Somebody pinch me. I am writing this while sitting with my back to the wall of l'Arc de Triomphe, with a view down the Champs Elysées on a breezy, sunny April morning. April in Paris. I cannot believe I'm here, and I struggle to drink in every sight, sound, and smell.
The comparitive nightmare of airports and airplanes ended yesterday around noon (or dawn, to my Canadian body). Already dizzy with fatigue (don't you envy people who CAN sleep on planes?), we begin our long shuttle ride to the hotel. First comes mile after mile of characterless office buildings and airport hotels - we could be anywhere in the world. Suddenly the view changes to broad, tree-lined avenues of exquisite stone buildings, all six stories or less, each window fronted with ornate iron grillwork. You turn a corner and realize you are looking at the top of the Eiffel Tower over a rooftop. You are in Paris, and it is achingly beautiful.
Our hotel is nothing more nor less than you would expect for the price, and the location is ideal. After taking individual trips up the impossibly small "lift" to our sixth floor room, we go out for a brief wander down Rue Cler where we grab a slice of pizza (well, I do) and some fruit for Wendy. Back to the room for a short nap (again, I can't sleep) before looking at a map to try and decide what we will see. I feel overwhelmed and paralyzed. I want to see EVERYTHING....we have two days.
We decide to hike down to the Eiffel Tower, which is within easy walking distance of our hotel. Impressive from a distance, the old girl is magnificent up close. We join the line for tickets to climb the stairs to the second level. Despite Wendy's fear of heights and my sore feet and poor fitness level, we eventually make it and are rewarded with an amazing view of the city. The walk down is considerably easier.
By now, our lovely day has turned to grey drizzle. We vainly look for cover, then surrender to being wet and make our way down to the Seine. After an hour's wait and some cold "frites" in a cafeteria, we climb aboard the Bateaux Parisien for the night cruise on the Seine. This may be the best money one could spend in Paris. As the boat pulls away from the dock, we are treated to the incredible sight of the Eiffel Tower completely lit up with thousands of white lights set to do a magical dance on the hour. We pass under amazing, elaborate, and ancient bridges, sail by palaces, museums, and churches standing out majestically against the blackened sky. We can hardly take it all in. What a perfect end to our first day in Paris.
Flash forward to the end of day two. We have climbed to the top of l'Arc de Triomphe for an incredible panoramic view of the whole city, wandered down the Champs Elysées (yes, I did sing Free Man in Paris out loud) to the Place de la Concorde. We searched out Le Grand Colbert and ate a decadent late lunch there. We stumbled upon the Palais Royal (which was amazing), walked along the banks of the Seine, bought watercolour paintings outside the Musée d'Orsay, took a bus to Montmartre, and visited Sacre Coeur. Back to our little hotel by a gritty and educational ride on the Métro (subway). We have seen immense beauty and creativity literally at every turn. It is difficult to take it all in. We could easily spend a month here. One day more.