Travelogues from TheTraveler

Tales of exotic adventures, humorous anecdotes, and musings from The Traveler... The adventure awaits...

 

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Part 1 - In Paris

April 26-27 - 8:11 PM

April 28 - 11:40 PM-

April 30 - 6:33 AM

April 30 - 3:35 PM

May 1 -6:20 AM


Part 2 - Conclusions of Paris

The Dogs of Paris

Learn Some French

"What was your favorite meal in France?"

There Are No Fat People in France

Take an Umbrella...

"Maybe Hemingway sat in this very chair..."

A Business Lunch in Paris...

The Eiffel Tower is a lot easier to find than your hotel...

Epilogue


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paris Neighborhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Out My Hotel Window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Seine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Luxombourg Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Luxombourg Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Springtime Walk in Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Approaching the Tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Seine from the Eiffel Tower at Dusk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Keeping Watch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live the Writers Life!

The Eiffel Tower at Twilight

 
April in Paris

 

Part 1 - Four Days in Paris

 

Le Voyage, Le Arriver...

Two simple phrases are all it takes to butcher the language! I not only have the perfectly good excuse that I do not speak French, but also that I am completely exhausted and am only able to remain awake by sheer determination wait for darkness and to get this travelogue started... and the fact that room service just delivered the first decent meal I have had in a day and a half...

This very long day started about thirty-two hours ago, in San Francisco, with butterflies in my stomach and a journey before me - a long journey. I showed up, like a good international passenger, over two hours early for my check-in....

And found myself with one and a half hours to kill... (Really, it's time that's killing us isn't it?) I've certainly received a lot more scrutiny going to Hawaii...

No second running of my bag through the x-ray machine a second time (admittedly due to, on occasion, the fact that I did indeed have weapons grade material inside; a Swiss army knife - and I once again apologize to my sister for being so stupid - and a "Leatherman".) Not even a pat down...

"Hey look at me! What's the problem? Don't I look bad to you? Don't I look like trouble? I'm going to Paris!"

Nobody cared.

I contained myself and idled down to the gate...

I was, in fact, on time to make a 9:30 flight to Dallas, and seriously considered asking if I could get on that flight. I was a bit uncomfortable with only having one hour between the scheduled arrival of this flight in Dallas and the scheduled departure of the Dallas to Paris leg of the flight...

I decided against it, thinking that it was all part of the challenge...

Indeed...

My flight to Dallas originated in Los Angeles and was stuck in a holding pattern over foggy SF for more than thirty minutes, making the departure to Dallas almost an hour late... the amount of time I had before the flight to Paris was scheduled to leave.

It all looked a little dubious from the outset, but what the heck; I was ready for a story...

As it turned out, there wasn't a problem at all making my connection, but I wouldn't know that until I hurried up to the gate in Dallas - sans one contact lens - to find that the plane hadn't even started boarding yet, and would leave about twenty minutes late.

But wait a minute... did I say "sans one contact lens?" Yes, I did!

I exited the plane from San Francisco and inquired as to my chances for making the Paris flight, scheduled to leave in about ten minutes, and one long terminal away. The gate agent told me to "hurry"... So I did... My best chance was to use the little train system available at the Dallas airport, so I hurried down into the waiting area just as one train was leaving. There I was, impatiently waiting for the next train when "bing" went my right contact lens... a complete hurl into oblivion.

Fortunately, it was my right lens, and my weak eye, so I still had the bulk of my useful vision intact... I stood there motionless and scanned the ground around me, and saw nothing on the white tiled floor; checked my clothing... nothing...

I then took up a position somewhat akin of Columbus as he waded ashore for the first time into the New World... Kneeling on one knee with my head bowed down to the ground...

Nothing...

By this time the crowd was starting to gather in anticipation of the next train... And no doubt curious as to what I might be doing in reverential pose, there on the train platform...

"Must've really missed Dallas..."

HA!

