June 13, 2010
Arriving in Paris
We took the eurostar to Paris. The cheapest rate was in the afternoon, so although I had to check out of my dorm at 10 am, my train wasn’t until 3:30pm. I met Anna at a nearby park at 10am and we went to a café for breakfast. I had forgotten just how heavy a backpack could be, especially
when combined with a computer satchel. I will have to re-evaluate how I’m packing.
We hung out at a friend’s house until it was time for out train and then took the tube to Pancras International Train Station. Security and Passport Control were quick but I was glad we had forty minutes set aside for it. The train got rolling on the dot and we were on our way.
The eurostar to Paris sends a lot of time in tunnels before it crosses under the channel. To this effect I wasn’t completely sure when we had actually passed under the channel. The forth time the train emerged from darkness into sunlight the landscape looked slightly different. Anna said she thought we were still in England but I noticed that the land was dryer and the buildings had red roof tiles.
At that moment Anna’s phone beeped and a text message from her phone company informed her she was in France and had a
different texting rate there. Life often manages to be very un-poetic just at the moments when you feel everything should be significant.
We arrived at the North station and failed in our quest to find an ATM, a train schedule or a free map. We did manage to buy a map from a new kiosk although the tourist information booth was of course closed.
We spend a half hour lugging our bags around thinking we were walking to the hostel only to realized that the directions I had printed out were for a car and far to fa
r walk on foot. We caved and got a taxi. In our exhausted state me made the mistake of admitting it was our first time in Paris. I suspect our driver took the scenic route since it took us a little longer to get to the hotel then really should have but Paris taxis are so expensive it is hard to tell. The driver was nice regardless and seemed to really like pointing out monuments, even if we would have preferred he go more directly and cheaper.
We checked into our little hotel. The only nearby ATM was broken
but Anna had enough euros to go to dinner. We found a small Italian place that was open and busy. I always consider a healthy crowd the best sign of a decent restaurant. The service was slow because there was just two wait staff but the food was good and the atmosphere was nice.
We woke up late the next day. We wandered trough an antique market and found a crapes vendor. It is fun watching them being made and seems to take some skill. The cook pours the dough on a round skillet and then uses a stick of wood to spread it wider and flatter. Then very artf
ully he flips it once, puts on the sugar and butter then folds it up.
We had strong coffee standing up in a cafe and went to Notre Dame. It truly is a stunning church. There was a service going on and the music and incense added to the atmosphere. The inside of the church didn’t take us very long to see but the wait to see the tower did. It was worth it though, the gargoyles were grotesque and wonderful up close and the view of the city was good. I have always loved seeing cities from the tops of old church towers. Something you often had the opportunity to do more often then you might think in Europe.
We had a fairly bad lunch f
rom a small grocery shop. I have never had dryer bread. We found Shakespeare and Company, which is a wonderful old Englishbookstore. I loved it and bought a book. We had coffee again and wandered along the river. We went the wrong way for the Gardens we wanted but ended up in the Gardens outside the Natural History Museum, which were nice enough.
We walked back and went to where we had seen a market before in the hopes of buying food for dinner but found the market closed. We ate at a nice little cafe that did omelets, sandwiches and wine in carafes. The waiter thought it was very funny that I was from Texas. We walked back to see the river again and then came home. Tomorrow we go to the Louvre.