Amy and I were not sure how we felt about Paris when we stepped off the speed train from Geneva. Honestly, we were probably a little bit nervous that we would be judged for our more than sub-standard French (fair enough). However, the moment we found the nearest metro station - which is remarkably similar to the New York City subway system, complete with dirt, graffiti and gobs of people - we felt at home. We stayed at a quaint hotel near the Arc de Triumph. The hotel staff greeted us a with a warm "Bonjour!" and sent us on our way with some helpful dinner recommendations.
We grabbed a bite to eat that first night at a diner-esque place where could have been sitting in Old Paris 50 years ago. The wait staff were more than friendly. Hhhmm - note to self. We watched as lovers, groups of giggly girls and families gathered around tiny Parisian tables to share a glass of wine, smoke to their hearts content and/or consume a wide array of scrumptuous desserts. Its unclear to me how French people maintain their trim physiques when they consume delicious wine, bread, crepes and pastries with great frequency. On a random side note, I have to say that while the Swiss might know how to do cheese, the French have beat them hands down when it comes to bread and carb products. Hello mana from heaven!
Our first day in Paris was a tad bit rainy and grey, but we found ourselves smiling from ear-to-ear. We hit up the Bastille (or what there was to see of it), ambled along the Seine river, visited Notre Dame (with hoards of other tourists) and even found an American store. Amy was beyond herself excited to find a real live Mountain Dew for the reasonable price of 4 Euros. We also rode the Roue de Paris (60 meter Ferris wheel that provides spectacular views of the City).
Saturday night we had the great pleasure of meeting up with our super-fun Swedish friends Esteban and Markus, and Esteban's cousin Carlos and his partner Pelle. We shared a lovely meal in Marseille and caught a late-night drink or two.
Sunday rounded out the trip. We walked the Champs Ellyses, photoed the Arc de Triumph, strolled through the Jardin des Tuileries and found ourselves at the Musee de l'Armee, originally the Hotel National des Invalides. WOW - this was a rad museum. We had no idea what we were in for. Apparently, in 1670, Louis the 14th decided to create a resting place for disabled and aging soldiers. The Hotel des Invalides set an example for the rest of Europe to emulate. The 4000 residents shared space and made uniforms, shoes and tapestries to keep themselves busy. The more severely injured were spared work duties so that they could be cared for in the on-site hospital. While the building was eventually turned into a museum, the hospital still remains in operation today. The highlight of this museum was visiting Napoleon's tomb. I have never seen so much marble in one place. It was stunning. And the larger than life statutes were imbued with such life, I would not have been shocked if one of them struck up conversation with me. It was truly a sight to be seen.
We boarded the Sunday evening train still slightly in shock that we loved Paris - yet another fabulous European experience. The final explanation point was our first-class train tickets home. For some reason (ahem) we had to purchase first-class tickets for the second leg of this trip, according to one Ms. Amy T-G. UMMM, I loved it! The brought us a fancy meal, we had lots of leg room and super comfy seats. Now I could get used to that.