Anyway, the train approached and I had to make a decision... As far as I knew, I was already late for my flight, I had an old spare lens (that I hadn't worn for years), and I either had to give up the lens, or miss the train, and probably the flight to Paris, and get down on all fours and search for the tiny bit of plastic that makes life as I know it possible... Not quite the royal position of Columbus discovering the New World...

I had New Worlds of my own to discover, and the decision wasn't that difficult... I boarded the train, thankful for the spare lens and the fact that I hadn't packed it into my checked luggage...

When I realized that I had more time than I anticipated, I found a men's room and restored my full vision, ready for the long flight to Paris.

And a long flight it was... The personal video monitor with a choice of programming did help a little; especially, for dorky ol' me, the flight information screen monitoring our progress across the eastern half of North America - I think we flew over my birthplace, at least very close - and then out over the North Atlantic. For those of you curious about such things, we flew at "flight level 370" (37,000 feet), and had a ground speed of up to 650 miles per hour, sailing on the jet stream of air currents that circle the globe; I suspect it will be much slower going on the way back...

Yes, all that was very nice, but more that four or five hours spent in an airliner is mild torture to me.

I solemnly accepted the fact that I was in for agony. Fortunately, I was sitting next to a quiet, small woman and didn't have to jockey for armrest space, as I did with the big, burly Texan on the flight to Dallas... She even offered me her cube of chicken, which, after the proper amount of protestations, I was much obliged to accept... I needed sustenance!

Sleep was difficult at best (usually impossible), and I began wishing that there were some way I could disconnect my legs and store them in the overhead bin...

"Excuse me ma'am, could you please hand me my legs? Thanks so much!"

Not as bad as the flight from Auckland, but my left foot is still a little numb...

April 28 11:40 PM

As I was writing last night, my head hit the keyboard - then the pillow - and I am beginning to lag behind in my storytelling. I'm afraid this is to be expected, given the whirlwind nature of my Parisian visit...

I still have Luxembourg Gardens, cocktail receptions, the first day of "class", being told I am doing a presentation on Tuesday (which really won't be much of a story until I actually do the presentation), Notre Dame, Ile de la Cite, and dinner at the famed Le Bouillon Racine to talk about...

And tomorrow is another day...

Rest assured, I am keeping busy... But now it is I that must rest this tired and still jet-lagged soul...

I cannot close the day with saying...

Happy Birthday Mom!

Bonsoir...

(my French isn't getting any better, but I am now getting better at using the words and phrases that I do know in the appropriate situations...)

April 30 - 6:33 am

This morning starts with the feeling that my body is slowly starting to get turned around to Paris time... Just in time for my return trip tomorrow morning... Instead of spending much of the day in class fighting to stay awake and then coming home after our evening outing exhausted and - I thought - ready for sleep; only to sleep well for one hour and then fitfully or not at all for the rest of the night, I have finally managed a few good hours of sleep.

One women participating in the workshop is a retired airline attendant. With her thirty years experience flying all over the world, I asked what the secret it to battling jet-lag. Other than good nutrition and common sense (don't get drunk on the plane), there isn't any.

Anyway, as each day passes, I fall further behind in my story....

For instance; yesterday I sat in the same café, in the same upper room, where existentialism was born, where Earnest Hemmingway wrote "A Movable Feast", around the corner from where Oscar Wilde breathed his last breath...

I am in Paris. Stuff happens in Paris...

 

April 30 - 3:35 PM

"I am in Paris"...

That is what I kept reminding myself a few days ago upon my initial arrival in here; groggy, jet-lagged, a bit disoriented, walking the streets for the first time last Saturday waiting for my hotel room to be ready, and a nap...

The blue airport shuttle van, which looks suspiciously like the Super Shuttle we all know from the States, picked me up around 10:45 for the 30 kilometer ride into downtown Paris.

We came into town and crossed the Seine to the Left Bank and I was immediately struck with a sense of the history of this place. I wouldn't be surprised if Louis the XV's coach would turn the corner; it would seem perfectly natural.

American culture is a few hundred years old; the Parisii tribe settled on one of the islands of the Seine, now Ile de la Cite, over two thousand years ago. I can perhaps understand why people here don't wish to be told what to do by us upstart Americans.

