Zach and I took the train to Paris on Thursday afternoon, leaving at 5:40pm. The trains are nice b/c there's no long security rigamarole to go through-- though we did have to wait in a line so we could get waved through the border security, since we'd be crossing over the French border. The train ride's about 3.5 hrs, we spent most of it talking to a very nice middle-aged woman who's originally from Paris, she spoke some English but mostly French and we managed to somewhat keep up the conversation for a few hours. She gave us some suggestions for good places to go walk around in Paris. =)
We got in around 10pm I think, and went to try to buy our metro tickets to get us to the hotel... only to find that the automated machines take either coins (Euros) or credit cards, but not OUR credit cards-- some "euromastercard" or something. So we had to go to the window to buy our tickets. This was a bit of an annoyance over the rest of the weekend, we didn't always have enough change to just use the automatic machines.
We wound up walking the long way around to find our hotel, but found it nonetheless-- and it was a mere block away from the Eiffel Tower. Woot! We got to our room and although we didn't have a view straight out our window, when we stepped out onto the balcony we could see the whole thing. Pretty neat. =) After checking in and dropping off our bags we went out for a quick bite, and ended up at a sidewalk bistro/cafe. The rotisserie chicken listed on the menu was calling out my name, and I tell you that piece of chicken , and the fries it came with, may have been the best I've ever had. (BTW, maybe it was partially the conversion rate of francs to euros, but I swear the food in Paris was cheaper than your average meal in Geneva) After eating we walked over to the Eiffel Tower a little bit, watching the "light show" and taking a few pictures. We quickly found our way back to our hotel room though and got to sleep.
We had a bit of a lazy morning on friday, took some time to get out of bed though we still made it down to get our free breakfast by 10am. ; ) Eva, one of Zach's coworkers, was taking a train into Paris that morning, and we met up with her at the hotel around noon. The weather was gorgeous-- it was almost a little too warm, great big blue skies. We stopped off to have lunch at a sidewalk cafe where I had a Croque Monsieur (basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, expect the cheese is on top instead of inbetween the bread slices). It's such a simple thing, yet was delicious (it helped that Eva, sitting next to me, was having a garlic-heavy meal and the smell of garlic wafting over made my sandwich seem even yummier).
I swear-- if there's one thing you decide not to budget for in Paris, it should be food. You don't even have to spend that much (or maybe I've spent too much time in Geneva already?), you can get a great meal at any of these little cafes for 10-15euros.
Anyway... we then walked over to Notre Dame to get a look at the cathedral. Now, usually you go visit these big, old cathedrals and it's pretty neat b/c they're usually gorgeous and all that... but usually they're also empty. However, this was Easter Weekend, and we happened to come in during Good Friday services (they actually had 2 lines outside the cathedral, one for people going to mass and another for tourists) so as we're walking around and gawking at the stained glass windows, right next to us there's all the Catholic priests chanting, reading out the Passion of the Christ in German, French, and Latin, the choir is singing hymns, and people are taking communion. It was pretty amazing. As Eva put it, it almost made you want to be Catholic.
After getting to see all the insides, we went around the building to see about climbing up to the top of the cathedral... unfortunately the line was horrendous, so we decided to try back another day. We took a peek at the gardens behind Notre Dame, then went across the street to find a gelato stand that Zach remembered from one of his previous trips to Paris. Unfortunately we got there after a big group of American high schoolers had gotten in line... but the wait was definitely worth it. This stuff was fantastic.
After all this, we decided it was time to try to tackle the Louvre. We had already bought our 4-day Museum Pass earlier in the day, so we walked on in (almost no line!) and got started looking at sculptures. Unfortunately the heat and wlal the walking earlier in the day (it was about 5pm when we got to the Louvre) meant we were already a bit worn out, and as anyone who's been there can attest the Louvre is a bit... overwhelming. We certainly did not do it justice. But we saw a lot of cool stuff, including the obligatory viewings of the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, and some very cool Egyptian stuff like hyerogliphics, a real-live (dead?) mummy, and some mummified cats! We left at closing time, around 9:30 or 10pm. It was amazing, but yeah... next time we should go when the day is still fresh. I think we'll also need to decide ahead of time on a few exhibits to focus on, and do those well, rather than try to rush through too quickly and not get to take it all in as fully.
We then went to see the Arc de Triumph, where we got to climb to the top (the first of many flights of ling, windy stairs during our sightseeing tour of Paris) and see the view of the city from the top. It's pretty neat seeing the roads that come in and out of the Arc, all converging at that one spot. It was also amazing looking down and watching the traffic flow... There's no lanes, cars are just going around in the HUGE traffic circle, wizzing in and out, cutting each other off, stopping, starting... it's chaos, and it wasn't even high traffic! Crazy Parisians... =P
We decided to grab a bit to eat before calling it a night, unfortunately it was getting a bit windy and cold and Marcy was tired and bordering on grumpy. I'm not sure exactly what time we got back to the hotel, but I think it was around midnight, or a bit later... We were all pretty pooped by then. It had been a long, amazing day.
To Be Continued.... ; )