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October 11, 2010

Paris in 25 Hours

When I first found out I was headed to France, I had a large number of folks promise me a visit. I figured most of them were just saying that and never intended to hop the pond, but this weekend I got to play tour guide to my first round of promise-keepers! Ted and Danielle are on their first European excursion, and had about a week in Jolly Old England before they took the Eurostar over to Paris on Saturday morning. Their train got in at 11:30 a.m. after a slight delay, and they were due to leave Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. That means I had only 25 hours and change to show them the most magnificent city in the world. Ready? Allez-y!

12:30-13:00: After heaving our luggage up and down multiple sets of stairs in the metro, finding our hotel, and checking into our hotel, we took a a stroll down the Boulevard St. Germain des Pres. We stopped for some savory crepes on the way, and then poked around in the quarter's eponymous church for a look-see.

13:00-13:30: Our next stop was obvious: macarons at Ladurée, with an éclair for Ted. We brought our treats down to the banks of the Seine, where we nibbled them as we waited for our riverboat cruise.

13:30-14:30: We paddled in our Batobus toward the Ile de la Cité and the Ile Saint Louis, made a loop around them, and continued west until we stopped at the Eiffel Tower.

14:30-16:00: I had heard warnings for days that Paris, and especially the Eiffel Tower, were due to get terroristed. Thus I was beyond relieved that Ted and Danielle were content to just wander along the base of the tower rather than mounting it. Plus, the lines to get up stretched all the way to Digoin. So we artfully dodged the crap vendors, took a peek up the tower's innards, gazed upon the Champs de Mars, snapped some pics, and then got back in line to take the riverboat up to the Musée D'Orsay.

16:00-17:30: This is apparently the perfect time to go to the Musée D'Orsay, home to works by Van Gogh, Dégas, Seurat, Manet, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rodin, Renoir, and others. There was no line! Plus, I got in for free when I showed them my visa! Double huzzah. We gazed upon masterpiece after masterpiece until the museum shut its doors for the night.

17:30-19:00: Since we weren't going to mount the Eiffel Tower or the Arc De Triomphe, I wanted to take my buds up to Montmartre to give them a lovely, peaceful panoramic view of the city. We got off at the Abesses métro stop (tip: take the elevator to avoid the billion stairs to the top) and encountered a giant, noisy parade. I at first assumed it was yet another protest against the change of retirement age from 60 to 62, but we soon figured out it was to celebrate the grape harvest. We headed up to Sacré Coeur and encountered a mob of Parisians getting their wine-tasting on. After touring the church we spent a frustrating 20 minutes trying to make our way down one of the side streets so we could get outta there.

19:00-20:30: My Digoin friend Suzanne had recommended a restaurant for us to go to, but we were bone tired after all the stairs and the squishing and the walking uphill and the stairs and the walking downhill, so we just plopped down at the first good-looking restaurant we happened upon. Ted got escargots as a starter, we both had duck with honey sauce as a main course, and he had creme brulée for dessert. Danielle had a greek salad, boeuf bourguignon, and mousse au chocolat. My dessert was a very boozy mojito sorbet. We shared a bottle of Bordeaux.

20:30-21:00: I hatched a plan to take mes amies on a forced march through nighttime Paris so they could see some of the important things we wouldn't have time for on Sunday. Our first stop was the Moulin Rouge, which is on a very lewd streets with sex shops as far as the eye can see. We then took the metro to Opéra, so they could see the magnificent rococo building in real life after seeing the model in the Musée D'Orsay.

21:00-22:00: We walked down the Avenue de l'Opéra to the Louvre, the magnificent, gigantic palace that is now one of the world's most important art museums. We arrived just as the Eiffel Tower began its sparkle motion. Alas, my camera was unable to capture it properly, so instead you can feast your eyes on the glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre.

22:00-23:30: We strolled along the Seine, encountering several groups of youngsters guzzling wine and beer en plein air. It's been awhile since I've been out in Paris on a Saturday night, so I don't know if that was just the usual Bacchanalia or if it was in honor of the harvest festival. We reached Notre Dame, and paused to watch a group of buff French rollerbladers make magic with their limbs along a course of overturned cups. We got a bit lost on our last leg of the trip, but we made it back to the hotel safe and sound, and promptly passed out.

9:00-10:30: After breakfast at the hotel, we set out for Notre Dame. Danielle and Ted toured the cathedral while I waited in line to go up the towers. This was a perfect plan, because by the time they were done exploring the line had stretched all the way to Digoin again. I got in for free by flashing my visa, and we climbed to the very tippy top. The cloudless day afforded magnificent views of the city.

10:30-11:00: We trucked over to Saint Chapelle, home to beautiful stained glass windows. We were properly awestruck, and glad we went.

11:00-12:00: I took a slight detour so I should show the bibliophiles Shakespeare & Co., an English-language bookstore where Hemmingway used to hang out. We got some panini sandwiches at a nearby street stand for lunch, and then hightailed it back to the hotel so we could catch the metro in time for our respective trains.

I'm proud of what we were able to see in such a short amount of time, but holy Jacques is it exhausting. 25 hours in Paris: c'est possible!

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