Anyway, the shuttle van sped down the narrow streets missing people and cars by mere inches. (a tip for pedestrians... get the hell out of the way...) I was dropped at my hotel before noon with hours to kill before my room would be ready. My inner conflict between wanting to take a nap and hitting the streets was moot. I got my camera out of my luggage and walked out onto the streets of


May 1 - 6:20 AM

What? So soon? I just start to get over my jet-lag and now I have to pack up and go home. What a whirlwind. I wish I had more time to write my travelogue while here, but time was something I did not have much of this trip. So much to see in this city, four days does not begin to do it justice...

I look out my hotel window right now as the dawn breaks over the city with a blue-gray overcast. Across the narrow street the row of apartments with gabled roofs and long shuttered windows, decorated with intricate iron work, reminds me once again that yes, I am in Paris. Here I am, sitting at my open window in the early morning dawn, writing in my little room on the Rive Gauche - the Left Bank - of Paris... At least I can say that for a short time, I was a writer in Paris...

When I go home and finish this travelogue, I know it will all seem like a dream...

It is May Day, and most of Europe has the day off. Paris is braced for numerous demonstrations today, mostly in opposition to the right wing presidential candidate, Le Pen. It would be an interesting day to be a photo journalist!

 

Part 2 - Conclusions of Paris

 

The Dogs of Paris

Parisians love their dogs...

In fact, you're better off taking Fido with you into the bistro than little Pierre, especially if Pierre is still in a stroller...

Jen, the lead instructor at the workshop, was making her way out of Le Bouillon Racine, while her husband manned the stroller with their 13-month old son... As they slowly make their way out of the restaurant, saying good-night (bonsoir) to individuals in the group, the waiter came up to Jen and exclaimed,

"This is impossible! Impossible!" as he motioned excitedly toward the baby stroller...

But dogs are seen and accepted everywhere - and they're all pretty well behaved, I might add...

During the session with the writer of "Savoir Flair", a book about understanding French Culture for the uninitiated, the discussion turned toward the serious problem of dog poop in the streets; I realized that there was a lot to learn...

There I was, that first day on the ground in Paris... Groggy, hungry, and jet-lagged; lurching through the streets of Paris totally impervious to the peril that awaited my slightest misstep...

But peril didn't find me during that first walk, and I considered that I must have been lucky.

My ultimate conclusion is that the mayor of Paris has, indeed, done a good job of addressing this most serious issue, for I only came close to peril once, and by then I had the wary eye of a seasoned Parisian walker...

Don't even think of challenging oncoming traffic, and watch out for the dog poop...

This general canine acceptance isn't an entirely good thing for the dogs, though... they have to put up with all that second hand smoke!

 

Learn Some French...

It seems obvious that you'll need to know a few words of the language when visiting a foreign country... This is especially true in France... You may go hungry otherwise...

On Monday our table at the workshop went to lunch together - Meg, a woman in her sixties, and Kathryn a women that I'd guess was in her late forties, and me. We had decided on a little bistro about a block over called "Le Nimrod". It came highly recommended and indeed was bustling with lunch traffic, obviously a favorite amongst the natives...

Lunch is not the slam dunk affair it is here, and generally takes a couple of hours....

Kathryn explained the menu to me and I decided I'd have a salad...

The waiter came over to take our order, and I tried to think of some sound to come out of my mouth that would make sense to this French waiter...

I'm pretty sure that the guy knew we were American, (like, maybe by all the English we were using to communicate amongst ourselves... Like, Duh!)

In any case, I'm sure he waited to see my first move, and as I simply pointed at an item on the menu without making a sound, he probably thought to himself...

"Monsieur has failed the test"...

He shrugged his shoulders letting me know that I could go hungry or I could do better than pointing at the menu...

At which point Kathryn bailed me out and told the waiter what he wanted to hear...

I should have known better. After all, I had been told that if you know a few words and use they - enough to say, in essence, "I'm just a stupid American and I need your help" then you'll generally do okay...

