I still can not believe that I have been to Europe nearly twenty times, and this is my first time to Paris, France. I took the high speed TGV train from Karlsruhe, Germany to Paris, France traveling up to speeds of 200 miles per hour through the French countryside. I was excited to spend a few days in the most visited city in the world. I knew my time was limited, so my plan was to see a few of the sights, maybe a museum and just sit in a sidewalk café and take Parisian life in.
After arriving at Gare de L’Este, I stepped onto the platform of bustling people and searched for the Metro. I took my seat on the 7 line and a woman in gypsy clothing carrying a baby started to speak loudly to the entire car asking for money before approaching each person individually. It seemed like something right out of a Broadway play. Halfway down our car, a man played familiar Parisian tunes on an accordion. It was odd, yet charming and quaint.
I arrived at my stop and was in awe of the beauty of each building as I exited the Metro station. The architecture of just the ordinary apartment building was exactly what you expect, but yet I could do nothing but just look in amazement. I quickly checked into my hotel, chuckled at the small room (which I expected) and off I went. Since my time was limited and I wanted to see as much as we could, I purchased a ticket for the hop on, hop off double decker bus that travels 5 different routes through Paris. I settled on one route – the green line, and off we went.
I enjoyed looking at some of the most famous buildings in the world, like the Louvre and Notre Dame while hearing a little information through my headset about each as we went by them. I snapped pictures furiously so that I could capture the grandeur that surrounded me. Within a few stops, I hopped off at the Notre Dame. What a breathtaking piece of architecture. I knew that I would really need much more time to take Paris in, so I planned to spend the bulk of my time in the St. Germain area on the left bank.
I walked across the Seine and found myself in the Latin Quarter. The hustle and bustle of all the people eating in cafés and Brasseries, shopping in the quaint little shops was energetic. I quickly found a comfortable spot and ordered lunch – three cheese fondue. I wandered through several tiny back streets and took in the charm of the area. After walking a bit, I headed to the Luxembourg Gardens across from the Sorbonne. Even in the fall, the park was packed with students and tourists enjoying a sunny crisp fall afternoon. I just wanted to sit on the bench with a good book and take in the beauty of the day and the moment. I hopped onto the nearby orange line for the tour bus and several minutes later, found myself at the Palace de Invalids.
I strolled through a local upscale neighborhood and took in the flavor of the area surrounding the Eiffel Tower. I found a Starbucks, which to me looked out of place, but it was packed just like home. I don’t know why, but I was fascinated with the fact that in one block there were six bakery/pastry shops, each one with more delectable little masterpieces than the last. I quickly realized this was quite an upscale part of town by the prices in the neighborhood shops. Paris in itself is definitely pricey, but nearly 10 Euros for a kilogram of grapes was even for me, too high. And definitely at least five times more than in the little produce store near my hotel. I continued to wander along, and quickly found myself at the Champ de Mars park before the Eiffel Tower.
I had seen the Eiffel Tower from various spots in the city, but to see its majestic beauty from the ground up unobstructed was quite a sight that I will not forget. Built for the World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower to this day remains one of the most recognized symbols of France. Just as magnificent from afar is walking underneath this massive steel structure. The lines to ride or walk up were not as bad as I anticipated, but I ventured on as the sun was beginning to set. I hopped back onto the bus and returned to the Opera House where my day had begun.
Overall, my first day in Paris was filled with bustling Parisians and tourists. I knew that if I needed a break, a quaint café was just around the corner. I knew that if I needed a quick little bite, there were several bakeries that I could just grab a quick Sandwich – Parisian style – small baguette, filled with several vast choices, or my good old standby – a croissant. And the wine and coffee was flowing throughout the city. I quickly adjusted to Parisian time and was ready for my next day…