Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Paris Day 1 OR Thank goodness for Starbucks OR Heights aren't for me

From Arkansas to Chicago (even though we thought ORD meant Orlando until we got to the airport)  to Paris was a breeze.  No delays, no flight issues, surprisingly good meals on the airplane.  My suggestion to you is when booking your overseas flight to request a vegetarian meal.  I had pearl couscous and curry.  We ordered the gluten free option for Russell and he had chicken breast and rice with broccoli, also a good choice.  Everyone eating the regular meal had what appeared to be bad pasta with chicken chunks.

We arrived at Charles De Gaule almost an hour earlier than scheduled and the airport was fairly quiet.  We found our way to our baggage and the train with ease.  The great news was that the metro was free for most of the day as a New Year's gift- very thoughtful of the government!  We took the fast train into Paris and this is where the real journey begins.  Once exiting the metro, I was in dire need of water.  I hadn't had anything to eat or drink in many hours and I was starting to turn into a monster.  Our first stop?  Starbucks, obviously.  We knew they'd have water and they did!  Once I was rehydrated and no longer morphing into a beast, we caught a cab to our apartment and entered without issue.

The apartment is lovely and spacious.  Especially from what I've seen of Paris apartments (pretty much the only time I've seen Paris apartments is on House Hunters International on HGTV).  We have 2 bedrooms with bathrooms, a living room/dining room, and a full kitchen.  It's very cozy and well-decorated.  We're staying in the 7th Arrondissement on the Left Bank to those of you familiar with Paris.  It's a great area full of beautiful shops, lots of antique furniture stores, cute little restaurants and places that we can't afford :)  It's pretty centrally located and near the river.

As I unpacked, Russell thought he'd jump on the internet to retrieve our itinerary that we wrote out the day before.  This is when we discover that the internet in our apartment was out.  I cannot explain to you the anxiety that ensued as we realized we were totally lost with no internet access.  We were out the door quickly in search of a wifi connection much like a hungry dog searches for food.  Being that it was Sunday AND New Years Day you can imagine how difficult this search proved to be.  There are many "fake" free internet connections that give false hope as your device begins to access the connection only to tell you that you need to enter your access code.   We popped into the first restaurant we could find (Le Petit Tiberio) because we were told that most cafes have internet access.  Of couse we chose one that did not have wifi but what it did have was AMAZING Italian style pizza.  Once we had some nourishment, we were were back on the hunt for internet.  Over an hour later with no luck we stumbled upon, yes, Starbucks.  Just as a wifi connection is a sure thing in the states, a wifi connection is a sure thing at the Starbucks in Paris.  We were saved.

*Russell Writing*
Great though this internet salvation proved to be, Starbucks in Paris only gives you free wifi for 30 minutes...and so we were soon on our way again.

Le Marais District 

Le Marais District
By this time we were exhausted from walking but were extremely interested in visiting Le Marais district, which is essentially a little Jewish area of the city on the Right Bank (way far away from us) with lots of restaurants serving Israeli-style falafel and shwarama, a personal favorite of mine from my days visiting the West Bank a few years back, and a few street bands playing music that sounded straight out of New Orleans.  Katie's cousin Sherri highly recommended that we go on Sunday so we weren't giving up until we made it.
Cute street band!  The lead singer was American and he was really getting down!
Russell noshing schwarma

When we arrived in Le Marais, our stomachs decided on what turned out to be a delicious eatery with a little window on the street where people are able to place their order.  Upon sharing the best shawarma I have had in years (and the first Katie's ever had), we then picked back up with our itinerary schedule for the day, which dictated that we visit the Pompidue Centre for some exhibition that Katie had read about.  Unfortunately we got a bit lost (we have discovered that it is VERY easy to get lost in a city like Paris that boasts a mostly sloppy grid system--with deceptively NON-parallel streets) and decided that it was too late in the day--around 6:30pm--to visit the Pompidue Centre by the time we arrived.  This is when "getting lost" was taken to a whole new level.