Learning to offer a "Bonjour" when entering a restaurant or a shop, or what I found very useful, "Parlez vous Anglais?" (do you speak English?) is a good thing.

To not learn "parlez vous anglais" in French is, I'd imagine, finding that no one at all speaks English in Paris...

 

"What was your favorite meal in France?"

Yes, yes... You're all dying to know what my highly refined palate - trained in the "Adolescent American" school of culinary arts - found exceptional, gastronomically speaking...

The appetizer of choice was the soup de jour, an excellent potato soup; followed by a Pave de saumon with a glass of vin blanc; and then for desert, a very tasty crème brulee aupain d'eices; and finally topped off with a cup of espresso.

Yes, folks, it happened, at least for an evening at the Bouillone Racine, I dressed for dinner and enjoyed a French meal served by proud and only slightly snooty French waiters...

A word about the snooty French waiters... Dining out in France is an art form, and the waiter is the artist, his canvas is the dining experience...

They take it seriously.

In fact, I think in France it's the waiters that are really running the country...

 

There are no fat people in France...

Well, I really don't think that's completely true...

There are plenty of Americans in France...

A comment based on anecdotal observation from four days spent in Paris...

 

Take an Umbrella...

April in Paris...

A romantic notion here in America, and kind of baffling to Parisians..

The airport shuttle van sped away with leaving me holding my bag... It was only shortly before noon, and I walked into the hotel lobby prepared to kill some time before my room would be ready. Told that it would be at least two hours before I could get my room, I decided to go on pure adrenaline, since the crackers and Cliff Bars that I had purchased for the trip, for this very moment, were sitting on the night stand back in San Francisco... so close, yet so far, far away...

It was cool, but the sun was out, and I thought I'd be fine in my light shirt and jeans... For awhile, I was... I wandered around the neighborhood a bit, came upon a small church with it doors wide open, and ventured in. Candles were lit near the altar and throughout the church... I tried to recognize familiar words on the posters and announcements posted on the large bulletin board in the narthex... Didn't find many...

I wandered back out onto the street and headed back to the hotel, to find my starting point in my search for the Luxembourg Gardens. I remained optimistic as I passed by the hotel and considered getting a jacket - or maybe even the umbrella? - out of my luggage....

Naw.... It's April in Paris!

I wasn't sure if I was on the right street or not, but before long, I came upon the great Luxembourg Castle, at the north entrance to the Gardens.

The palace was built for Marie de Medicis, the queen of France from 1600 to 1610. The story is that it was built to assuage her longing for the Pitti Palace in Florence, where she spent her childhood. The imposing, ornate granite structure dominated the Garden, complete with Palace guards stationed around the grounds of the Palace (apparently off-limits to commoners), standing erect with their white-gloved hands clasped behind their backs.

I ambled into the garden and joined the Parisians enjoying a sunny Saturday afternoon...

Just beyond the Palace was a large grassy area ringed with flowers in full spring bloom and a low rail, just a few inches off the ground. Just outside the rail, scattered all around, were metal chairs for tired travelers to sit and have a moment of repose and take in the sunshine and colorful flowers, and Palaces and Parisians...

"I'm in Paris!" I reminded myself... The effects of hours of flying through numerous time zones, combined with sleep deprivation and growing hunger pangs took their toll on my senses...The reality of sitting along a flower garden, with a centuries-old castle behind me, the long, green expanse of the Luxembourg Gardens before me, and the skyline of Paris just beyond took some time to fully digest...

After resting a spell, I continued my leisurely stroll amongst the tress and flowers and statuary, snapping pictures as I went... The wind had kicked up a bit, and I was a little chilled, though I reasoned that it would help me stay alert and out of the way of speeding traffic when I finally headed back to the hotel, where I was looking forward to collapsing in my room... The sun disappeared and within a few minutes the sky opened up with a vigorous spring shower...

I thought of my jacket and umbrella, all snug in my luggage back at the hotel.

