19 Apr DISCOVERING PARIS BY KARLA B. PONDER
Today is Wednesday and my friend, Cyndi, and I have arrived from Tours, France by TGV (Train de Grand Vitesse). This translates into English as, “Hold on to your hats and don’t even think of crossing the tracks.” The train travels at about 190 miles an hour, so who would try that? Well, He-who-will-remain-nameless tried this in Dijon and was almost made into Poupon! He was tres fatigue from climbing the stairs up and down for the third time with two suitcases, and decided to save steps by crossing the tracks. A conductor ardently protested in French with the urgency and finesse of an M-16. He answered in English, “If y’all had an elevator, I would not have to cross the darn tracks”. Ah, so much for Franco-American relations!
We checked into The Hotel Regina and it was just as beautiful as it was my last visit to Paris. Our room had a balcony from which we could see the Louvre Museum across the ancient, one-lane street and the Eiffel Tower off in the distance. The hotel was built in the early 1900’s and the size of the elevator reflects this. The brass plate over the elevator buttons assured there was room for 13 persons (thirteen very slim Frenchmen, I’m sure, since the elevator was as tiny as a fifty dollar box of French chocolates!).
After a delicious dinner, we took a taxi to see the Eiffel Tower and spent some time walking through stalls selling jewelry, what-nots and a plethora of international street foods. Then we were off to the Etoile, or (“Star” in English) where the tree lined Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triomphe, were lit up like party girls.
Thursday, we spent the day in the Louvre. The paintings, sculptures, and the Egyptian works of art were magnifiques! Of course, the Mona Lisa is there. We stopped to ask two different guards for directions, and both told us, in English, how to find the Mona Lisa before we could get our questions verbalized! Apparently, every visitor asks where the lady with the enigmatic smile is located. She is much smaller than I expected and even more beautiful. Midway into our Louvre investigation, we stopped for lunch at the restaurant museum. We enjoyed a delicate quiche, and a salad Nicoise, then topped it off with a crème brulee and an espresso.
The next day, we walked from our hotel to the Isle de la Cite, a tiny island in the middle of Paris where Notre Dame de Paris, a cathedral built in 1163, is located. We were in awe of the stained glass Rose Window and the impossibly lofty Gothic arches. The magnificent gargoyles, the flying buttresses, the thirteen ton bell named “Emmanuel”, and the portals of sculpted scenes from the Bible are not to be missed.
Our next stop was Berthillon Glacier, known for the best ice cream in Paris! We ordered a dish of the deepest, darkest, mousse-like chocolate that came with freshly whipped cream. Delicious! A must for your trip to Paris!