Friday, 24 September 2010

Paris 9/24/10

The weekend in Paris flew by.  I thought we'd never get there though.  We decided to take the train instead of fly.  They were both around the same price, but we thought we'd avoid the airport hassle and see some of the country.  In hindsight there was plenty of hassle with changing trains and riding the tubes too. I don't know which would be worse.  But it all worked out in the end.

We drove to the nearest train station (20 minutes away) Friday morning and caught the 8:00 AM train to London.  Once in London we had to walk to the International train station (our original train wouldn't take us there).  It was about a 15 minute walk although we had bags to carry.  Mine was on wheels, but Joe had a duffel type bag so he had to carry it.  Once we got to the International train we eventually boarded another train to take us straight to Paris (two hour train ride).  The ride was  uneventful and the scenery didn't look much different than that of England.  At least what we saw out of the windows on the way.

We arrived in Paris at 12:30 (though we had lost an hour along the way).  Wow, it was weird being in a country that doesn't speak the same language.  The train station was huge and we had to find where to go to catch the tube (subway).  So signs and tube routes were basically no help.  We stood in a long line for information and were able to buy tube passes, then we were sort of pointed in a general direction (the guy spoke little English) but we found our way.  That still didn't get us to our hotel.  We had to switch lines and take another tube to our destination.

We could have taken a taxi but that would have been expensive and heck, we may as well ride along with the rest of humanity.  Besides, we like to live dangerously!  At one point it did kind of get weird.  The doors of the tube were opening and people are rushing on and off the tube at the same time.  Joe is ahead of me and goes on in and I jump up and get on the tube, but there is a young girl (maybe 16-18)  right in front of me coming out.  I move one direction to get by her (and to let her by me), but every time I move one direction she follows me and blocks me.  We are literally face to face.  At first I thought it was an accident, but she continued doing it!  Her face had a stubborn look to it.  For the life of me I couldn't figure out what her problem was!  I kept saying "excuse me" which even if she didn't speak English, you usually know those simple terms in other people's languages.  Besides it was obvious what I was doing.  This went on and on, me dodging her and her blocking me!  I could not believe it.  Finally I gave her a shove and pushed past her.  Joe said that after I did that she got stuck in between the doors closing!  He saw the whole thing and couldn't figure it out either.  I hated to resort to physical means, but I swear I didn't think she was EVER going to let me by. 

The tube in Paris was more crowded than the London tube.  Instead of seats along the outer walls of the train they had seats similar to a bus except some would be turned to face each other. They had that in the train ride too, but in the train there was a table between you and plenty of room.  These were VERY close together!  So when we sat down our knees were literally touching the knees of the person sitting across from us!  One person had to open their knees and the other close their knees to fit comfortably!  Really up close and personal.  No one seemed friendly so that you were forced to look off to one side so that you wouldn't be sitting there staring at the person in front of you. Uncomfortable to say the least.

All of the directions for the above, walking to the train stations, tube stations and the walk to the hotel I had written down in minute detail in my trusty notebook that goes everywhere with me.  Thank goodness.  The only hard part was finding the right places to go once we were in the stations.  But with virtually no mishaps the tube dropped us off near our hotel so we managed to walk there and arrived at our hotel that afternoon in one piece.

Our hotel was very nice, but look at this OLD elevator!  You had to open the cage door
to step in!
As I stated above, the people were not particularly friendly.  I shouldn't judge France by the Paris people, just as people shouldn't judge England by the Londoners or New York by the New Yorkers.  The big city people are just a different breed, I think.  The hotel staff and the restaurant servers were friendly though and thankfully most of them spoke English as well as French.

In Paris you can bring your dog with you onto buses, tubes, stores and restaurants!  We were in a very nice cafe.  I considered it upscale.  It had a fancy bakery in it that offered all kinds of pastries that people walked in off the street to come in to buy.  They would leave with their pastries wrapped beautifully in pink bags with 
handle carriers.  (YES I tried them and YES they were delicious, amazing in fact.) The food was just as fantastic.  The French Onion Soup was the best we've ever had and to die for.  How did I go from dogs to food so fast?  Geez, there's no hope for me.

Anyway, I was amazed when a couple of well dressed women came in with a dog!  They sat right down at a table and ate there.  Soon after that another person came in to eat with their dog.  When that dog walked by the one who was already there
they started barking at each other which caused a kind of a commotion for a few minutes.  I looked around and no one seemed to notice.  So I asked the waitress about it and she said that dogs are welcome anywhere with one exception...they can't go into grocery stores.  I was VERY surprised,especially in Paris as it seems to be such a chi chi city.  I liked the idea though.  Wish it pertained to other cities.

Our hotel was near the Eiffel Tower so we walked over to it and around that evening and then made it an early night at the hotel.  I felt like I had walked miles that day.  Naturally Joe says it wasn't that far.  We always disagree when it comes to the physical aspects of things.  

Eiffel Tower

Palais de Chaillot
Houses naval museum, ethnology (a branch of anthropology) museum and a theater.


Jardins du Trocadero
Warsaw Fountains
Created for the International Exposition held in Paris in 1937.