"You can lead a horse to water..." or "You can pack the umbrella, but it doesn't do any good sitting in your suitcase!"

Fortunately, within a few more minutes, the rain had stopped and the sun was once again shining brightly... Though the wind did keep things a bit cool...

I left the gardens and made my way back toward the hotel, a couple of times ducking down narrow little side streets to look at the buildings and architecture of this very old city. I would turn a corner and there would be magnificent steepled church, probably hundreds of years old; or a little square with marble and carved granite fountains at the center, water pouring out of the mouths of gargoyles... Every turn produced something splendid and new for me to look at and admire...

But by now, my camera was out of film, and I was seriously running out of gas... I longed for a room, a little privacy, and some rest...

Making my way back, I managed to get rained on one more time, and just a little lost. But not for long, I stumbled into the hotel lobby slightly wet and very tired, but grateful for my first few hours out on the streets of Paris...

And a just a little wiser as well... When you're going outside to enjoy an April afternoon at the Jardin du Luxembourg, bring your umbrella!

 

"Maybe Hemmingway sat in this very chair..."

Monday was my hardest day in regard to jetlag... All during the scrumptious dinner on Sunday night, I kept thinking, "Boy, am I going to sleep soundly tonight!" The fine French dining experience and the interesting conversation of my table mates were the only things keeping me awake...

Or so I thought.

It was almost midnight by the time I finally crawled into my little bed.... And sure enough, I was asleep by 12:05...

And then awake at 1:00... 1:20... 1:45... 2:05... 2:30...

Well, you get the idea... I barely slept at all...

By the end of the workshop day on Monday, I stumbled up to my room for a nap... We were to meet in the lobby at 6:15 for a group walk over to the Café Flore to bathe in the spirit of literature, history, and philosophy... But I admit I considered just staying in bed instead... I was so tired...

Reason won out over sheer physical desire to sleep... Not only was I in Paris, for crying out loud, I was only going to be in Paris for one more day! So I drug my tired body out of bed, splashed some water on my face, put on my black shoes and jeans (not as dressy as last night, but a little "artsy" in any case)

It had rained during my nap; but the sun was back out, so I left without my umbrella... And only got rained on a little bit...

We set out from our hotel and hit the rush hour Paris streets, Pied Piper fashion, toward the Café Flore; the famed seat of literature and the home of existentialism.

Located in the Latin Quartier, this corner of Cafés, and most prominently the Café Flore, embodies the great mythology of the Parisian literary café, and the great writers that frequented these places...

Hemmingway's"Movable Feast" and the existentialist philosophy of Sartre were created at the Café Flore, in the same upper room where we listened to Elizabeth Reicher, a young American writer living her dream in Paris; give an interesting and educational talk of this little corner of Paris; the reality as well as the myth...

The myth and reality of what had taken place once in this café, in this very room...

As I sat and listened, sipping my glass of vin blanc, and wondered if, maybe....

Maybe Hemmingway sat in this very chair!

...And the myth lives on in this writers mind.

From visiting Mark Twain's Volcano House on Hawaii, to sitting in the very same chair as Hemmingway at the Café Flore, on the Rive Gauche of Paris... Perhaps following around dead writers will rub off somehow... Most assuredly not, but it sure is fun trying!

I was grateful I had drug myself out of my hotel room.


A Business Lunch in Paris...

Lori had been my contact with the American Writers and Artists Institute, the organization sponsoring the workshop. She contacted me in March to produce research for writers' resources on the Internet, the "Little Black Book" of resources for travel writers, and to help in securing press kits for the workshop attendees... Fortunately, all these assignments had worked out to her satisfaction, and she invited me to lunch on the last day to discuss the workshop and our working together...

We walked about a mile, to a little side street just around the corner from the Sorbonne; there we found the little restaurant that was recommended by another AWAI instructor, recently moved to Paris. If only I could remember the name of this charming little bistro, with only a dozen or so tables, each covered with a checkered table cloth...

Travel writer rule number 1... Remember the names of the places you visit! ...how ironic.

