Fin de semaine à Paris

We packed up the bags again last Friday, this time for a weekend in Paris. Foregoing the hassles of flying, we opted instead for the convenience of traveling by train, taking the Eurostar from central London right into central Paris, a 2h 15m trip from train station to train station via the "Chunnel." It was a great way to travel at that... comfortable seats, quiet and smooth ride (especially considering the trains can travel up to 186 mph.)

Upon arriving in Paris, we checked in to our hotel, dropped off the bags, and began our tour of the city. The first stop (after lunch) was the Arc de Triomphe, which was a mere 3 blocks from our hotel. We got to the top by walking up its 284 steps, and got a good glimpse of some other the city's other landmarks... Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, the arc at le Defence, the Louvre.

We strolled leisurely to the next stop (Paris is a great city to see by foot!), the Eiffel Tower. Thanks to a suggestion we received from a Iraqi woman we met at the shuttle stop for Chloe's day camp earlier in the week, we bought our tickets online and avoided the very long queues. Well, avoided the queues at ground level, which were quite considerable. Upon reaching the 2nd platform, everyone must get off the elevator and board another one to get to the top. There was a queue for this, so we got in line. After standing in this line for 25 minutes, it was our time to board, but were promptly told the ticket we had isn't for the top, it's just for access to the 2nd level only. Thankfully, the ticket agent was very nice and allowed us to step out of line, buy the appropriate ticket and come back directly to him and avoid requeuing. Once that little hiccup was dealt with, we found ourselves at the top, a little over 900 feet above the ground below. We weren't visiting on the clearest of days, but we still got a good view of The City of Light.

On Saturday, it was off to visit Notre Dame. Put simply: Awesome. The audio tour isn't the greatest, but the sculpture, space, and my goodness, the stained glass windows, are absolutely amazing. After Notre Dame, we just strolled along the Seine for a while and ended up at the Jardin de Tuileries, which is adjacent to the Louvre and happened to be hosting a small street carnival at the time. We spent some time there doing rides, and playing the game "Would this one make Peggy sick?" Dinner tonight was on one of the long and narrow boats that cruise the Seine, during a 90 minute riverview tour of the city. To cap off the day, we hung out in the Parc du Champs de Mars in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, waiting for the lights to go on. And when they did at 10:00 pm, the look on Chloe's face was great.

Sunday's itinerary was even simpler yet: Le Tour. We are breakfast, left the hotel, and looked for a place along the barricades for a spot. We initially squatted at the point near the Arc where the cyclists would turnaround and head back down the Champs Elysees, but we were about 4 people-deep (and this was at 10:30 or so in the morning, and the riders weren't due to come through for another 3-4 hours.) Peggy and Chloe noticed during a time-killing stroll that there were spaces available right along the barricades a couple of blocks down, so we relocated there. While waiting, we realized that we weren't too far away from the spot where we watched the Tour in 2004... basically just right across the street.

With no American vying for the podium, I can honestly say we weren't as excited about this final stage as we were 6 years ago, but it was still a great time... the festive atmosphere that exists along the route is a great experience. During the awards ceremonies (which weren't near our location and unable to be seen), we grabbed a quick dinner at a sidewalk cafe, then jumped back out to the barricades to watch the parade of teams. It is then a brisk walk back to our hotel to pick up our luggage, hail a cab and hope for no traffic problems on the way to the train station as we were cutting things close. We boarded the train with just 10 minutes to spare, settled into our seats, and put the cap on another great weekend here in Europe.

Misc. tidbits about the weekend
- At dinner one night, the waiter asked where we were from. We said from Colorado in the United States. And he replies "Near South Park?" He confessed he is a big fan of the show.
- One (very) slight disappointment from the weekend was no fellow Steelers fans along the Champs Elysees. In 2004, we ran into 4 or 5 people with Steelers gear on. I wore my Steelers hat anticipating the same this go-around, but no luck.
- During the cab ride back to the train station on Sunday, we were pulling away from a stoplight and a pedestrian looks into our cab, sees us, and then excitedly proclaims to his buddy that "Lance Armstrong was in that cab!" I put my hand out the window to wave, and he waved back.

Pictures from the weekend:
- Travel / touristy ones can be found here.
- Artsy fartsy ones can be found here.

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