a sev­en hour overnight flight, I did­n’t feel fatigued or irri­ta­ble so much as con­fused. I had no idea what time it was. It was the same feel­ing when one goes into a movie the­ater dur­ing day­light only to emerge a cou­ple of hours lat­er into night.

Lunch was not good. A huge plate of greasy, heavy food was not what our stom­achs need­ed at that point. We both agreed that we’d go back, get the room key, and take a nap. That seemed to help re-set our clocks a bit and we felt a lot bet­ter, although our stom­achs would­n’t calm down for anoth­er cou­ple of hours. We walked over to the Eif­fel Tow­er around 5:00 pm. Mon­u­ments such as the Eif­fel are best walked up to. You get a feel of the size by see­ing it from far away and then real­iz­ing just how big it is by how long it still takes you to reach it. For all the cliche-ness of the Eif­fel Tow­er, it is real­ly a cool struc­ture. The struc­ture is a remark­able spi­der web of late 19th cen­tu­ry iron work, the views from the three lev­els are stun­ning, and the size is so immense, you feel like you’re on anoth­er world up there. Not just the height, but the breadth as well. The base of the struc­ture is a large city block, and look­ing up into the first lev­el is like look­ing up into some alien moth­er ship; it cov­ers your entire view.

The view of Paris from the top is like float­ing above the city. Paris, unlike so many oth­er major cities, has very view tall build­ings. Most are not over eight sto­ries. The one excep­tion in the cen­tral part of the city is Tour Mont­par­nasse, which is real­ly Paris’ only sky­scraper. It sticks out like some sort black mono­lith, full of stars… While I love sky­scrap­ers, I instant­ly felt most Parisians dis­gust with this build­ing. It does­n’t belong. That high­est part of the city sky­line belongs to the Eiffel.

All I Remember Is Falling Down A Long Flight Of Stairs

Angela pos­ing for pho­to between my bouts of vertigo.

We took the tram down from the view plat­form at the top of the tow­er to the sec­ond lev­el, and then Angela decid­ed it would be cool to walk down the stairs from the sec­ond to the first lev­el. Walk­ing down the stairs of the Eif­fel Tow­er isn’t like walk­ing down the stairs on any oth­er sky­scraper. You’re pret­ty much ful­ly exposed to the wind, which whips through the struc­ture’s lat­tice-like sur­face at full force. You are still rough­ly four hun­dred feet up in the air at his point, and it is around 175 feet down to the first lev­el. I have to admit, ver­ti­go began to set in wind­ing down the staircase.

Sports Car Rally

A very cool old sports car at the ral­ly just accross the street fromt he Eif­fel Tower.

After reach­ing the ground, we decid­ed to go over to the boat dock we had seen from up on the obser­va­tion deck to take a riv­er tour of the Seine through the city. Along the way, we stopped at a fast food shack for cof­fee and crepes. I have become addict­ed to crepes with Nutel­la spread. I’ll get to that more lat­er. There was a sports car ral­ly going on in the riv­er-side park, so we checked out the Euro­pean super-cars: Fer­rari, Porsche, Mazarat­ti, Austin Healy, Bent­ly, Lotus, etc. Some real­ly amaz­ing machines, many of which aren’t street legal in the U.S. Ange­la’s knows more about cars that I do, and even she was very much impressed with this col­lec­tion of cars.

Sparkling Tower

The lights on the Eif­fel Tow­er are copy­right­ed, which is kind of stu­pid in my opin­ion. How­ev­er, I’m post­ing this pic­ture since the glass win­dows of the boat effec­tive­ly change the light pat­terns, there­fore alter­ing the copy­right­ed pat­tern. Ha.

The boat tour of the Seine was fun, but since it was get­ting rather dark at that time and too cold for us to stand out­side the glass enclo­sure of the boat, I was­n’t able to get many good pic­tures of the sights. How­ev­er, it helped to ori­ent us to the dif­fer­ent areas of the cen­tral part of the city. I was also pret­ty impressed that the tour guide was flu­ent in six or more lan­guages. We came to learn that most Parisians, at least in the ser­vice indus­try, speak a lit­tle of many lan­guages oth­er than French. This comes in handy when you speak almost no French. I even­tu­al­ly was able to even impress the locals with what lit­tle French I could spurt out. This proved to be prob­lem­at­ic. I got good at say­ing a few phras­es, most­ly ques­tions. There­fore, the locals assumed I could under­stand their response. My blank expres­sion betrayed the fact that I had only per­fect­ed the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of a sim­ple phrase, and was no more “speak­ing” French than one breathes water rather than holds their breath while swimming.

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