After nearly a dozen hours in the air, we landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport, more or less on time (we were delayed in San Francisco by a mechanical problem.) Because of arrangements between the USA and France, US citizens are put into their own line. We zipped through customs. The agent barely looked at our passports before stamping and handing them back.
The crowd herded us out of Terminal 1 toward Terminal 2 where we picked up our luggage. Seconds later we were loaded in a taxi and headed to Paris.
Anne, our Parisian landlady, met us at the door of the apartment. She was a delight and spoke rapidly in a willy-nilly mix of English and French as she described how to use the stove (no oven), the ancient heating system, the water system (you have to turn up the gas to get hot water) and the WiFi for our laptops (the French say “wee-fee.”) After she’d given us keys and explained the building’s entrance code, she flew out the door.
We were exhausted. Our flight had been long and despite having taken two sleeping pills each plus tranquilizers… we remained wide awake. I admire people who can drop their heads and go to sleep effortlessly…
But here’s what it was like for us: after a meager and pathetic in-flight meal (is there any other kind?) the lights were dimmed to near-darkness. Passengers tucked themselves in and began to snore while the two of us — blurry-eyed and half-zonked — stared at the interior of the plane. I read via a tiny overhead light and Bill watched The Revenant. We stood up; we sat back down. We wandered the aisles. We asked the attendants for water like toddlers unwilling to go to bed. Because the middle seat between us was empty we tried various configurations of lying down. We flipped. We flopped. We slumped. Our heads lolled side to side… one or the other of us would fall asleep but then wake up minutes later…
All the above to say — after Anne left at 12:45 PM, we unpacked, then closed the shutters.
With daylight blocked, we went to sleep in the middle of the day like vampires. When we woke up hours later, it was dark.
PARIS DAY TWO
We were far from the apartment when the rains started. It was already cold (upper 40s) and darkly cloudy. We were headed toward the Eiffel Tower. I had brought a travel umbrella my sister gave me for Christmas this year. It kept us mostly dry but wasn’t much use when the winds blew the rain sideways.
Earlier that day, we had gone to the Musee de Cinema so we could buy multiple-day museum passes to bypass the long lines at the Louvre — we plan to spend a day there next week. We had been told to go to one of the smaller museums where there wouldn’t be a line. It worked like a charm.
Within ten minutes we had Two-Day Passes, plus a quick tour of the History of Film. In addition to exhibits of the earliest movie cameras, the walls were covered with screens showing films from the 1890s through the early 1920s. The highlight? The head of Norman Bates’ mother from Psycho. It looked as chilling in a glass case as it had when they turned her around in that rocking chair near the climax of the film.
Bill wanted to take the Metro to the Eiffel Tower. After walking down the long steps to get underground, we asked for help at an Information desk. The woman opened a fresh map, circled where we were (Gare d’Austerlitz)) then our destination (Champ de Mars) and handed it to us.
My first thought when we emerged from the tunnel? The Eiffel Tower is huge. I don’t know what I expected.
You can see the gray skies above. As we walked through the grassy field of Champ de Mars, the rains began to fall heavily.
We knew we were close to the Arc de Triomph and so we kept walking. What’s a little rain? We had dressed in layers and weren’t cold… at least not yet.
When we arrived, a ceremony was beginning. Watch the video below:
Riveting, right? Um, yeah, okay. Not.
I have six other videos similar to this one. The bugle player would toot a flourish, the old French guys would put up their flags in a ragged We Didn’t Really Practice kind of way, then more people would arrive… and nothing would happen. I would stop filming… then men would rush around, the bugler would toot-a-toot and I’d start filming… absolutely nothing.
Maybe the Paris mayor was nearby (security was intense; the traffic had been stopped by police from every intersection) or maybe the French make a big To Do then fail to follow through. I don’t know.
As the rains fell harder and the temperature continued to drop, we put up our umbrella and headed for a cafe.
I’ve seen many beautiful cities but Paris is the most breathtaking. For all of my adult life, San Francisco has held that honor. I really do understand the impossibility of comparing one place with another, but still.
Everywhere I turn there’s another incredible piece of architecture, a jaw-dropping cobblestone roundabout, ancient marble sculptures at the end of boulevards…
I’m organizing photos now and can’t wait to share this incredible place with you.