Statues near the entrance to the above.

The next morning I had planned for us to take a bike tour of Paris.  We had been told about a bike tour company called Fat Tire Bikes.  They have tours in a lot of major cities in Europe and the US.  Actually the company is based in the US.  The Americans that we met in Scotland told us about the Paris tour and highly recommended it.  The tour met at the south leg of the Eiffel Tower on Friday morning at 11:00.  We were there and ready to go.

It was a beautiful sunny day,temperature around 70 degrees.  It couldn't have been more perfect.  There were about 25 riders.  The bikes were kind of heavy and had only three speeds.  But Paris is flat as a pancake so there was no worry that one keep up on the tour.  It was a four hour tour with a stop for lunch.  After tooling around getting used to our bikes we set off.  We had a mixture of different age people on the tour.  They even had tandem bikes for adults who had kids that could sit on the bike behind the adult and help pedal.  There were a couple who each had one and rode their two daughters behind them.  It looked like great fun for the kids, and made us think of our five year old granddaughter Caroline.  How she would have loved it!  Our fellow tourists were from America, Amsterdam, Australia, Canada and Switzerland.  The tour guide was American, as most of the young people who worked for the company.  What a great opportunity for them, huh?  They get to live in a foreign country, ride bikes for a living while experiencing all kinds of fun. 

We rode in a big group through narrow streets, parks, bike paths and on major roads.  Our guide (Brian) told us as long as we stayed together (especially through intersections) that no cars could divide us.  Kind of nerve wracking at times!  It was such a pretty day and so much fun though.  We stopped at all the landmarks and listened to our guide tell us about the places, the history and so forth.  It was really informative and entertaining.  We didn't have time to go into any sights but that wasn't the purpose of the tour.  It was more of an overview.  A great way to get a feel for the city, especially if you are there for a short time like we were.   I only wish I would have had more time to get better pictures of this stuff!  It was all so interesting.

Les Invalides built in 1679 on order by King Louis XIV
It was built as a home for aged and unwell French soldiers.
It houses Napoleon's tomb, his family and soldiers who served under him along with other military heroes,
There are also vaults of military personnel, interestingly some vaults only hold the HEARTS of men, the
bodies buried elsewhere!
King Louis XIV who was extremely vain, had the gold (all real) tower built as a private chapel for only him.
Ecole Militaire (Military School)
Founded by Louis XV in 1750

Our tour guide, Brian on a bridge overlooking the River Seine

Musee du Louvre (The Louvre Museum)
The second largest museum in the world.  The pyramid in
the front is made of glass and metal and is the main entrance.
It hosts over 7,000,000 visitors a year.  One of its major attractions
is the Mona Lisa.  It is so big you cannot possibly get it all in one picture.
Would love to go visit for several days one year!

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel
Built by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his military victories.
It is topped with eight soldiers of the empire and covered with
intricate carvings of the many battles.

Courtyard near the Louvre

House boats along the River Seine.  Notice the tomato plants in the planter!
The spaces that the houseboats are in are extremely cheap and hard to get!
The waiting list is 40 years long as they usually get handed down from family to family.

I actually snapped this picture while riding.  This is some of the nice
paths we got to ride along.  See the tandem bike on the left?

A neat decoration actually UNDER the bridge.  This bridge is right
around the corner from Ponte de l'Alma Road tunnel where
Princess Diana was killed in 1997.
The Eiffel tower was built when the designer Gustave Eiffel won a contest between
700 other architecture designs submitted to build the centerpiece for the World's Fair that Paris was hosting in 1889.
It was only supposed to stand for 20 years when ownership of the land would revert back to city of Paris.
Eiffel had to come up with a reason for them NOT to tear down his masterpiece.  He designed an antenna
(see picture below) which was used for telegraphy at the time, thus making it too valuable to destroy.

Here we are in Paris!

Brian, doing some of his tricks for us.

You didn't think that we'd be able to do a bike ride like that without a mishap did you?  Aha!  You know me well.  We were sailing along at a pretty good clip.  Joe had been behind me the whole way.  He always like to keep me ahead of him when we are walking, riding or whatever. I guess he thinks he can watch and make sure I don't make any wrong moves.  So anyway, we
are riding along and all of a sudden something comes flying out of nowhere across the street and in front of the bike in front of me.  I thought it was someone's camera.  The guy in front of me swerved to miss it and then I swerved.  Except when I swerved I hit his back tire and went down like a ton of bricks!  It was a nasty fall but also embarrassing.  I was kind of shaky and shocked so the embarrassing part didn't really kick in at first.  I heard a couple of women exclaiming, "oh no" and "oh my gosh".  All of a sudden there were all these people crowded around trying to help me and asking me if I was OK.  Joe would have been right behind me on his bike but now that I think of it he was the THIRD person to reach me.  I need to ask him what was that all about!