Anyway, it was a fine lunch. I had a salmon filet in an excellent white sauce, and the proprietor happily spoke English and smiled brightly at our attempts to speak French. (Actually, Lori seemed to be speaking French reasonably well). When I had left what appeared to me to be some sort of vegetable on my plate, he politely suggested that I didn't understand what it was, and hinted that he had gone to great trouble in preparing it, and that I would like it...

I agreed with him wholeheartedly, and cleaned my plate; A good thing to do anywhere, as I was taught as a youngster, and especially in France.

I provided Lori with inside intelligence on how the other attendees were liking the workshop, as well as what I thought of it; she thanked me once again for my efforts in writing the "Little Black Book" and spoke of possible future collaborations...

Just a typical business lunch; you know, doing deals in Paris.

Our deal-making lasted a little too long and we rushed back to the workshop in a cab.

 

The Eiffel Tower is a lot easier to find than your hotel...

I sat near the buffet table, eating my usual breakfast of runny scrambled eggs, corn flakes, croissant, coffee, and orange juice. People from the workshop would see me and we'd exchange "Good mornings" as we fed ourselves in preparation for the morning workshop... Lori came down and as I greeted her, I explained that I probably wouldn't be going to the private dinner that evening, so that I could spend my last evening in Paris wandering the city in search of the Eiffel Tower. I wanted to be polite, but I really wanted to spend my last few hours in Paris seeing if I could get lost...

I came pretty close...

That evening, armed with a map, the name and address of the hotel on a slip of paper, a few Euros, and my camera, I set out...

My first idea was to try and take the subway to the Eiffel Tower. Kathryn, my table partner at the workshop, tried to explain the route to me, so I plunged beneath the streets of the city and was almost immediately confused...

I asked the ticket agent "parlez vous anglais"; to which she replied, "No".

I asked, "Eiffel Tower?"

She said something and sold me a ticket...

I went to the platform that I thought was the right direction, and boarded the next train, full of rush hour commuters. As the train pulled out of the station, I became completely lost... I needed visual references to maintain my keen sense of direction, and underground in a strange city, my internal compass was swinging like one on a lost boat in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle...

I had entered my own personal "Paris Triangle".

I got off at the next stop and wandered around the station for awhile which only added to my confusion. I left in favor of the streets and walking...

First, I had to find my way back to where I started, and from there, I took a cursory glance at the map, setting off in the general direction of the Eiffel Tower.

Along the way I walked by the Hotel des Invalides; built in the 1670's by Louis XIV to house 4000 disabled war veterans, and also played a pivotal role in the Revolution. I got out my camera to capture the columned edifice topped with a great golden dome... I must once again profess my fascination with the historical....

What remnants of our age will endure to speak to future generations? Something to consider as you walk through the streets of Paris.

I walked along grassy fields, with neighborhood soccer matches in progress, while young lovers enjoyed the spring afternoon on nearby park benches; ahead the Eiffel Tower loomed before me.

I arrived underneath the tower and did what must be done... I looked up; an impressive grid-work of copper colored iron. To stand underneath the Eiffel Tower and look up is to really appreciate its height.

The area underneath the tower is a beehive of tourist activity... Street people selling some sort of Eiffel Tower type of trinket made out of what looked like junk... People milling about, taking pictures, queuing up at either the North or West tower for the elevator up to the second level of the tower.

I tried to assess the various nationalities around me... Japanese, German, American...

Mostly French, which, oddly enough, surprised me - leave it to an American...

"Hey, what are all these French people doing here? Haven't they already been to the Eiffel Tower?"

"Where are all the Americans...?"

Well, I wasn't really that bad, but it is interesting when you catch yourself thinking some absurd thought like that...

Things were marginally spelled out in three languages... In particular to "Look Out For Pickpockets".

I handed the girl a 10 euro note and pointed to the top of the tower on the diagram posted in her ticket window (unlike at a bistro, pointing at this menu appeared acceptable behavior). I then boarded the elevator that would take me up to the second level. I didn't quite understand that there was a transfer procedure from the second level (over three hundred seventy feet up) to get to the elevator to the top (over 900 feet high)...

