It’s a sad day this morning when we leave the Seabourn Legend – we’re greeted by another representative from Nizza Travel, although he barely speaks English. He seems so nice and it’s about 20 minutes into our transfer that I muster up enough confidence to address him in French. I haven’t been incredibly confident with my abilities to speak the language, since I have not spoken a word since last year. However, I was able to successfully order our pastries in Corsica, so I give it a go. Lo and behold, the driver and I carry on a conversation, between our combined broken English and French.
Anyway, that was pretty cool. Not as cool was our long wait time at the Nice airport that I mentioned in my previous post. After those four hours, we find that our flight has been delayed another 45 minutes, so it was a pretty long start to the day. When we finally do arrive in Paris, we are greeted by Sabine, our Parisian driver and tour guide. We found Sabine last year when we had planned on spending a week in Paris after my stay in Cannes. While that didn’t work out, we still had her as a contact – her website listed fabulous tours at really affordable prices and we were not disappointed.
Sabine first takes us to our hotel so that we can check in and drop off our luggage. When we arrive at the Intercontinental Le Grand, we are blown away by the size. It is Le Grand, that’s for certain, as it takes up an entire city block. The receptionist gives us a map and draws out the location of our room – I kid you not.
The hotel is just immaculate – that is the only word that I can think to describe it. Beautiful decor from top to bottom, and the art-laced hallways seem to never end. The entire place is a showpiece and my parents announce that, after our Virtuoso hotels and cruise, they are “fans of this Virtuoso deal.”
My job here is done.
Hurrying to get back to our tour, we leave the room in awe and hop in Sabine’s van. We are staying in the Opera district, so our first attraction is – naturally – the Opera. There are two things I notice about Paris immediately: the gold and the crowds.
Every piece of architecture, every monument, everything seems to be laced or accented in gold. It’s beautiful. I can definitely appreciate this more than the decaying ruins of Rome. Nothing against Rome, but I prefer shiny over crumbly.
As far as the masses are concerned – it’s like New York on crack. The thing about NYC: the incredibly dense crowds seem to be more centralized around Times Square and a few other major tourist areas. Here, it seems that there are throngs of people, coming at you in waves, no matter where you go.
I’m torn between my first impressions. I generally like big cities – New York is one of my favorite places on earth – but Paris is just so swarming with people it’s overwhelming. Thinking back, I do remember hating NYC the first time I visited, but it grew on me. I’ll give Paris the same chance; I like it alright so far, but the combination of homesickness and overcrowded streets are a bit offputting. It’s a good thing we have the air-conditioning of Sabine’s car and her knowledge of the city for our first few hours here – it helps us maintain our sanity, saving it to be lost at a later point in time.
Sabine takes us to all of the major attractions – the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, the Invalides, Luxembourg Gardens, and Montmartre. It’s a lot to take in, so I’ll post a few pictures to tell the story.
Montmartre has to be my favorite area – although it’s super crowded and touristy, the tranquility and beauty inside of Sacre Coeur is breathtaking. I’d love to spend more time getting lost in the streets – maybe one day!
Tonight we realize how incredibly homesick we are. We feel as though we’ve seen the majority of Paris (and much of it, like the freaking shopping, will be closed tomorrow) and would just love to crawl in our own beds. This trip has been a long one – a great one, but sometimes you just start craving what you’re used to: home.
This realization comes after venturing outside of our hotel and clearly heading in the wrong direction to search for food. The streets are noticeably less crowded; the few people out are not the types you’d like to run into alone at night. It’s a good thing the sun hasn’t even gone down, but that’s the weird thing, too. It’s like the city itself shut down at 7 – all of the shops are closed and the masses have disappeared. We walk from restaurant to restaurant, finding nothing that we’d like to eat on the menus, and decide on one with some moules et frites. When we walk in to take a seat, a nice British family informs us that a mouse just ran under our table. We promptly walk back out.
It’s around this time that we become aware of our surroundings to their fullest: we pass by a man climbing out of a sewer entrance in the sidewalk. It’s a square, clearly large enough for the man and the trashbags that he is toting up, but it’s not a man-hole or any sort of entrance in that manner. This guy is pulling out his personal belongings in a trash bag, before reaching down and pulling up another man and a woman. It is eery and disheartening at the same time – we’ve just never seen people live like this, especially within the context of one of the wealthiest parts of the city. I just don’t know what to make of it, we were all kind of stupefied – at which point we realized we were staring and probably looked like moving target tourists, so we got out of there and found a more populated area.
Paris is just crazy. I always thought New York was crazy – but Paris trumps it. We’ve seen all sorts of wacky today, from a man in a bunny suit walking down the street to a guy taking a swim with floaties on in one of the Luxembourg Garden fountains. It’s a weird little town.
It is nice, though, to return to your hotel room and have fresh cookies waiting on you, along with a handwritten note from the hotel manager.
Tomorrow we are sleeping in (this is apparently the thing to do in Paris on a Sunday) and have set no real plans. We will probably go to the Louvre for a bit and try to see Notre Dame, as that was one of the only places we missed today. Who knows what will happen – still giving the city a chance to grow on me.