Thursday, May 03, 2012

Paris, Day 1

I got THE BEST Valentine's Day surprise from Dan this year.  First he surprised me with a painting we'd thought was cute in a gallery in Hawaii.  Second was his announcement of what he'd planned for our 20th anniversary (upcoming on April 24th).  We were going to Paris!

Fast forward to the first of May. His parents came to watch the kids and we took a non-stop flight to Charles DeGaulle. (I so love saying "Charles deGaulle" the French way: "Sho deGo")

The all night flight actually wasn't so bad with our eye masks and ear plugs. We slept enough and were so excited to be in France that when we arrived at our hotel, we put our bags in our room, changed our clothes and headed out for the day! Too excited to snooze or even shower!

(Trying to get a taxi from the airport to the hotel, Dan kept speaking Spanish to the taxi driver. The driver was super confused. Then Dan just gave him the address, but in a Spanish accent. Again, driver remained confused. Then Dan tried with an American pronunciation. Driver still confused. Finally Dan pulled out a card with the hotel address on it and the driver immediately perked up, "Oh! Rue Kleber!!" And took us right there without a problem.)

Our hotel was a block from Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe. The weather was cool and sunny as we headed out and we were determined to walk all day so we wouldn't miss anything.  We had purchased a Museum Pass online ahead of time which got us in free to many exhibits but even better, we were able to skip the lines waiting to purchase tickets and get in!  Figured we saved at least a 45 minutes or more at each place!  Well worth it.

At the Arc we climbed the stairs to the top (about 5 minute climb) to get an amazing overview of the city and put the main city sites into perspective as to where we were and where they were.

After the Arc we walked down Champs looking for a baguette sandwich to eat.  The Champs Elysses had a lot of great high-end shopping but we weren't sure if the restaurants were that great. (Didn't want to eat at the Olive Garden in Times Square while visiting New York, for example.)

One baguette shop (Sandwiches at Paul) looked promising but we passed it and then regretted it a few blocks later.  Finally we came to the park near the Grand Palais and grabbed a ham and cheese baguette from a stand that felt like a vendor in Central Park. It was simple, but tasted delicious. (Did you know there is actually a law in France stating only 4 ingredients can be used in traditional French bread? No wonder it's so good.) Something about the ambiance of a park vendor made it better. Also had a crepe with citron-sucre (lemon and sugar), as recommended by Michelle, and were so happy and giddy that we were in Paris, sitting on a park bench, eating baguettes and crepes!!

We walked past the Grand Palais and Petit Palais but didn't go in. We crossed over the famously decorative bridge, Pont Alexandre III, toward Les Invalides, the resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte

On the other side of the Seine, we first went to the Rodin Garden and Museum and enjoyed the sculpture gardens outside and art from many artists inside (no fee and no waiting with museum pass!).

After, we walked to Les Invalides to see Napolean's tomb. 
6 caskets: Iron, then mahogany, then two of lead, one of ebony and the outer is red prphyry (stone).

It was a Thursday so the Musee d'Orsay (in a beautiful old train station) was open late. Our favorite wing was the impressionists. When we go back to Paris, we will make sure to go again. I think it's a must-see as well as the Louvre!!

Of course before our trip I had made a detailed itinerary and it was booked from morning to night until the last day, but we were making such good time on the first day we were able to "get ahead." This made the rest of our trip a bit more relaxing and we were able to enjoy a much needed late afternoon nap on the rest of the days before heading out to dinner!!

After the Orsay, we walked over to the Louvre to see the grounds and get Dan an adapter at the Apple store. (No complaints about being in a civilized country where we can hunt down an Apple store!)

By this time it was 6:30 p.m. and we'd been walking non-stop. We were exhausted but still so excited to see everything!  We decided to take the Metro home from the Louvre since we'd already walked the Champs Elysees earlier. The subway was really easy to maneuver in Paris -- no different from the ease of New York, with the added fun that one line had super cute fabric on the chairs. What style!

(The ticket machine didn't accept our American credit cards for some reason, so you need to use Euros to buy tickets. We bought a 10 pak that we used the rest of the time.)

At 7:00 p.m. we arrived back at our hotel and rested for an hour.  Then we walked down Rue Kleber to the Trocadero where you get the best views of the Eiffel Tower.   We arrived at dusk and loved all the people, tourists and performers out having fun on a Spring evening enjoying the most romantic spot in Paris!

We had read ahead of time that only one of the three elevators at the Eiffel Tower were functioning, resulting in about a 3-hour line for tickets and waiting to get to the top. Ugh. However, we'd talked to friends and they thought it was worth it, regardless of the wait.

The good news is we found the line for tickets for walking up the stairs.  It was much shorter -- only 15 min!  I doubted it could be harder than hiking Mt. Olympus, so we went for it.  Climbing the stairs to the second level of the Eiffel Tower only took 15 minutes. We were so glad we did it!!  (And so glad we didn't waste 3 hours in line for the elevator!!)

At the 2nd level we were able to buy tickets to the top and the wait from there was only another 15 minutes.  It couldn't have been more perfect! On our way down we were trying to get off so we could see it sparkle from afar.  We ran down the stairs as fast as we could but didn't make it.

After, we walked back up to the Trocadero and found a restaurant for dinner.  We'd read that most close at 11:00 and it was just before 11, but they were happy to seat us anyway. We had a Salad Nicoese (with hearts of palm -- yum!) and French Onion Soup. (Of course, right?!)  And, while we were eating we had a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower and watched it sparkle at 11:00.

By the time we walked home, we were exhausted. Unfortunately we started walking down the wrong street. Once we figured it out, my Utah sense of direction told me we were obviously going parallel to the right street so we'd just cut over when we could.  But Dan is more aware of his surroundings and loves an excuse to use his iPhone GPS and proved to me that in Paris, the streets shoot off from a center circle and therefore we weren't going parallel but far, far away.

He got us going in the right direction again and at midnight we were thrilled to climb up the steps of our hotel and greet our doorman with a "Bonjour." Which we didn't realize until the next day meant "Good Morning."

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