Friday, June 09, 2006
From the Vault - Paris Edition
My first taste of Europe was my whirlwind trip to Paris, France in February of 2002. It was my last year of teaching, and I went with my best friend Nicole, who taught in the classroom next door to mine. I was determined to use up my accumulated sick days, which numbered around five dozen. (Alas, I never came close.) My decision to switch careers had invigorated me, and I was in a very adventurous mood. We left in the middle of the school week! Calling in sick to go to Paris felt so extravagant. We basically kept it a secret from everyone we knew at school, and then on the day we were leaving, at lunch we rolled out our suitcases from Nicole's storage closet and our friends asked where we were going. We said Paris, and they were like, "Las Vegas?" Imagine our glee saying, "No, the real thing!!"
We'd bought our tickets the previous November, because a) we found ridiculously cheap fares on Air France, and b) I like to plan. I planned up a storm for this trip. We had only four days in Paris, so we had to make them count. I got several guidebooks, but the best of them all was Rick Steves'. I adore his humorous and frank style. With such limited time, we had to prioritize, which is what I did. I made a table of all the attractions we might want to see, in order of importance. I can't find the list now (bummer!) but it had the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, and Sacre Coeur at the top of the list, while things like the sewer tour and a department store fashion show were lower on the list. For each site I listed the days they are closed and hours they are open, what arrondissement they are in, whether Rick had a guided tour in his book, whether the Museum & Monument Pass covered admission, which Metro stop to use, and special notes, such as the best time of day to go, etc. (Yeah, I'm anal.) But I'm proud to say that we managed to squeeze in all our top choices!
For accommodation, I found an apartment online, which was much more spacious than a hotel room, and quite reasonably priced. Not to mention that we felt very Parisian returning to our pied a terre in the evenings. The location was awesome. The first night we went for a walk, just wandering up and down random streets. Nicole stopped to tie her shoe, and when I looked up, there was a moment of holy-cow recognition: "Dude, there's Notre Dame!" Walking home later, we were pretty directionless, but we rounded a corner, and voila! There was our street. Oh, the serendipity!
For transportation around the city, I thought we could maximize our sightseeing by remaining above ground, and a hop-on hop-off bus seemed ideal. You pay a flat fee at the beginning of the day, and the bus runs in a constant loop all over Paris, picking you up and dropping you off right in front of the most popular destinations. Well, that plan soon went out the window. The bus flew right by our first stop, which happened to be the Musee d'Orsay, and dropped us off at the Place de la Concorde, requiring us to hoof it back to the museum in what I remember as a bitingly cold wind. Then, when it was time to move on to our next destination, we spent probably half an hour waiting for a bus that never arrived...so we quickly learned that the Metro is the best way to get around.
Enough about Paris for now...maybe in a future edition of From the Vault I will reminisce some more. I have such fond memories of my short stay in the City of Light. I've uploaded photos to flickr and you can see them here.