Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Paris: The Grande Finale

Our departure for Bern was scheduled for 5:00 AM. Everyone was warned to pack their bags, shower and get ready the night before. Thankfully, everyone listened!! We had a 4:15 wake-up call but there was a communication problem and the calls were never made. I was relying on my alarm clock so didn't take notice of the missing call. At 4:30 Jeff knocked on our door and told me that no one had received a wake-up call. Quickly we went from room to room, knocking on doors and telling everyone to hurry. In record time all the group was downstairs and ready to load the bus. The train ride was an experience for all. Some of us were fortunate to be seated in 1st class and were served breakfast. We arrived in Paris at noon. A bus was waiting to take us to our hotel. There was heavy traffic due to the Paris Marathon taking place, but it gave us our first glimpse of Paris. Our hotel was located in the business district therefore there wasn't much to see on a Sunday afternoon...the streets and sidewalks were deserted. Not all the rooms were ready so we stored our luggage in rooms that were available and then headed to the nearby Metro station. We stepped out of the underground Metro station in front of the Paris Opera. We took time for a group photo and then Tom led us to a nearby Fragonard Perfume Museum. Our tour guide explained the history and the process for making perfume and then we went to a show room and enjoyed the scents of various perfumes. Our first dinner in Paris was at a Flammkuchen Restaurant. Flammkuchen is similar to pizza and a traditional dish from Alsace Lorraine district. The crust is rolled very thin and then covered with cheese, cream and toppings such as onions, mushrooms, and meat. The dessert was on the same crust but covered with apples, cinnamon and chocolate. After dinner we walked from Place de Concorde, along the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. Some stopped at crepe stands along the way, others checked out the shopping. Tom took the rest of our tour group back to the hotel and the Eatonia Marengo group took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower. It was dark when we arrived so our first view of the magnificent tower was when it was fully lit!! We weren't able to get tickets to go to the top of the tower because the elevators are undergoing renovations. We jumped back onto the Metro to head home and as we looked back at the tower the 20,000 flash bulbs gave the tower a sparkly appearance.
The next morning we had breakfast in the adjacent building and then headed to the Louvre, one of the oldest and most famous museums in the world. We had three hours to find Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous painting in the world. There are 35,000 works of art on display in the Louvre. One person has been reported to have estimated that if you devoted 30 seconds to each and ignored the time taken to walk from one work to the next, it would take about thirteen 24 hour days to see each piece. There was time to grab a bite to eat (some found another McDonalds) and check out the Apple store next to the museum entrance.
In the afternoon we walked to to Notre Dame Cathedral. And guess who met us there?? Bayne and Deb Assmus had made arrangements to surprise Carson. I think Richard was even more surprised than Carson!! The group was given time to view the interior of the Cathedral and shop for souvenirs. Doug led us on a walking tour. We saw a bridge that was covered with locks, it seems it is a common thing in some European cities.
We went on a tour of the Latin Quarter and we met up with the rest of our group and headed to dinner at one of the oldest restaurants in Montmartre.
In the evening we walked up the hill to Sacre Coeur and Place du Tertre. There were street artists, souvenir shops, crepe stands and lots of time for people watching. Not to mention a fabulous view of Paris from the steps of Sacre Coeur!!
Our last day in Paris began with a city tour. A bus picked us up and we drove through the narrow streets of Paris while Pierre Marie, our city guide, pointed out boutique shopping at places such as Chanel, historical buildings such as Les Invalides and the Elysees Palace, home to the President of France. Our final stop of the morning was at Place du Trocodaro for a view of the Eiffel Tower. Our group walked to the base of the tower, stopping along the way to ride the double decker carousel. It started to rain so we took the Metro to the Latin Quarter and found a place to eat lunch. Our next stop was the Galerie Lafayette, a huge department store near the Paris Opera. We had some free time to shop or just drool over the very expensive items for sale. It was very crowded, we weren't the only ones who decided to go shopping and get out of the rain!! The sun finally broke through as we finished dinner, so we decided to have one last look at Paris from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. The view from the top was worth the long climb up the stairs!! We headed back to the hotel and everyone packed their bags, organized their receipts and then joined some of their new friends from Regina at an Italian Restaurant close to the hotel. There were lots of photos, plenty of laughs and promises to keep in touch. Our European adventure has come to an end!!

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