Got up early to catch our train to Paris. One last breakfast at the hotel before checking out. I kinda like Netherland’s breakfasts. It’s mostly just bread, meat and cheese. At first it did not really feel like breakfast food, but after a few days I started looking forward to it.
We got on the tram and headed to central station (fortunately no strike that day or if they did strike again it was later in the day).
The train ride from Amsterdam to Paris was great. I’ve decided I like trains better then airplanes, at least for shorter trips. No security, seat belts, you can use your electronic devices whenever you want and you can get up and walk around whenever you want. The only downer is, it costs about the same as taking an airplane. They also offered Internet access, but it was too expensive to justify buying. I’ve heard parts of Europe have better Internet access then the US, but everywhere we were Internet access was hard to find, expensive and not very fast.
I did not see a whole lot of Belgium when we rode through it. I spent a large part of the trip catching up on sleep. The parts I did see though were very picturesque farmland.
After a very restful train ride we pulled into Paris du Nord. We had checked the weather forecast before we left and we were not disappointed. It was 70 F and sunny. Perfect weather in my opinion, we were especially grateful for it, England and Holland had both been warmer than Minnesota when we left, but 70F felt great.
We did not have enough small change in Euros to buy tickets from the ticket machines so we had to stand in a line for a while to get metro tickets. Eventually we got them though and headed to Ajiel Hotel where we checked in. I really liked our room on the 4th floor overlooking rue de la Convention, and we had a nice view of what turned out to be a fairly typical street in Paris, but a typical street in Paris is about 10 times classier than almost any street in Minneapolis.
After checking in we headed for what we had been told by several different people as the best view of Paris, Sacré-Cœur (Church of the Sacred Heart). So we got back on the metro and headed up there.
On our walk up I was feeling a little peckish, so I bought a sandwich. The sandwich was delicious but it felt like a mistake because it made me a bit of a target for all the various panhandlers and peddlers of trinkets I did not want. I got past the first couple no problem, but I almost got drawn into the “friendship bracelet scam”. In fairness I tried to get by him a couple of times. I must not have said ‘non’ surly enough, because he persisted. Fortunately Elysia realized I was being cornered and called out at me, and I found new will power to get out of there. I felt like a sucker, but it helped a little bit when the friendship bracelet guy’s buddies yelled at him, and told him not to “push it”. I was a little nervous I was going to have to be saying ‘non’ a lot in Paris, fortunately Sacré-Cœur was the worst of it.
It was a great view. The atmosphere was hazy but I’m guessing that’s not uncommon for Paris. Still one could see everything.
Heather had brought a Paris guide book that had a walk in it through the neighborhood around the church, Montmartre. A lot of famous bohemians had lived and worked in the neighborhood including Picasso and Rembrandt. We also saw the bar from the Amélie movie and Moulin Rouge. We stopped at a cafe on the street to have a beverage and relax a bit.
After our walk we got back on the metro and headed over to the Eiffel Tower where we were going to take the night Fat Tire Bike tour of Paris. The bike tour was a lot of fun. Our tour guide was from Arizona and she had the same sort of energy, carrying voice and personality as so many camp counselors I’ve known. I did not get a chance to ask her if she had been or not, but I’d bet money she had worked at a camp before.
She needed the energy too, I think we had 25 people in the tour, and while Paris was more or less bike friendly, it is no where near as friendly as Amsterdam and we spent the first part of the tour riding on some very busy roads. I’m sure it was stressful for our guide to find the balance between not blocking traffic but keeping everyone more or less together with parts of the group getting stuck behind changing traffic lights and getting intimidated by the aggressive Parisian drivers.
We all made it though. At the half way point we stopped for ice cream on a bridge overlooking the Seine River and Notre-Dame. We biked back along the river looking at all sorts of amazing buildings and bridges. Also saw the Louvre, which was beautifully lit and not many people were around at that time of night. When we were most of they way back we took a boat tour and saw even more stuff from the river. While we were on the boat we were served some wine and got to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle. I did not know it did that, but it does, every hour (on the hour) starting at about 8pm. It’s very pretty. We also saw a couple of “full moons” on the boat tour from the crowded river banks, apparently also an old Parisian tradition.
After the tour we headed back to the bike shop. We got a dinner recommendation from our guide for a place near the Fat Tire Bike tour shop. Unfortunately either her directions were wrong or we heard it wrong because we could not find it. We tried a couple other places but their menus did not impress us. Eventually, hungry and tired we gave up and went to McDonald’s. I felt a little guilty at first but McDonand’s ended up costing way way less then what we had paid for dinner the last 3 nights. Plus we all felt it was different enough from American McDonald’s to justify it as a foreign experience.
After McDonald’s it was super late so it was back to the Ajiel Hotel for sleeping.