As the elevator stopped at the second level everyone began to file off, except for myself and another couple apparently unsure of where everyone was going, as was I... I was starting to realize that I needed to get off the elevator when the guy asked me something in French...

My attempt to say something was a mix of "parlez vous anglais" and nonsense. The couple stared at me blankly, turned, and walked off the elevator; I followed behind, feeling a little less James Bond-like...

Here was the main tourist area of the tower; complete with coin operated telescopes all around the outside railing, gift shop, snack bar, and a splendid 360 degree panorama of the Paris skyline at twilight.

If not for the overcast, I'm sure there would have been a sunset to remember, but no matter, the view was tremendous and I shot a picture from each side of the tower...

Even though I had purchased a ticket for the ride to the top, still confused (it's chronic, I'm afraid), I found myself at the front of a long line for the elevator back down... Maybe I chickened out... I do have a problem with heights, in apparent conflict with my interest in flying airplanes...

It's when I'm high up and still connected to the ground that it bothers me... I really don't know if I'd feel that comfortable living more than a few stories above the ground; I'm funny that way...

Anyway, I didn't make any attempt to get out of the line, once I realized that it was the line going down...

I rationalized it with the thought that I had already seen some pretty amazing scenes of Paris, and had hopefully captured it on film... Besides, it was getting dark and I had to get back home, miles away...

And that was all true, so I rode the elevator back down.

I stood underneath one of the pillars of the tower and snapped a picture looking straight up, just as the lights came on illuminating the tower. Jayne's favorite picture...

Dusk was growing deep as I snapped my final shot in the very comfortable and fashionable neighborhood surrounding the tower... A beat-up poster of Le Pen, the radical right wing presidential candidate that stormed unrepentantly into the French political scene. Generally vilified, the poster had obviously been defaced by someone in opposition to his politics... My little attempt at "social condition" photography...

I knew I had a long walk back to the hotel, but I felt as long as I kept my sense of direction, I would make it back into familiar territory and from there to my hotel... Just retrace my steps... But since I had already walked away from the tower in a different direction, in order to stroll through a handsome neighborhood, I was at a disadvantage... Nonetheless, I pressed on, passing shop keepers closing up shop for the evening, and diners settling into their favorite bistro ready for a late dinner. Tomorrow was May Day, a national holiday similar to our Labor Day, and the streets and bistros were full of happy Parisians...

After about forty minutes of wandering, I felt that I was actually aware of my general location, able to find my way back... I had proved my point to myself (only looked at the map once), my feet were tired, I was hungry, and I still had to pack...

I walked past a taxi stand a few feet just as a taxi pulled up.... I turned back toward the taxi stand, glad that there were still a few euros in my pocket. The cabbie said "yes" to my "parlez vous anglais", I handed him my slip of paper which he studied briefly and said, "OK".

I climbed in the back of the taxi and off we went through the brightly-lit streets of Paris.

In less than ten minutes I was dropped at the hotel, ready for a quiet quiche, half carafe of vin blanc, various breads, and an assortment of cheeses - room service, Parisian style.

Maybe it's by walking to the Eiffel Tower every day that Parisians can eat like this and not get fat.

I began packing as I watched CNN , about the only English speaking channel there was, and indulged in the food, happy to have set out on my own for my last evening in Paris...

 

Epilogue

February 10, 2003

Very shortly, it will have been a year since those four days in Paris.

All these months later, I am glad to have this brief snapshot of that first excitement, capturing, in some small way, that starry-eyed innocence of stepping lightly through the streets of the City of Light for the very first time. A quaint notion, no doubt, to the seasoned Paris visitor; but everyone who's visited before can remember that thrill when walking through the streets of Paris for the first time.

This was my first time. But most certainly not my last.




The Traveler, a.k.a.Tom Schueneman,lives in San Francisco and works as a sound engineer, freelance writer, website developer, and ezine publisher. He enjoys traveling, nature, reading, photography, and music.

 

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