Fast forward thirty-six years

Paris Travel Blog

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Our nice queen sized bed at the hotel.

Every cloud has a silver lining and our cloud happened to be filled with an all you can eat, complimentary breakfast.  I needed something to raise my spirits since I was deprived of my usual cup of tea the previous afternoon.

One of the best people watching locations, aside from an airport, is a complimentary hotel buffet.  At the Hotel Concorde La Fayette, the normal rate for a continental breakfast of juice, roll with jam and butter and cup of tea or coffee was around 24 euros, or about $30. I could tell, with a glance around the room, that Mark and I were not the only ones enjoying a free meal. 

The gentleman sitting at the adjacent table looked like he'd just rolled out of bed, wearing his boxer shorts and a wrinkled, white t-shirt, while his companion was dressed in lounge wear and bedroom slippers, not exactly the attire expected at a Five Star hotel.

An ultra modern bathroom with glass entry doors.
 I marveled at the young couple sitting nearby who proceeded to inhale eight croissants, in addition to various other breads, all lathered with butter and jam.  At the table behind us, the plates were stacked with uneaten items, which remained on the table long after the occupants had departed. Such a blatant waste of food was unsettling but not really surprising, understanding the overindulgent habits which resulted from an unlimited amount free food.

I was tempted to overindulge as well when I laid eyes on the sumptuous buffet.  The table of cold meats included my favorite, smoked salmon, as well as salami, ham and mortadella, olives, pickles and coctkail onions.  There was a selection of cheese, followed closely by cereals, yogurts and breads.

  The main table included the hot entrees: scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, grilled tomatoes, sausages, pancakes and bacon.  Coffee, tea and various juices flowed freely throughout the meal. We ate well, enough to carry us through the day, without being uncomfortable or wasteful. 

We only had this one day, due to schedule constraints, to see what we could of Paris.  Our expectations were realistic. We knew that we could only experience a small amount of what the city had to offer so we were careful with our selections.

Our hotel was not far from the Arc de Triomphe and from there it was a healthy walk to the Eiffel Tower and the bank of the Seine.

Our tourboat.
 We decided, upon seeing the long queue of tourists waiting to ride the elevator up the Tower, that we would opt for the Batobus, which was a reasonable expense at 12 euros each and could transport us to 8 popular sites within a quick walk from the Seine.

The Batobus was not exactly like the streamlined, "bateau mouche" which also skimmed along the river and didn't give a running commentary of the historic sites lining the Seine, but it was efficient and operated scheduled stops at each location every 30 minutes.  Upon boarding at the Eiffel Tower, our first stop was the Musee d'Orsay. 

A museum is a museum in most cases, unless you have a particular exhibit you want to see.

Inside the main hall of the Musee d'Orsay.
  My jaded ideas of "just another ancient building fulled with uninteresting artifacts" quickly changed once I laid eyes on the exhibit of Impressionist's paintings, containing the original  works of Renoir, Tolouse Latrec, Matisse, Whistler, Van Gogh and Degas.  It was an indescribable experience, to stand within inches of well known masterpieces, which I had only seen on the pages of books.  The sizes of the paintings sometimes surprised me.  The portrait of "Whistler's Mother" was enormous, nearly lifesized, as compared to the  8" X 10"  appearance of the "Mona Lisa" which I had seen in the Louvre.  I was disappointed that Van Gogh's "Starry Night" was not in attendance but was thrilled to see the portraits of the ballet dancers for which Degas is so well known.
My favorite Renoir painting.
  There were so many more things to see at the Musee d'Orsay but we forced ourselves to move on to our next stop, the Notre Dame Cathedral.

In spite of the commercialization of this sacred site with its sale of plastic rosary beads and cathedral candles, going for 2 and 5 euros respectively, it was still inspiring to feel the inspirational calm of this centuries old ediface.  To marvel at the intricate patterns in the high, vaulted ceilings and take in the breathtaking beauty of its enormous, brightly colored stained glass windows lining each side of the nave was an acknowledgement to the tenacity and skill of its long forgotten architects. The homeless citizens who were stationed outside its great walls,  looking for the occasional coin to be tossed into a cap or outstretched cup, had chosen their location well.

Mark, Notre Dame Cathedral and a bateau mouche in the background.

We weren't quite ready to reboard the Batobus upon our departure from Notre Dame, so we decided instead to walk toward the location of the Bastille, or jail, which had figured so prominently in the French Revolution of 1799.  Although there were plenty of signs pointing to "the Bastille", we finally decided that the site was now commemorated by an ethnic market instead of any remnants of rock walls or barred windows.  We were now dragging and limping from too many hours of sightseeing on foot but the necessity of returning to our tourboat took us back to the banks of the Seine.

