France by Pete - 1993 April 22 - April 25
Below is my version of our time in Paris. If you don't believe it ,
Jim's Version to see what he wrote!
The plane ride to Paris from Italy was very smooth and the view out the window was excellent. The best part again was flying over the alps. We landed in Paris and had to wait for our bags on the conveyor. Jim's bag came out with his clothes hanging out. One zipper had broken. Pretty funny. We walked thru customs. Not much in the way of security. There was a little Frenchman standing there with our names written on a board. He took us to his vehicle. It was like a minivan only a little smaller. The ride to Orleans would take about 2 hours and we would be dropped off right at the hotel door. Jim took the front seat and I sat behind him. An old woman sat behind the driver and her husband sat between her and me. The man seemed to think that a little cologne would cover up for the fact that it had been months since he took a bath. It didn't work. I nearly rolled down the window to get some air several times. I liked the country right away. Seemed to be very modern. It was the country the most like the USA. I saw a train pass us up like we were standing still. Must have been going 120mph. We rode one back to Paris the next day. The driver drove sane and it was a relaxing, pretty drive into Orleans. We went into the hotel and I could see our luck had changed for the better. It was like a nice Marriott. Very nice lobby. The room was just like a nice USA hotel. It even had a shower with a hair dryer in the bathroom. Fully stocked fridge and a big comfortable bed. I was tempted to just stay in the room the rest of the night. Jim & I decided to walk around and try and find a place to eat. I talked the clerk at the front desk into cashing a travelers check. Jim was not so lucky. With a little luck we ended up right in the center of town where the statue of Joan of Arc stands. I was nearly hit by a car while walking around the roundabout. I left the video at the hotel so we just took pictures. The streets were very nice to walk around. Very safe. We were looking for McDonalds but settled on a cheap imitation. It was still an outstanding dinner. Hamburger, Fries, coke ! We walked thru a little mall that was just like being home. On the way back to the hotel we saw some nice buildings and a pretty church and bought some postcards. We must have walked 6-8 miles. I thought about going for an evening swim but the pool was outside and it was still a little chilly. Went to bed and had an excellent nights sleep.
I met Jim for breakfast in the hotel. It was like an American buffet. Bacon, Sausage, eggs, etc. Jim had called the plant and the man who was to show us around had not yet come in. We still had no idea where the plant was or how we were going to get there. While we were eating breakfast the waitress found us and asked what room we were in. The guy from the plant was waiting in the lobby for us. He had even left a message on the board behind the desk for us the night before but we did not see it. He took us thru the plant. We were only in the plant for about 4 hours. The plant was on strike and not much was running for us to see. We went out for lunch to a cafeteria in a mall. Again very much like the USA. I decided to run into a store that was very much like a KMart to buy a cheap carry on bag to put more gifts in. Found a nice one for about $13. It ended up ripping but I did manage to get it home. He then drove us to the train station. We bought our tickets and just caught a train to Paris. They run about every 30-45 minutes. There was plenty of room on the train. We both had two seats to ourselves. The kids in front of me were both reading magazines about the NBA. Jim just slept most of the way. The train was very fast. Not much over an hour to get to Paris nonstop. Very relaxing trip. By far the best ride for me since I had parked my own car at the airport in Grand Rapids 1 week ago. Planes and European drivers make me nervous. The train ride reminded me of the trips we took to Cincinnati and back when I was little. We arrived at the train station and took a few pictures. The station again reminded me of train trips when I was little. Walked around a little looking for the subway. Following the signs we started up some stairs. There were two policemen standing next to a young guy sitting on the steps with his hands cuffed behind his back. Jim walks by the guy, looks at him and says HI. No response. No problem to get from the train station to the subway station where our hotel was. We came up right on