Paris 1/10

Day 1 in Paris

First class I kept muttering to myself. This can't be first class!! But it was. I know I ordered first class sleeping arrangements for the night train to Paris. I didn't realize there was an uber-class above 1st. So we shared our sleeping arrangements with a nice older gentleman from France. Sonja actually loved the experience. Becky and I - not so much. Sardines enjoy more room. In my mind I was picturing sleeping arrangments like James Bond had in From Russia with Love. While I didn't have to battle with Robert Shaw (Grant), neither did I see Daniela Bianchi's Tatiana (of course she is probably looking a little old 40+ years later).

Morning comes as we arrive in Paris at the Gard de Nord station. Time to find a taxi along with about 100 other folks. It didn't take too long. Off to the Hotel de la Motte Picquet which is on Reu Cler - on the left bank near the Eiffel Tower. I kept wanting to call the hotel Picard, as in Jean-Luc Picard ("Make it so, Number One").

The small theme continues at this nice and quaint hotel. We meet my father who is also staying here. He's spending two weeks in Paris. Us - 3 1/2 days.

After a croissant and some excellent black coffee we go for the Paris Metro. It's an excellent system that can take you anywhere in Paris. We get off at the Opera and walk towards the Place de la Concorde. In today's world it has become a huge traffic circle. Back in the day it was originally constructed to hold an equstrian statue of Louis XV. It is also the beginning of the Champs Elysees. In later years the Place de la Concorde became the in-place to get executed. Robespierre (who became a victim of the revolution he was part of), Louix XVI, and of course Marie-Antoinette all became eligible for a part in Sleepy Hollow.

There is also a large obelisk in the center that came from someone down in Egypt. I also found the headquarters to Formula One near the Place de la Concorde.

Up the Champs Elysees we stroll. We stop for some more coffee and a light lunch. The Champs Elysses takes us close to Invalides where Napolean's tomb lies. He was actually brought to Invalides 19 years after he died. A rather long time to wait for a funeral. During the Bastille days (the beginning of the French Revolution) arms were taken from Invalides as the crowds stormed the Bastille.

At the end of the Champs Elysees is of course the Arc De Triomphe. It was Napolean who had the arc built in dedication to his imperial storm troopers, oops, I mean armies. Since the end of WWI the Arc has been the home to the tomb of the unknown soldier.Every Bastille day the President (not Bush!!) lays a wreath at the tomb.

So up we go to the top. Nice view, but rather hazy that day. Back down we go and back to the hotel before we take an evening cruise on the Seine River. Before the cruise we have dinner. I ordered sausage which turned out be some animal's intestine. It was not my favorite meal while in France. Sonja thought it smelled like crap. She was right.

It takes about 1 1/2 hours to take the Seine River cruise. Take it in the evening since all the buildings, especially the Eiffel Tower, look spectacular basking in artificial lighting. Definitely don't leave Paris without taking one of the river cruises. There are about a million different boats to pick from.

Next morning it is time to take the train to the Palace of Versailles. It takes about 45 minutes by train to get there. As chateau's go, I don't think you'll find anything bigger. At the time of construction the people of France weren't living high on the hog, but the royal family did. Building a palace this large and ornate pissed off your average Frenchmen (which isn't hard to do) and would be a key part to the French Revolution. Marie-Antoinette paid a high price for living at Versailles. Of course so did the revolutionary figure Robespierre, so go figure!

Inside and outside everything is just spectacular. I can best summarize it by saying - go visit for yourself. Besides, it is cool to see the bed Marie-Antionette slept in. Sonja jumped up and down on the mattress. Just kidding.

On the way back to Paris Becky got a migraine, so Sonja and I went to the Eiffel Tower alone. My father didn't want go up so he wandered around the park area surrounding the tower. Luckily the lines were relatively short. We didn't spend a lot of time on the top platform, but I did enjoy the still hazy view. The tower was built in in the late 1800's for the Paris Exposition of 1889, not unlike the Space Needle here in Seattle during the 1960's. Strangely enough the tower was almost brought down after the exposition. Not until the Empire State Building came up about 40 years later did the Eiffel Tower loose its designation as the World's tallest structure.

The next day the weather improved since the haze finally got up and left. Off to Sacre Coeur we go. A taxi ride later we arrive.The Basilica was built after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 in the section of Paris called Montmartre. It's a nice location up on the hill. Not nice if you don't like to climb stairs. Right next door is the place du Tertre one of my favorite spots in Paris. Old charming buildings with bright red flowers in boxes are everywhere. It isn't a big square, which is part of the charm. This is the place to go to watch artists at work. Back in 1972 I had my picture painted. History repeated itself in 2005 as Sonja had hers. I recommend having some coffee and crepe while there - we did. I've always liked the Bohemian atmopshere; place du Tertre is no exception.

Time for a little shopping and then off to Notre Dame. By now it is getting down-right warm outside. The haze has been replaced with a perfectly blue sky.

Notre Dame is old. Really old. After the Romans left, a bishop in Paris decided it was time to build a big fancy church. It took 180 years so chances are he didn't see the final results. It 1345 it was finished. You get a nice view of Notre Dame from the Seine River during the evening cruise. Some years later Napolean had himself (!!) crowned at Notre Dame (see the painting inside of the Palace of Versailles - and the picture I took). I believe he also crowned Josphine.

Time for a nice French dinner and then off to pack. Next morning we take a taxi to the Opera (we had our only encounter with a grumpy Frenchman. He didn't like me opening the window in his taxi.). From the Opera we took a bus to Charles de Gaulles (the airport, that is) and jumped on a SAS MD-90 to Copenhagen. We had about 2 hours to kill at Kastrup before the flight to Seattle. Some more pastries and a comfortable resting chair made for a quick two hours. In fact, Kastrup is one of my favorite airports. It's like a shopping mall inside. I like the sleeping chairs which also gives you a nice view of the planes coming and going.

10 hours later we are in Seattle. Jake and Carol picked us up and we went home.

End of vacation. Now when is the damn car going to get here!!

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Our sleeper room on the overnight train to Paris, a little smaller than I had thought it would be

Arrive at Gard de Nord train station in Paris

Hotel de la Motte Picquet where we stayed - small but nice - just 18 rooms

Edouard VII Hotel in Paris

Stitch of Place de la Concorde where Marie-Antionette and Robespierre where beheaded - you can also see the obelisk from Egypt

I wonder if Bernie Eccelstone is inside
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