Unfortunately, we had to skip over a few of the featured stops on our tour, such as St-Germain-Des-Pres, the Hotel de Ville  and the Jardin des Plantes, as we were well into the afternoon and Mark wanted to see the once controversial glass pyramid which graced the grounds of the Louvre Museum.

We all lose our heads occasionally.

We weren't exactly expecting to see the sarcophogas of Mary Magdelene or catch a glimpse of the Holy Grail as we peered inside the glass walls of the pyramid, but we were a little disappointed to see ticket booths, multileveled escalators and an enormous gift shop filling the underground cavity.  We could have spent a lifetime viewing the spectacular artifacts within the walls of the Louvre. I'm sure that many changes had taken place there since my last visit in 1973, but the recollection of a long walk back to the hotel dampened any desire to sucumb to its siren call.

We stepped off the boat at the last stop and headed toward the Champs-Elysees. As we moved along the street at a snail's pace, we visited various automobile showrooms, seeing the newest prototypes of the tiny cars designed to rival the German made "Smart" car.

Mark and the famed pyramid, with the Louvre in the background.
  We were even lucky enough to witness one of France's favorite pasttimes, a demonstration.  The French Red Cross organization, with its smartly dressed members, were forming a procession which would soon march along this traffic jammed boulevard during the height of rush hour.  We quickly circumnavigated the Place de l'Etoile and were on our way to our hotel before the honking and congestion began.

Once back at our room, we changed clothes and headed to the 33rd floor of our hotel to enjoy our last "freebie", a complimentary drink and spectacular views of the city.  The waiter was very cordial as he assured us that we could order anything we liked on the drink menu....even the Dom Perignon champagne at 38 euros a glass, but we abstained and went for a Kir and Long Island Iced tea instead.

Don't they all look pretty?
.....  What were we thinking??

By this time we were starved and decided to step over to a restaurant nearby that featured "moule" or "mussels", fixed anyway you like them.  Both Mark and I are great mussel fans so the idea of moules et frites (mussels and french fries) was irresistable.  Our starter of fried mussels, calamari (squid) and smelt (tiny fish which looked like fried guppies), served with a creamy cocktail sauce was scrumptous. My large basin of steamed moules mariniere (mussels steamed in a liquid of white wine and mussel juice and garlic) and Mark's tasty dish of beef medallions in sauce, both served with frites was a satisfying end to a very long but enjoyable day.

Paris had indeed succeeded in weaving its web of magic around me and I look forward to the day when I can return to recapture the moment.

Mark with his Long Island Iced tea.

 

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Our nice queen sized bed at the ho…
Our nice queen sized bed at the h…
An ultra modern bathroom with glas…
An ultra modern bathroom with gla…
Our tourboat.
Our tourboat.
Inside the main hall of the Musee …
Inside the main hall of the Musee…
My favorite Renoir painting.
My favorite Renoir painting.
Mark, Notre Dame Cathedral and a b…
Mark, Notre Dame Cathedral and a …
We all lose our heads occasionally.
We all lose our heads occasionally.
Mark and the famed pyramid, with t…
Mark and the famed pyramid, with …
Dont they all look pretty?
Don't they all look pretty?
Mark with his Long Island Iced tea.
Mark with his Long Island Iced tea.
My gigantic bowl of steamed moules…
My gigantic bowl of steamed moule…
Our starter...calamari, smelt and …
Our starter...calamari, smelt and…
View (through the glass) from the …
View (through the glass) from the…
Me and the millions of other touri…
Me and the millions of other tour…
Buying cheap Tower replicas.
Buying cheap Tower replicas.
Now, its Marks turn to pose.
Now, it's Mark's turn to pose.
On the bridge over the river Seine.
On the bridge over the river Seine.
The underside of the tower.
The underside of the tower.
Decoration on the building which h…
Decoration on the building which …
Just a Parisian side street.
Just a Parisian side street.
One of the stained glass windows i…
One of the stained glass windows …
...and another of its stained glas…
...and another of its stained gla…
I feel a bit intimidated with all …
I feel a bit intimidated with all…
Another street scene along the Riv…
Another street scene along the Ri…
Old guys playing petanque...a Fren…
Old guys playing petanque...a Fre…
Looking the other direction on the…
Looking the other direction on th…
Inside the pyramid, where Mark che…
Inside the pyramid, where Mark ch…
Looking at the old through the …
Looking at the "old" through the …
Ornate deco on a bridge over the S…
Ornate deco on a bridge over the …
The Red Cross demonstration in for…
The Red Cross demonstration in fo…
....and another view of the same.
....and another view of the same.
Paris
photo by: Sweetski