the correct street and walked a little before seeing our hotel right across the street. Great location. A 9 iron away from the Arch de Triumph. We went and registered at the hotel. Very classy. Rooms were a little small but very nice. No view out the window for either of us. Just other rooms. The rooms with a view must be extra. The clerk insisted on taking our bags up to our room for us. I got there ahead of him and grabbed a cold beer from the fridge. He came in the room and showed me everything. When he showed me the fridge I showed him my beer and told him I had already figured that one out. I tipped him a couple dollars and he left. The bed had a strange pillow that was skinny, round, and the width of the double bed. We met downstairs and went across the street to have a drink at the outdoor cafe. Jim told me how many francs he had tipped the clerk. It was about 40 CENTS. We had a good laugh over that one. The clerk was from the far east. He spoke 5 languages and was very helpful to us in giving directions to the sights, shopping district, and bus to the airport. He also took all of our postcards, bought stamps and mailed them for us. It must have been the 40 Cent tip that made him notice us. Jim walks in the cafe and orders large beers and we sat outside and waited just enjoying the view. We could also see the Eiffel Tower from where we were. Waiter brings out two HUGE beers. Must have been 30 ounces. Everyone was laughing at us. We took pictures and video. We finished the beers and had to go buy more film. Jim has bought more film and taken more pictures than I thought possible. I am surprised his camera has not worn out or his finger has not developed a huge blister. After we found the film we walked thru a tunnel to the Arch. It was very crowded there. It was very interesting to look at. We took some pictures and videos and decided to wait until Sunday to go to the top. It was too crowded. We had to walk underground to start walking down the Champs Elysees. We stopped to use a public restroom. Had to pay. Jim starts into the ladies room and the ladies in charge yelled for him to go to the right one. The walk down the Champs-Elysees was the best place yet. Very crowded. First couple of miles is all shops, restaurants, and bars. Several souvenir and magazine stands were along the street. The next couple of miles are different parks. We kept saying we will just go a little further then turn around. We had to stop and use another restroom. We had to pay again and this restroom did not have a mens or ladies section. You just go in and find an open spot. There was a woman inside the restroom cleaning while we were there. WE walked all the way to the end to the Place de la Concorde. Great buildings were everywhere. We hardly knew which way to walk. We tried very hard to see everything. We were like Chevy Chase at the Grand Canyon in Vacation. I felt like I could have spent 1 day just walking up and down the street. I have no idea how far we walked but my feet were getting sore. From the Place de la Concorde we walked over a bridge towards the Hotel Des Invalides. We decided not to go all the way and headed back towards the Champs Elysees. We walked by the Grand Palais and Petit Palais. It was too late to go into either one but they were nice to just look at. We had a great dinner at McDonalds. We were now spending our own money and everything was very expensive. The McDonalds in Paris was interesting all by itself. They served beer. It was very crowded. Many people were taking pictures. I took a video of the people behind the counter. The manager got mad and made me turn off the camera. I went to the bathroom (it WAS the right one) and when I turned around there was a young girl standing there washing the mirror. They still were using styrofoam containers. 6 dollars for a value meal. About double the US but well worth the price. They did not serve breakfast but they had a doorman. Very classy. We also saw a Dominos pizza down a sidestreet. It had motor bikes with ovens on the back for the deliveries parked outside. We went back to the hotel a little late. There were several programs on in English; I watched a little CNN, and some of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (Pittsburgh, New Jersey), NBA. I watched some french TV. I could not remember very much french. Talking was much too fast for me to understand. Reading was only a little better. It was a good thing we did not need to communicate beyond ordering beer and big macs which is, of course, international language. I wrote a couple of postcards and went to bed.