Brian, the tour guide was there immediately, sat me down on the curb and ran to get his first aid kit.  I had hit bad on my right knee, but had jeans on so it didn't get scraped too much.  I
had a huge scrape down my forearm.  That was pretty much it.  Brian started taping up my arm as others were standing around offering me water and advice.  That's when it started to get embarrassing.  I wanted to get up as fast as possible and get on with the tour.  Which after about ten minutes we did.  My right leg hurt pretty bad, but it was fine to ride.  Turns out it was a reflector that had broken off of one of the bikes that had skirted across our paths.

We finished the tour that afternoon and still, even with my fall, I am so glad we did it.  I'd like to do one in London.  The have them here also.  So if anyone who is planning to visit us is interested, let me know!  They also have them in Barcelona, Spain, which is another place Joe I would like to visit.  Maybe I can make a spectacle of myself in every country!

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the area and taking in all the sights.  There were people everywhere and all kinds of stuff going on in the parks and public venues.  People dancing, bands playing, human statues, all kinds of crazy stuff.  One of our favorite things to do is to people watch.  We did a lot of that with me resting my poor leg.

The River Seine
 In the area right around the Eiffel Tower (a large are with tons of tourists) there were always men selling trinkets.  They had what looked like a pillow case laid flat on the ground.  They
would lay out their wares on that and continually ask people to buy from them.  On the last day we were there, we were sitting on a bench between where the sellers were and a busy street.  All of a sudden about six or eight cops show up and I see the guys that were selling stuff yanking up their wares and running across the street, right through the traffic!  The cops half heartedly gave chase, but hung around for a while and eventually walked away.  Apparently it is illegal for them to be selling there.  Something we were shocked by because there were so many of them and we saw them there all the time!  We hung around to see what would happen.  The guys all congregated across the busy street and as soon as the coast was clear them all came back carrying their bags of loot!  Of course I was rooting for a big showdown!  I wanted some entertainment!

The women in Paris seem to all be sized zero or two!  It's not just me saying that.  One of the American women on the bike ride mentioned it to me at lunch.  She was an average size person, not overweight and she felt huge compared to these women!  I swear you could point out the Americans everywhere.  If they are even a little overweight and /or wearing tennis shoes (trainers they call them) they might as well hang a sign over their head that says "American".  I am not kidding either.  Same goes for the American men.  They are dead ringers if they have on khaki trousers and tennis shoes or sensible brown shoes, whether they are overweight or not.  Naturally we stick out like soar thumbs just like the rest of them though!

The people of Paris are much more stylish too.  Both women and mean wear scarves around their necks.  It is practically a fashion faux pas if you don't!  The women have stylish skirts 
or slacks with expensive shoes (usually a heel) and nice coats.  Hair perfectly coiffed and matching purse.  The men wear skinny black pants or jeans (usually black) with black leather shoes that are very flat and long toed (looking).  They have hair down to their collars, long on top, hanging rakishly over their forehead and down over one eye.  They sweep it back occasionally with a flick of their wrist.  I tried to get some pictures but it was very hard to get those hairstyles without getting noticed.  Two young lads walking along caught me and stopped to pose!

At the end of the day, my leg was bothering me and swelling badly so we didn't venture out too far.  We found a nice cafe for dinner and called it a day.  The next morning we had to leave to catch the train home.  This time we called a cab!  There's only so much "riding with humanity" that we can take!

Now that I am home I have a leg that is turned completely purple with bruises from above my knee to my ankle.  The bruising goes all around my leg front and back (weird) and just today has gone down and covered my foot too.  I don't get that, my foot doesn't even hurt!  Bruises popped up on my calf on the other leg too.  Probably from the bike pedal.  Since I am able to walk on it I don't think there's any real damage.  But man it looks like someone took a baseball bat too it!  Joe checks it out daily when he gets home from work.  Today it is turning lovely colors of yellow/green.  Ugh.

I had to call my mom when we got home from Paris for a little sympathy...I have squeezed out about as much as I can from Joe!

I must add at the end here that I am getting SO frustrated with this blogger site!  It continually changes my font size, moves words around and makes paragraphs when I don't want them.  My captions under pictures and some of my left margins are out of line and messy.  It just really bugs me.


  1. Great post. Just FYI if you're using the new blog template editor, it can cause bugs just like the ones you've mentioned. Sometimes it helps to click on the Edit HTML instead of Compose and you can see where potential spaces and indents might be occurring to correct. Keep posting and good luck with that leg!

  2. That trip to Paris looked like fun - short but sweet. Let's try the bike tour in London! Are you up for it? As long as your leg feels OK. Bruising in your foot is probably just the blood draining downward.

  3. Sorry the leg is still sore. It sounds like you really took a hard fall. I'm glad you and Joe enjoyed your trip. Is it starting to get colder there?

  4. I feel like we were there, too--great job on the blog!! The bike tour sounds fabulous, apart from the spill, of course. I wish you a speedy recovery. We'd love to ride tandem bikes with the boys in Paris, thanks for the tip. Take care, Erin

  5. Another lovely, descriptive post chock full of human interest and good information. Take care of that leg! The only thing missing? Descriptions of meals! Gotta hear about French food. ;-)

  6. It looks like you guys are having fun, I am so happy for you guys! And I hope you are putting this all in a journal and not just on here, your writing is great.