Hello all. I finally have my first post on my Europe trip. Right now I am in an internet cafe in Paris waiting for my train to Amboise. I just arrived back in Paris a half hour ago after spending six days in the Normandy region of Franc. This internet cafe has an American-style keyboard and reasonable rates for internet usage, so with a few hours to burn I figured I would grind this post out. Apologies in advance for typos and what not. I’m just going to publish this once I reach the end and consequently there will be no proofreading.
My flight from Colorado to Paris should have been unremarkable but the first flight from Denver to Minneapolis got held up on the tarmac due to an electrical malfunction. About twenty or so minutes passed before it was fixed and we took off, but that small delay had a big effect on my schedule as there was supposed to be just under an hour between the landing in Minneapolis and the departure to Paris. Sitting near the back of the plane, I took awhile for me to get off and then I had to move quickly to the gate with the Paris flight to avoid missing it. I was one of the last people to board the flight, but thankfully Delta knew about the trouble and they were specifically waiting for me and the other people who had gotten delayed on that Denver-Minneapolis flight. Once on board the Paris flight there were no issues and I found my seat towards the back of the plane. The only thing worth mentioning about the flight was that the guy sitting next to me was going to Algeria after landing in Paris, and that will be the subject of a post after this trip is over when I compile a few notable individual stories. I slept a little on the flight but not much. Perhaps it was the anticipation keeping me awake.
On arrival I made my way over to the immigration processing line, but was surprised to find that the guards weren’t checking everyone. Myself and many others just passed through without getting our passports checked or stamped. While this saved some time, I’m a little concerned that this may cause issues later on. From the airport I had to catch a suburban train to the city center. The ride cost ten euros, which was great because I had the ten euros that were left over from my 2012 trip with me. After arriving in Paris, I went through the whole routine of checking in at my hostel, reorganizing the stuff in my backpack, getting my day pack ready, and so on and so forth. With all that done it was now almost 12:30pm and I had in mind a few things to do with the afternoon. As I made my way towards the nearest metro station I took special note of the neighborhood I was in (for those who want to know, my hostel was nearby the Belleville metro station). There were a substantial number of Asians and Asian stores, with Southeast Asians seeming to be the largest group, though there were also a fair number of East Asians as well. France, like Britain, gets a lot of immigrants from its former colonies, so I’m guessing the reason all the Southeast Asians goes back to the French occupation of Indo-China. When you think of Paris you don’t normally thing of Asians, but a decent number of them do live there, though they seem to be concentrated in neighborhoods like that one. Having taken in the area around the hostel, I got on the metro and made by way to Sacre Coeur.(sorry, this keyboard doesn’t have the key to create that correct letter that combines the “o” and the “e”)
Sacre Coeur is at the north end of the Paris’ tourist zone. It’s a magnificent church built on a hill with eastern-style onion domes and a good, albeit distant, view of central Paris. The downside is that the main street and stairs leading up to it are a gauntlet of tourist shops and possibly illegal street merchants trying to sell you stuff. Just keep walking and don’t get bogged down, as reaching Sacre Coeur is well worth the annoyance endured getting to it. Technically there are no photos allowed inside Sacre Coeur, but I was able to discretely take a few. After finishing at Sacre Couer I went over to La Defense, which is the financial district of Paris. I went out there to go see La Grande Arch, which looks like a modern version of the Arc de Triumph, as well as to take a walk past the outdoor art that’s out there. La Grande Arch is perfectly in line with the Arc De Triumph and the Champs Elysees, so if you had a laser pointer at La Grande Arch you could make an uninterrupted line all the way from La Grande Arch to the Louvre. Coming to the Arc De Triumph, I then walked down the Champs Elysees and then took the metro over to the Eiffel Tower, where I climbed the stairs up to the second level and watched the sun go down on the city. In the days and weeks prior to this trip I had been questioning in my head whether or not I was going to do the whole tourist thing again in Paris, but at the end of that first day in Paris I knew that not only was I going to do it again, I was going to do it even more hard core than last time.
A lot happened over the following three days, more than I could recall before this session at the internet cafe ends. Let’s just say that 2015 Ricardo put 2012 Ricardo to shame in terms of sheer volume of sightseeing. I would get up early, eat and get ready for the day, and then be out in the city seeing and doing things until past midnight, only stopping to eat dinner or catch the metro to the next location. While there were more tourists in Paris this time, being summer rather than last time when I was in Paris in the spring, I wasn’t going to let that slow me down. On day two it was the Pantheon, Luxembourg Gardens, San Sulpice, St Germain de Pres, the Cluny Museum, St Chapele, the Louvre, and the Orsay Museum. At the end of the day I was back on the Champs Elysees, and was surprised to find a McDonald’s. Eating there felt strangely patriotic. It was also for science, as I needed to compare American and European fast food (more on that in a different post). I would have kept going and explored the city more at night but it had been raining non-stop the entire day and I was sufficiently soaked as to need to get out of the rain. On day three it was Notre Dame, the Army Museum and Napoleon’s tomb, Versailles, Notre Dame again (going up the tower), the Arc De Triumph and walking around at night for two or so hours. On day four I slowed down a little with a day trip out to Chartress after going up the Montparnasse Tower in Paris. The main reason I went out to Chartress was to visit the cathedral but the town itself is also worth the visit. Back in Paris I visited the Petite Palais and then found myself walking along the Seine. A lot of people were out and walking on the pedestrian promenade along the river, so it seemed like a good idea to join them. Along the way I came across a big chalkboard that everyone was writing on, so I took a moment and wrote my name on it (and got a photo). I came back out to the Seine later that night and walked by Notre Dame before going over the Ile de la Cite (that other island in the Siene right next to the one with Notre Dame) where I ate way too much ice cream and gelato. Actually, I take that back. There’s no such thing as too much ice cream and gelato. I saw a lot of people sitting alongside the Seine and being sociable. Given that everyone was in groups, it probably looked a bit weird to see one guy sitting by himself, but I was just taking it all in as I watched the cruise boats go by.
That was the broad overview of Paris. There’s a lot I didn’t get to in this post but I’m running out of time. I feel like I would need another big post just to get to more of the details of what happened in Paris and maybe I’ll be able to do that. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be able to do another extended writing sessions for a few days, so you may have to wait awhile before you read anything else from me. If you have any questions for me just send me an email or Facebook message.
After my time in Amboise I am going to Lyon, followed by Nice, and then I just over to Italy.