This would be a busy day. We would see everything humanly possible and then even a little more. Skipped breakfast and got on the subway to go to the Eiffel tower. We started the wrong way. We had several minor problems on the subway Sunday. Went the wrong way once, got on the wrong line once, got off too early and had to walk far once, and somehow got stuck inside and needed a ticket to get OUT 3 times. We ended up hopping over the turnstiles. I hate to think what would have happened if we had been caught. I had a more difficult time on this subway than the London Underground. Things are not color coded and it was easy to make a mistake. There were many musicians getting on and off the trains trying to make money. We say people playing the guitar, saxophone, and accordion. In a train station Sunday night there was a band playing. There were so many people it was hard to get past to the trains. The subways were very clean and fast and I felt very safe. We found the Eiffel tower without any trouble. We decided to go to the very top. Tickets were about $20. I was very impressed by the size of the tower. It was absolutely huge. The first elevator ride took us up to the lower level. The first elevator goes up at an angle, not straight. It was a strange sensation. We made videos and looked around the first level. There were many souvenir shops up on the first level. We then took the elevator to the top. It was a long slow ride. The view from the top was great. We could see how far we had walked Saturday. Next time we would take the subway. We did not stay up there very long. Too many more things to do. When we got to the bottom I took some more videos. It was starting to get very crowded. There were some men selling wind up birds that flapped their wings and flew all around hitting or almost hitting people. It was annoying. Jim said if one hit him he would destroy it. Guess what? Almost right away one flew up and hit him in the forehead. I laughed hard at him and luckily he kept calm. Later across the river when we were walking around another one hit him in the leg. We walked across a bridge to the other side of the river to the Palais de Chaillot and took some long range pictures and videos of the Eiffel Tower. The Palais was very nice to look at too. Many statues in front and nice fountains. We did not have time to go in and had no idea even what it was. There was a nice carousel I taped to show the kids. We then decided to walk all the way back to the Arch along the Avenue Kleber. There was a gas station that was just two pumps right along the side of the road. It was a nice walk. Had an early lunch - Guess where - McDonalds. Still our own money. We told ourselves we came to Paris to tour not to eat. After the outstanding lunch we took the subway to the Louvre. It was raining so we hurried inside. The entrance is right in the courtyard of the old buildings. It is a big glass pyramid that is very out of place. The outside of the building was worth the visit and the inside would have been worth paying to walk thru even if there had been nothing inside. There were many sculptured columns, sculptured ceilings and painted ceilings inside that were very impressive. We walked thru and saw many paintings. Some by Rembrandt and we found the Mona Lisa. There was a big crowd around it. You are not supposed to use flash pictures in the museum but most people did anyhow. We searched for the statues by Michaelangelo and found them. We both had our pictures taken by one. There was one black statue in the same room and a two black women were laughing and having their pictures taken by the black statue instead of the Michaelangelo ones. There were lots of paintings and sculptures. In one gallery there were two artists copying pictures. We stopped there and watched for a while. I took some videos of the originals and copies. We headed towards the Egyptian treasure area of the museum and found the Apollo Gallery just about to open. The room had ceiling paintings and the walls were very ornamental; shiny gold or brass. The center of the room had many glass cases that displayed treasures of gold, silver, tungsten, jewels and precious stones. The Egyptian area was very interesting. I could not figure out how they had managed to get all the items to France from Egypt and then get them into the museum. There were many very large pieces. We found the Venus de Milo and took some pictures and videos there. Jim was anxious to leave and shop for some gifts so we headed for the exit. I wanted to buy Elaine a book before we left. There were many too choose from. I spent quite a bit of time deciding and Jim was getting impatient so I grabbed one and we tried to leave. There was only one way out up one escalator and back to the ugly glass pyramid in the center of the museum courtyard. The line was long and we had to wait awhile to get out. Once we finally got outside it was raining. I decided to walk around the outside and take some videos before we left. It was very large and the outside of the building had many statues built right in. We took the subway back to the hotel and asked Jim's clerk how to find the shopping district. We took the subway where he told us to go and searched for awhile before we found it. It was very crowded with people walking. Also many cars. There was an organ grinder with a cat outside one store playing music. The stores were very much like US stores. Jim was looking for some Paris T-shirts and sweatshirts. He bought some at a stand by the side of the street. Inside the stores it was