a little metro navigation (in all honestly, I'm sure whatever I was doing wasn't helpful.  Russell has proven to be the master navigator)
In our attempts to get back across the river to the 7th Arrondissement, we somehow ended up at some enormous roundabout in the Bastille district near the Opera House.  With zero exaggeration, I can say there are probably 10+ "spokes" (that did not have matching counterparts on the opposing side of the round about) of this roundabout, and we circled it at least 4 times (each time taking ~15min) before finding the correct street to lead us back to the apartment.
Here's a shot of the round about where we were totally lost!  
There was a little children's carnival just off this round about.  This little guy was hanging out with his daddy who was manning a booth.  Of course I had to stop and give him a little head scratch!

At this point the amount of walking we'd already done was something truly extraordinary, although we weren't quite finished yet.  As Katie had already booked us 10:00pm tix at the Eiffel Tower that night, we decided to take the metro over to some street called Rue Cler, a supposed "foodie" hotspot, in the surrounding neighborhood.  Unfortunately, with New Years Day in full effect, there was NOTHING open for entire blocks.  When we finally stumbled upon a rather dismal looking Thai restaurant, our feet said "just let us sit down...we DON'T care!"  After eating a few dumplings stuffed with miscellaneous pork (or maybe an animal American's use for pets) byproducts though, even our feet agreed that a little more walking might have been worth it.

After dinner, we walked to the Eiffel Tower, dodging shady street vendors--selling glow-in-the-dark Eiffel Towers and other marvels--along the way.  The wind, rain, and cold really started to pick up at this point (and we unfortunately both have coats with laughably pathetic hoods to shield us from the elements), so we were [exhaustedly] grateful when it was finally time for our reservation to ascend the Tower.

on the hour, the Eiffel Tower sparkles
Looking up from the ground into the tower

Russell being blown away off the side of the Eiffel Tower
beautiful views of the city from the 2nd platform of the Eiffel Tower
I quickly discovered something I hadn't yet witnessed during the time I've known Katie. She is DEATHLY afraid of heights!  She suppressed a few near-vomits while riding up the tower elevator, but would barely even look off the edge once we arrived at the 2nd floor.  I couldn't help but drag her a bit closer to the edge (as far as she'd let me anyway), and there was one side of the tower that definitely gave a bit of an adrenaline rush as the wind gusts were enough to knock you down if you weren't careful.  Sadly though, Katie stopped at agreeing to descending the stairs rather than the elevator.  You win some, you lose some I suppose.

Look at this gem of a photo.  My (Katie) hair is blowing and frizzy and that is absolutely as close as I could get to the edge...if you're wondering, that's about 10 feet away from the large retaining wall and protective fence.
By the time we arrived back at the apartment (again, PLENTY of walking involved, although we took the Metro part of the way) it was after midnight.  One of the biggest issues travel wise when going to western Europe is that people fall asleep during the day they arrive, which totally disrupts their body clock.  In our concentrated efforts to avoid this, we pretty much had the most exhausting 24 hours I've ever had in my life (littered with frequent cafe visits as we walked around to recharge ourselves with espresso shots).  Victory?  An epic beginning to an epic trip!

By the way, in case we didn't make it clear, it rained all...day...long.

Katie Writing:

While we had a few hits and several misses, overall we had a really fun day!  What's better than wandering around a beautiful city with your best friend?  Another thing about getting lost- you stumble upon all kinds of things you wouldn't have otherwise seen if you stayed on your desired path.  We accidentally walked by tons of great monuments and historical buildings we didn't even mean to see until later in the week!


  1. WOW!!!!!!

    Bless your hearts!! Good thing you are young. You couldn't have with stood the day.

    Be careful and enjoy,
    Mary Lou

  2. I'm really proud of you, Katie!! I didn't make it to the 2nd platform and we still have un-used tickets to the top of the Eiffel Tower! There was no way I was getting on that elevator and I literally can't walk up open grated stairs. I totally ruined Brents proposal plan which ended up happening on about stair #37!! This fear must run in the family!! I truly love re-living our trip to Paris through your blog!! Aunt Nancy