Thursday, June 26, 2008

The City of Light

A city that offers tremendous amounts of history, art, fashion, food, wine and romance-traveling to Paris was a no-brainer for Ally and I. We took a night train from Nice that took around 12 hours. It was interesting cramming into a 6 bed car with four people you don't know and can't communicate with because they speak a different language. To make matters more difficult, neither Ally or I slept well and Ally woke up with a migraine.

Nonetheless, we were determined to not let some bumps interfere with our vacation. We took the metro towards our hotel and dropped off our bags. Our hotel was only a block off of the Champ de Mars so we walked there first to check out the infamous Eiffel Tower. We sat on the grass and ate some breakfast and Ally laid down in attempt to calm down her headache. We had an interesting encounter with a scam and ended up loosing some granola bars, but no money or harm was done to us.

When Ally felt well enough to start our expedition, we walked to Napoleon's tomb (above) and the Army museums. We toured through the French military museums that featured Charles De Gaulle and a tribute to the victims of WWII. Another wing of the museum featured a great exhibit covering WWI and WWII. Ally and I learned a lot about the French perspective on the war and I learned about many events that I was previously oblivious to. Since I have been back in London I am reading a book Anne gave me called "Wine and War" that is very interesting. It covers stories about how the French protected its most precious wines during the Nazi reign. I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys wine or WWII history.

Along with the Army museums, Napoleon's tomb highlights all of the museums. Napoleon lies dead inside several coffins under a grand dome covered with gold. His tomb is surrounded by various French war heroes along with his brothers.

After visiting the tomb, we went back to our hotel to check in, shower and take a much needed hour long siesta (nap). We then walked from our hotel to the Eiffel Tower, through the trocerdo, to the Arc de Triomphe (below). The Arc de Triomphe is a magnificent work of art and there is no triumphal arch bigger. Napoleon had it built to celebrate his victory at the battle of Austerlitz.

This arc is the center for any event of significance. Twelve converging boulevards circle around the arc and it sure is a circus. Ally and I were not sure how to reach the arc until we found the underpass...I would have felt pretty stupid walking around the whole circle unable to find out how to reach the arc. Many monumental events (friend or foe) end here including Napoloens funeral, the arrival of the Nazi's, return of Charles de Gaulle after liberation and today the Tour de France finish line is here. The arc was very impressive to view in person and is much larger than I expected.

From the arc, Ally and I wandered Paris' most famous boulevard, the Champs-Elysees. This boulevard acts as Paris' backbone and features many high end stores, car dealerships, cafes and restaurants that lead to the palace gardens. It is a long street that offers some great views for walking. We ventured in and out of some shops, mostly the ones that we could not afford.

Our "walk" concluded at the palace gardens in front of the Louvre where we walked from there to find a place for dinner. After checking out many menus and lots more walking we finally decided on a place to eat.

We learned that dining in France is a way of life. Books and lives are dedicated to this subject and we were smack dab in the middle of Frances cuisine. Since Paris does not have a style of its own, I decided to go with the only native thing, French onion soup for a starter. I ordered the menu which is a fixed price, three course meal while Ally got an incredible salad and shared my meal with me.

Afterwards we walked back to the Eiffel Tower to sit on the grass and watch it light up (at 10:30). When we arrived we were met by hoards of people covering the grass drinking wine, beer and dining out. It was only fitting for us to join in so we ran to a grocery store and grabbed a bottle of wine to drink on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. It is interesting in European countries there is no open container laws so you see people wandering the streets drinking everywhere. We experienced some of the most entertaining people watching ever and witnessed the large amounts of garbage people leave all over the Camps de Mars.

After witnessing the Eiffel in the peak of its beauty at night, we walked around the City of Lights mesmerized by its beauty. Our goal was to catch a twilight cruise of the River Seine but we ended up missing the last boat of the night because I was craving some ended up being a good thing because our cruise on the last night was much more entertaining. Instead we just wandered around the river and made our way back to the hotel to rest up for a packed day tomorrow.

Stay tuned for the rest of our Parisian adventure!

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