easier to find NBA, US college (Michigan), US football, etc than it was to find Paris items. They kept most of the souvenir type items outside on the sidewalks. I bought some T-shirts too. In one store we went in there was a HUGE area of women's shoes and nylons bigger than anything I had ever seen in USA. It is very hard to believe this country is not doing very well. People seemed very happy and were spending money like it was going out of style. The shopping district is behind the opera building. We saw the building from the back and it was beautiful. We did not feel like walking around to the front. We took the subway back to the hotel and for some reason we could not get out without a ticket. Normally you just use a ticket to get on. We looked around and saw a couple people jump over the turnstile so we did the same and got the hell out of there. We dropped everything off back at the hotel and jumped on the subway heading for Notre Dame. We got off one stop too early and ended up back at the Louvre. We walked around it to the river and walked along the river in the rain to the bridge. Notre Dame is on an island in the middle of the river along with many other buildings. It was a much longer walk than we expected. We should have got back on the subway. Along the river the sidewalk vendors were almost all closed due to the weather. The vendors have metal boxes mounted to the stone wall along the river that they just close up and lock with their merchandise inside when they are not there. They must have mostly honest people around. We crossed over a bridge to the island and walked between the commerce buildings and police station. Even those buildings were very impressive. Big iron gates with guards in front. We walked around the corner and found Notre Dame. It was getting dark and still raining so the pictures and videos were not very good. The church had so many statues built in the front that it seemed to be literally constructed out of statues. I could have stood outside and just looked for a long time but we were pressed for time. We went inside and there was a mass going on. The congregation was inside of some ropes and visitors were allowed to look all around the back and both the left and right sides of the church. It was very dark inside. The inside was very nice. We walked around and Jim filmed me lighting a candle. We were only inside for about 15-20 minutes and we left. We decided to walk over to the Rive Gauche and have dinner. We hoped it would stop raining while we ate so we could walk around. The clerk at the hotel told us many people felt this area was more interesting than the Champs-Elysees. We found a pizza place and ate and drank some beer. Service was very slow. We had to ask for the check and ask to pay. It was raining too hard so we found a subway station to take back to the Champs-Elysees. The station had a band playing pretty good music. It was hard to get by so we stopped and listened to a couple of songs. There was a girl running around collecting money. One guy tried to sing along with a song and the lead singer chewed him out in front of everyone after the song. We left and took the subway back to the Champs -Elysees. It was raining but still crowdded. Not as bad as last night. We stopped at an outside cafe and had a couple beers under the canopy. We got a little wet just sitting there relaxing and watching people go by. We walked a little farther and then turned off down a couple of different sidestreets looking for a place to have something light to eat. We found a place "Cafe Rock" I think. I'm pretty sure it was a franchise based in the US. Music was pretty loud, food just OK, very busy, and an overall flashy place. Later that night a band would be playing there. We didn't stay around. We walked around a little more and then went back towards the hotel. Jim wanted to walk down some other streets and have something to drink. We walked a while and there was nothing interesting. We found a very small bar, had a drink and left. Back to the hotel to sleep.
We met downstairs and tried to find out if the bus to the airport would be leaving from in front of the hotel. The Paris Marathon was going to start down the Champs-Elysees at about 9:30 and would be returning in a couple of hours. Might be a problem. We walked the opposite way from the Arch down the Avenue de la Grande Armee. I found a golf shop and had my picture taken in front. Prices were high from what I could see. There were many people warming up for the marathon. People were pissing right at the side of the street. I couldn't believe it. Most were wearing plastic bags to stay dry. They would throw them away at the start of the race. Big Mess. We found the other place where we could catch a bus to the airport if we had to. We would have to take the subway with all our luggage. Luckily we didn't have to. It turned out that the marathon did not interfere with the busses in front of our hotel that left every 15 minutes for the airport. We walked around a very nice garden and decided to take the subway back to the McDonalds. We thought that would be a good spot to watch the start of the race. We had a hell of a time in the station finding the right train. When we found it we knew we would be lucky to see the start of the race. We got out of the subway station just in time to catch the start. We had by chance picked the perfect spot where the marathon began. There were so many people lining the street in front of us all we could see was a mass of heads running down the street. It took several