We began the morning with a 5 am wake-up call for a 7:30 train to Paris. I was so excited to leave for Paris, I couldn’t get to sleep the night before. I took French courses in both high school and college. They were required by my alma mater and none of them came easily for me. Some practical application has finally occurred — 12 years later. So anywhoo, Joe was really looking forward to the Eurostar experience as evidenced by his previous post. I enjoyed breakfast on the train — une crossiant et un cafe au lait.
After arriving in Paris, we experienced some shennanigans, which I’ll explain more later. We enjoyed a nice lunch at a cafe near the hotel. Then, we rode the metro over to the Eiffel Tower. While we had planned to hike to the top, we got in the wrong line for stair tickets and ended up taking the elevator all the way to the summit. The views were the best I’ve ever seen. Admittedly, my sights were set kind of low — I was prepared to be underwhelmed and to wonder whether or not this was really any different than looking out an airplane window. It certainly was! I loved it, Joe loved it, everyone loved it! Unhappy campers were nary in sight at the Tower d’Effiel! We spent much of the evening at the tower, snacking and people watching and waiting for the sun to set — after dusk, the tower has a 5 minute light show every hour, on the hour. Seeing the tower sparkle really was impressive and worth the wait.
Now, for some necessary debunking of Paris myths:
Myth 1: Everybody speaks English. Ummm, c’nest pas correct. All the folks I interacted with today seem to know about as much English as I know French. Yesterday, I phoned the hotel to confirm my reservation. After greeting the staff in French, I requested that he speak English. We were clearly not on the same page because he told me I would need to pick up my hotel key at a cafe down the street. After arriving at said cafe, I found out that they only give out keys after 9 pm (it was around noon). Not a big deal at all — but it’s just not as simple of an exchange as I was led to expect. Phrases and noun conjugations have been coming back to me which proved helpful when purchasing metro tickets, eating in a restaurant, checking into our hotel, and asking for directions. I was relieved that people seemed pleased that I attempted to communicate in their primary dialect. Those who I presume were able attempted to return the favor.
Myth 2: Paris is dirty. Ummm, encore, c’nest pas correct. I’ve traveled to some dirty places — this is not one of them.
Now, for an unanticipated non-myth that completely caught me off guard.
1. Non-myth: Some people in Paris are pretty hard up. At the train station, we were approached by a young woman, carrying a baby and an empty bottle. She asked if we could spare any change for formula. A few minutes later, a teenager came up to us in the metro ticket line, told us that those tickets were only for buses and that he could take us to the right line. The next thing we know, he is trying to trick us into paying for a re-load on his Navigo (metro) card. We almost fell for this — ugh. We were approached by multiple people later in the day begging for change. And finally, at the Eiffel Tower, we observed a gang of Champagne sellers who got busted by the cops. This made me kind of sad — there were a lot of couples taking advantage of their sales as they waited for the light show and the police made such a big show out of busting them all. I understand they aren’t an upstanding liquor licensed operation, but I felt for them, nonethless.
I wasn’t really expecting to observe or experience all of this in less than one day. France is a first-world country, no?
Alrighty, it’s after 1am here, so I should head to bed. We are sleeping with our 3rd floor balcony door open to the world tonight. The balcony is a little scary — pretty sure the height of the railing does not meet a regulatory standard — it’s just above knee level. And yet, I love going up there; I just hold on the rail/ wall for dear life.