Well first off, I can't recommend the Eurostar highly enough. We took the train from St. Pancras station (more on that in yet another post), and riding it combines the efficiency of high-speed train travel with a sort of stately, old world charm. Right before the train pulls away from the station, whistles blow, a last "All Aboard!" On the England side, announcements are made in first in English and then in French. Once you're through the Chunnel, it's the reverse. Everyone was courtly and so pleasant. Callum and Neel grabbed us a delicious (yes, really!) breakfast, and Cal ordered in French!
At the train station we took a taxi to our apartment (yes, another blog post!), and once we were settled in, we hit the town. It was on the train that I realized that I'd left our Rick Steves in Annie's flat. Have you ever seen A Room with a View? There's a great quote in there where one woman compels the other to throw out her Baedeker guide book. "We shall simply drift."
Our Metro stop came out at the Musee d'Orsay, and we wandered along the Seine toward the Eiffel Tower, which Neel continued to promise us was just around the bend.
Here's the thing about Paris. So much has been said about this lovely city (I'm looking at you, Erin!), that I hardly feel competent to add any more. We'll never be more than tourists here, and there aren't adequate words to describe how visually stunning it really is. And the Eiffel Tower. You have to wonder before you see it if there will be something of a let down, right? "The obsession's in the chasing and not the apprehending...." Well, not the Eiffel Tower. It's just as impressive as you'd think it should be. And it's big too.
We had dinner at a lovely cafe a few blocks away from the tower and wandered back to the Parc du Champs de Mars to wait for the light show. In the summertime, at dusk (around 10PM, isn't that great?!) the tower lights up for five minutes on the hour so people gather underneath its shadow to wait and watch. Kids and laughing and playing, men wander among the picnickers selling bottles of champagne. It's one of those, I-can't-believe-I'm-here moments.
It was great.
Our first full day in Paris dawned cool and misty. On the Eurostar the day before we'd purchased tickets for a Hop On/Hop Off bus tour. What the heck, right? We're tourists without a guidebook, and we figured it would give us a good overview of the city. We could hop off at any number of locations and linger where ever we wanted. This however, was the day that Cal started to feel really crummy. He leaned against the side of the bus for most of the ride and it became pretty clear that we'd be more hop on than off.
Still, we saw a lot of wonderful things, and as they say in Midnight in Paris, if anything, the city is more beautiful in the rain. Callum wanted to go up in the Eiffel Tower, so we made sure to do that (I only made it part way, but that was fine. Really. If I'd gone the whole way, I'd have needed at least two glasses of champagne at the champagne bar (at 14 euros at pop).) Especially when I heard that it wasn't swaying much.
My limited memory was that our guidebook had said the best time to take a Seine river cruise (included with the Hop On/Hop Off) at dusk so you can see the lights of the city come on, so our plan was to hit it at about 9:30PM. After the tower, it was clear that Callum wouldn't make it, so we hit the river early (it was still so, so lovely). Callum fell asleep on the ride.
At dinner, I felt his neck and he was burning up. We took a taxi to our apartment that night and said goodbye to our plans for Normandy. He was in so much pain from his throat, that Neel and I worried about strep, and when we got home I started Googling "Americans visiting Paris go to the doctor."
Neel has this phrase he uses when he talks about teaching medical students: an mile wide and an inch deep (now that's reassuring, isn't it?!). I feel like with Paris we were five miles wide and half an inch deep. We were around things, not in them. If Paris was about seeing the inside of every single garden and museum, then we didn't do it right. If Paris was about If Paris was about sitting in cafes and lingering over lovely meals and house wines, then we did okay. If Paris was about sitting in the sun and sailing boats at the gardens of the Luxembourg Palace, then we did that right too.
Our last day in Paris was a lazy one. We decided that we didn't want to spend it standing in line, so we bypassed the Arc de Triomphe and made our way down the Champs de Elysee instead. And yes, I got macarons at Ladurée. I also splurged and got myself some candles at Diptyque as well (and got a sample perfume that I now must have for my pains).
I wanted Neel to have some garden time, and I remembered reading that the Luxembourg Gardens were the most relaxing place in Paris, so we headed there for the afternoon. And walked smack-dab into the middle of a gay rights parade. "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" blaring full blast, rainbow flag and balloons, and men in assless pants may be relaxing for some...
Heading into the garden, all was peace and quiet. After that we went back to our neighborhood in the 18th for our lovely last dinner before catching the Eurostar the next day to head back to London.
If Paris has a reputation for rudeness, we never saw it. Everyone was as lovely as could be. Callum had some fun with the language, I think, and he would have had more had he felt better. My four years of high school French (taken a long time ago) served us just fine for where we were, although Neel and Cal taxed me considerably, continually asking, "What's French for...?"
Am I disappointed that we didn't see more? Of course. But as my mom says, it's our Paris Preview.