minutes for them all to get by. We were taking pictures and videos just holding the cameras over our heads and aiming. The speakers were blaring the Chariots of Fire theme. It was really exciting. After everyone passed we walked into the middle of the street and watched the mass of runners going away from us. It was an unbelievable mess of plastic bags, trash, bottles, cans, etc where the runners had come from. There was an army of street sweeping machines and people moving in to pick up the mess. It didn't take them very long and the street was back to normal. We went to McDonalds of course and had breakfast/lunch. The doorman held the door for us. The last thing we decided to do was go up on top of the Arch. Jim went down and bought the tickets. We were one of the first groups up for the day. There was a nice view. We could see just about everywhere we had been. We had walked and covered a pretty big area. We could see the finish line for the marathon and there were some TV cameramen setup at the top to film the finish. To catch the elevator down you can walk thru a little museum that shows the history of the Arch. We spent a little time there. We went back to the hotel, checked out and got on the bus to the airport. It was only about $10. When we were close to the airport we watched a concorde coming in for a landing thru the bus window. It was too far away to take any pictures or videos. Charles de Gaule airport is an absolutely huge airport. The bus took us to the Air France terminal first. It was a whole section all by itself. There were 3 stops at the Air France Terminal before the one stop at the International terminal where we would catch our flight home. It was very crowded at the Northwest gate. We waited in the line for business class and were getting very impatient. The line was moving at a snails pace. When we finally got to the front the security guard asked us all kinds of questions. He wanted to know if we had opened and inspected all the gifts we had received, if our bags had ever been out of our sight since we packed them, and many others. After him we dropped our garment bags off and headed for the business class lounge. On the way we did some shopping at the duty free shops. There were many stores to choose from. It was like a mini mall right in the airport. Perfume, clothing, liquor and tobacco, toy, and souvenir shops were everywhere. Jim finally found the type of Paris sweatshirts he had been looking for the last 2 days. I bought the kids small Eiffel tower statues and a purse mirror for Elaine. We only had time for one drink in the business class lounge. It was a nice little room with a view of a flower garden, nice leather chairs and couches, and waitresses serving drinks. We took a couple pictures. The waitress let us know when it was time to catch our plane. Business class gets to board first. Jim had a couple of drinks before we took off. No beer on the ground so I passed. There were quite a few empty seats in business class on the way back. There was alot more turbulence on the way home. One girl from coach ended up sick and they gave her a seat at the back of business class. We had an excellent meal, I took the menu for a souvenir. It was too bumpy for me to sleep much. Jim claims I slept and snored louder than the plane engines. We flew along the coast of France before heading over the ocean. It was pretty clear and I made some videos. The pilot showed us the beaches of Normandy when we flew over. Flying over the ocean we could see some ships and some land to the north. We arrived in Detroit on schedule and had to go thru customs (no problems), then take a bus ride to the domestic terminal. We had over two hours to kill. We debated cashing in our tickets and renting a car. We ended up watching a hockey game in a cafe at the airport. I re-packed the kids gifts and found a mailbox to drop off Willi's bills. We were the first ones to the terminal but it filled up quick. The flight was overbooked. They were offering $200 vouchers to anyone who would give up their seat to take the next flight. I tried to talk them into cash + cash for our tickets but they wouldn't do it. There were plenty of people who took the deal. I could hear the people at the desk commenting that this happened alot on the flight. The flight to Grand Rapids was quick. Less than 45 minutes. I had the window and we flew south along I96. We could see the Ren Cen, Belle Isle, and where the Detroit River meets lake St. Claire. I could follow our path to GR just looking down at the expressway I had driven that way so many times. I could see many golf courses and the US cities and little towns were alot different than the ones on Europe. US are very square with few curved streets and seemed to be very orderly. All the cities and towns in Europe seem circular and go from the inside out. We landed in Grand Rapids and I was glad we were done flying. I thought 6 plane rides in 9 days was too many and the risk of crash was growing especially on Northwest out of Detroit. I had kept thinking of the one that had crashed under the overpass a couple of years ago. We picked up our bags, found the car, paid our forty dollar parking bill and went home. It was great to be driving and in total control of where I was going and how fast I was going to get there.
|Other Journals to Read|
|Germany by Pete- 1993
Italy by Pete- 1993
You are here now ! France by Pete- 1993
|Germany by Jim- 1993
Italy by Jim - 1993
France by Jim- 1993
|England/Wales by Pete- 1998
Belgium by Pete- 1998
France by Pete- 1998