Paris in a nutshell

Authored By Brian

The French Eurostar tops out at 186mph (300km/h)

Jennifer and I got up at 3:30am to get to the train station in time to catch our 5:30 Eurostar departure for Paris. It was still dark outside and we weren’t doing much other than keeping our eyes open. My ticket had some kind of problem with it so after standing in the queue to get to the front, Jennifer went through and I had to turn around and find a guard to talk to. I managed to get past without much hassle and rejoined the queue for security.

It boggles the mind that anyone would, in a post-9/11 environment, pick a fight with security at a public transportation facility. Even harder to picture doing so with armed security personnel. But this is exactly what our French rapper friend did. What was initially a slow moving line turned into raised voices and then men with guns approaching a guy who looked a bit like Usher. This guy was blinged out and wearing super-trendy shoes… he must have just finished drinking Cristal in the club and was ready to get out of England. The argument had something to do with asking him to search his bag and he feeling this was an unnecessary (and racial, he was black) accusation by the communist train company. Although it helped keep our eyes open, it was only a brief period before the armed guards asked the French Usher to join them in a private room for questioning.

The Eurostar is incredible. It’s really hard to imagine going so fast on a comfortable, stylish train. It’s so fast that when you go through tunnels, the air pressure pops your ears. We slept part of the way in gray England but the French side was nicer as the sun was up and we could see the countryside. For once, we laughed at the slow moving cars instead of laughing at the slow moving trains you normally see elsewhere.

Once in Paris we collected our bags, disposed of our trash and hit the terminal. We headed out front to get a taxi to our hotel. I had made reservations at a hotel chain called “High Tech” that I have stayed at several times in Madrid. The Spanish locations are stylish if not a bit pijo. I expected our French version would match that experience but be a nice place to stay. Our room was a bit of a disappointment with its tiny size although it was well appointed. We have a significant amount of luggage with us (yeah, yeah, travelling fopah) and there was literally not enough room to open the door, set it down and close the door without getting out of the way. I’m not sure who gave this a 3* rating, but seriously…

Needing to stretch our legs, our first adventure was to talk down to a shopping area to buy a tasty Sicilian panini from a vendor and eat in a small park in front of this gorgeous church. The sun was out, little kids were playing… I had always been a little uninterested in Paris but this was nice. Not a moment more went by before the FPL (French Pigeon Legion) performed a tactical aerial manuver mere millimeters from my head nearly sending me to the ground. En guarde!

We walked around a bit more before retiring to the hotel to take a nap. Jennifer woke up not feeling so well so we had a pretty quiet night other than grabbing a bite to eat down the street. The weather was on and off again rain despite the sun constantly trying to break free.

The next day we got hooked up with Fat Tire Bike Tours. We signed up for an evening tour of Paris by bike. We met at the Eiffel tower (my first time seeing it) and noshed on a ridiculously priced bag of french fries served by the most uninterested teenager. It was pretty neat to stand underneath the Eiffel Tower. There were a lot of people there making out. Paris is an incredibly green city – there are so many trees and grassy areas. Although many European cities emphasize parks, Paris blends them together instead of segregating them.

We met up with our group, headed by a couple of Texan college kids working under the table, and headed to the office to saddle up and hit the town. As a safety precaution, a Fat Tire Tour employee typically brings up the rear of the pack to ensure none of the tourists get lost or stolen from the group. Our Texan guide carefully surveyed the flock and, eyes settling upon me (the lone physically coordinated-looking male of the group) and asked if I would be willing to “bring up the rear”. My compensation? An ice cold Heineken keg can at the end of our grand journey. How could I resist?

With my acceptance, the tour guide informed the group this job was commonly referred to as the “Ass-man”. Ha ha ha. Git on yer bikes!

Paris at night is a beautiful city and it’s very flat making the bike tour an awesome way to see everything. Riding at the back, we couldn’t really hear too much of the commentary by the guide but we rode all over the place including around the Louvre and Notre Dame around sunset and it was truly spectacular.

Our bonus for the evening was to wrap things up with a boat ride on the Seine around a few islands and Notre Dame. Our boat had these 8 million watt flood lights that lit up the banks and bridges of the Seine for our viewing pleasure as we cruised up and down the channel. It also lit up the couples seeking privacy and romance along the banks in a hilarious manner. We were told they were doing the “ES” or “European Straddle” where the girl sits cowboy facing her man. More interesting were the bridges. Until just a few years ago, the bridges were pitch black from hundreds of years of pollution and coal burning. Like the Vatican cleaned the Sistine Chapel, Paris used lasers to clean and restore their bridges and public monuments for the millenium. Frickin’ laser beams! They were as white as Regis Philbins’ teeth. But more interesting.

After our boat ride (and a few bottles of wine to commemorate our journey), we returned to the bank to ride our bikes back to the office. Also for the millenium, Paris added a lightshow to the Eiffel tower which starts at the top of every hour. Apparently a lot of Parisians think it is stupid but the tourists love it and spend their euros, so it has stayed. It is pretty cool as it flashes and lights and blinks… on the real millenium new years, I was standing on the strip in Las Vegas in front of the 1/3rd-size Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel. It had a crazy light show as well and some flying dancer guys doing some choreographed acrobatics; I wonder if they modelled it on what the real Paris was planning?

There are a lot of places in the city you can see the top of the tower peeking out between or over buildings. It really dominates the skyline. It looks like it could be the crown to the building one block over but it’s not until you see it standing in its entirety that the size becomes breathtaking.

Comments are closed.