Fast forward thirty-six years
Paris Travel Blog› entry 2 of 9 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.