August 19: The Magic of Paris

Breakfast at our hotel can be quite expensive so we decided to follow the advice in our Rick Steves' guide and eat just down the street on Rue Cler at PTT Brasserie. It has an Old-World style and serves two breakfasts for 12 Euro which includes a fried egg, ham, crispy croissant, orange juice, and coffee.

As a child I visited Paris when I was 10. Clutching copies of photos from my trip taken on top of the second level of the Eiffel Tower, we got in what appeared to be the shortest line to recreate them. We thought we were pretty lucky to only wait 18 minutes for our elevator ticket until we discovered we were actually in the line for the stairs. Up the stairs we climbed to the first level. The views of the city from every landing made it very worthwhile.

At the first level you can buy elevator tickets to the second level. Once up there, the views are breathtaking. All of Paris lies elegantly before you. Children stepping off the elevator for the first time exclaimed in delight. Looking at my childhood photos, we noticed that the only significant change is the number of tall buildings on the skyline of the financial district. We also noticed that the safety fencing preventing potential bungee jumpers did not exist back then. Other than that, Paris looks as glorious in person as it does in pictures and film.

Walking back to our hotel, it was fun to see people posing for wedding photos in front of the tower. Dressed in white with a floral bouquet, one bride happily joined hands with the groom for a joyful leap into the air for a whimsical photo. Looking above the tower, several jets were streaking by high above. What an amazing view they must have.

In the late afternoon we took a bus to Avenue de Champ Elysees. I don't think any trip to Paris is complete without a brief stroll down the street just window shopping and enjoying the ambiance. Cafes with colorful awnings and crisp white tablecloths set with gleaming crystal wine glasses were in full swing. Passing by Louis Vuitton, I was amazed at the size of the store along with Cartier. Employees in crisply pressed suits and shined shoes stood proudly in the doorway, probably as a signal it's a prestigious store for serious buyers only.

Perhaps most amazing to me were several elegant car showrooms: Renault, Peugeot, and Toyota. To me it did not look like a place to actually buy a car, it was more a place to admire future models. Ranging from sleek hybrids to stylish futuristic sports cars, each car sat gleaming on a pedestal. Most astonishing to us was that people were warmly welcomed in to simply pose with the cars. Grown businessmen in suits giggled at photos of themselves in front of race cars and it seemed as if every nationality was represented. In addition to cars, each showroom had a stylish selection of gifts including miniature models of cars, key chains and wallets, and even sophisticated leather covered pepper grinders.

Standing proudly in the middle of a roundabout on the Champs Elysees is the Arc de Triomphe. To access it, thankfully there is an underground walkway. After passing the eternal flame honoring an unknown soldier under the arch, we looked above to see the flags of France and the EU proudly hanging from the arch and dancing in the breeze. Climbing the approximately 280 steps to the top, we joined the other happy breathless tourists at a museum area inside the arch where interactive displays allow you to get a glimpse of the reliefs on the arch up close. Outside, the view from the top is spectacular and it's fun to see the Eiffel Tower from another view.

Strolling back to our hotel along the dimly lit tree lined gravel paths, we couldn't help but stop and take one more look at the Eiffel Tower. Lit by floodlights, it glows a royal blue. A searchlight shining as a beacon of light on the summit streaks across the sky. Right on cue, at 10:00, the tower lit up with thousands of twinkling lights. Seeing the look of pure joy on everyone's face and the beautiful twinkling tower, I took a mental photograph of it in my mind to remember always until we return to Paris again.


David Zemens said…
You can't leave us hanging without a final trip report. Please. :-)

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